Villeneuve-les-Avignon is located on the right bank of the Rhone river, right across from Avignon. In 1292, thanks to the politics and land swaps of the time, the position became a post on the frontier of the royal domains of France. To the east, on the left bank of the Rhone, barons and kings pledged allegiance to the Holy Roman Empire, not to France. So in 1292, Philippe-le-Bel, king of France, agreed to the construction of defensive fortifications including the Philippe-le-Bel tower (what else?) and the Saint-André fortress. Not long after, Avignon became the home of the Catholic pope giving the French king even more reason to watch his neigbours. These defensive constructions, preserved to the present day, are landmarks of the modern city and visible from multiple angles along this route. Continue reading “Easy walking around Villeneuve-les-Avignon”
The high plateau in the Ardèche department, north of the upper Ardèche valley is full of examples of ancient volcanic activity. In this case, ancient is relative. These volcanoes are believed to have ceased activity relatively recently on the geological timescale – near the end of the last ice age about 10 to 12,000 years ago. Accordingly, natural erosion has had less time to erase the visible signs of volcanic activity. Interesting geological phenomena are visible in many locations and recognising the substantial interest of this area, UNESCO recently accorded the label of Geopark (see this link in french) to the regional park.
Hiking distance : 11.6, 9.5, 8.7, 8.2 km ; Hiking time : 3h30, 3h, 3h, 3h
Here are 4 trails that explore the landscapes around the village of Aigaliers (located in the Uzège region of the Gard department).
As a guide to the points of interest, there are various pin markers on the accompanying maps. Here is a short outline.
Glass works : In the 17th, 18th and 19th century, the right to manufacture everyday glassware objects was reserved for the local signorial family. In Aigaliers this was probably the D’Aigaliers family. Sand and evergreen oak, which on conversion to charcoal burns very hot, were locally available, so rudimentary glassworks were commonly set up in evergreen oak forests. In Aigaliers, the glass works is located south of Le Chabian. The ruins are not hard to find, and several parts are still standing. The author is not sure when glassmaking ceased, but the Aigaliers glass was somewhat known around the region. There are references to Aigaliers glass in historical sites as far away as Claret in the Herault department. Continue reading “Exploring Aigaliers and surroundings”
This circuit starting from Maussane-les-Alpilles winds along quiet streets and through a golf course in the shadow of the fortress of Les Baux-de-Provence before passing by remnants of the bauxite mining industry. Bauxite was first discovered in the area around 1820 and from 1850 industrial methods to extract extract aluminium from bauxite became available. Several mines were in operation around the village of Les Baux-de-Provence and until 1939, France was the world’s largest single producer of bauxite. The name bauxite, of course, derives from the village name les “Baux”. Nowadays the mines are abandoned and in at least one case, flooded, but satellite images make it fairly easy to see where the mines were : the barren landscapes are tinted ocre red. Along this walking route there is a small mine gallery entrance, probably the result of exploratory digging. The largest bauxite mine site is near Mas Rouge (not near this route). However near the above-mentioned gallery entrance, there are 2 large abandoned bauxite quarries (too dangerous to visit). Continue reading “Bauxite”
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