Clock tower, the former town belfry, containing an astronomical clock dating from 1661.  Adjoining the H? de ville (city hall).

South of France

by Eve Andersson

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My experience with southern France is limited: only one long weekend during which I drove nearly 1000 kilometers visiting places that friends and colleagues told me were beautiful and/or interesting. I ended up in Aix-en-Provence, Saint-Paul de Vence, Tourrettes-sur-Loup, Gourdon, Vers-Pont-du-Gard, Cassis, Esparron-de-Verdon, and Avignon. If (when) I return, I'd like to spend more time near the water and in wine areas like Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Lovely Places to Swim

The calanques at Cassis are gorgeous, dramatic promontories sweeping out of the Mediterranean Sea. People stretch out and sun themselves on flat rocks bigger than themselves as the sea unremittingly pounds the shore.

Solitary man.  Calanque de Port-Miou. Calanque de Port-Miou. Sailboat in front of the calanques of Marseilles, viewed from Cassis. Sunbathers on the calanques. Man about to be drenched by water splashing off the rocks.  Calanque de Port-Miou. Boys climbing down to the water.  Calanque de Port-Miou

Pont du Gard
Estimates of when this Roman aqueduct was built vary, but it may have been as long ago as the first century AD. The river is a pleasant temperature (an unplanned discovery in the course of trying to get exactly the right angle for the second picture below) and is popular with swimmers. How magnificent to swim and sunbathe in the presence of such a grand, historic structure!

Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct built (perhaps) in the 1st century AD. Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct built (perhaps) in the 1st century AD.

Gorges du Verdon
This mini-Grand Canyon is particularly beautiful, with aquamarine-colored water. The Lac d'Esparron-Gréoux, created by damming the river Verdon River, is a tranquil setting in which to enjoy sailing or swimming.

Boats in the Lac d'Esparron. Boats in the Lac d'Esparron. Swimming area.  Lac d'Esparron. Lac d'Esparron. Gorges du Verdon, viewed from the D315 road.

Medieval Cities

Saint-Paul de Vence
This is one of the more interesting medieval cities I've seen. While I know this is a gross overgeneralization, many of the medieval European city-centers seem quite similar, with cobblestone streets, squat, stone buildings, narrow passageways, and arches. Saint-Paul de Vence also has these features; however, its preserved area is relatively large, lending it a cohesiveness lacking in the medieval fragments of other cities. Art galleries and good restaurants add modern charm and pleasures, without detracting from the ambience of yesteryear. And its hilly, forested setting is idyllic.

Stairs. Village center.  Looking on a street with an arch. Village center. Purple flowers on the side of a building. Grande fontaine. Village street. Sculpture of a woman balancing. Door. Sculpture called "L'envol" by Jean-Michel Folon, from the Guy Pieters art gallery. La Venus de Saint-Paul de Vence by Th?Tobiasse. Art by Alain Sultan. Head-shaped planter. Stone pattern in the road. View from La Sierra restaurant on Les Remparts Oest.

Half an hour is all that's needed to cover this small, pretty town on foot, though the draw of an artisan's shop may cause you to dwell longer. The town is known for its flowers, particularly violets.

House with orange flowers. Streets in the village center. Stairs and vine-covered building. Restaurant. Dog water fountain. House with violet flowers. The "train des Pignes" ancient bridge. View of the old town of Tourrettes-sur-Loup, from a hill above the town.

Gourdon's mountaintop setting with 360-degree views over the Loup River valley is impressive. The town itself is quite small (about 5 short streets in total).

Storefront decorated with boys with flutes. Le Nid d'Aigle Restaurant. Sculpture that looks like a combination of dragons/bulls/snakes/emu/human. Place Victoria. View from La Source Parfum? La Source Parfum? Black bee on yellow flower.  La Source Parfum?

Several popes and antipopes (those who, breaking from the Roman Catholic Church, declared themselves pope) resided in the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes), built in the 14th century. The medieval bridge, Pont Saint-Bénezet, also known as the Pont d'Avignon, is even older, constructed in the 12th century, though only a fraction of it survives.

Palais des Papes, the largest Gothic palace in Europe. Pont Saint-B?zet, a.k.a. Pont d'Avignon, built between 1171 and 1185. Rue Folco de Baroncelli.



Oratories -- praying sites with statues of saints, usually recessed into corners of buildings -- abound in Aix-en-Provence. With 90 oratories, Aix has more than any other city in France.

