View Full Version : Provence - what I shouldn't miss

7-Apr-2014, 23:16
Hi all,
it finally looks that I will be driving down to Provence in a couple of weeks. My main photographic interest will be given to old Abbeys (esp. the "three sisters" of Provence). But since I'll have some spare time I was thinking about where else could / should I go, what to see in Haute Provence, Var or Vaucluse.

I decided I will NOT go to the Mediterranean this time and will leave that for a separate trip (my motto being not to spoil a wonderful place with haste - I cannot imagine going to Camargue for just one day...).

Any ideas? So far I have been thinking about Mt. Aiguille (weather permittig) and Sisteron. But I am sure there are many other wonderful places..

Thanks for any suggestions.

9-Apr-2014, 05:15
The three sisters are good -- for me, Thoronet is first (look up Architecture of Silence if you don't already know about it, lots there from Thoronet), followed by Silvacane, then Senanque in third place. Sisteron can be very interesting, the citadel is up on top of a rocky spur at the top of the town and there are some interesting passages of a pathway through multiple walls. There's also a vertical spine of rock on the other side of the river that if you're careful you can line up with part of the citadel for a unique view.

There's always Arles if you like Roman things. Also near Arles is the Abbey of Montmajour and the ruins of the Barbegal aqueduct. Also a windmill that has something to do with Daudet, out there somewhere. Also Les Baux, an abandoned village on top of a hill. If you want nature and don't mind driving on very very narrow roads, you can go out around the Gorge(s?) du Verdon.

Oppede-le-Vieux is worth a looksee for old, mostly abandoned 14-17th century architecture. There is a bridge out in the Luberon that was allegedly built by members of the Vaudois sect; if that interests you let me know and I'll send you the best coordinates for it that I can.

You may note that Glanum is not on this list. The French monuments administration controls photography in all of their sites, although some sites are more lax than others are. I have never over 15 years had a problem taking a tripod into Thoronet, while neither Glanum nor Trophee des Alpes near Nice will allow tripod use on the grounds without prior written permission and payment of a hefty fee, not even for personal use. I have visited Silvacane a few times and never had a problem with a tripod, Senanque I have only visited once and it was when I was using 35mm so can't advise.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head, I haven't spent as much time in the 13, 83, and 84 departements as I have in the 06 and it's been several years since I've gone anywhere that the local buses don't go. Hope it helps, but let me know if you need more information on anything.

9-Apr-2014, 05:42
Thanks for your in depth reply! I will look up those places...

I have already recieved written permission to photograph in all three "sisters", I try to make sure that a trip of more than 1000km won't be wasted because of things like that.. :)

11-Apr-2014, 04:00
You're very welcome! I'm glad to hear that you have tripod permissions, I just wanted to warn you in case you hadn't thought of it (it's kind of like when Americans ask for advice about renting cars in Europe, the first question is always "do you know how to drive a stick shift?" because those reminders in advance save a lot of time and upset).

If you do Arles, there is the church and cloister of St Trophime. The cloister has had some renovation done to it, including cleaning, patching up some of the figures, and so on. At the end of the sarcophagi in Alyscamps, there is a partly-ruined old church, I don't think you can get into the parts that are falling-down ruined, but it is no longer consecrated and is an interesting place.

Do you like perched villages, or "religious" architecture, or are you after just anything you can go to see?

Emmanuel BIGLER
12-Apr-2014, 13:48
Hello from France !
I'm sure that you'll find many nice subjects for photography in Provence. And it is a good idea to prefer Easter time to summer for many reasons, less crowded and better light.

Mont Aiguille is not really in Provence but is relatively close to Sisteron. Sisteron can be considered as the northern limit of Provence ; Mont Aiguille and the Vercors plateau stretch from North to South between Grenoble (Dauphiné) and Sisteron. From the road through col de la Croix Haute linking Grenoble to Sisteron you get a grand view over the Alps, namely the Écrins range and Écrins national park, but again those places probably deserve another trip.
For a picture of Mont Aiguille seen from the Eastern side, prefer early morning, in the afternoon you'll get a strong back lighting.

The road pass Col de la Croix Haute is a geographical limit between northern Alps and Alpes de Hautes Provence. There, the climate changes abrupty; the Sisteron area is very dry whereas Mont Aiguille and Plateau du Trièves are very green.
Going from la Croix Haute to Sisteron you'll follow the Buëch river which is one of the very few wild and un-tamed river in France.

Backcountry between Digne / Sisteron and the Italian border is scarcely populated and quite isolated. An interesting place to visit if you want to feel alone in good old Europe ;) Close to Sisteron you can find a ghost village that had been gradually abandoned by its inhabitants after WW-II, and which temporarily re-lived around 1968 with some communites of youg urban hippie-like people who dreamed to go back to True Life.

But if you want to concentrate on old villages, churches and abbeys, those isolated places in Alpes de Haute Provence are probably not the best place to visit at first.

I will not dare to recommend the red rocks of Rustrel, what we call "Colorado provençal" and Canyons d'Oppedette, except if you are interested by scale models of grand American landscapes, at a very tiny scale ;)

12-Apr-2014, 14:10
Hi all,
it finally looks that I will be driving down to Provence in a couple of weeks.

Any ideas? So far I have been thinking about Mt. Aiguille (weather permittig) and Sisteron. But I am sure there are many other wonderful places..

Thanks for any suggestions.

I don't know if you read French but if you do, do yourself a favour and buy Michelin guide for Provence. You will have a much more complete idea what there is to see than any description you get here can give you. Not to speak about other books that deal with Provence for tourists like you.

12-Apr-2014, 14:17
there is an upper route and a lower route of les gorges and a cafe to get a snack i think at upper route
its called le sublime café ... their sandwich du fromage won't be what you might expect ..
when i got it i was expecting delicious french cheeses on a perfect baguette, but it was like
an american cheese ( or sliced velveeta ) on wonder bread ...
la vaison romaine is beautiful, and the ice cream cones at the merry go round
at aix au provence is nice too :)
if you can, try to get to tourtour, you won't regret it ..

14-Apr-2014, 05:11
Thank you all for your suggestions...

I do not consider myself a tourist, I usually try to avoid tourist destinations - but with my interest in old monastic sites it's a bit impossible.. And while those are the main objectives of this trip, I usually like (and need) also to set my eyes on something else, nature, landsacpe in general...

Emmanuel BIGLER
14-Apr-2014, 07:44
Since the Silvacane abbey was mentioned, the group might be interested in having a look at Philippe Ayral's LF photo work at Silvacane and in the old quarry at Les Baux de Provence.
B&W original prints are platinum/palladium.

The series is entitled: "Histoires de pierre" (Stone stories).

Philippe Ayral's web page

14-Apr-2014, 10:34
+1 for the Buech valley, and also the smaller valleys of the tributaries (look for Orpierre). Feel the gradual change from Mediterranean to mountain landscape.
Also, in Roussillon, badlands carved out of iron oxide create something not quite like, but reminiscent of Bryce canyon.