April, Easter Festival 'Feria du Pacques' (Arles)
Bullfights and bull games in the Arena and lots of other activities around town.
May, Feria de Nimes (Nimes)
Nîmes goes wild at the five-day Féria de Pentecôte , a Spanish-flavoured Whitsuntide festival that draws almost a million visitors. The celebrations begin with the Pégoulade, a parade-cum-conga that winds through Nîmes’ streets and boulevards before finishing up at Les Arènes. After this, the focus is on music, partying and bulls, with abrivados (bull-running), corridas (bull-fighting, with the bulls killed) and courses Camarguaises (a kind of non-fatal bull-taunting). Reserve tickets (from €20 to €100) several months ahead via the Billetterie des Arènes . Similar antics occur at the lower key, three-day Féria des Vendanges (Wine Harvest Féria), held over the last weekend in September.
21st June, Fete de la Musique (nationwide)
Day and night, free music will take over streets, cafes, music venues, historic sites, gardens, parks and churches all over France.
14th July, Bastille Day (nationwide)
Also called the Fete Nationale. This public holiday commemorates the day that Parisian commoners and peasants stormed the fortress and prison of Bastille, provoking events that would end the monarchy and usher in the age of liberty, fraternity and equality. In Paris, there's a traditional military parade along the Champs Elysees and a festival atmosphere throughout the day, finishing with the city night-sky turned bright by magnificent and noisy fireworks shows. In smaller cities and villages throughout France, you'll find parades, street fairs, live music, fireworks, bals (dances) and much more.
July, Festival d'Avignon (Avignon)
A day by day "Spectators Guide" has all the info about readings, films, exhibits, live radio broadcasts and other events. Most are free. The guide will be available starting in early July at the reception desk of the Cloitre Saint-Louis, on the Place Horloge, on the Louis Pasteur campus of the University of Avignon and at every performance venue.
July, Annual Avignon Jazz Festival (Avignon)
Featuring known artists and up and comers, this has become the number one jazz competition in Europe
August, medieval Fete de la Veraison (Châteauneuf du Pape)
The festival celebrates the first harvest of the grapes, and the locals dress in medieval costume to man stalls selling everything from wine and grape juice, to arts & crafts and other local produce.
Places to see in and around the Alpilles and St Remy:
St Remy de Provence
The Provencal village of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, 20 km south of Avignon, is most famous for its impressively preserved Roman ruins, but behind its ancient façade lies a lively town full of character. The magnificent Triumphant Arch of Glanum is the town’s most dramatic attraction - the oldest Roman arch of the narbonensis region - and the ruins of its 14th century defensive walls still encircle the ancient Gallo-Roman center, with the original portes still used as gateways to the center. The Nostradamus fountain, in honor of its namesake who was born in the town, is another popular sight, as is the elegant 16th century Mairie (Town Hall). The town also possesses a more unusual claim to fame – the town’s Monastery de Mausole housed Van Gogh during his period of psychiatric treatment prior to his untimely death and was where he painted his late masterpieces Starry Night and Self-Portrait.
Monastère St Paul-de-Mausole
The monastery of St Paul-de-Mausole in Saint-Rémy de Provence was built in the 11th century and is a feast of Romanesque architecture with chapter houses, tranquil cloisters and manicured formal gardens. The monastery also had an asylum (maison de santé) run by the monks and nuns, which is most famous for being the year-long refuge of artist Vincent Van Gogh after he suffered with mental problems in 1889 and – famously – sliced off his ear. While Van Gogh recuperated in St Paul-de-Mausole, he fell in love with the light of Provence and went through a wildly productive period, creating nearly 250 drawings and oil paintings in just over a year, including his best-loved masterpieces The Irises, Starry Night and Room in Arles. Appearing to be at the peak of his powers, tragically he declined when he left the safety and comfort of St Paul-de-Mausole and took his own life just two months later in July 1890. Today St Paul-de-Mausole is still a functioning psychiatric health institution but in homage to the great artist also has a bleak reproduction of the room in which he was confined – he painted the view of the wheat fields from this room 15 times – and a small exhibition on the history of the asylum.
Carriere de Lumieres in Les Baux
Located in the dreamy, medieval and semi-ruined Provençal village of Les Baux-de-Provence in the Alpilles Natural Regional Park, the Carrières de Lumières is a multi-media attraction featuring the works of world-famous artists such as Klimt, Gauguin and Van Gogh. Making use of a former quarry with huge, bare galleries held up by massive columns, art-based images are projected onto the surrounding rock accompanied by stirring music in an amazing son et lumière show that lasts for 40 minutes. The current show (due to end in January 2016) features the spectacular works of Italian Renaissance artists Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael in a totally immersive experience backed by the use of numerous video projectors and 3D audio. In between shows, the quarry walls are illuminated with ever-changing colors to reveal glittering minerals in the walls.
