Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Bourbon and Provence in the South of France...

In the Bouches de Rhone (the mouth of the Rhone) is the medieval Provencal village of Bourbon. It is a typically pretty and ancient village for which Provence in the south of France is noted. The architecture ranges back to Roman times with many medieval additions making the tiny streets, arch ways and various nooks and crannies a very attractive prospect for the exploring tourist.Like many villages in the area, it has fortifications from long ago. Bourbon  has a fortified castle which dominates the village, with a very interesting guards hut called Le Gardette, beside the Porte Loriol as you enter the village.

There is a 14th century statue of St Christopher, the patron saint of travellers. Further along on Rue Barri, there is the remains of an 11th century with its keep and defence towers, but sadly that is all that remains. The church of St Anne dates from 1626 and the chapel of St Marcellin has Roman antecedents and is the place where the annual bottle procession starts each June 1st.

This is a really nice traditional festival which happens each June 1st in the village. All the locals bring a bottle of their best wine and meet at 7pm then follow the priest to the chapel for it to be blessed by the priest, then they all open the bottles and drink some of the wine. I say some, because it is expected that you re-cork it when you have finished, with the idea that you save the rest for the next procession next year, but I don't think this degree of denial would suit the normal British tourist!  It is supposed to ward off stomach ache, fevers and other illnesses and it is said that the congregation then return to the village and are uplifted and jolly, but I suspect that means they may be drinking more of the wine than the priest would condone! It is a nice tradition though.

There is walking, horse riding and a number of summer events, the festival of St Eloi being the most significant, which takes place on the 4th Sunday in August each year.There is also a market each Monday where you can buy locally made ceramics, olive oil products and the local rose, for which Provence is justly renowned. then in the last weekend of September there is a bullfighting festival.This is not a spectacle that is revered by most Brits, but it is a long-held tradition of the area, and the locals enjoy it, so who are we to interfere with an age old pastime.

Getting to the area is tricky unless you have access to a car. Public transport hardly exists and taxis are scare.The nearest airport is Marseilles which has flights to a number of destinations including the UK and much of Europe, but if you want an intercontinental flight you would need to travel to Nice International Airport some 2 hours away.