Commendable Activities around Provence (Part 1)

As part-time residents in one of the most beautiful towns in the South of France, and with many years’ experience in leading friends and visitors on international adventures, we love to share with others all the things we have experienced and appreciate about our travels. There are so many choices of things to see and do when planning a trip to Provence! We recently compiled a list of recommended activities for close friends that were coming to visit, and thought it was a great list to share with those who may one day visit the region.Please enjoy these commendable activities around Provence from the base of our home, Chez Vous in Uzès.

*We’ve decided to split this post into multiple posts, starting from Uzès and moving outwards. Enjoy!

Uzès Markets 

The Uzès outdoor market is famed all over France. The larger and more diverse Provencal market is every Saturday morning, and sprawls throughout the town from the Place aux Herbes (Uzès’ main square), through alleys and neighboring streets. Don’t miss it for the best of French local produce, homemade jams, charcuterie, local tapenades, spices, cheeses, as well as a variety of goods, clothing, soaps, housewares, and much more. On Wednesdays, the market is more focused on produce and regional foods, with an array of colorful and fragrant fresh flowers. There is also a Sunday antique market which is exceptional.

Tip: The town tends to be crowded on market days, so allow extra time if you are driving out of the town on those days. For those staying at Chez Vous, it is a few minutes walk, which is great for buying fresh groceries or dropping off the treasures you’ll find.

Duchy of Uzes

Duchy of Uzès 

In the center of Uzès is one of the best preserved buildings in the town center, with much history attached spanning from the Feudal days. With traces left of various periods in which the castle was built, the Middle-Ages, Renaissance, 17th century, and modern times can be seen in the architecture. The family of the current Duke of Uzès has owned this impressive property for a thousand years, and parts of it can be visited with a guide, including the Tower, where you will have magnificent views over Uzès and the countryside.

Tip: Estimate half an hour to an hour for the whole tour, with time to take photos. Every year in July, there is a music festival in Uzès, with some of the concerts held at night in the courtyard of the Duchy.

Hiking in the Valley of the Eure

A cool respite for warmer days, head down into the valley from Uzès town center, for a splendid hike among shaded trails and along the river. The river takes you to the source of drinking water in Uzès, as well as the spring once used by ancient Romans to deliver water to Nîmes via the Pont du Gard aqueduct. An incredible hike, you will come across the remnants of the Roman aqueduct, abandoned buildings, and enjoy the pleasant natural surroundings with many wildlife throughout.

Tip: Estimate an hour for the circuit. There are many trails you can hike through the park and valley

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

An obvious follow-up to the Valley of the Eure, and one of the most visited monuments in France, is the Pont du Gard, 15 minutes from Uzès by car. A must-see, the Pont du Gard is the famed intact portion of a 2000 year old Roman aqueduct that once brought water from Uzès to the city of Nîmes, a distance of over 50 kilometers and over the River Gard. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and displays great genius by the ancient Romans.

Tip: Enhance your visit to this grand site by cycling through the countryside or renting a kayak or canoe for an exciting trip down the river!

St. Siffret

St. Siffret is a tiny and charming hill-side hamlet a few kilometres from Uzès. Many of the homes have been beautifully preserved, and carefully restored. There are a few small shops, a cafe, a bar, and a restaurant. It is a pleasure to stroll its historic streets and walk to its neighbouring villages. 10-15 minutes from Uzès by car.

St. Quentin La Poterie

As can be derived from its name, St. Quentin La Poterie has a heritage of pottery and craftsmen. With narrow streets and colorful Provencal homes and medieval doors, the village also has several workshops and stores catered to its crafts. 10-15 minutes northeast from Uzès by car.

To be continued..

Uzès, one of the most beautiful towns in Provence

 


Reacquainting with Rome

We just returned from 10 days in Rome. Although we lived there for many years, this city will never lose its appeal. Where else is it necessary to stop every 50 yards to admire an ancient building, a provocative statue, a scene from “La Dolce Vita”, a painting glimpsed through a window, a dramatically modern restaurant or any other of the myriad views that the city nonchalantly offers, as if observing 2500 years of civilisation is “normale”?

What other place on this globe has given so much culture, art and engineering to the world, not just once, with Ancient Rome, but twice, with Renaissance Rome too? Nothing can match the greatness that Rome has given to the world. Add a glorious climate, great food, wonderful wines, stupendous music, the warmth of the people, and Rome’s charms far exceed its drawbacks.

