Traditional La Montagnette
Art of living - Off the beaten tracks
From Saint-Rémy circling back to Saint-Rémy, take a tour through some of Provence's most traditional villages. After lunch, it's on to the museum dedicated to the French poet Frédéric Mistral (Maillane). Next put your nose to the test at the museum of aromas and perfume (Gravescon) before admiring the candles produced at the Premonstratensians' factory and 'indiennes' (printed textile) at the Provençal fabric museum (Tarascon). Once you've had a look at Saint-Marcellin Chapel (Boulbon), head across to Barbentane and Cristine Darc's santons (figurines) before making your way to the Frigolet distillery. Enjoy the late afternoon sun over Château des Comtes de Provence in Reynard before returning to Saint-Rémy and visiting the Alpilles museum.
Maillane and the Provençal poet Frédéric Mistral Museum
11 avenue Lamartine 13910 Maillane
To start this day devoted to traditional Provençal, head to Maillane to visit the museum dedicated to the French poet Frédéric Mistral who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1904. Set in his former home, the museum displays many objets d'art received and appreciated by the poet. A real feast for the eyes. This traditional Aix country house is listed as an Historic Monument. Remember to look at the front of the building to see the sculpted figures of his protagonists Mireille and Esterelle.
Graveson: awaken your senses at the fragrance museum
Petite Route du Grès 13690 Graveson
Now hit the road and head to the museum of aromas and perfume. There, the Ecobio area takes you on a fragrant and organic journey around stills, fragrance tables and bottles from perfume designers. Outside, the 'Carré des Simples' is a fascinating garden of aromatic plants, all organically grown. To totally bliss out, book a massage in the Aromacocoon. Guided tours available.
Tarascon: the Abbaye des Prémontrés' candle factory
ZA du Roubian 20 rue Des Charpentiers 13150 Tarascon
On the way to Tarascon, make a stop off at the Premonstratensian Abbey and its candle factory. The artisanal candle workshop has a rustic feel and still contains tools from the early 20th century. You will learn about the two production methods dating from the 15th century used to make candles and tapered candles: with ladle or by dipping. After, leave the scent of wax behind you and make your way to the town centre.
Tarascon: the Provençal fabric museum
39 rue Charles Demery 13150 Tarascon
Your tour continues at the Souléiado Museum in Tarascon which is just five minutes away by car and specialises in the printed coloured cotton ('indiennes'). Aimed at the whole family, the museum has recreated scenes from everyday life in Provence and has a number of traditional costumes on display.
Boulbon: Saint-Marcellin Chapel and its unique procession
After stopping for lunch, head to Boulbon to visit Saint-Marcellin Chapel (11th century, Romanesque style) known for its bottle procession. Every year, a group of men (no women permitted) assemble to bless a bottle of wine with healing powers. During your visit, you'll learn that the Boulbon's reredo, initially fitted behind the central alter, is now housed in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Barbentane: santons at Autour de la Terre
4 place Le Cours 13570 Barbentane
When you arrive in Barbetane, make a detour for a chance to admire the santons (figurines) made by Cristine Darc. Traditionally Provençal with a modern twist, her naive figurines made of clay make an ideal and unusual gift or souvenir. If you book ahead, you can even learn how to make them. Around 20 artists work in different disciplines (from tableware to homeware to objets d'art available to buy on site) under the same roof
Chateaurenard: tour of the Frigolet Liqueur distillery
26 rue Rolland Inisan ancienne Rue Voltaire 13160 Châteaurenard
Next return to the road and drive to the Frigolet Liqueur distillery where Père Gaucher liqueur is made, named after a character in Daudet's collection of short stories Letters from my Windmill. Awarded the 'Living heritage business' label in 2006, the distillery, which is free to visit, is also accessible to the disabled (Tourisme & Handicap label). Foodies amongst you will appreciate the liqueur, ice creams and other treats on offer, not to mention the artisanal products available to buy.
Chateaurenard: Château des Comtes de Provence
Montée des Tours 13160 Châteaurenard
Just close by, you can visit Château des Comtes de Provence, a feudal castle built between the 13th and 15th centuries on the brow of a hill (Colline des Tours). The castle crest features a fox above the castle's four towers against a red background, recalling the name of the first lord (Reynard, 'fox' in old French). Listed as an Historic Monument, the castle can be visited with or without a guide. The tour begins with a look around the sumptuous furnished rooms before ending in the gardens
Saint-Rémy: visit to the Alpilles Museum
Musée des Alpilles Place Favier 13538 Saint Rémy de Provence
Wrap up the day in Saint-Rémy and, those of you with stamina, head to the Alpilles Museum in the town centre. It's set in an old Renaissance mansion and is listed as an Historic Monument. The various rooms take you on a journey through the region from the perspective of its history, climate and ecosystem. There are also artworks by local, perhaps lesser known, artists on display. After that, all that's left to do is find somewhere for a delicious dinner!
- Buying a traditional Provençal tablecloth for the home
- Making your own santon (figurine)
- Trying Père Gaucher liqueur made famous by French novelist Alphonse Daudet
- Trying your hand at being a perfumer with the scents of Provence
- Getting an overview of Provence's many arts and crafts from fabrics and figurines to literature, liqueurs and châteaux
- Seeing typical Provençal dress up close
The best time to visit
- Late June/early July to attend the votive celebrations in villages around Provence
Art of living, Off the beaten tracks
Maillane, Graveson, Tarascon, Boulbon, Barbentane, Châteaurenard, Saint Rémy de Provence
All year round
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