On the road
Sub-prefectures: Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Istres.
Population: 1.9 million.
With a population of nearly 2 million, Bouches-du-Rhone is the third most populated department in France. The three major cities of Marseille, Aix-en-Provence and Arles each left its mark on the territory. Urban, maritime and working-class in Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhone is also in the very heart of the eternal Provence around Aix, while Camargue and its wildlife preserve the natural aspect of the department around Arles. As a result, the economy is extremely diverse, tourism siding with traditional industries, a rich agriculture –olive oil, fruit, wines – and the weight of the port of Marseille, the largest in France. The installation in Cadarache of the Iter nuclear reactor and the Euromediterannee project in Marseille also keep Bouches-du-Rhone in touch with present challenges.
Tourism also reflects this variety. From Cassis to Saintes-Maries de la Mer, the seafront is an undeniable asset, but the busy shopping streets of Aix, the Roman remains of Arles and Glanum, exceptional sites like Les Baux-de-Provence and the several cultural events held every year – Aix festival, Arles feria, music in castle of L'Emperi in Salon – preserve the heritage of writers of such stature as Mistral, Daudet, Zola or Pagnol. The whole of the department was associated with Marseille designation as the European Capital of Culture in 2013.
Sub-prefectures: Ales, Le Vigan
Gard draws its name from the river flowing through. The department includes 353 communes and more than 700,000 inhabitants. Apart from Nimes and its population of 133,000, the department only comprises small towns. Culturally rich, Gard is the meeting point between Provence, Languedoc, Cevennes and Camargue, boarding the Mediterranean. This contrasted geography accounts from a diverse landscape from the mount Aigoual (1,565 m) to the seafront. Services account for 72 pc of the workforce in Gard while tourism is an important asset thanks to the presence of world famous monuments such as the Pont du Gard aqueduct, the Nimes bullring or the ramparts of Aigues Mortes and Uzes. Events like the Nimes feria or popular seaside resorts like Le Grau du Roi, with the largest yachting port in Europe, are other assets.
Population: 1 032 000
Sub-prefectures: Beziers, Lodeve
Herault drew its identity from the meting of civilisations. Iberians from the south, Etruscans arriving from the sea, Celts from Rhineland or Ligurians from Italy settled in the area and mixed up before Greeks and Romans imposed their rule. Later, French became the official language in the 15th century. In a land always favouring exchanges thanks to the Canal du Midi or Via Domitia, tourism is a key economic sector with a 1.2 billion euros revenue and 40,000 jobs.
The 100-kms-long coastline is one of the best -preserved in the Mediterranean in spite of several seaside resorts and yachting harbours. Several large natural parks around the seaside lakes like Etang de Thau are protected. Viticulture is another main asset. In Languedoc, wine is a culture that left its mark in the land and in the minds. Faugeres, Saint-Chinian, Minervois, Coteaux du Languedoc, clairette ou Languedoc, Muscat in Frontignan or Mireval reflect the tradition. Demographically, the population has grown by 11,000 per year since 1990, the whole region gaining 57 pc inhabitants. Some 80 pc of the population live in the main towns, Montpellier, Beziers and Sete.
Km 2 : Eguilles
Texts from the 10th century mention Castrum de Aquila. Until the end of the 16th century, the village was constantly disputed by the lords ot Les Baux and the Counts of Provence until the destruction of the castle during the Wars of Religion. The last reigning family, the Boyer d'Eguilles in the17r century, gave a long line of lawyers and humanists. The village grew to count up to 1,800 inhabitants in 1790 when it became chef-lieu de canton. In the meantime, the castle had been rebuilt and watched over a population of farmers, craftsmen and merchants. The growing of vine and olive trees developed as did sheep breeding and a wool industry. Eguilles became the organisation centre of transhumance in the 18th century. In 1784, some 40,000 sheep went through the village. The industrial revolution put an end to the wool trade and in 1936, Eguilles had only 730 people left. They are ten times as much today as tourism and the Provence way of life attracted a new population.
Garden of Eguilles
Concealed in the heart of the village and totally enclosed, the garden of Eguilles was designed in 1963 by sculptor Max Sauze. Over 950 m2, a hundred artworks are hung to the trees or mixed with the vegetation.
PACA is the third biggest region in France. Its population of nearly 5 million mainly live in or around its four major cities, Marseille, Nice, Toulon and Avignon. Comprising most of the South-East of France, it is bathed by the Mediterranean in the South and bordered by the Alps in the East.
Tour de France of the Monuments Nationaux
Abbey of Montmajour
The "Abbaye de Montmajour" reveals 8 centuries of monastic life.
This exceptional architectural ensemble was built in the Middle Ages on the island of Mont Majour. The Abbey incorporates a pre-Roman edifice from the 10th century, an abbey church and a 12th century Roman cloister built by Benedictine monks. Montmajour was extended in the 18th century with the second, monumental Saint-Maur monastery to the west.
Aigues-Mortes: Towers and ramparts
13th century remarkable fortified site.
The fortified city of Aigues-Mortes was built in the 13th century on the order of Saint Louis to provide the kingdom of France with a port on the Mediterranean. The complex consists of 1,634 metres of ramparts flanked by twenty towers and one of the most splendid keeps in the architectural style of the Middle Ages, the tower of Constance, which was used as a prison for Protestants from the Cévennes region from 1685.
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