Arles, which was previously known as
Arelas and Arelate, is located
in southern France’s Département of Bouches-du-Rhône, on the Rhône River. The city of Arles is linked to its port, on the Mediterranean Sea, by a canal.
It is a farm-trade and manufacturing center.
Its products include processed food, textiles and chemicals. Tourism is also important to the economy.
Points of interest, in Arles, include a Roman amphitheater, which held about 26,000 spectators; a Roman obelisk, retrieved from the Rhône River and now in the Place de la République; the ruins of a Roman theater, in which were found many works of art including the statue
Venus of Arles (which is displayed at the Louvre in Paris); the palace of the 4th century Roman emperor Constantine the Great; and the Romanesque Church of Saint Trophime.
Parts of the wall, around the old town, also originated in Roman times.
During the first century
BC, Arelas, as the city was then called, emerged as one of the chief commercial centers of the Roman Empire.
An episcopal see from the 4th century until 1790, it was the site of several important ecclesiastical councils, including the Council of Arles (314), which condemned Donatism, a heretical Christian movement.
The Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh was very active in Arles.
He painted more than 200 canvases here in 1888 and 1889.
Aix-en-Provence was founded about 123
by the Romans, who named its thermal springs Aquae Sextiae.
In the 11th century it became a famous center of music and literature. In the 19th century, many painters worked in the picturesque city.
The painter Paul Cezanne was born and died here.
His atelier is preserved as one of several city museums.
Aix-en-Provence is located near Marseille, in the Département of Bouches-du-Rhône. The city is a trade center for olives, almonds, and wine.
Its industries produce textiles, leather, and processed food.
The city's pleasant setting, and warm climate, attracts many tourists.
The city holds an annual summer music festival.
As the medieval capital of
Provence, governed by the counts and dukes of Anjou, Aix flowered as a center of learning and the arts.
Its university, now the
Universities of Aix-Marseille, was founded in 1409 and recognized by papal bull in 1413.
In the 1480s, Aix-en-Provence passed to the French crown.
North of the tree-lined Cours Mirabeau lies the old town.
It holds the Roman ruins and structures of the Middle Ages.
In the center is the 11th 13th century archdiocesan Saint-Sauveur Cathedral.
The cathedral contains Roman, early Christian, Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance styles of architecture.
South of the cathedral is the "new" town.
It contains a rich heritage of fine 17th and 18th century houses, surrounded on all sides by recent urban growth.
The hot mineral springs, from which Aix derives its name [the word Aix, in French, is associated with mineral baths], are still used in the treatment rheumatic and vascular diseases. Aix is a serene, sun-dappled, and fountain-splashed agricultural center.
It is especially noted for Provençal olives and almonds from the countryside.
The city functions principally as a residential suburb of Marseille.
Consequently, industrial development, including food processing and electrical machinery, is light.
Avignon lies on the east bank of the Rhône River, 125 miles south of Lyon, 50 miles northwest of Marseille and 51 miles northeast of Montpellier. It is located to the east of the Autoroute A9, at the juncture of Route National 580, 100 570 and 7.
Its strategic location places it 22 miles northeast of Nîmes, where the Rhône valley becomes a broad delta plain. It is the capital in the Vaucluse Département of the region of Provence-Alpes-Cote-d’Azur.
Before the coming of the Romans, in the 1st century BC, the town was the stronghold of a Gallic tribe known as the Cavares. Under the Romans, the town became known as Avennia.
Avignon became important in 1309 when the popes established their capital there on the land of a Papal vassal. This was the beginning of the Popes’ Babylonian Captivity. The captivity lasted until 1377. During this period, Avignon was the seat of the Papal court.
Over the course of 37 years, the city was also the residence of several antipopes. During the Great Schism, from 1378 to 1415, there were at least 2, and sometimes 3, popes located at Pisa, Rome and Avignon.
