La Montagnette and its monuments
Culture - Off the beaten tracks
La Montagnette is a low-altitude mountain in Bouches-du-Rhône set against dry and rugged terrain. It is replete with architectural gems to visit. Start the morning with a visit to the cryptoporticus in Arles. In Tarascon, take a tour of Saint Michel du Frigolet Abbey and Château du Roi René. Next head to Le Garde-Manger for lunch before venturing off to see Daudet's mills. When you reach Fontvielle, you can't miss Château Montauban and the Roman aqueduct. Finish on a high note at Montmajour Abbey.
Arles: an underground tour of the ancient cryptoporticus
Les cryptoportiques du Forum Hôtel de ville Place De la République 13200 Arles
Begin this day's tour with a visit to the town's semi-subterranean galleries: the Roman cryptoporticus. Built in the first century B.C., these passages supported the forum and were a centre of social and political life in the Roman colony. Try not to lose yourself in these unique corridors that are up to 10 metres wide in places. If you are fascinated by antiquity, this tour is for you!
Tarascon: a fascinating 'thyme' at St Michel du Frigolet Abbey
Abbaye Saint Michel de Frigolet Abbaye de Saint Michel de Frigolet 13150 Tarascon
Your tour continues at Saint-Michel du Frigolet Abbey (named after the word ferigoulo meaning thyme) built in the 12th century by a community of canons. There you can take a tour of a cloister, a church and a small chapel with stunning Baroque decoration featuring exquisite gilded woodwork, a gift from Anne of Austria to commemorate the birth of her son, the future King Louis XIV, and 14 canvases attributed to the school of Nicolas Mignard. Art lovers should take a tour of the abbey church which houses a collection of 15 religious paintings.
Tarascon: King René's Castle
Château de Tarascon - Centre d'art René d'Anjou Boulevard Du Roi René 13150 Tarascon
Late morning is a good time to take a tour of Château de Tarascon that also goes by the name of Château du Bon Roi René or 'Good King René'. The first stone of this imposing building, which stands overlooking the waters of the Rhône River, was laid in 1400. Did you know? After serving as a prison in the 18th century, it was converted into a detention centre until the inter-war period. Today the castle is an important landmark in historical Provence and hosts contemporary art shows all through the year.
Fontvieille: Daudet's windmills, a fountain of literary inspiration
Le Sentier des Moulins d' Alphonse Daudet Avenue Des Moulins 13990 Fontvieille
Ease into the afternoon with a tour of Daudet's windmills...and not just on paper. There are four in total, namely Moulin Tombé, Moulin Ramet, Moulin Tissot (or Avon) and Moulin Saint-Pierre. The latter was restored by the Alphonse Daudet Association in his honour. The French novelist wrote his famous short story Monsieur Seguin's Goat just across the way from it.
Fontvieille: visit of Château Montauban, Alphonse Daudet's holiday resort
Château de Montauban Chemin Montauban 13990 Fontvieille
From the windmills, follow the path that leads to Château de Montauban, a location which features in the collection of short stories by Daudet Letters from my Windmill. Constructed in the 18th century, the home of the Ambroy family, dubbed the 'blessed house' by the author, hosted Daudet and his wife many times. Today it houses a museum dedicated to Alphonse Daudet. Another room displays artworks by a painter from the village, Léo Lelée, know for his Arlésiennes series.
Fontvieille: Barbegal's Roman aqueduct, ingenious irrigation
Aqueducs romains de Barbegal Rd 33 13990 Fontvieille
Two kilometres from the village, not far from Barbegal's flour mill, you can visit the Roman aqueduct from the 2nd century A.D. Built to carry water from the south face of the Alpilles mountains to the former colony in Arles, the aqueduct fed water onwards from the Caparon aqueduct. What makes it special is that it was constructed from gigantic blocks of stone and finished with bricks. A fascinating feat of ancient engineering!
Arles: Montmajour Abbey, an intricate architectural treasure
Abbaye de Montmajour Route De Fontvieille 13200 Arles
A visit to Montmajour Abbey is a lovely way to end the day. The first stones of this extraordinary structure were laid on this small island in the 10th century by a colony of Benedictine monks who had settled there. The abbey was listed as an Historic Monument in 1848. Destroyed by weather and the German occupation, it was restored in the 1980s. It provided inspiration to Van Gogh and today hosts some excellent art shows, in particular during the Rencontres d'Arles photography festival.
- Climbing up to the roof terrace at Château de Tarascon to enjoy 360° views
- Taking back home a bottle of Frigolet or Elixir du Père Gaucher liqueurs made from honey and plants from La Montagnette
- Packing in the many majestic monuments that take you on a journey through Provence's history in a day!
- Seeing up close the ancient and unique constructions in the former Roman colony of Arles
The best time to visit
- In autumn for the bullfighting event with branding and aïoli tastings in Fontvieille
- and the fairs such as the Foire Gourmande and Foire aux Santons (figurines) in Fontvieille
- 1 May for the horse blessing at Place de la Major in Arles
- Late November to visit the santon markets in Tarascon
Culture, Off the beaten tracks
Arles, Tarascon, Saint Etienne du Grès, Fontvieille
All year round
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