The Romans in Provence: 123BC – 400AD

The Roman occupation of Provence lasted for 600 years. To day the region boasts more Roman monuments and artifacts than anywhere else in the world – Rome included. They are everywhere you look, from amphitheaters and triumphal arches to paved roads and aqueducts. Two thousand years later, the genius that was Roman engineering still amazes. Provence owes its name to Julius Caesar who described the region as ‘the Province of Rome’. It was then a much larger area, stretching westwards to include Languedoc and Roussillon as far as the Pyrenees, eastward to the Riviera and the Maritime Alps, and northwards up the Rhône Valley as far as Lyon.

Apart from the larger monuments such as the Pont du Gard, the Roman agricultural legacy still remains to this day – olives and vines. There are also many smaller reminders – statues and sculptures in the museums of Arles, Avignon and St Remy de Provence; the lovely Pont Julien near Apt (a bridge said to have been designed by Agrippa); and in the humble museum of nearby Cuceron, household items and domestic art.

For students of Roman history and the Empire, you will have your fill in Provence!

“Some spots are the cradle of genius. Provence is one.” Lawrence Durrell.

As we move back to ‘normal service’, after a few weeks of sweating away on new literature and the completion of the first edition of Footsteps. “Luberon and Surround. Provençal paradise” we now await the fruits of the labour of those clever people who know how to really use a Mac, who know how to Photoshop etc, we thought that we would give you some extracts from Footsteps.

One of the introductory chapters is entitled – A [very] Short History of Provence.

to-day, we’ll have a look at the Greeks:

The Greeks in Provence: 600BC – 123BC

Although you can still find traces of the Paleolithic Age (the Druid caves near to Les Baumettes are a classic example of this age), this history kicks off with the Greeks who are regarded as the first inhabitants of the classic Provence as we know it. Stand in the Old Port of Massalia (now Marseille), close your eyes and imagine the ancient Greeks from Phocaea in Asia Minor arriving to found this seaside settlement.

Massalia became a thriving centre of commerce, learning and culture. Nice and Antibes were other Greek cities to be established as the explorers sailed up and down the Rhone river establishing trading centres at Avignon and Arles and also overland at Glanum near to St Remy-de-Provence.

However the Greeks were not the only people who inhabited this area. Already there were Gauls made up of a loose grouping of Celts and other tribes. Wood, leather, tin and salt from the area were exchanged for Greek ceramics and wine. The Greeks were the introducers of olives and the vine to Provence but this agricultural activity only took off when the Romans arrived.

This was actually spotted and photographed at Joburg International Airport recently. No spice!

Thanks John W.

Check out the tyre marks on the concrete

Michelin?

Potholes

It got there

France as seen by a 'Breton' - ie from Burgundy

France in the eyes of a Parisian

It takes a very brave person – or stupid – to open a restaurant in South Africa’s culinary capital – Franschhoek. Competition is fierce and, if we read the tea leaves, can be bitter at times. A new establishment has opened in a new shopping complex on the Main road (opposite Pick ‘n Pay and Clicks) and its h-u-g-e. Beautifully decorated and moving away from the contemporary Cape Dutch, which makes a refreshing change, the restaurant is still in its early phases but worth a try nevertheless.

We felt adventurous last week and decided to move (temporarily) away from the staples of Reubens, La Petite Ferme and Le Quartier Français. We went to Le Coq.

The chatty manager told us that it is owned by a local wine farmer who also owns the buildings and an ice cream parlour across the way.We had a great waiter who operated under the name of ‘Speech’. Nothing was too much trouble – and the smile! Food is simple and hearty – steaks, fish, pasta etc. Well cooked and you don’t need to take out a mortgage to pay the bill.

Judging by the smiles on the faces of the contented patrons, we were not the only ones to welcome this new addition to the Franschhoek landscape.

The restaurant is on two levels - the mezzanine level has a great view of the Helshoogte mountains

Some quirky decor touches are scattered around the restaurant

Nice fireplace to enjoy your port afterwards

Apologies for none of the usual food photographs – Madame was quite busy quaffing her Pierre Jourdan Tranquille, the tipple of the moment.

A slave bell in Franschhoek Town Square

Our off-spring told us that we were ‘dominating the wine lands’. As part of our travels in re-visiting old haunts, we took ourselves off to Tulbagh – a village decimated by an earthquake in 1969. Centuries old buildings were badly damaged and have now all been rebuilt in the original style.

They make interesting browsing and pictures.

France in the eyes of a traveller

Sculpture in the garden of Le Quartier Français, Franschhoek

Another one in the Le Quartier garden

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