Oratory depicting a cardinal and a child.  Corner of Rue des Bagniers and Rue Marius Reynaud.  Old town. Oratory depicting a man and a dog.  Rue Espariat at Rue de la Masse.  Old town. Oratory on a building at the intersection of Rue Cardinale and Rue d'Italie.  Depicts a man, possibly with a hare. Quartier Mazarin. Oratory with woman and child sculpture.  Place des Augustins.  Old town. Oratory depicting (perhaps) the Virgin Mary.  Rue de l'Ancienne Madeleine.  Old town. Oratory depicting (perhaps) the Virgin Mary.  Rue des Tanneurs.  Old town. Oratory, probably depicting the Virgin Mary.  Corner of Cours Mirabeau and Rue du 4 Septembre. Building with an oratory representing (probably) the Virgin Mary.  Corner of 	
Rue Roux-Alpheran and Rue Peyssonnel.  Quartier Mazarin.


Aix is known for its ubiquitous fountains -- some gigantic and imposing and others barely more than outdoor basins. Famous fountains include the Fontaine de la Rotonde (1840; at the city center, with statues representing Justice, Agriculture, and the Arts), Fontaine des Quatre Dauphins (1667; Four Dolphins fountain), Fontaine d'Eau Chaude (1734; Hot Water Fountain, mossy, fed by a hot spring), and Fontaine des Neuf Canons (1691; Nine Cannons fountain).

Fontaine des Quatre Dauphins (Fountain of the Four Dolphins). 17th century.  Quartier Mazarin. Fontaine d'eau Chaude (Warm Water Fountain) at night.  Built in 1734, fed by a hot spring.  Cours Mirabeau. Fontaine des Neuf Canons (Nine Cannons) at night.  Built in 1691.  Cours Mirabeau. Fountain with four pigeons.  Boulevard Aristide Briand.  Old town. Fontaine Esp?que.  Lion spouts and a pigeon.  Old town. Fountain spout.  Place des Augustins.  Old town. Face containing a water spout.  Fountain in the Place de l'H? de Ville (city hall plaza). Fountain.  Place des Augustins.  Old town.

Cathédrale St-Sauveur

This cathedral, a national monument of France, combines architectural elements from the 5th through 17th centuries.

Cathedrale St-Sauveur. Angel at the top of Cathedrale St-Sauveur. Man with a wine goblet.  Cathedrale St-Sauveur. Mater Salvatoris.  Cathedrale St-Sauveur. Men on thrones(?).  Cathedrale St-Sauveur. Decorations that look like mini-steeples.  Cathedrale St-Sauveur. Angels.  Cathedrale St-Sauveur.

Place de l'Hôtel de Ville

Also known as Place de la Mairie, this square contains the Hôtel de Ville (city hall; 1655-1670), an astronomical clock (1661), and the Halle aux Grains (the former Grain Exchange; 1759-61), as well as a fountain and restaurants (which most squares in Aix seem to contain).

Clock tower, the former town belfry, containing an astronomical clock dating from 1661.  Adjoining the H? de ville (city hall). Clock tower, the former town belfry, containing an astronomical clock dating from 1661, at night.  Adjoining the H? de ville (city hall). Clock tower, the former town belfry, containing an astronomical clock dating from 1661.  Adjoining the H? de ville (city hall). Woman sculpture adorning the facade of the H? de Ville (city hall). Lions adorning the doors of the H? de Ville (city hall). Figures representing the Rhone and Durance rivers.  Halle aux Grains (the former Grain Exchange, 1759-61).  Place de l'H? de Ville (city hall plaza).

Quartier Mazarin

Designed in the 17th century by the Archbishop Mazarin, this area once housed the city's aristocracy. The Fontaine des Quatre Dauphins pictured in the Fountain section above is found in this neighborhood, just off of the Old Town.

Rue Peyssonnel, looking onto Rue Cardinale.  Quartier Mazarin. ?lise Saint-Jean-de-Malte.  Quartier Mazarin. Le Passage restaurant.  Quartier Mazarin. Rue Fernand Dol.  Quartier Mazarin. Rue Cardinale.  Quartier Mazarin.

Other Old Town Photos

Place S?phin Gilly.  Old town. Couvent des Augustins at night.  Old town. Petite rue des Carmes.  Old town. Girl on the merry-go-round.  Place de la Rotonde. Place d'Albertas.  Old town. H? Maurel-de-Pontev? a.k.a. H? d'Espagnet, built in 1647, with a balcony supported by telamones. Embossed pattern around the doors of the H? de Peyronetti (1620).  Rue de l'Aude.  Old town. Place des Augustins at night.  Old town. La Tourreluque, a 14th century tower.  Old town. Sculpture of a woman with a hat.  H? d'Ailhaud, Epoque Louis XV, Rue Mignet.   Old town.

More photos: View all photos in the directory /photos/france/south/.
Eve Andersson (
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