One glance at Les Baux-de-Provence and I understood why this village was dubbed one of the most picturesque in France. This rocky hilltown in Provence cast a spell on me from the moment I laid eyes on it. I walked along the narrow, steep streets flanked by art galleries, craft shops and a few churches. The small squares were enchanting, too. I tasted my first lavender ice cream, the most delicious flavor I had ever tried. The Renaissance facades were charming. There are no less than 22 historic monuments in Les Baux. I loved the romantic castle ruins, sprawled onto seven hectares. Breathtaking views of the Alpilles Mountains, Arles and the Camargue region abounded. Even though it was a ruin, I could feel the history of the castle that had been built from the 11th to 13th century.
Our guide told us about the history of the village. Les Baux-de-Provence can trace its origins back to the Bronze Age, to 6000 BC. The village is mentioned in 10th century documents. The Princes of Baux successfully guarded the region for many years until they were defeated in the Bauessenque Wars of the 12th century. The castle was attacked on numerous occasions during the Middle Ages. The Renaissance proved to be a prosperous time.
A significant event occurred in 1642, when King Louis XIII presented the lordship of Les Baux-de-Provence to Hercule Grimaldi, then the Prince of Monaco. Even today, the Prince of Monaco holds the official title of Marquis des Baux. During the 19th century, the village became a sort of ghost town; for the most part, it was abandoned. Then, following the Second World War, an entrepreneur opened a gourmet restaurant on the rocky outcrop. Food connoisseurs were not the only people who started to flock to Les Baux. It soon became a tourist attraction and remains so, as was evidenced during my day there by the large crowds that had inundated the village. Still, even the large number of tourists couldn’t make Les Baux lose its charm.
Tracy A. Burns is a writer, proofreader and editor in Prague.