Midi is the other name of the South of France, a region of ancient atmosphere where the flavors are strong and the heady scents. We we visited starting from Arles.
Midi is the other name of the South of France
The ideal point to discover the city’s Boulevard des Lices, home to the Provencal market on Saturday morning, where you can be intoxicated by the scents of the merchandize and enchanted by the grace and refinement with which they are placed on the counters covered by local fabrics.
The market is in each stall a constant temptation. We just could not resist the colorful canvas print tablecloths and boutis, quilts fabrics woven with a special technique, the ancient oriental origins, using two overlapping fabrics, lightly padded and embroidered about needle. Even today we just lay them on the table or on the bed to hear scent of Provence! The most typical is that of lavender, packed in colorful bags sold as souvenirs in every corner.
The snack should be made of exquisite charcuterie provencal, so later, sated, you can proceed to the Romanesque cathedral where he was crowned Barbarossa and that is dedicated to Saint-Trophime, the patron of Arles who would receive their landing in Camargue, Lazarus and Tre Marie. But that’s another story that soon we will tell you. The church is a fine example of Provençal architecture and also has a magnificent cloister.
Continuing you arrive at the Place du Forum, the heart of the ancient city, which got its name from the Roman forum that was there. On the square there is also the Café de la nuit, also called Cafe Van Gogh because painted by the great artist in one of his paintings in 1888.
Other city jewel is the Roman arena at the end of the first century A.D. and one of the best preserved along with those of Verona and Nimes.
If you’re ever in Arles in September you could attend, as has happened to us, to the Feria du Riz, the feast of rice during which you can watch the running of the bulls through the streets of the city, whilst the restaurants adjacent to prepare enormous paellas with famous and fragrant rice of the Camargue.
In the arena, however, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are still held by the Spanish bullfights, those Portuguese without killing the bull and courses camarguaises, shows with bloodless bulls which reflect a passion and a whole local tradition that has not nothing to envy to those of Seville or Ronda.
Even the Roman Theater is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, even if stored with less care arena as it was used as a quarry for material during the Middle Ages: today remain the bleachers, two columns of the scene and the mosaics on the floor of ‘ orchestra.
From Arles in less than an hour you reach Avignon, called the Little Rome of the Rhone. But before we suggest a short detour to Tarascon, a beautiful town dominated by the fourteenth-century castle of the Counts of Provence, one of the prettiest in France, the scene of the immortal Tartarin, the hero of the novel by Alphonse Daudet.
Once in Avignon the first step is a visit to the Palace of the Popes, well 15 thousand square meters of interesting rooms enclosed by square towers and walls with huge Gothic arches.
You can not miss the walk on the famous Pont d’Avignon which is actually named Point Saint-Benezet, wooden built in the twelfth century and destroyed in 1226, was later rebuilt in stone with 22 arches of which there are only four.
From Avignon, moving north, you get to Orange, where he is one of the best preserved Roman theaters and the only one with the stage wall intact and imposing in which the statue of the emperor Augustus is set. Another gem from the Roman era the arch of triumph.
After Orange’s worth reaching Vasoin-la-Romaine to admire the remains of the ancient city founded by the Romans, including the grotto and the theater. At the time belongs instead crumbling medieval castle of the Counts of Toulouse overlooking the red-tiled roofs and the quiet cobbled streets of the village. If you put all this wandering hungry, pull yourself up by a tasty Provençal dinner that will also rely on a base of olive appetizer, sausage and pilassadiere, the classic focaccia topped with onions, anchovies and black olives. To then continue with a beef daube, stew in a clay pot, or a lighter but equally tasty poullet à l’estragon, ie tarragon. To end up with a delicious cheese trolley, which never fail the chèvres, more or less aged goat marinated in olive oil or wrapped in herbs.
Not far from Avignon, moving left Provence to Languedoc, that is towards the west, you reach Nîmes. But already 20 km before arriving you will come across a must, that of the Pont du Gard, the great aqueduct built by the Romans in 19 B.C. 275 meters long, nearly 50 high and with three levels of overlapping arches. Of course we could not resist to cross the river from one to end of this viaduct strolling and admiring the magnificent view.
Then we resumed our route to Nîmes, where, first, you have to visit the amphitheater built in the second half of the first century A.D. whose plant a perfect elliss. In the Arènes of the city, as in that of Arles, held both the Spanish bullfights those Provencal bloodless. To the north is the Maison Carrée, a small Roman temple that has survived intact for two thousand years. Inside a Roman antiquities museum that houses marble and bronze statues, mosaics, tombstones and altars.
In the second century, however, the baths are dated with the adjoining theater, a nymph and a temple dedicated to Diana, the source that feeds the pools still flows in the beautiful park of the Jardin de la Fontaine.
The tour continues to the Tour Magne, imposing octagonal building of the Augustan age that stands on Mont Cavalier.
Before leaving Nimes and conclude the tour of its monuments not to be missed, take your journey into the majestic Gate of Augustus, with two arches in the center and two side, which preserves a stretch of the Roman paving and recalls the grandeur that the city gave the ’emperor with no expense spared.