Here are some more pictures of Arles as we leave for today’s adventures.
Today we went to les Baux. It’s an old hilltop top town perched on a promontory about 650 feet above the valley. It is surrounded by rugged cliffs. One section is said to have inspired Dante’s Inferno. The limestone is carved by nature and man into dramatic cliffs and caves. The valley below is filled with olive orchards and vineyards. The area is rather famous for these. The area was, for a couple of hundred years, a center for the mining of bauxite used in the production of aluminum. That industry is pretty much finished.
The town consists of two parts. The lower town which is packed with shops, cafés and tourist knickknacks. Above the town is the castle. There is a large, over 1 acre, open space at one end and the castle itself at the other end. The open area was carefully paved over and used as a collection area for rainwater. This water was guided into cisterns. The only other source for water was down in the valley. It had to be carried up to the castle and was vulnerable to being cutoff by attackers. This open area is currently used to display siege engines used by medieval attackers to break down castle walls. Several different kinds of siege engines were displayed. Several times a day the largest (a trebuchet) was loaded up and demonstrated. The process took a good 30 minutes and the “boulder” was lobbed about 100 feet away. Rather dramatic and very interesting to see it work. During actual battle, it could be loaded and fired maybe 3 times an hour. It was surprisingly accurate.
The castle itself was, as always, in partial ruins. Still you could climb up to the top where the lord and ladies lived. And get a spectacular view of the valley below. Sometimes the climb up to the top floors was very steep and difficult. I imagined that the ladies in their formal gowns seldom left these upper floors because of this difficult climb. The lower floors housed the kitchens and servant’s quarters. The guards were also in this area. An attacking army would have had a difficult time getting past all the defenses to get to the lord.
Check out the wikipedia site Les Baux
Our next destination was St Rémy with a stop at Glanum.
Glanum is a Roman market town. It was only recently discovered and is still being excavated. We didn’t actually go down to the town. It was getting late. But we did examine some ruins near the road. There was a Roman arch which marked the entry into the town. And a tower which was a memorial to the grandsons of Emperor Augustus Caesar.
Then on to St Rémy. We arrived there rather late and so most of the tourist sites were closed. Even the Tourist office was closed. We wandered around the downtown area for a while. Pretty standard old town but not particularly touristy. In other words, it was a city of regular working people. It was approaching 7pm so we found a marvelous little restaurant to eat at. And then headed back to Arles.