Of course there is a price to pay for all of this. There is so much history and architecture to preserve, that no city or even a country could possibly afford to maintain it all in pristine condition, let alone one managed like Rome and Italy are managed. So dilapidated monuments are everywhere, laughable “lawns” abound in the parks, and the traffic strives mightily to reach the heights attained by Naples’ inhabitants, but happily never quite attains that level of insanity. The governmental administration at various levels is questionable, and not averse to corruption.

The people, being naturally resistant to rules and regulation, are not averse to surviving in chaos. Within limits, this too becomes a perverse attraction as one thanks God that this unique gem is not run like Singapore or Zurich, but remains a vibrant and living museum to our shared human civilisation.

There is limited prospect that Italy will be “Great” again. These people were “Great” longer than any other civilisation. They’ve learned that being “Great” is not all it’s cut out to be, that there are more useful, pleasant and productive things to do than being “Great”. Just being in Rome is one of them.


Local Tips: 5 Recommended Provence Wineries

PROVENCE

Welcome to the largest wine-making area of France! Established 2,600 years ago by the Phoenicians, the vines of the area are an added  bonus to travel enjoyment. They incentivise a drive on the shores of Cassis, in the foothills of the Alpilles, on the slopes of the Sainte-Baume, and in the sands of the Camargue…. Get ready to enjoy: Côtes-de-Provence, Côtes-de-Provence Sainte-Victoire, Coteaux d’Aix En Provence, Palette, Baux-de-Provence, Cassis, IGP Bouches-du-Rhône, Alpilles

In rosé, it goes without saying that Provence is a star, but for its reds and whites excellence has been achieved and is on the rise. At the heart of these “terroirs” ( meaning literally from the soil of the land), independent winegrowers and cooperatives encourage epicureans to taste their wines, discover their trails and their charming chateaux and cellars and their local products. They also propose for your pleasure, jazz concerts, or a film in the heart of the vines, and often even an exhibition of contemporary art.  In short, do take advantage of an abundant offer of cultural pleasures, beyond the wine… while journeying the territory and inhaling the air of Provence the sea and the “garrigue”. A true experience, unique and exclusive to repeat again and again.

What follows is a very personal list of vineyards as the variety of wines in this region is simply overwhelming. These are producers whose wines we like and whose properties we like. We have not gone into detail about all of their wines, as that is the joy of your wine tourism.


Photo credit: Château de Beaucastel

CHATEAUNEUF-du-PAPE

* Château de Beaucastel
This is arguably one of the two best Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines (the other being “Le Vieux Telegraphe”). It lies between Orange and Avignon.

  • In 1321, under the reign of Pope Jean XXII, four barrels were brought from the papal cellar to be filled with wine in Châteauneuf. Then, the Popes planted new vines and the legend of the papal wine began. We find the first evidence of Château de Beaucastel as it exists today in the sixteenth century. In 1549, Pierre de Beaucastel bought a « barn with a plot of land extending to “52 saumées at Coudoulet”. The manor house will be built then with the arms of Beaucastel sculpted on a stone wall of the drawing room.
  • In 1687, Pierre de Beaucastel was appointed « Capitaine de la ville de Courthezon » by Louis XIV, in recognition of his conversion to Catholicism. Louis XIV’s letter, also said by Colbert, is still visible at the Château.
  • The property is now owned by the Perrin Family who also own many vineyards through the Rhone Valley and are recognised as highly successful producers down to their their “la Vieille Ferme” wines, red, white and rosé, as daily drinking wines in the €5-€8 price range.
  • Château de Beaucastel is in the €55-€65 range.  

VISIT
Visits of Château de Beaucastel are by appointment only. Contact by e-mail to make an appointment.

CONTACT
Famille Perrin | Château de Beaucastel | Chemin de Beaucastel
84350 Courthezon
Tél. : +33 (0) 4 90 70 41 00
Fax : +33 (0) 4 90 70 41 19
E-mail:
contact@beaucastel.com
Site: http://www.beaucastel.com/en/

There are “Famille Perrin” shops in both Avignon and Aix.


BEAUME de VENISE

* Domaine de Durban
Some 20/25 minutes east of Châteauneuf du Pape is the small appellation, “Beaume de Venise”, that produces re Côtes de Rhone wines, and the lovely sweet white wines, “Muscat de Beaumes de Venise”.

