Pole-Dancing and Other Autumn Pursuits in Provence

A view over Saint-Rémy, refreshed after October showers.

Downpours galore this October delivered ducks a red-letter month around Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. I could have used some webbed feet myself to paddle home on more than one occasion when caught sans proper rain gear. But when the skies clear and the sun peeks through, the refreshed region glistens with promise and renewed energy.

Very-tall-pole-dancing comes second nature to this frisky creature.
This olive-picker’s whirl-i-ma-gig makes fast work of a late harvest.

After being cooped up during the deluges, how liberating it is to leave the homestead for a hike in the hills. Near the base of the Alpilles, action-packed scenes abound. Hungry hawks swoop across the sky, dive-bombing their prey. Riders tug at the reins of their frisky ponies yearning to trade trot for gallop. Rusty-hued squirrels scamper up and down utility poles and tree trunks in an acorn-hiding frenzy. Late-fall olive-harvesters speed-pick through trees, racing to bring in the last of the fruit before foul weather calls time.

Cavaillon’s Cathedral of Saint Veran displays eye-popping grandeur.
Elaborate grillwork adorns the baroque synagogue in Cavaillon.
A flamboyant costume from Christain Lacroix’s Carmen collection practically flounces on its own.

When it does, as is typical in this tweener season, there are compelling indoor discoveries to be made. One day I joined an international group’s trip to Cavaillon, best known for its sinfully luscious melons, but that’s not all. Though too late in the season for the world-class summer fruit, we did visit several historically-rich museums, such as the spiffy Musée Archéologique de Hôtel-Dieu, as well as the Baroque synagogue, and the eye-popping Cathédral Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Véran. The tour wrapped up at the chapel of the Grand-Couvent. There our eyes feasted on magnificently flamboyant costumes designed for the Bizet opera, Carmen, by the Arles-born designer, Christian Lacroix—exquisitely over-the-top.

The windows below the wavy facade of Nimes’ new Musée de la Romanité reflect arches from the Roman coliseum.
The sinister, ghostly figures by Nîmes’ Roman temple, Maison Carrée, are but docile, wrapped-up terrace umbrellas.
Glamorous Brasserie Napoleon offers an elegant, old world setting, perfect for a leisurely break.

In Nîmes—home of the iconic durable fabric, denim—it was the new contemporary museum, Musée de la Romanité, that dazzled. Designed by Brazilian architect Elizabeth de Portzamparc, the shimmering, wavy facade is meant to suggest a flowing toga, a symbol of Nîmes’ robust Roman heritage. Not only are the Roman displays spectacular, but so is the view from the rooftop terrace, to include the incredibly-preserved Roman coliseum, just next door.

The rooftop terrace of Nîmes’ Musée de la Romanité offers a new perspective of the incredible Roman coliseum.

After all the scurrying around, it’s wonderful to simply…be. And a perfectly blissful place is right at hand—the Camargue. In the off season, Saintes-Maries-de-Mer offers serene scenes that allow for a deep breath and quiet reflection.

A sailboat skims the horizon in Saintes-Maries-de-Mer.

And, that peaceful down time comes just in the nick of time, as Santa’s sleigh is nearly on its way.





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