Provence with the family: an authentic land walk
5 August 2018
The passion of travelers for the charms of Provence can not be explained, it must be lived, during a trip. Planning a stay in Provence with children is not always easy, as there is much to see and do. Here are some ideas.
The region of Provence is full of small authentic villages, nature reserves, beautiful walks, medieval towns and Roman remains nestled in a sumptuous decor that has inspired painters and writers.
A STAY IN BAUX-DE-PROVENCE
Les Baux-de-Provence, a picturesque village in the Luberon region, is recognized as one of the most beautiful villages in France – “the most beautiful”, the Baussencs. Bewitched by the authenticity of the place, walking in narrow paved alleys, eyes intoxicated by the nobility of the plots and old churches, surprised at every street corner with its cultural wealth, hearts are distributed. Perched on its rocky outcrop, this medieval city has kept intact its Provencal soul. This unique historical heritage attracts thousands of tourists every year. An essential visit during a stay, why not go to the most ‘Baux’ village of Provence?
The domain of Manville
Like a mirage posted in front of the Lubéron mountains, the Domain of Manville, paired with the “Little Guest” quality label, is the promise of an idyllic stay. In this 5-star hotel, a haven of peace in the heart of Baux-de-Provence, the sweetness of life is set in its philosophy. On the menu: homemade croissants crunching under your fingers, the delicious scent that comes from the lavender fields, the sound of cicadas, the softness of the big sheets of Egyptian cotton. After a hearty lunch, served under a huge, light-filled glass roof, everyone is busy: while Maman starts her lengths in the pool built in the Mediterranean style, Papa goes golfing to perfect his swing and the children go to the Kids Club to enjoy the many activities offered by the hosts of the Domain. A perfect opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life: the staff is renowned for their care and attention.
The decoration of the glass roof is inspired by the lush vegetation that surrounds it
Established in the gardens of the estate, located in a protected environment of 100 hectares, nine discreet luxury villas offer the perfect combination of calm, independence and hotel service. Forget about holiday homes and the stress of renting or impersonal chains with standardized décor. The Manvilles villas are furnished with care, between tradition and modernity. The decor is simple, the materials are noble, the real estate is very comfortable. The bathtubs are unique, according to each bathroom. This address of excellence does not spare any effort to welcome families. In this elegant, laid-back location, time seems to stop. Certainly, the appeal of Provencal decor may be felt. Prepare the troops and go to discover all that the region has to offer!
THE TREASURES OF HIGH PROVENCE
There are the people, the people of the Côte d’Azur, with its red rock, coves and turquoise waters. And then there is Haute Provence. Less well known, but no less proud, with its lush gorges, villages perched in the mountains and lavender fields. True to itself, it still surprises and offers breathtaking landscapes.
An enchanted walk at Château d’Estoublon
Backed by the southern slopes of the Alpines, the Château d’Estoublon is a privileged location in the Vallée des Baux-de-Provence. At the end of a long path of century-old pine trees, y can see a majestic castle built in the 18th century and bought in 1999 by the Schneider-Reboul family. To discover this unique site, which combines sumptuousness and traditional values, enter the big courtyard where Valérie and Rémy will greet you warmly. In superbly restored outbuildings of the property, the hosts propose to visitors the tasting and the purchase of tasty products made with care on the lands of the domain. Syrups, jams, teas, sweets, pastas, terrines, vinegars, olive oils and wines are displayed on the stalls of the delicatessen. So many gourmet flavours that will revive young and old in an authentic setting.
The love of vineyards and olive trees
Dedicated to these exceptional products, prepare yourself for a digestive walk in the heart of the agricultural fields, on the “parcels path“. Punctuated with informative and educational stops, the course invites all the family to discover the environment of Estoublon: its fauna, its flora, its soil and its history. Throughout the 1.6 km trail, hikers are invited to feel the passion of olive growers and winemakers for their craft. Let yourself be guided between the plots of vineyards and olive trees and breathe the fragrance that emanates from the cultures.
Before heading back, punctuate your excursion to the estate by visiting the mill of Estoublon. An opportunity for children to learn how olive growers make their olive oils, from culture to manufacturing.