In 1348, the forth of seven Avignon popes, Clement VI, bought the town from Queen Joan of Provence. Avignon really remained important to the papacy only until 1377, but the Papal legates continued to govern it until 1791 when the French National Assembly seized it.
Pope Benedict XII constructed the austere Palais Vieux between 1334 and 1342. It was the first of châteaux-fort’s two structures. The second and more flamboyant, the Palais Nouveau, lies to the south. It was constructed, between 1342 and 1352, by Clement VI. Together, the two structures made up the Palais de Papes. The high walls of this huge feudal structure, which contain ten protective towers with heights of up to 164 feet, convey an image of defensive strength.
The Palais Nouveau was a great contrast to the Palais Vieux. Its design is rich with embellishment. It contains three large chapels, holding 14th century frescoes, and numerous small chapels. The Chapelle Saint-Jean, which is known for its frescoes depicting the lives of Saint John the Evangelist and Saint John the Baptist, is the only part of the palace that was not stripped.
The 12th century Romanesque cathedral along side, Notre-Dame-des-Doms, contains the tombs of two popes. The 14th century Gothic Basilica of Saint-Pierre is nearby.
The châteaux-fort, known as the Palais des Papes, was constructed on a rock overlooking the town and the Rhône River, 190 feet below. It was constructed as a virtually impenetrable fortress. The Palais des Papes is one of the largest château-forts still standing.
During its seizure by the Parliament, the interior of the Palace was ruined. From 1822 to 1906 it was used as a military barracks.
Below the château is the town of Avignon. It is encircled by the 14th century 3 mile long ramparts, gates, projecting tourants, and towers built by the popes.
Only 4 of the original 22 arches remain of the bridge of the children’s song ‘Sur le pont d’Avignon’. The bridge was originally constructed from 1177 to 1188 by Saint-Bénézet. It spanned the Rhône from Avignon to Villeneuve-lèz-Avignon, 2 miles to the west to. The bridge was the first to reach over the Rhône, and as such, fostered Avignon’s economic development.
The currents of the Rhône tumbled the bridge several times. It was finally abandoned in 1680. The small, 2 story Chapelle Saint-Nicolas, with one floor in the Romanesque and the other in the Gothic style, still stands on one of its remaining arches.
Avignon was made an archiepiscopal see in 1475. Although it was nominally ruled by Papal legates, the town was self-governing. Subsequently, the town became a prosperous commercial center. The 13th century Petit Palais, once the residence of the Archbishop, is now a museum containing an important collection of paintings from the Italian schools as well as Roman and Gothic sculptures.
Nearby, the Musée Calvet, which is housed in an 18th century mansion, displays beautiful paintings and ancient silverware. Among its collection are works by Bosch, Brueghel the Younger, Corot David and Manet.
The town contains many 16th through 18th century houses. There are six churches that were constructed from the 14th to the 17th century. Two of these belonged to the 14th century lay groups known as the pénitents noirs. These were flagellants who paraded barefoot and hooded through the streets. Among their members were three kings of France.
Avignon is a cultural center. The
University of Avignon was established in 1973. The Festival d’Avignon, which began in 1947, is an annual performing arts festival that was started by Jean Vilar. Vilar died in 1971, but his festival continues with average annual attendance of 140,000 spectators. Its month long schedule includes classical and contemporary theater productions, ballet and music.
The historic center of town and the château have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Madder, a dye ingredient, has been cultivated in the area since 1756. Madder is traded in Avignon as are other local agricultural products such as flour, fruit, oil, vegetables and wine.
The town is also a manufacturing center for chemicals, fabrics, leather, machine tools, processed foods, soap and textiles.
It is believed that Cannes was settled by Ligurian tribesmen.
It is also thought
that it was occupied successively by Phocaeans,
Celts (or Gauls), and Romans.
In the 4th century it came under the protection of the monks of Lérins.
In the 10th century the monks had fortifications constructed under Pointe du Chevalier to guard against Muslim sea raiders.
Napoleon, on the first night of his return from Elba, encamped his small army in the dunes outside the village.
