Near the end of our whirlwind trip through the south of France, we went to Les Baux-de-Provence near Aix (where we saw a knife fight) and Arles (where we saw the Roman ruins). It is another adorable and charming hill town, but the real reason to go to Les Baux is to enjoy sweeping views of the Provencal countryside from atop the ruins of its medieval citadel. The first citadel was built in the 10th Century. Although the lords were deposed a couple of centuries later, it didn’t stop it from becoming a cultural center and renowned for its chivalry. When the last dynastic ruler (Alice of Baux) died, it became part of the kingdom of France.
In the 17th century, Protestant Baux led an unsuccessful revolt against the Catholic King. The all-powerful Cardinal Richelieu retaliated by ordering the destruction of the castle and its walls.Shortly after, the town was granted in 1642 to the Grimaldi family of Monaco. In fact, it still belongs to them (even though it’s administered by France). Princess Caroline of Monaco uses the title Marquise des Baux.
Having seen plenty of cute shops and art galleries in the hill towns of Eze, St. Paul-de-Vence, and Vence, we checked out a photography exhibition then headed straight for the castle. Climbing around the ruins was cool (they even had a catapult demonstration), but the dramatic views are the real star of the show. The rugged moonscape is the perfect place from which to survey Provence. We watched the weather traverse the countryside, descending only when we saw rain clouds headed toward us.
The Val d’ Enfer (the Valley of Hell) is also renowned. It allegedly inspired Dante’s poetry. Bauxite, an aluminum ore, was discovered here in 1821. French geologist Pierre Berthier discovered it and named after the town (Les Baux). When it’s that cute, how could you do otherwise?
Being short, I love, love, love my heels, but appropriate footwear is recommended. She was having a devil of a time getting around the town and down the steep hill to the parking. At least they are cute.