At the Portes du Ventoux
Small and large sportsmen can go on a bicycle excursion in Piedmont du Ventoux. From the Bedouin Village, the 23km cycling circuit is easy and suitable for everyone. In addition to the idyllic landscapes of this region, you will discover the villages of Bedouin, Flassan and Mormoiron, wih their small, colourful houses. You will take the “Chemin des Demoiselles Coiffées” – a name to make you smile – and will take in the tour of the hamlet of Les Baux, cross the undergrowth of the hill Saint-Antonin and refresh yourself with the water of Salettes. Count on 2 hours to complete the course – perhaps a little less with the mistral at your back. A way to live an intense moment of adventure, discovery and simplicity.
For the rental of bicycles go to Bédoin for one of the three rental companies in the village: la route du Ventoux, Bédoin Location ou l’Etape du Ventoux. If you want to take your baby, think about asking for a bike trailer. Do not forget to provide provisions and water. On your way, little troop!
Around Saint Remy de Provence
Saint Rémy de Provence is nestled at the foot of the Alpilles massif classified Regional Natural Park. This typical village, with its paved streets, squares shaded by plane trees and its pretty craft shops symbolizes Provence artists. The beauty of the landscapes bathed in light has seduced many painters. Walks around Saint Rémy take you to the heart of their paintings. We opted for an equestrian hike with the écuries Soleil Horizon. The owners offer customized walks of a few hours or a day for all audiences. The welcome is benevolent, the horses are carefully maintained. In this atmosphere out of time the change of scenery is assured.
The mauve of the lavender fields, the big blue of the sky and the golden yellow of the Provence sun tinged the palettes of painters such as Cézanne and Van Gogh. Provence has seen the birth of authors, Giono Marcel Pagnol, through Alphonse Daudet, who each spoke in their own way of the tones of their homeland.
The Railway Wagons, the famous work of the painter Van Gogh, entered the station permanently at Angladon Museum. In this old mansion of the 18th century, the works of Damier, Cézanne, Picasso, Modigliani (Jacques Doucet Collection) are also on display. In the form of riddles and treasure hunts, children are invited to discover the rooms, drawing rooms, furniture and art of the museum. Through a tablet for children aged 4 to 11, young people are introduced to the world of art and colours. For small artists between 6 and 10 years old, the museum organizes each week plastic arts workshops to feed their curiosity and the desire to experience art through the manipulation of various tools. You can if you wish make contact with the museum to organize your visit.
Borne of a cultural richness, Provence gives of itself to see and to explore. It carries with it the remains of a Roman heritage of which the whole region is a part.
Between past and future at the Palais des Papes
From the top of the Rock of the Donations, the Palace of the Popes dominates the City and the Rhone. This imposing Gothic monument (the largest in the West), with an area of 15,000 sqm, is reminiscent of the time when the majestic Avignon held its head in Rome. Marked by centuries of history, the stone vaults bear witness to a mysterious past that’s just waiting to be told. Go through the doors of the Papal Palace and let yourself be guided through augmented reality via the Histopad touch pad.
In total immersion in the rooms of audience, the rooms of state where formerly important banquets were held, the dining rooms, the apartments of the Pope decorated with frescoes executed by the famous Italian artist Giovannetti or the Armory, you will enjoy a unique immersive experience. The guide allows you to visit, virtually, 9 major halls of the reconstituted Palace to evoke the prosperity of the Papal Court. In each of the historical rooms, a playful animation is proposed for the youngest. Through the immersive views, children are invited to look for objects, such as the secret cache of a chest, in which a coin stamped with the effigy of the popes is hidden. This educational tool will awaken their curiosity and animate this unusual walk in the city of the popes.
A bridge of Avignon to nowhere
Its celebrity, the bridge Saint-Benezet – its real name – must certainly come from the song “On the Pont d’Avignon”, still famous today in playgrounds. Did you know that the festivities of the great Avignon period did not unfold “on” but “under” the bridge, as its narrowness allowed neither farandole nor sarabande? The first version of the nursery rhyme was written for a Mass and was entitled “Sus le Pont d’Avignon”. An operetta from 1876, inspired by Adolphe Adam’s “L’Auberge Pleine”, made the melody popular and transformed the lyrics: it is now on the bridge that the rounds dance. So go push the song on the Pont d’Avignon which, since the 16th century, does not reach the two banks. An audioguide with commentary written especially for children is offered free of charge at the entrance to the monument.
