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Les Gorges du Verdon April 05 2019, 0 Comments

Last month, Calisson by Gilles brought you to the discovery of the world of Faience in Provence and more particularly the village of Moustiers. This April we will discover together the surrounding area of Moustiers called “les Gorges du Verdon”. 

How to get there: 

You can reach the site from two directions: from the West, take the Manosque exit (n°18) of the A51 highway while driving from Aix en Provence to Gap, and cross Valensole and Riez signals to finally reach Moustiers Sainte Marie. The gorges will be 5 minutes away. 

Or you can reach the Gorge du Verdon from the East if you are coming from Saint Maximin. Follow the directions toward Draguignan, Aups to the Lac Sainte Croix and Gorge of Verdon will be mentioned. 

 

One of the most beautiful natural sites:

Provence is filled with surprises and hidden treasures that locals enjoy and try to keep for themselves. The images of Provence that are popular are landscapes of olive tree and vineyards, Mediterranean pine forests and blooming lavender fields. PACA is an abbreviation for Provence which means Provence - Alpes - Côte d'Azur, (Provence Alps and the Riviera). We mostly have in mind Provence and Riviera but often forget that Provence is also a part of the Alps mountains!                                                               The Gorges of Verdon belong to this category. While approaching the limestone massifs of the Alpine foothills, land becomes arid and climate here is generally dry. But there is a unique area crossed by rivers flowing down from the snowy peaks of the Alps. These rivers have carved deep valleys, and the longest and deepest one  is the Verdon river. The Gorges of Verdon are the deepest gorges of France. This is a natural must-see attraction of central Provence. 


From its source near the Italian Border, the Verdon runs south as far as the village of Castellane, and then joins the Durance River near Manosque.  The most impressive scenery of the canyon is located at the East of the Lake Sainte Croix. This is a 25 kilometers long and 700 meters deep river canyon. There is no road to the gorge, but a breath-taking circular "corniche" route that require careful driving!

It has been called Verdon because of its brilliant turquoise-green water. Vert in French means green, hence the name Verdon river.

The Gorges of Verdon attract visitors for many reasons.  You can go there to experience a spectacular road trip around the edge of the gorge, by car or by bike. You can even come to hike the numerous trails in and around the gorge. Then there are some who come to admire the bird life. You can try kayak or pedal boat in the gorge. For the bravest ones you can either jump off from the cliffs! Calisson by Gilles will detail for you everything in the coming lines! 

 

Where to stay: 

For a total harmony with nature, bring your tent and do a camping trip, dedicated camping areas are legion around the lake of Sainte Croix. This is the most popular way to spend few days in the area. For people who are wishing something else you can book a bedroom into a luxurious hotel. There are few and expensive. 

 

What to do:

Hiking

There are plenty of opportunities for hiking in and around the gorges du Verdon. Trails starts from the very gentle and easy level up to the technical and hard one.  You will find what you are looking for. Footpaths are marked and start from the many parking spots of the area. One of the most popular but tough one is the Sentier de l'Imbut. The path starts near the Hotel du Grand Canyon, on the road 71. 

The basic hike follows the GR99 (Grande Randonnée – Great Hike) hiking trail from the lip of the gorge then down to the bottom, and back up again. It takes roughly 4 hours. It's quite a hike, but accessible to most fit hikers. Proper shoes or boots are essential, refers to our tips to always have in mind during your stay. 

From this path you will cross a footbridge over the Verdon river, and it is possible to continue on up the north side of the gorge. Down at river level, you will have to choose what kind of path to take. 

Experienced hikers may like to continue along the path of Vidalwhich which includes sections cut into the rock, and a very hard one hour of climb, to go back up to the road RD71.

For a longer but less exhausting hike, you can continue on the GR99 or follow the GR49. From the GR49, you will reach a spot that provides perhaps the most breath-taking views down into the canyon. 