It was Lord Brougham who spread the fame of Cannes as an international resort.
In 1834 he was prevented, by quarantine measures, from entering Nice.
He stopped at the fishing village of Cannes where he subsequently built a villa.
Thereafter, he returned to Cannes every winter for 34 years.
Cannes is a resort city located in the
Département of Alpes-Maritimes,
on the French Riviera.
It was named for the canes of its once-reedy shore.
The city is located on the crescent of the Gulf of Napoule.
Its palm-planted Promenade de la Croisette follows the curve of the sand beach and is fringed with luxury hotels.
The harbor is a port of call for yachts and transatlantic liners.
There are several casinos, and the Palais des Festivals is the site of the well-known Cannes Film Festival.
The city's main source of revenue is tourism; of this about a fifth is winter tourism; foreign visitors make up two-fifths of the traffic. There is an international market for flowers, especially mimosa, which has flourished in the region since its introduction from Santo Domingo in 1835.
Digne-les-Bains is a charming town in the foothills of the Alpes. It lies on the east bank of the Bléone River, along the scenic Route Napoléon [Route National 85], where N85 meets D900, 83 miles northwest of Cannes. It is the capital of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence Département.
The town is known throughout France for its cultivation of fruits for preserving and for its beautiful lavender. There is an annual lavender festival.
Gap is an Alpine crossroads nestled in a high valley, carved out by a glacier, 2,406 feet above sea level. The town is at the intersection of D994 and Route National 85 [the Route Napoléon], 102 miles north of Toulon. It lies along the right bank of the Luye River and is the capital of the Département of Hautes-Alpes.
The town of Gap was originally founded by the Gauls. Roman emperor Augustus seized the town, around 14 BC, naming it Vapincum. The Romans used the town as a staging post along the Roman road that ran between Turin and Valence.
Gap was Christianized early and was ruled as an Episcopal see until 1512. France annexed the town in the same year.
Gap is both an agricultural and industrial center.
The town of Grasse is located on a slope of the lower Alpes, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, in the Département of Alpes-Maritimes. It is located at the intersection of Route National 85 [the Route Napoléon] and D562, 18 miles west of Nice, by car, and 9 miles northwest of Cannes.
The French perfume industry is centered at Grasse which is known for its cultivation of jasmine, roses, bitter orange blossoms and other flowers used in the distillation of perfumes. It is also celebrated as a winter resort and for its candied fruit.
Fine olive oil and soap is manufactured here.
Marseille is located in the Département of Bouche-du-Rhône.
Marseille was founded by Greeks, in about 600 BC, as the city of Phocaea.
Marseille has the oldest chamber of commerce in France.
It was established in 1599.
The city boasts of mosques and synagogues and many varieties of Christian churches.
Its bars and brothels have been a magnet for dishonest dealings, and its waterfront still evokes the romance of a gateway to distant lands.
The city’s architecture preserves few vestiges of the past.
Some landmarks, such as the transporter bridge that crossed the Old Port and the Panier district north of the harbor, were destroyed by the German occupation forces in 1943 and 1944.
After World War II Marseille was able to develop as a major European port and industrial center.
It proved remarkably successful in absorbing new waves of immigrants, notably the former European colonists who crossed the Mediterranean from North Africa after Algeria won its independence in 1962.
The industrial complex at Fos-sur-Mer also attracted many thousands of migrant workers from North Africa in the 1960s.
The economic crisis of the 1970s put a stop to industrial expansion and, as a result of the rise in unemployment and increased racist hostility to immigrants, Marseille faced renewed difficulties in providing for its mixed population.
Nice is located in the southern French
Département of Alpes-Maritimes, at the Baie des Anges.
It is the leading resort city for the glamorous, crescent shaped French Riviera [Côte d’Azur], situated on the Mediterranean coast, 20 miles to the east of Cannes and 20 miles to the west of the Italian border.
It is the largest city, between Genoa and Marsailles, and is France’s 5th largest city.