The bridge was built in the 17th century by the young shepherd Benezet, who descended from the mountains of Ardeche and managed to convince the notables of the city of the Popes to block the Rhone with a stone border in order to charge seafarers for their passage to the great waters. The swelling of merchandise exchanges and the taxes levied on travelers made the fortune of Avignon. While the city was rapidly developing, the men’s conflicts and the strong currents of the Rhone overcame the Pont de Bénézet. The guided tour will help you better understand the history of this bridge that attracts thousands of tourists every year. Listen attentively to the explanations and perhaps you will be able to solve the enigma of the arches that were lost in the floods of the river.
Exploring the Provençal mysteries with your family, it brings on a real appetite! And, it so happens that Provence is a cultural region but also gastronomic. Head to the university town of Aix-en-Provence for a tasty break.
The Calissons of Aix
Legend has it that in the 17th century the good King René, Count of Provence and Duke of Anjou, wishing to conquer his promised Jeanne, of an austere reputation, asked his master confectioner to make royal icing to make her smile: a secret key that opens many hearts. On the wedding day, a small white and yellow diamond, delicately placed on a wedding ring cushion beside two gold rings, was presented in front of the altar. When the King put the ring on the finger of his destiny, the face of the latter showed no emotion. The young husband, however, was able to catch a glimmer of curiosity. The Countess then tasted the strange confectionery in the shape of an almond and smiled. You can guess the rest of their romance: the newlyweds lived happily and had many children.
But what happens to the sweet treat? The story also smiles – called “Di Calin Soun” – “they are hugs” in Provençal – the chalice delights the taste buds of gourmands in Italy and so, according to legend, he made his entry on to the gastronomic scene.
The appointment is given in the workshops of Roy René, rue Gaston de Saporta for a cooking class. The children, tired of hearing “You can touch but only with the eyes”, are eager to put on their aprons and get their hands dirty. The manufacture of Calissons is made from a mixture of finely ground almonds, melon de Provence and candied orange peel and is based on very specific instructions. The chefs of Atelier Roy René will reveal the secrets of this ancestral know-how. A delicious moment to enjoy with your family. The eyes are often larger than the belly, so do not hesitate to leave with Calissons, in memory of the workshop. The store offers the possibility to create your own boxes with new products.
The gastronomic tradition of Provence is built on the products of its soil: fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oils, herbs. The Provence cuisine is a reflection of the region: sunny, colourful, generous and flavoured.
A cuisine of quality
In Eygalières, there is a nice little restaurant in the courtyard of a village house. You will not be able to ignore it, as the conviviality of its tables demands that you pay a visit. Run by a Belgian from Bruges, the Aubergine bistro offers plates full of fresh and fragrant products such as red tuna in a spice crust with tomato cocktail, black olives and potatoes. The atmosphere is laid back and the atmosphere very friendly.
The village is also worth a visit: located in the heart of the Alpilles, it contributes to the image of authenticity and tranquility of this part of Provence. Lined along the winding streets, the charming old houses of Eygalières face a breathtaking panorama of green valleys and olive groves in which is housed the Sainte-Sixte Chapel, built in the 11th century. Climb the rue de l’Eglise, passing by the ruins of the castle and the esplanade of the old Donjon, before sitting on the terrace of the Aubergine to savor this unique setting.
Provence in all its flavours
The restaurant “L’aupiho” of the Domaine de Manville is like the hotel: intimate and luxurious. The cuisine of its chef Matthieu Dupuis-Baumal, awarded with one star by the Michelin Guide, presents Provençal gastronomy in all its glory. The products are local, of an irreproachable freshness and refinement seasoned with the herbs of Provence.
In the restaurant room surrounded by large bays or on the terrace – depending on the season – the day ends with the sweetness of the evening around a tasty dish such as a roasted red sea bream, mushrooms and artichokes, wild mushroom sauce or a Bresaola carpaccio with Alpilles goat cheese and crunchy vegetables. Inspired by the head of a trip to Kathmandu, his signature lime-based dessert, Timut pepper and Manville olive oil round off the meal on a more exotic note married with talent with the authentic flavors of the region. All in an idyllic setting in harmony with the surrounding nature. The delicate sound of the wind relays the song of the cicadas and the calm of the Domain. Little by little, the customers leave the tables and return to their quarters. Night falls on the Baux-de-Provence and invites young and old to the hollow of their beds.
Provence has the habit of charming travelers. She has the gift of seducing those who pass by and filling heads with delicious memories. Some come back every year, others prefer to discover new regions. But what is certain is that it never leaves anyone indifferent.
Audrey, 25 years old, journalist and travel lover, from Brussels