France, The Alpilles of Provence
67 images Created 9 Mar 2011
The Chaîne des Alpilles, a small range of mountains and arid limestone peaks in Provence about 20 km south of Avignon, is last Southern extension of the Alps. The Alpilles, 387 m at its highest point, are 25 km long and about 10 km wide, have been declared a Regional Parc. The Alpilles inspired also Alphonse Daudet's novel Tartarin sur les Alpes about Tartarin, ebullient Provençal hero of the small town of Tarascon near the Alpilles. Also Vincent van Gogh painted many images of the Alpilles landscapes during his time in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. In a spectacular position the village of Les Baux-de-Provence with a population of only 22, the essence of the Provencal villages with its small squares and narrow streets set atop a rocky outcrop crowned with a ruined castle, a unique reminder of mediaeval history providing a breathtaking panoramic view down over Arles and the Camargue. During the Middle Ages the lords of Baux, that controlled 79 towns and villages and their castle at Les Baux was renowned for a high level of culture and chivalry. Les Baux later became a centre for Protestantism and its unsuccessful revolt against the crown led Cardinal Richelieu in 1632 to order that the castle and its walls should be demolished. The story of Les-Baux is strongly related to soft stone quarries mined by the Romans in open-pit quarries due to the facility with which the stone can be worked and sculpted for buildings and decorative architectural elements in the Mediterranean region. Today only the quarry of Sarragan is still working but in the hearth of the Alpilles the monumental quarries of Carrières de Lumière host extraordinary multimedia shows.Also the name of Bauxite, a Aluminium ore, is derived from the village name where it was first discovered in 1821. Many buildings of this nearly troglodythic village are now picturesque ruins but Les Baux is a listed heritage site that has won titles such as “one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France”.