This page is about some of the cities and sites within one to two hours of Le Vieux Mas. Click on any picture to see it larger, then click on the "back" button. Click on the underlined text to visit the tourist office site or similar to get more information - these links open in a new window.
Briefly the home of Van Gogh and inspiration to some of his best and most famous paintings, Arles has no Van Goghs but much homage to his memory. It is a fine southern town, with various Roman remains including the amphitheatre. It is a gateway to Provence close to the Alpilles and characteristic villages such as Saint Remy de Provence, from which it is possible to walk to the exact spots from which he painted.
Avignon is the Florence of the north or the Edinburgh of the south, as you please. As the home of the Popes for 75 years, the centre of the Côtes du Rhône wine region and the location of world-class art galleries and restaurants, there is no disputing the cachet of this splendid walled city. The collection at the Petit Palais has fine old masters, the papal palace is certainly vaut le detour, and the city has a winning combination of elegance and southern tranquility.
Nîmes, the nearest city to the house, just over an hour away, is a fine old town full of small streets and squares with some smart shops. The popular Jardins de la Fontaine are amongst the oldest public gardens in France with shaded terraces rising above fine formal water gardens. The city has a number of Roman buildings including an amphitheatre, still in use, and one of the best preserved temples in the world. Pictured is the Carré d'Art, a fine Norman Foster gallery and library which complements the Roman temple across the square. The picture is by Wolfgang Staudt and used under a Creative Commons license.
Montpellier is an elegant town that is
also one of the most vibrant and fast growing in France. It is
home to an excellent art gallery and one of the finest
restaurants in the country. Cosmopolitan, it has Moroccan
restaurants, English bookshops and a zoo with animals that
naturally thrive in the kind of expansive garrigue landscape in
which it is situated. Between the Cévennes and Montpellier
lie some of the finest wine producing area of the Languedoc, and
the city is just moments from the Mediterranean beaches.
Pont du Gard, an hour and a half from the house, is a well preserved Roman aqueduct set in a beautiful garrigue site. Access, apart from parking, is free. A major restoration of the site - which had become rather tacky - was completed in 2000, and there are now elegant and extensive visitor centres on both sides of the bridge, with vivid multi-media presentations of the construction and history of the aqueduct. You can always go swimming instead: the views are pretty good.
Uzès is about an hour from the house, and
seems an oddity: an Italian city in France. Yet the architecture
deceives: Uzès is a thoroughly French gem, with a market every
Saturday morning that is one of the best in the region. Though a
tourist attraction, this remains a peaceable market town with a
fine square immortalised in Depardieu's Cyrano de Bergerac, and
a tranquil light that attracts artists from around the world.
Saint Guillhem is a wonder, a little village with an exquisite Romanesque basilica miles from anywhere and set against a dramatic garrigue landscape. It is rather over two hours from the house, but worth the journey also to buy excellent wine in the area and to enjoy the beautiful Hérault valley. St Guillhem does attract visitors, and there are a fair few tourist boutiques, but the central square with its huge ancient plane tree is rarely crowded, and the walks above the town are a delight.