The Beating Art of France
If you daydream in color, close your eyes and imagine rolling hills scented with lavender, lush gardens, quaint villages, and vineyard cellars lined with barrels of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Welcome to Provence.
Bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the South, the Alps to the East and to the North where the olive trees end, traveling in Provence provides a true perspective of the good life outside of France's high-life cities.
Enjoy the luxury of the railway as you travel from Paris to Nice. From here you can explore Provence on several day trips, or pack a light bag and choose to spend some time in selected towns. Head to the Luberon Valley, just as the Impressionists did in the late 19th century, where the sun shines 300 days a year. The Provencal light will inspire you to be one with nature. This area is perfect for partaking in hiking, biking, kayaking in crystal clear waters, golfing, and anything else you might think of doing in this natural environment.
You can easily walk in the footsteps of the world's most beloved painters – just hop on the train. The Provence of Paul Cézanne is in Aix. You can tour his studio of "light and silence" where he created many of his important still lifes. Two hours away by rail, Arles was Van Gogh's utopia, where he painted his Sunflowers and tortured masterpiece Starry Night. Even the Romans were taken with the town, naming it a second capital of the empire.
For another empire, travel to the papal city of Avignon. From the Centre train station, it's a short 15-minute walk to the Papal Palace. The ramparts, built by the popes in the 14th century, still encircle Avignon and are one of the finest examples of medieval fortification in existence. Several fine bridges cross the Rhône, including the famous little Pont St-Bénézet known for the nursery song Sur le pont d'Avignon.
Marseille is the third largest metropolitan area in France. And yet it can seem like a quiet little fishing village. Over the last 2,600 years, Marseille has built a rich, colorful atmosphere enhanced by the fresh sea air, ancient architectural foundations, incredible art and amazing food. The local fish market sells the daily catch, and the economy is quite dependent upon the sea.
Less than 30 minutes away, the ancient fishing village of Cassis is bordered by stunning red rock cliffs. A walk through the old streets reveals buildings dating back to the 16th century, some lovingly restored in the colorful pastels of Provence. The town and harbor have maintained its style and charm, and your stomach will relish the bounty of the sea.
With your France Rail Pass, journey Provence from the interior's rolling hills to the seaside's end. The train will move fast – creating a kaleidoscope of color as you canvas the region. Provence will make a lifelong impression on your traveler's soul.