For some of us, vacations are nearly over. For others, they are just getting started! If you plan to go to France and will be in the South, stop at the Baux de Provence. It is one of the most beautiful villages in France – even in the world.
Although I am French born, I cannot stop admiring these little beautiful villages in France. One of the things I like about vacationing in France is that there is always a little village, a city or a region that is worth visiting and will take your breath away!
In June I went to Baux de Provence. As the name says: it is in the Provence region in the South of France. It is a very picturesque Medieval village at a fortified rocky site between Arles and St Remy-de-Provence.
The ancient village, the extensive fortified-chateau area, the magnificent setting and views, and the museums are worth visiting. It has a spectacular position in the Alpilles mountains, set atop a rocky outcrop that is crowned with a ruined castle overlooking the plains to the south. It is one of the most beautiful villages in France and has over 1.5 million visitors per year — although it has only 22 residents in the upper part of the commune and 436 for the whole commune.
Therefore, I would suggest to visit it outside the crowded months of July and August. You can easily spend your day strolling through the old village and visiting the chateau-fortress. In the Château des Baux you can witness demonstrations of huge catapults (a Trebuchet, a Couillard also called a biffa, and a Mangonel), which are given every day from April to September.
The name “baux” means a prominent cliff (see below), but has become more well-known for the bauxite named after this region.
La Citadelle des Baux Aout 2005
Bauxite was first discovered in the Alpilles, and named after the village of Baux-de-Provence. Les Baux-de-Provence village is tiny with narrow cobblestone streets between grey-stone Medieval buildings.
This compact, ancient village does include lots of shops for tourist items (often locally made products), and lots of small restaurants.
Even with the commercial aspects of couple of shops everywhere, the village is still picturesque, and includes interesting sights and museums as well as the restaurants.
Don’t forget to stop at the first shops at the entrance of the village owned by the same family. The shop on the right sells homemade cookies. A must taste! There are over 50 different cookies from the regions.
Across the street, the other shop sells local olive oils, vinegars and many different mustards and sauces. All their products are so tasty and uniquely made.
I regret not to have brought more of these products back to the US! If you are hungry and want to experience the French gastronomic cuisine, you can try:
The “Baux” family became powerful here in the 9th century and ruled as Lords until the 15th century (1426). Les Baux-de-Provence has been occupied as a defensive site throughout history. Traces of habitation have been found and dated to 600 0 BC. in the Costapéra cave which was discovered in 1928 and which houses a collective burial ground from the early Bronze Age.
The site was used by the Celts as a fort or oppidum around the 2nd century BC. Workshops from the end of the 2nd and early 1st centuries BC has been found in the Baux The fortress in the Baux de Provence was built from the 11th to the 13th century over seven hectares.
The princes of Baux controlled Provence for many years and they gained a formidable reputation. As a medieval stronghold on the borders of Languedoc, Comtat Venaissin, and Provence, the fortress had a turbulent military history and has been the subject of many assaults.
The solid dungeon that still dominates the village today reiterates the importance of this castle which was a desirable possession in the Middle Ages.
At the end of the Baussenque Wars in the 12th century the princes of Baux were defeated.
The large castle began to be renowned for its highly cultivated court and chivalrous conduct. The estate finally came to an end in the 15th century after the death of the last princess of Baux.
Les Baux, together with Provence, was then attached to the crown of France. Under the rule of the Manville family, the village became a center of Protestantism and even tried a rebellion against the crown. In 1631, tired of conflict, the people negotiated with the king for the redemption of the castle territory and the right to dismantle the fortifications, “which were a refuge for rebels”.
Louis XIII consented on 5 August. In 1642 the town was offered to the Grimaldi family as a marquisate in favour of Hercule de Grimaldi, Prince of Monaco (1642-1780). The title Marquis of Baux is still carried by the Prince of Monaco.
Administratively, the town is entirely French and the title of Marquis of Baux is traditionally given to the heir to the throne of Monaco. Jacques, the son of the current Prince of Monaco Albert II, carries among his many titles that of Marquis of Baux.
In 1822 bauxite was discovered in the area by geologist Pierre Berthier. The ore was intensively mined until its exhaustion at the end of the 20th century.