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Alpilles Escapade Car Rally Discovery of this Beautiful Part of Provence

A large group of friends were visiting us in Provence in September. Our dilemma was introducing the first-timers to the highlights of the Alpilles and keeping everyone else interested in discovering some (new to them) hidden gems of the region. After some back-and-forth, we created a car rally itinerary that required following clues, answering questions, and taking photos. It took several outings in our car and on bikes to trace the route, verify the questions and ensure the details were correct. Spoiler alert: everyone loved the Alpilles Escapade Car Rally and returned, saying they had discovered a new surprise. Below, we share the directions and questions; feel free to email us your answers or ask for clarification.

Car Rally Rules

You can play this “game” alone or with friends. If your group includes several cars, we recommend that each vehicle have 2-6 players, including a driver, navigator, back-seat driver, and photographer.

Several required stops are throughout the Alpilles. Allow about 6-7 hours to complete the tour leisurely, with time for coffee and lunch stops. Since this area has many vineyards, wine tasting is encouraged, except for the driver.

The clues and questions are listed below. Complete the answers and take lots of photos. If you post about your adventure on social media, please tag Perfectly Provence.

It is NOT a race, but there are winners. Enjoy the scenery, and feel free to make unscheduled stops along the way. The team with the most points will get bragging rights and maybe an extra cocktail.

Citroën 2CV Deux Chevaux Provence

Alpilles Escapade Car Rally

Start your engines and have fun!

To qualify for the win:
1. You must answer all the questions and take all the required photos.
2. Points are deducted for arriving back at the start too early.
3. Style points are awarded for the best photos.

Orgon:

The car rally moves clockwise around the Alpilles, starting in Orgon, the historic village on the far east side of the mountain range. Orgon’s location close to the Via Domitia trade route from Rome to Spain provided significant economic advantages during the Roman era. Those same benefits existed well into the Middle Ages. As a result, the hamlet of Orgon became a natural stopping point for anyone wishing to head south to Marseille or north towards the papal city of Avignon.

Orgon Ramparts Chateau view Alpilles

The 13th-century Porte de l’Hortet gateway, built into the town’s first ramparts, protected the castle. The château is in ruins today, although not for the first time. It was initially constructed as a fortified military post at the top of a rise for its tactical view over the Durance River valley. Most people drive by Orgon without considering the village, which is unfortunate as there is much history behind the old rampart walls. Orgon is also known for fossils, about 130 million years old.

Find Orgon’s community “library” (Boîte à Livres) that matches the historical road it’s on. Note: there are several boxes, but only one is on a historic highway.

Photo 📸: Of the “library.”

Question 1: What is the name of the road?

Directions: Head up to the top of the steep hill past the cemetery for a view of the Durance River. This church above the old village has a view worthy of its name.

Question 2: What is the church’s name at the top of the hill?

Photo 📸: Head to the table d’orientation. Trust us. The walk is worth it for the panoramic view of the Alpilles. You’ll get extra points for taking a unique photo!

Directions:
1. Drive through Port St Anne, the ancient gate where Napoleon I passed through with his troops.
2. And follow signs for the Gare SNCF.
3. Partway along the road, keep looking for a small lake on your right.
4. Follow signs for Lac de Lavau. Turn up that road.

Photo 📸: Somewhere near the lake.

Question 3: What is the name of the camping site at the lake?

Directions:
1. Return to the road and continue parallel to the train tracks until the first intersection.
2. Turn right at the stop sign and follow D569 for 9km to Eyguieres. Enjoy the views, but pay attention as there may be a question later.


Eyguieres:

This village claims to have the area’s most significant number of wells and fountains. With a population of almost 7,000, Eyguières is one of the larger towns in the Alpilles. This town is not a typical tourist destination on the southeastern corner of the mountain range. However, for commuters looking for easy access to the autoroute and larger centres, Eyguières offers many benefits. The village has easy access to hiking trails, including the highest summit in the Alpilles, the Tour des Opies, at 498 metres. Outside the centre, there are vineyards, goat farmers and much more.

