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Les Baux de Provence Continuing south, the road wriggling between limestone crests to get there, Les Baux de Provence is justly one of the most beautiful villages in France. In fact, the ‘village’ as such sits below the great limestone plateau on which the lords of Baux built their chateau. Separated a little from Les Alpilles, Les Baux, which gave its name to the mineral bauxite, is perfectly summed up in the words of a song by Italian folk rock singer-songwriter Angelo Branduardi: ‘Dans son château le Seigneur des Baux prend la pluie au visage’ – In his chateau, the Lord of Baux takes the rain in his face. Climb to the highest point of this limestone ridge, and you’ll see why that might be; it must have been a desolate spot in winter when there was only wine, wenching and throwing the odd malcontent from the battlements to alleviate the gloom. Today, the village and its diverse architectural heritage is a charming mix of narrow streets, gift and craft shops, and restaurants, all determined to delay you. Above, for a modest fee, you can head up onto the plateau itself and the ruins of the chateau wherein are displayed modern interpretations of the siege engines of war used during medieval times. For all its popularity, it’s easy to fashion a quiet tour of the citadel that will give you a remarkably valid impression – well, almost – of what life might have been like living on this mountain ridge. There’s plenty of parking, for a fee, but arriving early is always a good idea. Elsewhere, Maussane-les-Alpilles is a serene, unspoiled village centred on a large square below the church, used in season as overflow seating for nearby bistrots and cafés. Come back mid-afternoon and sit in the shade with a glass of chilled wine or panaché and let the world pass you by.
It's amazing how the waiters have taken to the new French law about traffic having to stop to allow you to cross the road once you have shown your intention of doing so byplacing your foot on the carriageway. I’m surprised they survive the week… maybe they don’t! In the east, Eygalières is a small town of winding, narrow streets, an authentic and charming village made vibrant by its Thursday market, in much the same way that Fontvieille in the opposite direction, towards Arles, assumes no pretensions to grandeur, just exudes a laissez-faire atmosphere so typical of many small Provencal villages. In fact, it’s so relaxing, there isn’t time to be stressed, and who wants to drive hundreds of miles each day? Stay put, and make the most of Micro-Provence.
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