It’s easy to see why Les Baux-des-Provence has been named one of the most beautiful villages in France.
Perched high on a hill, in the heart of the Alpilles and on the spur of a rock. From the vista point of the village there’s panoramic view across that beautiful verdant green countryside that captured my heart so much.
The village itself is rather magical, with cobbled streets and a beautiful medieval brick buildings, it’s like something out of a fairytale.
There are plenty of narrow passage ways, and maze-like winding lanes to get lost in and lots of gorgeous artisan shops selling local sweets, wines and olive oil.
Who wouldn’t want to pop inside this gorgeous little biscuiterie….
Or purchase some wine to remind you of the sweet taste of the South of France. The area is actually one of the most visited tourist sites in France but as we were there out of season and early in the morning, the whole area felt relaxed and calm with very little hustle and bustle.
Central to the pretty citadel is Château des Baux-de-Provence which has clung to the rock since the 10th century.
The castle itself covers a vast area of 7 hectares and from the viewpoint you can see all over Provence from Aix to Arles. That day we were experiencing another thing that Provence is famous for, the mistral wind…and honestly I couldn’t get too close to the edge owing to a genuine fear of being blown over it!
I swiftly shifted back to explore some of the examples of Medieval weaponry on display…
As well as some examples of craftsmanship. In higher season there are actors at the castle explaining the art of basket making, weaving, rope making and herbalists.
The castle really is a magnificent example of how these structures can stand the test of time and visitors can check out the original towers, the dovecote, the chapel and the former hospital.
It was a short drive back to Benvengudo for lunch and in the afternoon we were in for something completely different. From Medieval to modern, we were now visiting Carrières de Lumières. I honestly have never experienced anything quite like this show of lights located right in the heart of the Alpilles Mountains.The show changes approximately every quarter but when we were there we witnessed Chagall’s Midsummer Night’s Dreams whereby the artist’s best-known work has been digitised and projected onto the walls set to music by Luca Longobardi.
Basically you enter into a room and a vast show of lights is projected on to the walls of a quarry.
A multitude of colour and drawings surrounding, flitting from scene to scene before your eyes…
After the Chagall showcase, we witnessed an abstract version of Alice in Wonderland, a short eight minute piece that was a homage to Lewis Carroll and his famous children’s book. Now I must say, it was very dark and loud inside the quarry and I felt very disorientated; quite possibly not for me but most certainly a unique and interesting experience.
The next morning saw us finding out about another important product of the Provence: olive oil.
I’ve never been to a specialist olive oil producer before so I was excited to visit Moulin Castelas and find out more about how one of my favourite products is made. The owners Catherine and Jean Benoît Hugues fell in love with some beautiful olive trees in a rocky region of Alpilles and now have 110 acres of olive groves. Like wines and olive oil of Mas de la Dame, the land at Domaine Castelas fits the specifics of AOC for Les Baux de Provence.
I learnt that making olive oil was very similar to making wine, the olive is harvested, and the juice is extracted and blended. At Castelas Mill they only extract the best in order to craft the most beautiful oil.
At the mill, the team produce several different olive oils with a taste and aroma that is altered depending on the terroir, climate and the ripeness of the olive. We tasted several of the oils which varied in fruitiness, peppery notes and grassy flavours and I wished I was brave enough to take some back in my suitcase. I was also interested to see the correct way of tasting olive oil which is a little like tasting wine, you suck a bit of air in as you try it and discover all the different aromas.
Our final few hours in this beautiful area of the South of France were spent exploring the very pretty streets of Saint-Rémy de Provence, another gorgeous village in the area, famous for its previous residents such as Nostradamus and Vincent Van Gogh.
Here we found a gorgeous specialist salt shop, seriously the local products here are simply magnificent!
Before our final lunch and glass of rosé at the atmospheric Cafe de la Place.
The fact that I struggled to button my coat up at the end was a testament to how wonderful the food was in Provence. I left that beautiful blue-skied place feeling full of asparagus, wine, cheese and chocolate but feeling incredibly happy.
I was hosted by Hotel Benvengudo as part of a press trip