Impressions of Provence

Avignon France

Tucked into southeastern France along the Mediterranean Sea, Provence is every bit as dreamy as paintings and postcard images suggest with sun-dappled vineyards, olive groves, and pastel-hued architecture.

The “problem” with Provence is that there is more to see and do in the region than we could possibly tackle in the week we had allotted. For our first trip to the area, we decided to go classic. We based in Saint-Rémy, a town in western Provence in the shadow of the Apilles mountain range. Along with meandering drives through the countryside, including an impromptu stop at a hilltop village, we whiled away the languid days visiting the well-known cities of Arles, Aix-en-Provence, and Avignon.

Every one of these places deserves at least a couple of days, or maybe even a week or more, all on their own. But there are only so many hours in a day and only so many days in a year, even for perpetual travelers like us. So we ended up seeing them in a series of hit and run day trips. And while we can’t say we did any of these places justice, we saw enough of each to know that we need to return again to finish what we started.

Seeing Arles Through the Eyes of a “Madman”

We had seen Arles so often through the canvases of Vincent Van Gogh that it was a little shocking to see it without his post-Impressionist veneer. Certainly much has changed since the Dutch artist walked these same streets some 126 years ago, but following in his footsteps gave us a greater appreciation for the man’s vision.

Le Cafe le Soir (and at mid-day)

Many people consider the fifteen months that Van Gogh spent in Arles to be the most creative of his career. Certainly this period was among his most productive. He churned out 187 paintings, or nearly one every other day, while in Arles. And with each one he turned rather ordinary scenery into, well, works of art.

L’Escalier du Pont de Trinquetaille

La Nuit Étoilée (and at mid-day)

Storming the Stronghold of Les Baux

Once the home and fortress of mighty lords, Les Baux-de-Provence has now completely surrendered itself to tourism. The roughly 20 permanent residents remaining in old town are certainly outnumbered by the day trippers flooding in to visit the plentiful gift shops and cafes. Despite the chintz, Les Baux’s steep stone passageways, castle ruins, and totally cool medieval vibe make it a worthwhile detour from the larger cities in Provence. And at just 30 minutes outside of Arles, it’s a really easy detour too. 

The Streets of Les Beaux

Visiting the Palace of the Popes in Avignon

Once the center of western Christianity, Avignon’s Palais des Papes is now a shade of its former self. While still one of the largest and most important Gothic buildings in Europe, it fell into disuse after the Papacy returned to Rome in the late 14th century.

Today, the glorious frescoes and furnishings that originally adorned its cavernous spaces are mostly lost to history. What’s left behind are the hulking alabaster bones of a once mighty dinosaur.

Palis de Pope Avignon, France

Every now and again, though, you can still spot a scrap of the original skin that covered this beast, reminding you of the power and the privilege that once breathed life into this place, but has long since departed.

Palis de Pope Avignon, France

Ending in Aix with Street Markets and Organ Music

Street markets are a way of life in France, and if you spend any time here you’re likely to encounter one or more. What’s a bit less ordinary is visiting a cathedral, like Saint-Sauveur d’Aix-en-Provence, and finding someone actually playing the gigantic pipe organ. 

 

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13 Comments on “Impressions of Provence”

  1. katywaltersreviews August 15, 2014 at 8:45 am #

    Beautiful pic. Provence is special.:))

    Like

  2. digger666 August 15, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    Reblogged this on digger666.

    Like

  3. paulettemotzko August 15, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    I love how you paired the French Impressionistic style paintings with the real photos of how it is today. As a fellow writer, photographer, blogger, I commend you on your creativity.

    Keep up the good work.

    Paulette L Motzko

    I love this so I am going to share it with my readers on Totally Inspired Mind: Where Positive Minds Congregate at:

    http://www.TotallyInspiredPC.wordpress.com

    Like

    • Brian August 16, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

      Sharing is the currency in which we get paid, so thanks for sharing Paulette!

      Like

      • paulettemotzko August 16, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

        Nice way to put it Brian. You are welcome.
        I want to monotize all my blogs this year with Google Adsense. Then every time someone visits your site, you will get paid and when they click on the very tailor made ads, you will get money wired into your paypal account or bank act.

        Totally Inspired Mind has 42,000 views now.

        Paulette Motzko

        Like

  4. paulettemotzko August 15, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    Reblogged this on Totally Inspired Mind… and commented:
    From the picturesque blog called “Everywhere Once” comes this beautiful and inventive piece on some of the most famous places in Provence, France.
    I love how the writer paired up the French Impressionistic paintings with the real life photos.
    Paulette L Motzko

    Like

  5. brissioni August 15, 2014 at 10:14 am #

    I love the juxtaposition of the Van Gogh paintings with the modern photos of the same scene. Wonderful!

    Like

  6. allisonmohr August 15, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    When you were in France, did you find that many small towns had surrendered to tourism? We saw it in Gordes, Bonnieux and L’Isle sur la Sorgue. There didn’t seem to be much daily living there, mostly tee shirt and souvenir shops in 2012. It’s inevitable, but kind of sad. However, people have to make a living.
    Have you replaced your camera yet? I’m interested to see what you purchased. Even in an RV, there is always room for one more camera.

    Like

    • Brian August 16, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

      With the exception of Le Beaux, we really didn’t think any of these places were over-run tourist traps. I think the fact that many of them are decent sized cities in their own right helps explain that. There’s certainly a tourist element in Provence, but it isn’t the whole story: not by a long shot.

      Like

  7. Dana August 17, 2014 at 11:39 pm #

    Very unique idea placing impressionism art with actual photos you (presumably) took. I lived in southern France for 9 months and I love seeing different perspectives of the same things 🙂

    Like

    • Brian August 19, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

      Yup, the photos are ours.

      Like

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