Villages of the Alpilles: Eygalières
Located on the northeastern edge of the Parc Naturel Régional des Alpilles, the hamlet of Eygalières has an official population of about 1,900 residents. 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 get a chance to peek behind the old walls, it becomes clear that many restoration and upgrade projects have brought these homes up to modern standards.
Market Day: On Friday mornings the main street in Eygalières fills with market stalls selling everything from fresh seasonal produce to espadrilles. Grab a seat at one of the cafés, if you can, and enjoy watching the crowd.
Vestiges of human habitation near Eygalières trace to the Late Bronze Age (1,500 -1,200 BC). The much-photographed Chapelle Sainte Sixte is located 1.5 kilometres from the village centre. The 12th-century chapel sits on a small rocky knoll with a 360-degree view of the Alpilles and Eygalières. It is believed that the church sits near a Neolithic era place of worship, chosen for its proximity to a natural spring. The Romans tapped this same source to begin their aqueduct system that supplied Arles with water for its public baths.
Take a walk to the top of the old village for views in every direction. You can walk to the old windmill located outside the rampart walls, but please note there are private residences near the pathway.
Unlike the abundant shopping in the heart of Saint Remy de Provence, the village of Eygalières has only a handful of boutiques. However, what this town lacks in retail opportunities it makes up for with places to eat and drink. Stop for a bite to eat at one of these restaurants.
Join the fun during the annual Fête du Village in early August.
L’Eglise Saint-Laurent is the name of the church in Eygalières and the name of the town’s patron saint. The remains of the original 12th-century church are found at the top of the hill in the old village. Today the place of worship is located between the old and new sections of the town.
Where to Stay?
Located in the countryside just minutes from the charming village of Eygalières is boutique hotel Domaine La Pierre Blanche. This hotel makes for a perfect Provencal escape, whether for a quick getaway or a longer stay in the region. Designed with solitude in mind, Domaine La Pierre Blanche has 15 guest rooms, including eight (8) suites, each with a private entrance and a secluded terrace.
La Villa Dolce Vita is a luxury holiday retreat in Eygalières, only a 10-minute drive from St Rémy de Provence. Located on the outskirts of Eygalières, this villa sleeps 12 adults plus children. It is only 1.2 km from the charming village centre, where there is a selection of top restaurants, a bakery, a butcher and more services.
Established in 2007, the Parc Naturel Régional des Alpilles covers the mountain range and its flanks. As a protected natural area, there are restrictions on construction and park usage. However, the artefacts from human settlements discovered in these hills date back to the Neolithic era, and the range is the result of millennia of continuous geological evolution.
Dotted with rugged trails, the Alpilles (mini Alps) are paradise hikers and mountain bikers, and climbers love the craggy cliffs. A series of rolling hills offer excellent training for road cyclists looking for vertical challenges. The mountain ridge is a jagged line carved by centuries of wind currents and is a magnet for glider pilots.
The Alpilles run from east to west for 25km, starting at the edge of the Durance River and the town of Orgon to the far end near Fontvielle. Although the Alpilles do not boast any significant altitude, the maximum height is 498 metres. They are dramatic. However, the rugged limestone peaks give these hills the appearance of being much higher than the numbers suggest. Try hiking in the area, and you will be thankful that there isn’t any more vertical to climb.