The Alpilles and Garrigues
The Alpilles are the essence of Provence. In fact, if you have ever dreamed of Provence, it probably looked like Vincent Van Gogh’s wheat fields and cypress trees, stony white hills and starry nights, tumbling clouds in brilliant blue skies. These images have made this part of Provence so familiar that it has become a kind of collective fantasy. Van Gogh spent his last and most prolific years painting the fields, farmhouses (mas in Provençal) and people of this corner of Provence. He produced so many images of the area that stretches from Avignon, west to Nîmes and south to Arles (the gateway to the Camargue), that visiting it, you might feel as if you’re walking around a living art gallery.
There is, of course, much more to enjoy here besides the buzz of déjà vu. Rustic villages of great charm and individuality punctuate a varied, distinctive and lightly populated landscape. From the walled city of Avignon, above a wide and fertile reach of the Rhône Valley, the 14th- and 15th-century Papal vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are just visible in the distance. The Pont du Gard rises out of the mists of the River Gardon. This, the world’s most complete example of a three-tiered Roman aqueduct, can still be crossed. And local history, from outstanding Greco-Roman and Medieval ruins to the caves of the French Resistance, is within easy reach of all of the region’s key destinations.
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