Today we spent most of the day at Les Baux-de-Provence, a commune on the southwest slope of the Alpilles. This relatively small area includes a wine appellation, an olive appellation, a small medieval village, a ruined chateau from the 11th century, and human habitation since 6,000 BC.
In the morning I began an oil painting on our patio. The winds were blowing fiercely. Frank, our landlord, told me that the mistral always follows a cloudy, rainy day like yesterday. The prediction was for 1oo kph (60 mph) winds today. This means that the views from Les Baux are clear and that the mosquitoes in the Camargue are hiding. We chose Les Baux. I can finish my painting tomorrow.
Les Baux contributed its name to bauxite ore, which was discovered here in the 19th century. However, all bauxite mining ended shortly after WWII. Today tourism is the economic engine. We drove up the mountain to the village through hordes of people. These folks were parking down on the flatland to avoid parking fees. The payment was that they had to hike up the road for some distance. We chose to park at the entrance to the village for 5 E. Then we strolled through the village.
During the day the village hosts restaurants, cafes, and shops selling all sorts of Les Baux and Provence kitsch. People pack the narrow streets (no cars allowed in the old village). It is expensive as well as crowded. We made our way through the village as quickly as possible to the entrance to the ruined chateau and fortress atop the mountain. The entrance fee was 8 E each.
After paying the fee we spent four hours touring the large site. It stretches from the southern tip where ramparts guarded the cliffs to the northern end where the Lord of Baux’s chateau soared above the valleys of each side. In between the lesser folks had their stone houses, bakeries, stables, etc. One unfortunate fact was that Les Baux had no water except for collected rainwater. An elaborate system of cisterns was not sufficient to overcome a long seige, which was the ultimate downfall of the fortress.
The mistral blew wildly atop the mountain. I think the gusts topped 130 kph and it certainly was a steady 100. A couple of times a gust caught me taking a step with one foot in the air and I found myself going a different direction than intended. At the very top of the fortress I held onto a handrail to stay upright.
We returned home and I made dinner which we enjoyed in front of an open window with the wind roaring overhead and blue skies above. Our house sits in a sheltered glen that protects us from the worst wind. Frank also pointed out that wild boars came through during the night and advised us to close the garden gate at night. I’ll go out to do that now.
Here are a few photos from the day.