 

Kayaking and rafting

Kayaking or boating into the lower part of the gorge is a popular activity, and kayaks and other types of craft can be hired at the top end of the Lac de Sainte Croix. Plan for a couple of hours to make your way around the beautiful Lac de Sainte-Croix. The lake is a man made lake, it was created in the 70’s when the Electricity of France company built the Verdon dam to create electrical power. The dam generates 142 million kWh of electricity per year and is 94 meters high. However the original village of Sainte Croix is now completely underwater at the middle of the Lake! Divers can experience the exploration but at your own risks!

If possible, rent your boat for longer than one hour ; an hour isn’t really enough time to see the gorge. A whole morning or afternoon will be the best to enjoy the magic sceneries of the gorge. Bring a picnic and drinks to chill and have good times during you boat session. For sure, do not forget to take our sweet collection of Mediterranean Calisson by Gilles box for a great and memorable moment. 


Rafting is not practiced in the Gorges part of the Verdon river. For rafting in the Verdon, it is better to go higher in the valley, and reach the small town of Castellane. From there a couple of companies provide rafting trips on the river in July and August.

 

Climbing

There are endless opportunities for adventures here. If you are ready for it, bring your climbing gear. The Gorge of Verdon is a paradise for climbers, it has over 1500 routes for technical climbing. The toughest one are more than 600 meters high. Absolutely incredible!                                                                                                          For amateurs and neophytes, book a canyoning session with an official guide. It takes a whole day long, you will discover and try everything. A hike to meet a point of rappelling descent, often coupled with some portions of climbing. To finally doing some rafting down the Verdon river! 

 

Bird watching in the Verdon

Vultures were reintroduced into the Verdon gorge in 1999. Today Griffon vultures and black vultures are among the largest birds that can be seen in the Gorges of Verdon. But there are also eagles and other large birds of prey. The vertiginous crags of the gorge provide perfect nesting areas for these large raptors.

 

Calisson by Gilles tips:

Best time for exploring Gorges du Verdon: We recommend starting your day early in Gorges du Verdon, especially during the summer. It is a popular spot from June to the end of September so get up early to beat the crowd.

Bring hiking shoes to explore. Keep in mind that there are not many casual paths, so your hiking shoes will be more comfortable and will prevent potential injuries of your ankles. Calisson by Gilles recommends that you use a GPS on your trip if you are driving in Provence.                                                                           To rent a boat easily, get to the bridge called Pont du Galetas, park your car and go to the local renter hereunder. You can find the exact location of the Pont du Galetas bridge to get an idea of where you will want to go. 

Risky tradition: the local youth keeps the tradition of jumping from this bridge even if it is prohibited nowadays. Stand on the bridge in front of the Verdon river to imagine how high and dangerous it is from there. You may encounter some young people challenging themselves to jump! 

 

 

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.


Faïence of Provence March 09 2019, 0 Comments

History of the Faïence in Provence 

Owing to its location, the richness of its soils and its inhabitant’s, Provence has always enjoyed a privileged location for creation and innovation. Halfway between Italy and Spain, Provence had and still continues to receive influences from these cultures. Furthermore, located on the Rhone axis, Provence is opened to Belgium, the Netherlands, the Germanic countries and England. This scheme is rather unique and has made Provence a hub for different techniques and know-how’s through the centuries. 

This month Calisson by Gilles will present the Faïence of Provence which has a worldwide reputation. The origin of Faïence goes back more than 1200 years ago. The first traces of Faïence were spotted in Baghdad, Mesopotamia in the 9th century. This art was introduced to Spain by Arab potters in the 13th century. It took 100 years for it to reach Provence and Italy. 

For centuries now, Provence has kept a tradition of potters settled in many villages. These potters have drawn inspiration from the surrounding, colorful, and shimmering landscapes. You can feel it through the production of Provençal ceramics. The village of Moustiers Sainte Marie is dedicated to the Faïence and Calisson by Gilles brings you there today! 

 

 

The Faïence of Moustiers 

The local art of Faïence brings us to the gates of the Gorges du Verdon, in an exceptional environment and overlooking the Lake of Sainte-Croix, in the very popular area of the Verdon’s region: the village of Moustiers Sainte-Marie.   