Located at the southern foot of the French Maritime Alpes, Nice, is 577 miles south of Paris.
The city is sandwiched between the Auto Route A 8 and Route National 8, at the intersection of D 2204.
It is a few miles northeast of Route National 202 and about 100 miles east of Marseilles. Nine miles to its east is the Principality of Monaco and the town of Monte Carlo.
The city is also on the main railroad line from the Italian cities of Genoa and Turin to Marseilles.
It is the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes Département.
Nice was settled by Greeks, from Marseilles, between 500 and 350 BC. The city’s name may have been derived from the Greek word ‘nike’, meaning ‘victory’, to commemorate a victory over a local tribe.
But, there is a possibility that the Greeks originally named it Nicaea.
However, its location, and not the origin of its name, quickly made it an important trading center.
In 154, Nice became part of the Roman Empire.
It became a holding of the Counts of Provence during the 10th century.
In 1388, with the aid of the Grimaldi family [see Monaco], Count Amadeus VII of Savoy incorporated Provence [and Nice] into Savoy.
Later, it was ruled by Sardinia-Piedmont.
The Duke of Savoy, who ruled Sardinia, granted Nice to France in 1792. It was reclaimed by Sardinia in 1814, after the fall of Napoleon I.
As a result of the Franco-Sardinian alliance of 1859, Napoleon II helped to drive the Austrians from Lombardy and the Veneto.
In 1860, as a result of this aid, the Italian government granted the city, and the lands to the west of the Alps, to France under the terms of the Treaty of Turin.
This action was subsequently ratified by a plebiscite, favoring France by a margin of 25,743 to 260.
In 1940, Nice was taken by Italy and was held until 1945.
Nice has long been known as a cultural center, and today it houses numerous museums.
19th century Italian painting, together with those by contemporary artists, can be found at the Musée Masséna and the Musée Chéret des Beaux-Arts.
The latter is the former residence of Ukrainian Princess Kotchubey, and also shelters masters of the Second Empire and of the turn of the century. It includes paintings by Boudin, Dufy, Monet, Renoir and Sisley in its collection.
Masterpieces by Carpeaux, Rodin and Rude are found among its sculptures.
In 1966, a museum was built that was dedicated to the 20th century artist Marc Chagall.
The Musée National Message Biblique Marc-Chagall has the largest collection of his works. Among the works is its display of a collection of 17 biblical paintings that were painted by Chagall between 1954 and 1967.
Near the 17th century monastery of Cimiez, a mile northeast of the city’s center, is a 17th century villa that houses the Musée Matisse.
Here, there are more than 40 works by Henri Matisse.
Next door is an archeological museum.
The Centre Universitaire Méditerranéen was established in Nice in 1933.
It holds conferences on language studies and contemporary problems.
In 1965, the
University of Nice was founded with faculties of arts and letters, law and science.
An international art school was established in 1970.
Near the Cimiez monastery are the majestic ruins of a Roman amphitheatre.
Among the points of interest is the Cathédral Orthodoxe Russe Saint-Nicolas.
It was built by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia in memory of a young Tsarevitch who died in Nice, of consumption, in 1865.
It was richly decorated with an interior of fine woodwork and is filled with stunning icons. The exterior is of gray marble and pink brick and elaborate mosaics.
It is toped with onion domes.
Its exotic building was commenced during the belle époque and was completed in 1912.
It is one of the finest examples of Russian religious art outside Russia.
The narrow and twisting cobbled streets of Nice’s medieval Old Town have a lively, Mediterranean character.
They are lined with restaurants and sidewalk cafés that have their terraces packed with sunning locals intermixed with tourists.
Along the ocean front is the Old Town’s Opera and its open air market.
To the east is the harbor.
The Old Town is located at the base of a granite hill known as Le Château, where the Counts of Provence built a castle that was destroyed by Louis XIV in 1706.
The Vieille Ville is separated from the New Town by the partly built-over Paillon River.