Eyguieres Teatre de Verdure Alpilles Escapade Car Rally

Directions: Take direction “Aureille” at the roundabout and follow “Toutes Directions” until the next roundabout. You should be on the D17.

Question 4: When you drove towards Eyguieres, you passed the ruins of a Medieval château from the 12th and 13th centuries. What are the two names for this place?

Photo 📸: Before leaving Eyguieres, take a photo at the entry to the arena. Notice the top of the gate a nod to the French Cowboys’ (les guardians) cattle picks for the taureaux.

Question 5: Hidden in the town’s old ramparts is an outdoor theatre. What is the name of this event space? And how many seats does it have?

Directions: Turn right, return to the route, and head west past the cemetery direction “Aureille” on the D17.


Aureille:

Residents will tell you that the best thing about Aureille is the lack of tourist traffic. The town has just over 1,500 inhabitants, who enjoy a quiet village complete with a charming main street and beautiful views of the Alpilles. Aureille is on the south side of the Alpilles with little protection from the mistral wind when it blows down the Rhône Valley. Climbers and hikers come to Aureille for the many trails and challenging cliffs. The town might be small, but there is a soccer pitch, two tennis courts and a playground for local kids. The village also has ruins of an old castle above the town. Enjoy a coffee break at Bar Soler on the main street.

Aureille Authentic Alpilles Villages

Aureille ©Alpilles en Provence Tourism

Photo 📸: Park near the church and take a photo.

Question 6: What is the name of the church?

Photo 📸: Find the mossy fountain (it’s safe to fill your water bottles). Yes, the water is drinkable! A photo is required.

Question 7: What is in front of the butcher shop?

Photo 📸: Take a photo in front of the butcher shop.

Question 8: What are the decorations in front of the épicerie – L’Echoppe du Prieuré?

Directions:
1. As you leave Aureille, turn left to the D24a and turn right to Mouries, Les Baux.
2. Follow this road to Mouries (6+km) past the olive groves.


Mouries:

A mid-sized town on the south side of the Alpilles, Mouriès, has a population of 3,400. There are a few hotels and restaurants in this picturesque town. Not strictly off the beaten track, it sits on the old Roman road to Arles, but perhaps slightly overlooked Mouriès is worth visiting. Surrounded by some 90,000+ olive trees, the village has two working olive mills and is France’s leading olive-growing community. The olive oil from four varietals, Salonenque, Aglandau, Grossane and Verdale des Baux, is AOP labelled. Above the town towards the base of the Alpilles lies an old Celto-Ligurian oppidum on the Caisses de Jean-Jean. Mouries has one of the most charming main streets in the Alpilles. Optional: stop for a coffee at either one of the bars on the main street.

Mouries Olives Alpilles Escapade Car Rally

Directions:
1. You will be on the Route d’Aureille.
2. At the Y in the road, a sign reads 3.5t. Turn left on Route du Pont des Plaines and head towards Mouries. Continue straight to Avenue F. Mistral (Frederic Mistral) and the roundabout.
3. Turn right to find Tango.

Photo 📸: Tango and his master.

Question 9: Who is Tango?

Directions: Return to the roundabout, and before heading straight through, watch for the tile panels.

Photo 📸: Find the panels that depict a “Regard sur la Mediterrannee.”

Question 10: Can anyone guess what the 3rd panel reads?

Directions:
1. Turn right and follow the road (Avenue Pasteur) heading west past the Spar and straight through a roundabout.
2. After the gas station, turn right onto Route du Ferigols. If you see “Happy Alpilles, “you are going in the right direction.

Photo 📸: You can become a Western cowboy in the countryside between the two villages for a day. Take a photo by the saloon.

Question 11: What does LPR stand for?

Directions: Take the left at Route de Greoux, follow to D78, turn left (Route du Destet), and head into Maussane.


