Monday, July 16, 2012

Getting Medieval in Les Baux

We've started to get out and explore Provence over the past week. There's plenty of things to do, no matter which direction we go in! Provence is a very fertile, sun-filled, and hilly area of France. It also has a long history of human habitation -- even the Romans have left their mark here!

We recently took a trip to the hilltop village of Les Baux (baou is Provençal for "rocky spur.") It's the remains of a fortified city dating from the 10th century. Jim was looking forward to seeing the medieval weaponry and Hermes couldn't wait to pee on a historic ruin. I was just happy to get out and enjoy the beautiful day!
"Are you guys coming or what?"
The hilltop village of Les Baux, from
Les Baux is located in the foothills of the Alpilles mountain range, nestled between scraggly limestone hills and endless olive groves. The fortress sits atop a 650-ft bluff, which made for a great natural defense against any invaders. There's also a spectacular view of the surrounding plains. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Mediterranean Sea (about 30 miles away.)
View of olive groves and hills south of Les Baux.
To the north, the white sandstone cliffs known as the Val d'Enfer ("Valley of Hell") were the inspiration for Dante's description of Hell in Divine Comedy.
Valley of Hell? I don't see it. Come to Phoenix in August!
A free audio guide was available with admission, but we found the descriptions to be a little long winded. Speaking of wind, it was also very difficult to hear anything atop the cliff, as the mistral wind was in full force on our visit!
Sporting our wind-blown hairdos.
Onto the part you've been waiting for: the weapons! We found a catapult, battering ram, and trebuchet (which looks like a catapult but it's not). Sadly, there weren't any mock battles during our visit, leaving Jim a bit disappointed.
Can you say trebuchet?
It was a lot of fun to wander around the ruins of the fortress. Most of the fortifications were carved directly into the rock.

It was also a great outing for Hermes, as he was able to explore the grounds with us. The French are very keen on bringing their dogs everywhere. There was even  a special "bar" for chiens et pigeons (dogs and pigeons!)
Note the Cesar Millan-style collar. Hermes is in walk training!