The New Town is located to the Old Town’s north and west and attracts visitors with its modern casinos, luxurious hotels, sophisticated theaters and enchanting villas.
Nice is an ever popular resort town, having been host, in the past, to such royalty as Queen Victoria and the Russian Tzars and nobility.
It is known for its elegant hotels, wide avenues, the Promenade des Anglés [built in the 1830’s with funds contributed by Nice’s English colony], which parallels the beach, and for its picturesque villas and their surrounding gardens.
It is especially popular during the winter, as the nearby Alpes shelter the area from the cold northern winds, giving it a mild, year-around climate.
Tourism is Nice’s leading industry.
Most of its inhabitants depend upon the tourist trade for their livelihood.
It is at its height from January to April, and again from July through September.
Nice is known for its Mardi-Gras which is the climatic height of Carnival, taking place on Shrove Tuesday.
It has been an annual event since 1873.
The city also organizes numerous other festivities throughout the year.
Nice’s harbor, which was built in 1750, and was expanded after 1870, is also a visitor’s Mecca that is filled with fishing vessels, pleasure boats, yachts, an odd merchant ship and the passenger ferries that connect with the French island of Corsica to the south.
Nice’s products include brandy, cement, electronics, furniture, olive oil, perfumes, precision machinery, processed fruit and other food, soap, straw hats, textiles, tobacco, viticulture supplies
Toulon is both a Provencal town and a seaport on the
It is the capital of the Département of Var,
It is also one of France's principal naval bases, possessing the most important of the Mediterranean dry-docks and shipbuilding yards.
Toulon's fine bay opens to the east.
The most sheltered part, the Petite Rade and the Darse Vieille, in the west, is largely under control of the French Navy.
Here, the navy is provided with a well-protected anchorage. The Faron Mountains form an imposing backdrop to the town.
The Romans originally had a naval signal station on the shores of the gulf.
Toulon's naval arsenal was founded by Henry IV.
The French statesmen Cardinal de Richelieu and Jean-Baptiste Colbert and the engineer Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban all strengthened Toulon’s forts.
In 1707, during the War of the Spanish Succession, the city resisted a siege by Allied forces.
It was also the scene of a famous battle of the French Revolutionary Wars.
After 1815 Toulon increased in importance and was the port of embarkation for most of the French military expeditions of the 19th century. By the 20th century it was France’s most powerful naval base and was the center for the Allied naval forces in the Mediterranean during World War I.
In World War II the Franco-German Armistice of 1940 left the Vichy collaborationist government in control of the French fleet, the bulk of which it concentrated at Toulon.
But the Allied invasion of northwest Africa, on Nov. 8, 1942, prompted Hitler to abrogate the terms of the armistice.
He ordered the German Army to take over the rest of unoccupied France, including Toulon.
While the Allies were trying to obtain the departure of the Toulon fleet for North Africa in order to keep it out of German hands, German troops attempted to seize the fleet on November 27.
The French were prepared for such a move, and Admiral Jean-Baptiste Laborde, the Mediterranean fleet commander, scuttled 73 ships, including cruisers, destroyers, torpedo boats, submarines, and one battleship.
Toulon was liberated in August 1944 by French troops.
Toulon consists of an old section, with narrow, crooked streets, and a new quarter, with handsome avenues and large public buildings. The old town, which was largely destroyed during World War II, contains the cathedral of Sainte-Marie Majeure, the rebuilt church of Saint-Louis, a vast military hospital and the naval museum.
University of Toulon and the Var (1970) is in nearby La Garde.
In the hills surrounding Toulon are forts dating from the 17th century.
Toulon's principal traditional industries, apart from the arsenal and shipbuilding, were fishing and wine making. The French national aerospace center is now located in Toulon.
The city now produces aeronautical equipment, maps, weaponry, tobacco, paper, shoes, and electronic equipment.
Large shipbuilding and ship-repairing yards are here, as are industries producing chemicals, clothing, machinery, processed food, and armaments.