Maussane:

Maussane-les-Alpilles sits at the foot of the Alpilles Mountains, near the famous château of Les Baux-de-Provence. The area is rich with olive groves, and Maussane makes an excellent starting point for bike rides, like this route to Eygalières. Spend some time in Maussane’s big central square, Place Joseph Laugier, next to the church. It’s filled with tables from the surrounding cafés and restaurants, set around the central fountain. The square is the perfect place for a relaxing meal or a drink, and you’ll see people enjoying it at any hour of the day. So, this village is a good choice for a lunch stop.

Maussane in the Alpilles

Photo 📸: You need to find the biscuit maker, not the candlestick maker. A photo is required, and shopping is optional, but her products are excellent.

Directions:
1. To find her, turn hard before the main square and pass in front of Hotel l’Oustaloun. Look for the signs for Biscuiterie Artisanale.
2. The road is tight, so try parking behind the church and proceed on foot.
3. Backtrack and check out the main square, restaurants, and the fountain!

Question 12: How many figures, including birds, are on the fountain in the village plaza?

Photo 📸: of one of the lavoirs of the village is required. (Bonus points for photos of both)

Directions: Turn right onto Rue Charloun Rieu and follow signs for Jean Martin. Shopping at Jean Martin is optional.

Photo 📸: Jean Martin is a manufacturer specializing in products made with olives from the Vallée des Baux and vegetarian combinations sold in a lovely boutique. Photo required.


Les Baux de Provence:

Atop the Alpilles sits the remains of the medieval fortress of Les Baux, once one of the mightiest in France. Visitors will enjoy magnificent views—on a clear day, you can see the Mediterranean Sea. Ancient weapons like catapults and trebuchets are demonstrated to keep the kids entertained. You reach the fortress by walking along the cobblestone streets of the tiny village of Les Baux, which is full of interesting shops and cafés. While the car rally does not have a specific stop in Les Baux de Provence, you can ditch the itinerary for a while and explore this beautiful spot. Alternatively, the hilltop town of Les Baux de Provence and its castle ruins are associated with the Grimaldi family of Monaco and may be worth a visit on another day.

Les Baux De Provence View

Directions:
1. After your visit, backtrack on Avenue de la Vallée des Baux
2. Return to the roundabout at the entrance of Maussane.
3. Turn left on D5 (Chemin de St Marc) and follow signs for St Remy and Les Baux de Provence.
4. Turn left on the D27a towards Les Baux, but do not go up the hill.
5. Stop at the olive mill on your right.

Question 13: What is the name of the olive oil producer?

Photo 📸: This olive mill is a significant operation with a 45-hectare property in the shadow of Les Baux and another 65 hectares on the plains. They grow several varieties of olives under the Appellation d’Origine Protégée. Visit the boutique and taste their oils if you wish, but don’t leave without a photo of “Take a Dream.”

Understanding Provencal Olive Oil

Directions:
1. Turn right back onto the D27a and continue past some vineyards.
2. Before the big hill, turn left onto a minor road, Chemin de Saint Berthe (on your left)
3. Follow it to the crossroads of Chemin du Saint-Esprit by the 11th hole of the golf course.

Question 14: What is a passage Canadien?

Photo 📸: of the passage Canadien

Directions: Turn around, backtrack and head along Chemin de Saint Berthe to the vineyard on your left.

The grapevines at this vineyard offer a great view of Les Baux. The winery’s name is dedicated to the patron saint of fever sufferers. The boutique is lovely, and it sells many local products. Perhaps it’s time for a wine tasting?

Photo 📸: Make sure to take a photo in the bottle with a view of Les Baux.

Question 15: How many varietals of grapes are grown at this vineyard?


Fontvieille:

Fontvieille shares the same name as a part of the city of Monaco, but that wealthy outpost does not have the windmills that inspired French writer Alphonse Daudet to write “Lettres de Mon Moulin.” Located down the hill from Les Baux de Provence, Fontvieille is the closest of the Alpilles villages to Arles. Today, in Fontvieille, there is a population of roughly 3,500 residents. However, the town of Fontvieille was only officially after the end of the French Revolution in 1799.

