Les Baux – de – Provence
Les Baux is a minuscule, ancient, stone village, which rests on a rocky plateau that offers a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape.
During the Middle Ages, it boasted a fortified castle that stood proudly crowning the Rock – the identifying landmark of the area. In 1632 the ramparts and the castle were demolished by order of Louis XIII; however, in recent years, it has been partially restored.
The village is a picturesque gem that requires no more than an hour to stroll; stop at a crêpe stall for a scrumptious sweet or savory crêpe; browse the stores for Provencal fabrics with olive tree motifs in gorgeous shades of yellow, blue, and green; and shop for dried Provencal herbs and lavender. Today Les Baux has a population of approximately two dozen residents.
In 1821, a mineral, which is used for refining aluminum, was discovered in the area and was named Bauxite after the town of Les Baux. Bauxite was mined in the vicinity of Les Baux until 1939, at which time the quarries were abandoned.
Some thirty years later, Jean Cocteau, the famous French novelist, filmmaker, poet, and painter, repurposed an abandoned quarry into a unique multimedia art presentation site. Called Les Carriéres de Lumieres (Quarries of Light) the art and architecture of the likes of Van Gogh, Gaudi, Dali, Chagall, and the Impressionists are displayed – accompanied by surround sound music – on the limestone quarry walls, which cover 16,000 square feet, using over 200 projectors. The show lasts for approximately 40 minutes and repeats all day. Each year the show changes to feature different artists.
Tip: Book online in advance for Carriéres de Lumieres, which is only 5 minutes from the village of Les Baux. The best time to visit the area is in the offseason – late fall through winter – when the crowds thin out to a mere trickle. Alternatively, visit in the morning as soon as Carriéres de Lumieres opens or in the late afternoon/evening. Finding parking can be a nightmare in season.
Disclosure:Photos of Carrieres de Lumieres, courtesy of Carrieres de Lumieres site.