Les Baux de Provence

Information sign at the village entrance

This sign at the village entrance provides a good overview of village, plateau, and castle ruins.

Les Baux de Provence is a spectacular place! The village itself is located below a plateau, one end of which is taken up by the ruins of an 11th century castle. The village gets its name from its location: in Provenšal, the term "baou" designates a craggy outcrop. One doesn't have to spend a great deal of time in Les Baux to realize just how appropriate that is. Les Baux has given its name to the aluminum ore "Bauxite" that was discovered here in 1821.

Located roughly 24 kilometers (15 miles) fron Arles, Les Baux is just a little over a two-hour drive from where we live, a distance that raises the issue of whether the page should be part of the "Trips" or "The Area" section of this site. Precedences exist for both choices, but this time I opted for the "Trips" section on the grounds that "The Area" already contains many pages.

I arrived in Les Baux just before 9:30 in the morning on March 3, 2012; the weather was rather dark and gray, and there was literally no one around. In the absence of sun there were no shadows, so the light lent itself to capturing the many subtle tones and details in the old structures and rock.

Click on any image to see a larger (1500 x 1000 pixel) version!


The Les Baux castle ruins seen from the valley The view from the parking lot

The Les Baux castle ruins seen from the valley

The view from the parking lot


The tourist office Looking up the Grand'Rue Looking down the Grand'Rue

The tourist office

Looking up the Grand'Rue

Looking down the Grand'Rue


Place Louis Jou View from the place Louis Jou

Place Louis Jou

View from the place Louis Jou


One of the ways into the valley Blue shutters Side street

One of the ways into the valley

Blue shutters

Side street

On my first trip to Les Baux, back in 1992 and thus long before my digital photography days, I had seen what I thought was a typical and photogenic Provençal store, and I had taken a picture of it. During my current visit, I was surprised to see the very same store; only the color of the shutters had changed from a brown to a light blue shade. I took one photo, then looked at the inside of the nearby chapel and church. Before leaving that particular area, I took another photo, this time of the right side of the store. It is not until I started selecting photos for this page that it occurred to me that I could combine my two store images into a smal panorama. The result is shown below, and as far as I am concerned it is far superior to the photograph I took in 1992. There is no doubt in my mimd: at least as far as the 35mm format is concerned, digital has vastly surpassed the quality of analog photography.


Provenšal store (2-image panorama)

Provençal store (2-image panorama)


Place Saint Vincent Chapel of the 'penitents blancs'

Place Saint Vincent

Chapel of the penitents blancs


Exterior view of the chapel Saint Vincent church Saint Vincent church

Exterior view of the chapel

Saint Vincent church

Saint Vincent church

On the plateau, there are several restored siege weapons. The tallest of these is a 16-meter (52-ft) Trebuchet capable of hurling a 50 to 100 kilogram (110 to 220 pound) rock over a distance of some 200 meters (220 yards). The trebuchet weighs about 7,000 kilograms (over 15,400 pounds) and 60 trained soldiers were required to install and operate it. There are several other medieval war machines, including a crossbow catapult and a covered battering ram. The castle ruins themselves feature several parts worth exploring. There are two towers one can climb (though the steps to the taller one are a bit tricky, especially on the way down), and it is also possible to reach the top of the main building, though it's officially forbidden ("proceed at your own risk").


The plateau above the village Trebuchet and other medieval siege weapons

The plateau above the village

Trebuchet and other medieval siege weapons


On the plateau Crossbow catapult

On the plateau

Crossbow catapult


Battering ram (with manual!) Easy walkway... ...and tricky steps

Battering ram (with manual!)

Easy walkway...

...and tricky steps

From either tower, one has a very nice view over the rooftops of Les Baux. Being on the plateau was a bit eerie, especially with absolutely no other soul around. It was as if time had stopped. By the time I left, I spotted a family with a small child at the other end of the plateau, but that was it. Today, the edges of the plateau are fenced in; this was not the case when we first visited with the kids in the early nineties, and I remember my stomach doing summersaults when one of the boys ran a little too close towards the edge. Things are a bit less stressful for parents these days.


The rooftops of Les Baux View from a castle tower

The rooftops of Les Baux

View from a castle tower


Looking towards the village View from another castle tower

Looking towards the village

View from another castle tower


Amid the castle ruins Village view

Amid the castle ruins

Village view


On the plateau The village and the castle ruins

On the plateau

The village and the castle ruins

Though exploring the village is, of course, free, one has to pay a fee (8€ in March of 2012) to access the plateau. Strangely enough, the village's cemetery is located up there, and thus one has to pay to visit it. There were some fairly fancy graves along with a few dilapidated ones that the village is attempting to remove according to a few signs I saw. Before heading back down, I passed by a wide-open door that turned out to be a restroom. I decided to avail myself of the facility, and it is only after I left and closed the door behind me that I noticed the distinctly female looking symbol that had been facing the wall when I got there. Oh well, I'll survive...


Looking down onto the Grand'Rue Looking back on the way down In the cemetery

Looking down onto the Grand'Rue

Looking back on the way down

In the cemetery


The cemetery Fancy graves

The cemetery

Fancy graves


Re-entering the village Side street Rue de l'église

Re-entering the village

Side street

Rue de l'église


Yard Rue du château Town Hall

Yard

Rue du château

Town Hall


Town Hall courtyard Leaving Town Hall... and Les Baux

Town Hall courtyard

Leaving Town Hall... and Les Baux

After a quick lunch in one of the local eateries, I started my trip back home just after 1 PM. By then, the parking lot started to fill up and the sun made a timid appearance. I felt I'd had the best part of the day all to myself: wonderfully muted colors and empty streets. Needless to say, you should not miss Les Baux de Provence should you find yourself within driving distance of this wonderful place. In the meantime, you can also visit a Gallery page of these and a few other Les Baux photos, or watch the whole set as a slide show. For best results, move your mouse pointer over the image once the slide show starts and press the full screen button on the top right of the window. Enjoy!





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