Published on April 1st, 2015 | by Ann Rickard0
See The Classics
Provence abounds with natural beauty to have you making little gasping noises of marvel at every turn.
And that’s not taking into account the summer smell of lavender, the piercing blue light, the brilliant yellow of sunflower fields. Nor is it factoring in the delectable food and superb wines. But there are two outstanding highlights every visitor should never miss, and they are just a few minutes apart from each other: Les Baux-de-Provence and below it, Carrieres de Lumieres.
Les Baux-de-Provence is in the heart of the Alpilles, heritage-listed and with spectacular views from medieval castle ruins at the top of a charming and restored village.
Scrambling over the castle ruins, which are now an outdoor museum, gives insight to life thousands of years ago as you walk paths, pose in front of intricate rock formations, explore rock-hewn rooms and shudder at the displays of giant catapults and monster battering rams, military weapons from so long ago. After a lunch at one of the delightful bistros on the way down from the ruins, you arrive at Carrieres de Lumieres (Quarry of Light), at first unnoticed with its unimposing entry almost hidden in a rock wall, but a place difficult to describe without resorting to hyperbole.
A vast and lofty disused bauxite quarry is the stage for multimedia shows, usually presentations of works by famous artists. Giant images are projected onto towering rock walls, pillars, the ground.
As you enter, leaving the dazzling blue of the Provence sky, you must stand for a moment to adjust your senses to the total darkness. Then, suddenly you are immersed in colour, sound, movement.
High-performance technology tailors images to stirring music so the famous paintings come alive in giant formation all around and below you. The sheer scale of it dwarfs you, makes your heart race and then swell with emotion.
The presentation is continuous, usually about 50 minutes, so you stay as long as you like. Each year the featured artist changes. Over the decade I have paid annual pilgrimage. I have seen works by Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh and Cezanne, all presented in this extraordinary manner, a way no gallery could compete with. Even if you have no interest in the arts you will come out of Carrieres de Lumieres dazzled. This year, the show (just started this month), is The Giants of the Renaissance, showing Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael. I simply cannot wait to get back.