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Published: August 31st 2020
We made three trips to France in 2018/2019 before moving on to Hawaii. We combined the photos, and this blog is mostly Provence (south of France) and the next one will be Provence to Paris and back to Switzerland.
As I said before, I love driving small backroads - the curvier, the better. And there are quite a few curvy roads in France. We try to get a small car, so Pete can usually, easily turn around and we can get that perfect shot.
Besides beautiful scenery and great food, there’s a lot of Roman history in Provence. Since one of my majors at the University of Washington was Greek and Roman History, I’ve always been fascinated by this area. Provence was actually a “province” of Rome, so there are several aqueducts, theaters, arches and other structures built by the Romans still standing, and many being used, 2,000 years after they were built. There’s even a bridge that was built in 3 BCE that was still being used for car traffic until 2005. There’s a lot to be said for Roman engineering. On a previous trip, we went to a performance at the theater in Orange, which was built
in the 1st Century CE. (On another trip, I saw an opera at the Verona Arena in Italy, also built in the 1st Century CE - both great experiences, even if you’re not into classical music or opera - but bring a cushion to sit on!!) There’s an excellent museum in Arles if you’re into history. We had seen a lot of these sights before, and as these excursions were towards the end of our trip, we were museum’d out, so focused more on the scenery.
According to Rick Steves, “Deep in the south of France, Provence offers an almost predictable palette of travel experiences: oceans of vineyards, fields of scented lavender, adorable villages, and intoxicating bouillabaisse. But the area is also crammed with ancient history — the Roman ruins here are some of the best anywhere. Many scholars claim the best-preserved Roman buildings are not in Italy, but in France ... Provence was the first part of French Gaul to be brought under Roman rule ... The Romans were no fools: They recognized Provence as a prime trading and wine-growing region, where good living was — and is — easy to come by ... With its strategic location
between Italy and Spain, Provence grew to become an important part of the worldwide Roman empire. After Julius Caesar conquered Gaul (58–51 BCE), Emperor Augustus set out to Romanize it, building and renovating cities in the image of Rome ... Most Roman towns in Provence had a theater (some had several), baths, and aqueducts; the most important places had sports arenas ... In Roman times, enjoyed a formidable wall, an arena, a 10,000-seat theater, a bridge across the Rhone River, and an impressive main street. The city today still thrives within the original Roman outline.” https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/read/articles/under-the-roman-sun-in-provence
Unfortunately lavender wasn’t blooming during any of our recent trips, but we could still see the lavender fields, and buy some cut lavender in the markets. And speaking of markets - definitely something everyone should experience. Many markets can be touristy, but it’s also where some of the locals do their weekly shopping. We usually try to buy a salami, some cheese, bread, and because we can drink in public, some wine. We look for a nice place to stop on one of those curvy roads, and have a picnic.
One of our favorite b-and-b’s is outside Uzès, in Saint-Jean-de-Ceyrargues. We’ve
stayed there a few times, and the hospitality and food is excellent! https://www.gites-gard-lautremaison.com/?lang=en
My sisters had planned a trip to the “old country” (Italy), to see where my mother’s father emigrated from (Chieuti, near the Gargano Peninsula), so Pete and I timed our trip so we could all meet up in Bologna for dinner. One sister lives in Seattle and one in New York, so it was good to get together, especially since we can’t get together under the current circumstances. Janet spent a few more days in Italy to do some family genealogy, Beverly went on to Spain to visit friends, and Pete and I drove back to Switzerland.
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