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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

5 November 2012

Les Baux

30th October 2012

Miracle! The car is fixed, on time, and the bill only slightly higher than it would’ve been back home. This was good, as the museum we had earmarked for our amusement today happened to be closed on Tuesdays. Are we perennially unlucky, or does everything in France just close at the most bloody random and inopportune times?

We had a picnic lunch in glorious sunshine in front of the Roman ruins at Glanum, then wandered onto the medieval village of Les Baux with its huge fortress lurking on the hilltop above. The fortifications have been terribly dismantled by a very thorough Cardinal Richelieu, but what remains is interesting to poke around and the views in particular are astonishing. Below you the tangled terracotta rooftops of the

village, to the south the enormous flat expanse of the Camargue with the sun winking off the distant sea, near at hand the tormented tree-clad outcrops of the Val d’Enfer with olive groves at their feet.

The village itself is one of those places that has turned into a veritable tourist spot, every third property being a restaurant, café, souvenir shop or local produce vendor. Where this reaches its absolute nadir, in places like Mont St Michel, it is truly depressing and bleaches any atmosphere from the place. Thankfully it’s a little less overpowering in Les Baux and the village remains charming.

Just down the road are the old bauxite mines, where the ore was hewn out of the white rock in such a way that it left huge caverns with the appearance of eerie Egyptian temples. Someone clever has turned the interior section into a huge son et lumière installation and our initial expectation of cheesiness was blown away as soon as we stepped inside. The works of Van Gogh and Gauguin drifted across the enormous rock walls, an amazing way to immerse viewers right into the world of these artists (and I have to say on balance that Gauguin’s art works better at this scale). I can’t praise it more than to say: if you’re ever in Provence, don’t miss this.

Dinner was a very ordinary meal in a much vaunted bistro in Arles. Our poor luck with French food continues.

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