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If you ever wanted to find a real castle, Tarascon is the place where a spectacular medieval fortress in pale stone has been restored to a perfect state. The first stop are the Communes ( Commons) working quarters with kitchens, apothecary and workshops, climb the narrow spiral staircases within stone towers; wander through the banqueting hall, hall of audience and the king’s hall with great fireplaces. The castle was home to king Rene , also fine medieval tapestries hang in the royal rooms with tile floors. The castle was built to defend the western boundary of Provence but was abandoned in the 17th-century and became a notorious prison until 1926. You will notice the graffiti by 18th-century prisoners of war.

Tarascon is famous for 2 mythical beasts: The Tarasque which emerged from the Rhone to eat cattle and children, was subdued by St Martha   with the sign of the cross and Tartarin of Tarascon, a rotund comic giant invented by Alphonse Daudet in 1872.

An idea for a tour.

This is a packed but leisurely day with about 3 hours driving. Allow 2 hours to explore les Baux on foot, an hour for Glanum and you can also allow another hour for wine tasting at one of the Alpilles’ vineyards along the route.

The Eastern end of this tour links to Orgon, with Luberon and Southern Vaucluse; Cavaillon and are just 10 km away and just south of the Alpilles lies the plaine de la Crau.

If you are in Arles and want to visit L’Abbaye de Montmajour, leave town on l’Avenue de Stalingrad, on the north side of town center, initially signed for Avignon and Tarascon, but when you reach N570, turn right ( south) and left onto the D17bfor Les Baux. Straight away you will see the gaunt stone fortifications of the Abbaye de Montmajour rise massively on the right. In AD 948 a community of hermits was founded in the middle of the marshes. The abbey became steadily wealthier and added on a cellar, a church, a refectory and chapels. The extend of its ruins gives us some idea of its final enormous size. But for all its wealth, starkness  was de rigueur in the abbey: Only the capitals in the cloister were adorned. Continue to the village of Fontvieille and  turn right on to a quiet back road for the moulin de Daudet. A couple of kilometres further down the road ( D 33) , around the junction with D82 and D78e, there are some very interesting ruins of the twin Gallo-Roman Barbegal Aqueducs, one of which brought water to Roman Arles from Eygalieres while the other one powered  a hydraulic flour mill. From the acqueducs, you will take D78e ( changes to the D27) through Paradou. You will climb the rocky landscape at the heart of the Alpilles in direction of Les Baux. Pass by Val d’Enfer, a very curious gorge of caves and strange rock shapes associated with mysteries. Then you will follow the road around on to the D27a to reach the tiny turning on the right for Les Baux de Provence. Les Baux de Provence is sometimes so crowded that the police won’t allow any more vehicles into the village, you can always park in the summer time at the foot of the hill and walk up to the village.

When you leave Les Baux by descending again on D27a, turn right, and on reaching D5 turn right through beautiful groves of olive, cherry, apricot and almond trees.You will see the dark red Rochers d’Entreconque rocks rising to your left. At Maussane Les Alpilles, you turn left on D24 to climb again. You will descend to a junction with the D25 on the right, take this turn . The road will climb once more and then you will descend as  it skirts the Plaines massif at the eastern end of the Alpilles. After some 9 kms you will reach the junction with D569, again passing the Castelat ruins, to reach Orgon where Napoleon, taken in exile in Elba, was pursued by a mob. You will leave this very modest town ( N7), Avignon direction but straight away the D24b on the left to skirt again the Plaines Massif . On the left the Chapelle St-Sixte was built in the 12th-century on the site of a pagan temple was dedicated to a local spring, stands on a hill with a view of the Alpilles. Soon after the road enters Eygalieres, a very pleasant town ( Where Our thanksgiving tour will take place) climbs in narrow streets to its very historic castle keep, which offers beautiful views. You will then take the D74a north to reach the busier D99 and you will take a left. Not far along is the left town for the very interesting Chateau Romanin wine cellars. You can make a stop and then will continue on the D99 to reach St-Remy-de-Provence. When you leave St-Remy de Provence ( on the south side) you will see the old monastery and hospital of St-Paul-de – Mausole, it stands left on the road, which quickly reaches Les Antiques and Glanum. You can take a little time to explore and then return to the southern edge of St-Remy . When you enter the town, where the D5 becomes becomes Avenue Durand-Maillane, you will take the first left on to le Chemin de La Combette leading to Le vieux chemin d’Arles, you will see the Tour du Cardinal. This is not a tower but a 16th-century country house with a renaissance balcony.  Stay on this road and you will see (after 5 km) St-Etienne-du-Gres. You will turn left here on to the D32, making a stop after 2 km to see the 12th-century Chapelle-St-Gabriel. The chapel is all what is left of the Roman settlement of Ernaginum, once a small port of rafts in the marshy area. At Chapelle St-Gabriel, the D32 reaches the N570 which is the main Arles-Avignon road.

Anne Suire.

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Alphonse Daudet

Alphonse Daudet

Chateau Romanin

Chateau Romanin