For lovers of Roman history, the city of Nîmes in southern France is a must-see. It was once a major metropolis in Roman Gaul and today boasts a plethora of important sites: there’s the beautiful Maison Carré temple that Thomas Jefferson used it as a model for the Virginia state capital building, a large and well-preserved amphitheater, a massive Roman guard tower, and more.
There are plenty of reasons to visit Nîmes and now here’s another: the Museum of Romanity that opened in 2018. This museum exhibits thousands of fascinating artifacts and covers over 2,500 years of life in the city. And it’s great for kids as well as adults.
Val and I visited it a few weeks ago and had a great time. You can read my report on this terrific museum in France Today.
An hour east of Marseille is the cute little port town of Cassis, one of the prettiest in France. And in between the two are the rugged calanques, the mini-fjords for which the region is famous. With their steep grey cliffs against the deep blue waters of the Med, they are a sight to behold. And the good news is, they are easy to get to.
From Cassis you can take a boat ride to see a few or many of the calanques, with the rides ranging in length from 45 minutes to a couple of hours. You can even hike to some of the calanques if you wear sturdy shoes. It’s a landscape like no other and not to be missed.
Read all about it at Perfectly Provence!
One of the prettiest spots in Provence is the little town of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. It sits next to the Sorgue River and has lovely restaurants along the riverfront, plus some interesting museums and craft centers. But the most amazing thing is the source of the river.
Rather than a series of little streams that slowly build into a river, the Sorgue arrives fully formed, at the base of a cliff just a few hundred yards from the town. This is the “fontaine” (fountain) that gives the town its name–one of the largest springs in the world. Waters gather deep underground and then come to the surface in a pool that spills out in a cascade and becomes the river.
Read all about it in The Good Life France!
In the old days in Provence, flocks of sheep were marched hundreds of miles, to cool mountain pastures, where they would graze during the hot summer months. They passed through village after village in what was called the transhumance, and all the villagers would come out to watch the spectacle.
In the 1960s and 70s, the transhumance faded away as shepherds began to transport their flocks by truck, but then towns like St-Rémy-de-Provence revived the tradition with annual festivals. Held every year on Whit Monday, the modern transhumance features thousands of sheep circling the town, along with shepherds, sheepdogs and the occasional goat. It is like a river of sheet flowing past, a sight not to be forgotten!
Read all about this link to the Provençal past in The Good Life France.
St Rémy de Provence is where my wife and I live part of the year and it’s one of the most charming towns in Provence. Nestled at the foot of the Alpilles Mountains and surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, it’s a great place to spend a few days. I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite things to do while you’re in town.
You can read all about it at Perfectly Provence.