Mouries is a beautiful Provencal village, nestling at the foot of the Alpilles Mountains in the centre of the Valley de la Baux. The village is renowned as being at the heart of French olive oil production and is said to have over 80,000 olive tress producing olives for the production process. What I did not know until recently, but olive oil aficionados probably did is the olive oil comes from Mouries in 4 different varieties, Aglandau, Grossane, Salonenque, and Verdale des Baux and has its own AOC (Appelation Originale Controle) label, assuring the purchaser that it was produced in this area and giving a guarantee of minimum quality. Traditional cold water methods of production are employed here when the harvest takes place, usually in November and December each year, presumably after the first frosts when the olives begin to drop. You will see vast nets set out beneath the olive tress at this time of year to help gather the harvest.
At one stage, early last century there were 11 working mills in and around this atmospheric village and 3 remain today, one being an ultra modern mill and one, the being an organic oil mill, the Vaudoret. The villagers of Mouries seem to love a festival, there are events all the year around, many take place in the towns bullring, which can hold up to 3000 people. Of course, with a bullring, one must expect that there are the occasional bull fights, and although many of the English in particular have never understood the apparently barbaric baiting of bulls as a spectacle to be enjoyed, one has to respect the local traditions of this "sport" which still occurs quite regularly in the Carmargue to the south, and in isolated inland villages such as this. Personally I would much rather attend the Formidable Aïoli Populaire festival which, if your French is not up to it, means basically a huge aioli (garlic) meal which usually is based on cod or other white fish and involves lashings of aioli, a French garlic mayonnaise.
There are several interesting trails that have been laid out. Inevitably there is the olive trail, which seeks to educate you in the whole olive oil production process, which is quite fascinating. I have always wondered how they discovered the process of filtering and the like that has to go on for weeks before the olive is soft enough to move to the next production phase. Whose idea was it to take a tiny fruit and spend weeks trying to make a very bitter original taste palatable?
There is a wine trail, which examines the other agricultural triumph of Provence, the production of predominantly rose wines, which are very good, much better than the reds and whites they also produce, albeit in smaller quantities. Another trail is called the Route des maisons nobles de la vallée des Baux which takes you to see a number of 16th, 17th and 17th century houses in the area.
The village itself is a Provencal delight. Tall plane tress allow a little sunshine through but not too much and the cafe's offer not just a cold glass of rose, or pastis or coffee along with the inevitable olive, plus fantastic tapenades a kind of olive dip and fougasse which is olive bread.
Staying here is possible in one of the few quite rudimentary hotels, but a better idea is to find a private villa to rent. There are several companies in Provence which specialise in private villa Rentals,often with swimming pools, usually with great views and usually tranquil.
Marseilles airport is some 70 km's away, and has a number of flights each day to various destinations in the UK, France and Europe, but a car is a necessity as public transport here is not well developed, in fact it hardly exists! You should allow some 2 hours to drive from the airport, as the roads tend to be designed for country driving rather than fast access, but the sights on the way are worth it.