Spring—what a wonderful time to travel! Paris is as romantic as ever, with lunch on the Eiffel Tower and a view to last a lifetime. Large wheels with cables raise the elevators to the top—300 meters!

High above the city is sits Sacre Coeur in Montmartre. The views of Paris are splendid from up here too, especially at sunset. When it rains calcium from the stone keeps this church white

So many museums to choose from—but the Louvre has everything! Actually seeing the Venus de Milo, a Greek sculpture over 2,000 years old, amazing. She is—simply—beautiful.

A day trip on the train to Chartres is a must. This medieval buttress cathedral sits atop a hill and can be seen for miles around. The towers were built in different centuries; hence, its diverse styles. Chartres’ windows are considered to be amongst the most beautiful, for color and detail, in the world. And in the center of the cathedral’s nave is an over-size labyrinth one can walk (when it isn’t covered with chairs).

Going south to Provençe in a high-speed train is so convenient. Avignon is a good beginning place for the south—its history is strikingly visual: the Romans needed water in Nimes to the south and built an aqueduct stretching over fifty kilometers from the northern hills. The most spectacular part of the aqueduct system is undoubtedly the Pont du Gard—one of France’s most famous architectural works from Roman times. The Pont du Gard is built to the height of almost 49 meters over the Gardon, making it the highest Roman aqueduct bridge in France—though there are several other, smaller bridges worth seeing in Provence.

The Roman and medieval towns of Arles (where Van Gogh lived), Les Baux (an ancient fortress town) and St. Remy are all waiting to be explored. The hills of southern France, the Alpilles, which are foothills of the Alps, are limestone that formed thousand of years ago under water. These soft, gray, barren mountains run from Provence to the Italian coast.

This is Montagne Ste Victorie outside of Aix. Cezanne painted this ‘purple’ mountain from—it seems—every possible angle. Except in a few unusual spots, all the buildings in this area are constructed with limestone. This results in a lot of gray towns. But deep in the northern soft stone hills, underground rivers are created by the melting snow. These rivers flow through the limestone to form quiet pools, before overflowing into rushing rivers. There is a chemical in the limestone that turns the water green.

Fontaine de Vaucluse is an excellent example of nature’s beauty. Later in the trip we came to the Gordes du Verdon and Lake Ste Croix—as green as can be, even in March.

To the north, away from the busy Mediterranean coast are many quaint medieval hilltop towns like Gordes, Roussillon (the red clay town), Apt, Bonnieux, and Lourmarin.

Far to the northeast is Moustier Ste Marie nestled into the mountain rather than on top. Here a small river forms from the mountain behind. One can easily imagine how very early humans lived in these intricately-caved mountains, with plentiful running water and abundant game just below in the valley.

And then, of course—no trip southern France is complete without a visit to the Mediterranean coast itself!


Harriet H. Ahouse | Independent Travel Consultant
Vista Travel, Inc.
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e-mail: hahouse@alwaysharriet.com