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France

High Provence

Hilltop villages of Provence Credits: Photo by John Buss

Most of us, when thinking of Provence, hone in on the hilltop villages made famous by Peter Mayle's book, A Year in Provence. Yet if you travel up the Rhone valley to the more northern parts, you will discover a host of pretty towns and villages surrounded by vineyards, lavender fields, close to superb walking, and the Drome Mountains this is a lovely place.

A good centre for your holiday is the lovely little town of Grignan. Its medieval castle, and beautiful façade, dominates. The town is full of pretty houses with flower-covered balconies and narrow streets. There is a lovely lavoir (public square) marked by a circle of classical pillars. It is where the townspeople did their washing in past times. Close by is another pretty village, Taulignan. This is still surrounded by a ring of defensive stone walls pierced by several turreted gateways. Inside, you will find a maze of winding streets and old houses. At Valreas on St John's Day, there is a colorful procession in the town.

Not much further away is another township, Suze la Rousse, dominated by a spectacular castle that has a beautiful renaissance interior courtyard and rooms with fine plasterwork and frescoes. The town of Nyons is the centre of the French olive industry. Do not think of some manufacturing town; instead imagine its lovely arcaded square and the 700-year-old bridge, which spans the River Eygues in one high arch. After the sightseeing, go walking in the hills and mountains around. The high pastures will be full of wild flowers from mid-May until July. The higher you climb, the later will the flowers be blooming.

You must see High Provence.


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