Housed within colossal defensive walls, Avignon is a warren of medieval alleyways and with the colossal Palais des Papes at its heart where seven exiled Popes stayed between 1309 and 1377 after felling Rome. Avignon's most famous landmark is the Pont St. Benezet, also known as the Pont d'Avignon in the children's nursery rhyme.
Pont du Gard
The Pont du Gard, a Unesco World Heritage site, is an exceptionally weel-preserved, three-tiered Roman aqueduct that was once part of a 50km-long system of canals built around 19 BC by Agrippa, Augustus' powerful deputy and son-in-law, to bring water from the Eure Springs in Uzès, 25km north-west, to Nîmes. The scale is huge: the 35 arches of the 275m-long upper tier, running 50m above the River Gard, contain a 1.2m by 1.75m watercourse that, for a century and a half, carried 35,000 cubic metres of water a day. The Romans took 15 years to build the aqueduct, which remained in use until the 3rd century. From giant car parks either side of the River Gard, you can walk along the road bridge, built in 1743 and running parallel with the aqueduct's lower tier. The best view of the Pont du Gard is from upstream, beside the river, where you can swim on hot days. The aqueduct is illuminated from 40 minutes or so after dusk until midnight nightly in July and August, and on Fridays and Saturdays in June and September.
Located between Avignon and Orange, Châteauneuf-du-Pape spreads out at the foot of the remains of it's fortress castle. The village looks over the plain of Comtat and the 3 000 hectares of vine fields. The village is almost completely dedicated to its world famous wine "Châteaunef du Pape" which is also part of the similarly famous Côtes du Rhône. In the XIVe century Pope Jean XXII, chose Chateauneuf as the location for their summer residences, and then decided to plant vines on the stony land which surrounded their landholdings. For a long time the wine production remained a secret but in 1929, it was officially recognized and bestowed with its own appellation Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Practical information for your provence villa holiday
GMT +1 hour
The official currency is the Euro (€). Coins are available in 1 cent, 2 cent, 5 cent, 10 cent, 20 cent, 50, cent , €1 & €2 denominations. Notes are available in €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, €500 denominations.
Travellers cheques are widely accepted for exchange or purchase in major cities, but in more rural areas, visit a bank to exchange them for Euros. Major credit cards are widely accepted here (though a limited number of merchants have American Express accounts) and ATM access is widespread. Exchange currency only at authorized outlets such as banks and hotels, and exchange only what you think you will spend in-country. Coins cannot be reconverted on departure. Save all receipts from any currency exchange transaction. You may be asked to produce them when you exit the country, and they are required if you intend to reconvert local currency.
Tipping in provence
Tips in restaurants are usually added on at 10/15 % of the bill. However, it is often a subject of controversy whether this amount actually goes to the waiter or not, therefore it is your choice whether to tip more.
Arrival & Departure Formalities
Travel documents are your responsibility. In general you should have:
- A signed, valid passport that will remain valid for at least 6 months beyond the completion of your trip. Your passport must have enough blank pages (excluding amendment pages) available for entry and exit stamps issued when entering and exiting immigration points.
- Visas are required for certain nationalities and you are strongly advised to check your status allowing plenty of time for visa application.
Weather in provence
Provence is considered a dry temperate region with an average 300 warm and sunny days a year and rain falling on a maximum of about 90. Average rainfall in spring and autumn is low. December and January are the wettest months. With temperatures about 28°C during the summer months those long hot summer days can last late into the evening. The warm and sunny spring and autumn have an average temperature of 24°C. The average temperature of the dry sunny mild winter months are around 14°C with February the coldest month at 12°C. Temperatures are slightly lower near the coast due to the sea breezes. During the summer months, this makes the high temperatures more bearable.
It is advisable to contact your doctor before you travel if you have any specific health concerns and take out appropriate travel and medical insurance.
Electricity supply in provence
Electrical service in France is supplied at 220-240 volts/50 hertz.
Driving in france
- Traffic from the RIGHT has right of way, except at roundabouts or if the road has a white line across it.
- Passport or national ID as well as driver's license/insurance papers/ownership papers must be carried all the time.
- National speed limit is 50kmh (31mph) in towns, 90kmh (56mph) on secondary non-urban highways, 110kmh (68mph) on dual carriageways, 130kmh (80mph) on motorways (auto route).
- Speeding fines: 30 - 300 Euros.
- Minimum driving age is 18.
- For use of the highways (auto route) it is invariably necessary to pay a toll before access. Payment can be made by coins or by credit card.
- There are strict laws concerning drinking and driving. Blood alcohol levels must not exceed 0.05%. There are random breathalyser tests carried out regularly by the police.
- An international driving licence is not required for European citizens. Your locally issued driving licence, as long as it is accompanied by the passport, will suffice.