Fontvieille Windmill Moulin

For many years, the demand for the quarried Fontvielle limestone drove the population and economy of this town. Limestone from Fontvieille was used to construct the Roman arena, ramparts and theatre in Arles. Stone was also vital for the Barbegal aqueduct, which supplied water to Arles. Rock quarried and cut in Fontvieille was also used for the nearby abbey of Montmajour between the 10th and 13th centuries.

Inscribed in the stone and fixed to the side of the St. Pierre windmill is a quote by French writer Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897). Although he was born in Nîmes and spent time in Lyon and Paris, he described his affection for Fontvieille and its windmills here in the Alpilles.

Directions:
1. Return down the road and pass Carrières des Lumières,
2. At the intersection before Les Baux, turn right, stay on the D27 (Direction Fontvieille), and go down the hill.
3. Les Baux should be on your left.
4. Keep following the road past the hotels, stay right, and follow signs for Fontvieille to D17, where you turn right.

On the right-hand side is a beautiful entry to a Château. This vineyard focuses on high-quality olive oil and wine. You find a chapel (popular for weddings) and a chateau that looks like it belongs to royalty.

Question 16: What is the name of the Chateau, and what year was it built? Bonus points: What previous French president and his wife have a stake in the vineyard? Surprisingly, he doesn’t drink!

Photo 📸: Required in the boutique of the “tree.”

Question 17: What colour is the tasting room?

Directions:
1. Return to the D17, keep straight, and head towards the village of Fontvieille.
2. Follow “centre ville,” and stay on the right along a one-way street.
3. At the intersection of the D33*, turn right and immediately leave on the D17 towards Arles.
4. Take the righthand turn after the tower (la Tour des Abbés) towards “Lavoir Vielle Font.”5. Turn left towards Centre Aéré and then turn right to Centre Aéré. You have arrived at the lavoir, which will be on your left.

Photo 📸: Take a picture of this place.

Question 18: What is a lavoir?

Directions:
Please see the note below for an optional detour.
1. After the lavoir, turn right and return to the same road.
2. Follow it for a while and see a large farm warehouse on your right.
3. Take the righthand turn for Moulin Mas de Daudet Chemin Claude et Rémy Thieuloy. With luck, their boutique is open.

Photo 📸: of Moulin Mas de Daudet

After visiting Moulin Mas de Daudet, head towards Sainte Étienne du Grès.


Sainte Étienne du Grès:

Given its location on the northwest side of the Alpilles, the town of Saint-Étienne-du-Grés is genuinely the « Porte des Alpilles,» the gateway to this magical area. Its residents are called Les Grésouillais and number some 2,400. Until 1935, Saint-Étienne-du-Grés was part of Tarascon. The town is not a typical tourist destination but a lively centre that recently spent considerable municipal funding upgrading the streetscape. Although there is no standard village square, the town has everything—a bakery, bar, and boules pitch.

Directions:
1. Turn right and leave, following the same road to a t-intersection.
2. Turn right at the t-intersection and follow the road.3. Stay left (mainly heading east) and follow the road to a small iron bridge.
4. At the yield/stop sign, turn hard left over the iron bridge. You are now on the D33.
5. Follow the D33 signs towards Sainte Étienne du Grès (St Étienne du G.).
6. Watch for a large intersection with a right turn towards Sainte Étienne du Grès D32.
7. Follow the D32 into town.
8. Drive through the village to the end and take a quick left turn at the stop sign.
Then quickly turn right onto the main road the D 99,
9. Drive 50 meters ahead, make a left u-turn at the pharmacy, and look along the fence and buildings for the Wizard along with the rest of the street art on your right.
10. Turn into the épicerie parking lot and look at the street art.

Photo 📸: Take a picture of the Wizard or other murals. Behind the street art is a fenced area where commercial market vendors pick up items for the local markets the next day.

Question 19: What is the Via Domitia?

