A Mysterious French Monster

History is full of horrible monsters. The ancient Greeks were terrorized by the Cyclops. The snowy Himalayas are haunted by the Abominable Snowman. And in Japan, Godzilla appears from time to time and stomps on Tokyo.

The French have their own terrible creature and—unlike the others—this one was real. The mysterious Beast of Gévaudan ravaged the French countryside in the 18th century, killing so many people that King Louis XV had to send troops to destroy it.

What was the Beast—a vicious wolf, an escaped lion, or something else? It’s a fascinating tale.

Read all about it in The Good Life France!

Roman Provence

Provence is famous for its charming hilltop villages, brilliant sunflowers, and fragrant lavender. It is also where you can find some of the best Roman ruins in all of Europe. This is because Provence was once an important part of the Roman Empire. The Romans even gave it its name: “Provence” comes from the original Latin “Provincia Romana.”

If you like beautiful temples, magnificent amphitheaters, and stunning aqueducts as tall as an 18-story building, then Provence is the place for you. Let’s take a look at some of the best of these Roman sites.

Read all about it at The Good Life France!

Living Like a Local in Provence

Val and I live part of the year in St-Rémy and we’ve tried to become as local as we can. An important part of that is getting to know our region’s history.

One way we’ve done this is through local associations, which are groups organized around a common interest. Associations are popular in France and every town and village has at least a few. They might be cultural, charitable, athletic—you name it. A friend of ours is in a walking group and she joins fellow members for “randonnées” in the countryside every weekend.

We’ve made it a point to go to lectures put on by our town’s historical society. Want to know about the women of the French Resistance? How about what the Pont d’Avignon looked like before it collapsed? Or maybe the REAL story of Mary Magdalene in Provence?

Read all about it at Perfectly Provence!

Treasures of Ancient Arles

Ancient ships that have survived until today are few and far between. Maybe the best known is the Gokstad Viking ship in Oslo, dating back to the ninth century. But far older is the Roman barge at the Museum of Ancient Arles, in Provence. This 2,000-year-old vessel is the highlight of a museum that is a must-see for any lover of Roman history.

With a mint-condition bust of Julius Caesar (check those wrinkles!), beautiful mosaics, jewelry and much more, you’ll want to visit this museum on your next trip to Provence.

Read all about it at France Today!

The Most Roman City in France

Just west of Provence, across the mighty Rhône River, lays the Gard Department of France. Gard and Provence share a deep Roman history, from the days when both were part of the Roman region of Gallia.

Because it is so close to Provence, a visit to Gard makes for a nice day trip from Avignon or St-Rémy-de-Provence or wherever you might be staying. And one of the highlights of a visit is the city of Nîmes, once called Nemauses and known as “the most Roman city outside of Italy.” Emperor Augustus made Nemauses his local capital and today Nîmes is filled with sites and monuments that make it a must-see for any lover of Roman history.

Read all about it at Perfectly Provence!

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!