provence and the cote d'azur - overview

architecture    art    food and wine    history   

The phrase "embarrassment of riches," might well have been coined just to describe the South of France.

For most of us, Provence conjures up the images of burnt sienna villages, gnarled cypress trees, and endless fields of lavender so vividly captured in the paintings of Van Gogh.

But the beauty of Provence and the Cote d'Azur is simply the icing on the gateau. For those interested in art, ancient civilization, wine, natural history, and the good life, Southern France is unsurpassed.

Begin your explorations in Arles, where magnificently preserved Roman theaters, museums, Romanesque cloisters, and charming squares vie for your attention. Then visit les Baux de Provence ? where its difficult to tell the abandoned citadel from the craggy hillside that surrounds it ? en route to Avignon, the Papal residence for nearly a hundred years.

In Avignon, explore the palace where the Popes resided, visit half a dozen outstanding museums, and admire the bridge that inspired the children's song, "Sur la pont d'Avigon."

There's lots to see and do close to Avignon. Taste your way through the Rhone Valley wine country, visit the three-story Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard, or drive to Orange to see Europe's best-preserved Roman theater.

Then it's on to the hillside villages of the Luberon, the adopted home of "A Year in Provence" author Peter Mayle. Between the charming towns and the limestone mountains, you'll find lots of ways to enjoy life ? whatever your interest. Much of this area is a regional nature park.

A short drive takes you to Provence's most charming city, Aix-en-Provence. Best known as the home of Cezanne, Aix is cosmopolitan, prosperous, and charming. Allow yourself time to linger in its chic restaurants and stylish shops.

Next, it's breathtaking scenery and clean, mountain air at the Gorges du Verdon, the Grand Canyon of France. Here, you can hike to the canyon floor, raft or kayak, or drive around the gorge for spectacular views ? the sheer cliffs drop 2,300 feet to the turquoise Verdon river below.

After recharging your batteries at the Gorge, drive to the Cote d'Azur and explore the legendary playgrounds of the Riviera. From Cannes to Monte Carlo, this storied stretch of coastline has it all: balmy breezes, yachts, villas, sports cars, swaying palms, movie stars, and indescribably blue sea and sky.

There's more here than just glitz though. In addition to its appeal as a resort, the Cote d'Azur also has many superb art collections. The same light that will make your holiday snaps such a hit so impressed Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, and Dufy that they each enjoyed periods of enormous creativity here.

Provence and the Cote d?Azur Highlights
Cote d'Azur

Provence and the Cote d?Azur Travel Tips

Arles France

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