Directions (Fast option):
1. Safely turn left onto the D99
2. Follow it towards St Remy and then towards Eygalières.


The scenic route to St Remy:

Eating in Saint-Rémy de Provence

1. Safely turn left onto D99.
2. Then turn hard right back to Sainte Étienne du Grès.
3. Turn left immediately onto Avenue Notre-Dame du Chateau.
4. Go past the town Marie on your right and the wine merchant Gres Vin and take the old route.
5. You will drive towards St Remy de Provence along the Roman road, the Via Domitia.
6. When you reach St Remy, follow the signs towards the centre ville. You will come to a t-intersection. Turn right towards the centre, and take the circle route around the center of St Remy.
7. Find parking and hit Café Roma for excellent ice cream and sorbet if you need a sweet fix. Joël Durand is a chocolatier with an a-z collection—just saying that “Y” is a perfect choice.
8. After driving the circle, turn right before the Paul bakery and take the D99a, Avenue Andre et Denis Pellisier, out of town to the main road, the D99.
9. Turn right on D99 towards Eygalières.


Last stop and Eygalières:

Directions:
1. On the D99 heading east.
2. Stop at Le Grand Saint-Didier, a family-run farm. They are open after 15h on Tuesdays. This agricultural property has a beautiful entrance with orchards and an alley of plane trees.

Photo 📸: With the plane trees or in the courtyard.

Question 20: How many generations have the same family been at Le Grand Saint-Didier?

Directions: Cross the D99 and take the D24 towards Eygalières. Bravo! You are done, and it’s time for a celebratory cocktail in Eygalières while the judges tally the results.

Eygalières Alpilles Village

Located on the northeastern edge of the Parc Naturel Régional des Alpilles, Eygalières has an official population of about 1,900. However, when second homeowners and short-stay visitors descend upon the village in the summertime, the population swells well beyond the formal count.

The setting for Eygalières is idyllic. The hamlet has one busy main street surrounded by village houses and nourishment options. At the time of writing, there were three bar-cafés, one bakery, a butcher, an épicerie, an Italian-style deli, a decent assortment of restaurants and far too many real estate agents. Stroll up the road into the ancient village, and you get the sense that you stepped back in time. Over many years, the town’s elected officials maintained strict controls over the exterior design of homes and a tight rein on the number of building permits. However, if you can peek behind the old walls, it becomes clear that many restoration and upgrade projects have brought these homes up to modern standards.

Guide to the Villages of the Alpilles


Optional Detour in Fontvieille:

Fontvieille Aqueduc Romain de Barbegal provence

Barbegal Aqueduct

Directions for Optional Stop, which the engineers will love:
1. Instead of turning right at the D33, turn left towards the centre ville and Le Moulin de Daudet. Turn right to Avenue Des Moulins, past the Office du Tourism on your left.
2. About 3km up along, towards Barbegal.
3. On the left are three (3) moulins where grain used to be milled; to visit, you must stop at the pay parking and walk up the hill.
4. If you keep going along the road, follow signs for Aqueduct Roman, a left turn farther down the road. The Romans took advantage of Fontvieille’s milling location on a windy hilltop. They also leveraged the natural fall line to transport water to Arles via one aqueduct and milled grain with the other.

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Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

With her camera and laptop close at hand, Carolyne has traded in her business suits for the world of freelance writing and blogging. Her first airplane ride at six months of age was her introduction to the exciting world of travel.

While in Provence, Carolyne can be found hiking with friends, riding the hills around the Alpilles or tackling Mont Ventoux. Her attachment to the region resonates in Perfectly Provence this digital magazine that she launched in 2014. This website is an opportunity to explore the best of the Mediterranean lifestyle (food & wine, places to stay, expat stories, books on the region, travel tips, real estate tips and more), through our contributors' articles.

Carolyne writes a food and travel blog Ginger and Nutmeg. Carolyne’s freelance articles can be found in Global Living Magazine, Avenue Magazine and City Palate (Published Travel Articles).

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