A Guide to the Chateaux of the Alpilles

If you’ve spent time around the Alpilles, the small mountain range near St-Rémy-de-Provence, you’ve probably spotted a medieval chateau or two. Some are hard to miss, like the one above the fortified city of Les Baux. Others are little more than piles of rubble.

The Alpilles were once dense with chateaux of all shapes and sizes. But why so many? And what happened to them? Here’s some history, plus a guide to the chateaux that you can still visit today.

Read all about it at Perfectly Provence!

What Did the Pont d’Avignon Originally Look Like?

Sur le Pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse
Sur le Pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond

Many of us learned that song as kids, about the famous Pont d’Avignon in Provence. For those of us lucky enough to see the real bridge in all its glory, we are often surprised because it’s rather short—only about 100 yards long and ending partway across the Rhone River.

Much of the original Pont d’Avignon tumbled into the Rhone centuries ago, a victim of inadequate construction and poor maintenance. Today it’s hard to imagine what it looked like when it was nearly a mile long and spanned the entire river. Was it straight or curved? Was it fortified? Did it have a drawbridge in the middle?

Luckily, a group of scientists and historians has discovered what the bridge looked like and has created a full 3D model of it. There’s even a video that shows what it was like to cross from one side to the other and back!

Read all about it at The Good Life France!

The Great Wall Of Provence

When most people hear of “the Plague,” they shudder and think of the Black Death that killed so many people back in the Middle Ages. But did you know that in the 1700s an outbreak in Provence took the lives of thousands? And that the King of France teamed up with the Pope to build a great wall to stop it?

The outbreak of the Plague should never have happened, but you know how it is: someone in power was motivated by greed and let an infected ship enter Marseille. From there it spread north until the only solution was to “Build That Wall!”

Part of the wall still exists and you can visit it today. Read all about this fascinating and little-known chapter of Provence history in Perfectly Provence.

Did Mary Magdalene live in Provence?

A crippled ship bobs helplessly on a storm-tossed sea and those on board face certain death…but then a miracle occurs. Guided by the hand of God, the ship arrives safely on the shores Provence. Out steps Mary Magdalene, ready to spread The Word throughout France.

Mary Magdalene landing in France…wasn’t that in The Da Vinci Code? Well, not quite. It’s from the legend of Mary Magdalene in Provence, a rich vein of tradition that author Dan Brown almost certainly tapped for his bestseller. Monuments to Mary and her shipmates abound in Provence and her legend stretches back nearly 2,000 years.

Read all about it in Perfectly Provence!

The Four Queens of Provence

There have been many famous families in history. Take the Curies, for example: Marie Curie won two Nobel Prizes and her husband, daughter and grandson each won one. Quite the talented family! And then there are the Wright brothers and the Brontë sisters. And let’s not forget those comic masters, the Marx brothers.

But imagine a family where not one, not two, but four sisters become queens, each heading a great European power. It’s hard to believe, but it actually happened in the 13th century! It’s a tale of Pride and Prejudice meets Game of Thrones…

Read the whole story at The Good Life France!

The Immortal Women of France

For too long, French institutions have been boys’ clubs. The august Académie française, for example, was founded in 1635 but only elected its first woman member in 1980!

But things are slowly starting to change and now 9 women have been named members of the Académie, or “Immortals.” Let’s meet them.

Read the rest of the article at My French Life.

Legends of Provence: The Monk Known as Romée de Villeneuve

I recently picked up a book called Legendes de Provence by Eugene Bressy. Over the next few months I’ll dive into some of these stories and let you decide whether you believe them or not. The first one was about the fearsome Tarasque monster.

Here’s the second one, about truth, lies and jealousy in the court of the Count of Provence. As Molière once said, “There are no ramparts against gossip.”

Read all about it at Perfectly Provence!

Legends of Provence: The Tarasque Monster of Tarascon

I recently picked up a book called Legendes de Provence by Eugene Bressy. It’s a series of short stories about the legends of Provence: famous heroes, spiritual leaders and the occasional monster. Over the next few months I’ll dive into some of these stories and let you decide whether you believe them or not.

I’ll start with the most famous legend of them all, that of the fearsome Tarasque, who terrorized Provence until he met a plucky young lady named…Well, I’ll let you read all about it at Perfectly Provence.