  • Nearly two thousand years ago, Pliny the Elder wrote in his Natural History:
    “The Muscat grape has been grown for a long time in Beaumes and its wine is remarkable”
  • In 1248, St. Louis took supplies of it with him on his 7th Crusade, and during the early 14th century, at the time of the reign of Pope Clement V, production was increased by 70 hectares to cater for the demand from the Popes’ Palace in Avignon. So there is considerable experience behind these wines that are priced at a fraction of Bordeaux’ famous Sauternes.
  • The Domaine de Durban is a small producer located on a hillside plateau overlooking the village of Beaumes-of-Venice, and was founded in 1159. The Domaine dominates the vineyard and offers an impressive panorama.
  • Since the Sixties, the Leydier family has nurtured and developed the production of the now internationally-renowned wines.

VISIT
As they are a small producer, it’s a good idea to call ahead to check if a visit is convenient. As they are tucked away on a hill, GPS may not be accurate.

There is a map on how to reach the vineyard on their website 

CONTACT
Leydier et Fils
Domaine de Durban,
84190 Beaumes-de-Venise
Tél. : 04 90 62 94 26
Fax : 04 90 65 01 85
Mail : contact@domainedurban.com

For further information, please fill out their contact form by clicking here.


CASSIS

* Domaine de Bagnol

Cassis, on the coast east of Marseille, deserves a visit in any circumstance. With a picturesque little port, it is within the famous “Les Calanques”, the glorious white cliffs and coves that stretch to Marseille.

Of equal interest are the lovely white wines of Cassis. The town can be very crowded in summer and cars are not permitted into the centre, so visitors are required to park and be bussed in.

However, access by car is still possible to the Domaine de Bagnol, which is just outside the centre of town.

  • The wine in Cassis is really a very long story! Archaeological excavations have dated its presence since Roman times and the texts of March 16, 1199 mentions vines that prove that wines was being produced in the Middle Ages.
  • The Domaine du Bagnol, which takes its name from the district where it is located, is one of the oldest in the country.
  • The modern history of the Domaine begins in 1997, when Jean-louis Genovesi bought it.
  • Since 2003, Sebastien his son, after specialized studies, has taken it over.
  • Today, the “Marquis de Fesques” cuvée is the spearhead. The motto of the Estate is to work in the most natural and organic way possible.

CONTACT
Domaine du Bagnol
12, avenue de Provence – 13260 Cassis
lebagnol@orange.fr
Tèl. : 04 42 01 78 05
Site : www.domainedubagnol.fr

 

Other excellent Cassis producers:

* Domaine du Paternel

* Clos Sainte Magdeleine


Photo credit: Château du Seuil

COTEAUX d’AIX-en-PROVENCE

* Château de Seuil
On the route of the Luberon, north of Aix-enProvence, the Château du Seuil is one of the most original architectural projects of the 13th-17th centuries in Aix-en-Provence.

  • Its French garden is classified on the French Supplementary Historic Monument List. It consists of a 55 hectare vineyard on the sunny slopes of the Trévaresse mountain chain, in the centre of the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence designation. The estate has 280 hectares of woods which provide a natural setting for you to discover. A full range of red, white and rosé available.

VISIT
The wine-tasting cellar, open 7 days a week; from Monday to Friday – 9:00-12:30 and 2:00-6:00, and Saturday, Sunday and public holidays – 10:00-1:00 and 2:30-7:00.

CONTACT
4690 Route du Seuil, Puyricard, 13540 Aix-en-Provence
Tel: 04 42 92 15 99
www.chateauduseuil.fr/en/


ST.REMY

* Château Estoublon
This property, in the heart of Provence, up against the southern slopes of the Alpilles, carries with it the heritage and even some vestiges of a Roman patrimony. Halfway between Arles and Avignon, the estate of Estoublon and its 18th century castle is nestled in the sumptuous landscape that has often inspired painters and writers. The land of the Alpilles has offered Vincent Van Gogh its most beautiful models.

  • In this privileged environment, Château d’Estoublon has been passionately perpetuating since 1731 the tradition of olive oils and exquisite wines.
  • Château d’Estoublon was bought in 1999 by the Schneider family from Switzerland who have renovated everything with exquisite taste. The estate is managed by Valérie, daughter of Ernest Schneider, and her husband Rémy Reboul.
  • There is a restaurant on site, the Bistro Mogador, and a shop that sells the estate’s wines and olive oils.

VISIT
The bistro is open in June every day for lunch 7/7 and on Saturday evening. In July & August it is open every day for lunch, and from Monday to Saturday in the evenings. Closed on Sunday evening. There is a Grand Brunch every Sunday lunch and public holidays.

CONTACT
Château d’Estoublon
Route de Maussane – 13990 Fontvieille
Tél. : +33 (0)4 90 54 64 00
http://www.estoublon.com/

Cheers!