Its name conjures images of undulating meadows, fairytale villages, and the smell of lavender. The Romans made this place their first settlement beyond the Alps and, even today, we can see why. Many argue that Provence is the loveliest region of France.
Our two options in the area focus on creating a balanced blend of Provençal scenery and flavor. Both set out from Saint-Rémy on 6-night journeys through this landscapes and foodscapes that, for centuries, have beckoned historians, artists, and wine lovers alike. Come with us and taste the culture, climate, scenery, and cuisine that are quintessential Provence.
Cornered by Italy and the Mediterranean Sea, Provence is the southeasternmost region of France. Officially part of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, it is also known as Région Sud. French regions are divided into departments (for Americans, counties) and then into communes (municipalities). Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur has six departments: Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Alpes-Maritimes, Bouches-du-Rhône, Hautes-Alpes, Var and Vaucluse.
Absorbed into France over five hundred years ago, Provence still manages to hold fast to its pre-French roots. The cultural, culinary, and linguistic flavors of Provence are unlike those of the rest of the country.
Provence is the site of the earliest known human settlements anywhere in Europe, and cooking took root here early as well: pieces of Europe’s first fireplaces were uncovered near Nice! And, in 1985, diver Henri Cosquer discovered a cave at Morgiou, near Marseille, the walls of which are adorned with drawings of bison, seals, auks, horses, and human hands, dating to 25,000 BC.
Ligures (from modern-day Liguria, over the border in Italy), Celts from central Europe, and Etruscan traders all left their marks on the region. Greeks traders from the island of Rhodes arrived in the seventh century BC and named the town they founded and its river Rhodanousia, which would evolve into Rhône, as the main river through Provence is now known.
Romans battled with the resident Ligures and Celts before establishing their own settlements in Provence. In 122 BC, they built Aquae Sextiae in what is present-day Aix-en-Provence and constructed amphitheaters, baths, temples and aqueducts widely. The Romans named their first province beyond the Alps Provincia Romana, and this is the origin of its present-day name.
During the French Revolution, the rural people of Provence were largely conservative and royalist with the one, now infamous, exception was the Marquis de Sade who was a far-left deputy in the National Assembly. Provence also produced the most memorable song of the era, now the French national anthem: La Marseillaise.
With the coming of highways in the 1970s, Provence became a magnet for mass tourism. When the TGV high-speed trains shortened the trip from Paris to Marseille to less than four hours, tourism boomed further. With its idyllic Mediterranean climes and breathtaking natural and cultural backdrops, we can see why.
By bike or on foot, we welcome you to Provence. À bientôt! (See you soon!)