The many faces of Provence
Contrary to popular expression, when you see Paris, you should not hurry to leave this world – if only because it still has Provence! It is like a novel, written by the hand of the great master: everyone will read in it what is in tune with the soul, but much will remain unsolved … The blooming haze of lavender fields, sonorous concerts of cigales, which became one of the symbols of the edge of proud seniors and romantic troubadours. The unique for the French architecture tower Fenestrel in Uzes, which still preserves the medieval look, and the mysterious Tour Magne, whose outlines resemble the disappeared wonder of the world – the Faroese lighthouse. The majestic Pont du Gard Bridge, part of a grand aqueduct erected by order of the Roman Emperor Agrippa almost 2 thousand years ago.
The road of St. James of Compostela, the millions of pilgrims wiped the tired legs on the stones, and the inconspicuous house on Rue Osh in the town of Saint-Remy-de-Provence, where the great mystifier Michel de Notrdam was born, from the time of Catherine de Medici to our days, disturbing minds by their hazy prophecies. The salt-laden valley of the Camargue with its estuaries and lagoons, sung by F. Mistral, and the famous nature reserve, where you can watch the fascinating flight of pink flamingos.
The dreadful fortress of Aigues-Mortes, from where Louis on his last trip to the shores of Tunisia. The funny town of Tarascon, in the vicinity of which Saint Martha pacified the bloodthirsty monster Taraska, and Alfons Daudet glorified him as the birthplace of Tartarin – French baron Munchhausen. The Van Gogh Center, adjacent to the courtyard of the hospital where the brilliant artist was treated, and the Arlatan Museum in Arles. “Daudet Mill” with its wonderful pine alley and ancient abbey. Luxurious garden de la Fontaine and jeans monument in Nimes. The list of treasures of Provence is practically inexhaustible, but it is worth telling about two cities. WALKS IN MARSEL A native of these places, Marius Petipa, a brilliant choreographer who staged many beautiful ballets, would have been shocked if he looked into his native city now. And yet, most of our contemporaries, Marseille is better known as the small homeland of Zinedine Zidane, the lover of beating himself. There is a fair belief that you need to walk around Marseilles on foot in order to feel the spirit of the city. I would say that you can feel its flavor completely only after driving through it in a car, even just once. A walk is better to start from the church of Saint-Vincennes-de-Paul to the Old Port pier. The Kanebier Promenade, which is the most popular among citizens and tourists, leads past the picturesque flower market and (in the pre-Christmas weeks) the “cr? Che de Noel” statuette fairs. On the waterfront, the wind throws salt spray into the face and swings the masts of numerous yachts, inviting you on a real voyage.
It is worth making, because boats depart from here to the most famous castle in the world: on a small island stands the gloomy silhouette of the castle of If, fortified in the 16th century by King Francis I and glorified by Alexander Dumas. It is even more interesting to inspect the casemates that Abbot Faria, unlike Edmond Dantes, did not just have a prototype in real life, but actually existed and was imprisoned in a castle until 1814. Count de Mirabeau languished here and, according to some legends, the “prisoner in the iron mask”. If seasickness or a storm warning will not allow you to get closer to the famous prison, you should not get upset, you just need to climb to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, towering over the city. From there you can see the castle of If and the whole of Marseille with its picturesque surroundings. And the cathedral itself, with the golden statue of the Mother of God with the Child on top, is a true architectural masterpiece and one of the most famous symbols of the city. In the ancient abbey of Saint-Victor is the church of Notre-Dame-de-Confeson, better known as the “Church of the Black Virgin” due to the unusual color of the sculpture of the Virgin Mary. If you visit the abbey at the very beginning of February, you can see the annual holiday Chandeleur (Presentation of the Lord) and try the Navettes cookies, traditionally baked for this day, the shape of which symbolizes the boat of the first Gospel preachers who sailed to these shores.
Marseille will surprise original museums. The museum Santon exhibited a collection of tiny Christmas figures, typical of Provence, collected by the master of this type of art M. Carbonell. There is also a workshop where you can watch the production of figures. The fashion museum represents all of its directions over the past 30 years and about 2 thousand different accessories. In the Museum of Roman trading warehouses, various amphoras for wine, grain and oil are collected, and in the Museum of the ancient Marseille, the well-preserved vessel of the 3rd century attracts attention. By the way, the building itself, the maison de Cabre, is so beautiful that you should approach it, even if there is no time to inspect the exposition. The same applies to the “Shelter of Mercy” Vielle Charite and the Palace Longchamp, where the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Fine Arts are located.
PAPAN RESIDENCE Avignon is the largest Gothic palace in Europe, the residence of the popes. It was built in those years when the intrigues of rivals for the papal throne, raging in Rome, pushed Clement V under pressure from French King Philip the Fair to settle in a hitherto unknown Provencal town. Martin Luther called it the “Babylonian Captivity of the Church,” in history this period is better known as the “Avignon Capture of the Popes”, which lasted almost 70 years. During this time, seven French popes were replaced, the Papal Palace turned into a grand castle surrounded by bastions, and the Avignon courtyard impressed all medieval Europe with its magnificence. Unfortunately, during the years of the French Revolution, no one thought about the historical and cultural value of the architectural ensemble of the Papal residence, so the building lost some of its treasures. Nevertheless, in our days, the interior of the palace, as well as the facade, is able to attract crowds of tourists. A huge Hall of Consistory strikes the imagination: here the Pope received ambassadors and kings, proclaimed the names of those elected to the Sacred College, here Brigitta of Sweden was canonized and convicted Cola di Rienzo. Today, the wall of the hall is covered with tapestries and portraits of the popes, as the fire destroyed the frescoes of Matteo Giovanetti. But in the Chapel of St. John, the Chapel of St. Martial and in the Great Audience, where the Sacra Romana Roth (the Court of Appeal of the Catholic Church) sat, luckily, other works of this wonderful master were preserved. In addition, beautifully preserved wall paintings in the Pope’s Bedroom and the Room with a deer. And in the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Dom, where the French kings received the blessing before the next crusade, you can see the real masterpiece of the Siena artist Simone Martini. Here are the tomb of Benedict XII, the gravestone of Pope John XXII and the episcopal chair of white marble, created in the XII century. You can visit the Palace with an audio guide in your hands, which in four languages will tell the story of the residence in detail. And you can just wander through the arched corridors and, glancing into the courtyard of the high pointed window, imagine yourself as a beautiful medieval marquise who came to confession to the cardinal. A part of the palace, intended for servants, is also open to tourists, for example, a typical medieval kitchen with a smoked ceiling and a narrow chimney where dishes for papal feasts were prepared. Although, of course, much more interesting is the wine cellar, La Bouteillerie du Palais des Papes. There are many varieties of wines made from the fruits of vineyards growing along the banks of the Rhone, including the famous Chateuneuf du Pape, whose name was given by the Papal Palace. You can buy souvenir boxes with miniature bottles or ordinary bottles of your favorite sort of wine, which you are invited to taste before. The gallant sommelier offered four kinds of drink, warning that if the product did not like it, the rest could be poured into a special bucket that was right there on the table. It should be noted that the tasting portions did not at all resemble the miserable thimbles with which we were treated in the Crimea, and the quality was excellent, so there was nothing to splash out.
The last place where you definitely need to look – the gift shop of the Papal Palace. Here everyone will find a cute little thing to your taste. I chose a deck of Gothic playing cards with portraits of French kings, created by medieval artists, and the most important, according to a familiar Provencal, part of French winemaking culture – a silver-styled cup, called test au vin, intended for sampling wine from the barrel.