The growth of earthenware in Moustiers is due to the Clérissy family, which created from 1679 the first large pieces of milky white enamel. A milestone will occur under the reign of Louis XIV. The king was in financial difficulty and to finance wars, he ordered the melting of all gold and silver dishes in the kingdom of France. This decision allowed Provençal potters the opportunity to make a place for the Faïence as a luxury item for wealthy families. Afterwards it has been diversified, and pottery Faïence was launched in a large panel of items. The reign of Faïence lasted over 2 centuries before the arrival of the porcelain. This was a hard time for the Faïence of Moustiers Saintes Marie because the porcelain was much easier to produce and cheaper than Faïence. 

But in 1927 the industry of Faïence restarted in Moustiers, under the impulse of Marcel Provence who reignited a kiln of the village in order to restore the reputation of Moustiers as a great city of faience. And it worked well! Nowadays, about twenty potteries as well as a museum perpetuate this traditional Provencal art.  

Each of these pieces is fashioned with respect for tradition. Everything begins with the preparation and selection of clay, which abounds in the village of Moustiers. Then comes stamping which consists in shaping clay slabs on a mold, turning (which applies for vases and pitchers in particular) and pouring (applied for more complex shapes), entirely made manually. Then comes the first of 2 cookings.

The first one is very high,  at 1020°C to cook the biscuit. Next, the time has come to paint the decorations on the enamel. Then is the moment for the second firing to vitrify the enamel, at 960°C, making the faience shiny. The potteries offer authentic collections, with traditional or contemporary scenes.

 

The use of Faïence:

Since its beginning, Faïence is used for cooking utensils, plates or food storage. Today you can still encounter many Faïence items within a Provençal kitchen: a jar to preserve the oil, another for dried fruits, a daubière (a daube saucepan), a mortar to pound the garlic, a pot for cooking the famous Provencal bouillabaisse. The list could be endless. In addition to its utensils used in Provencal cuisine, you can enjoy your meals and delicacies in colorful plates, serve diners in Faïence dishes, drink in beautiful water jugs. These water jugs were used at the time to fetch water from the fountain of the villages. For sure, if you are going to Moustiers, you can bring a Faïence jar to store and preserve our delicious Calisson by Gilles. Our Calissons originally comes from Provence and the Faïence perfectly suits with them. 

Some practical information on Faïence: you can use it daily. It will not be damaged, unless you use a brush too abrasive to clean it. You are used to using the dishwasher, so do not hesitate, Faïence does not mind! 

 

Discover Moustiers

Moustiers Sainte Marie is a typical Provençal village located in the Alpes de Haute Provence. Moustiers Sainte Marie is listed as one of the most beautiful villages of France. Moustiers is at the gates of the “Grand Canyon du Verdon”, at an altitude of 634 meters and is built amphitheatrically in the hills of Provence.

Moustiers Sainte Marie is a small picturesque village located on a remarkable and unique site: the Verdon Regional Nature Park. The village enjoys an exceptional environment with mountains, lavender fields and the lake of Sainte Croix! 

Nestled against a rocky escarpment, Moustiers Sainte Marie remains a mysterious place! Many legends talks about its famous star suspended at 227 meters high. Its alleys are entangled and after climbing narrow steep stairs you will reach this charming village. Unsuspected places are hidden behind the walls. Red and yellow facades of houses with roofs covered with old tiles are memorable. Between shaded small stone fountains, and shaded streets you will feel the magic of this place. The center of the city is the same than other Provençal villages: the church square. 

In all seasons, Moustiers Sainte Marie offers you beautiful walks in the heart of the village. 

 

Must-do in Moustiers Sainte Marie:

Calisson by Gilles recommends its readers to do the hike to the Chapel “Notre Dame de Beauvoir”. This beautiful chapel is built between the cliffs of Moustiers Sainte Marie. The walk up there is a must-do! 

You will get incredible views on Moustiers rooftops but also on the lake of Sainte Croix. You will also have the chance to get closer to the star! The ground is a little bit slippery so be careful and wear proper shoes. Best times to get there? We would advise to do it either early morning or end of afternoon to fully enjoy the colors of the landscape. Calisson by Gilles tip: Take a coin of 1€ with you; you will be able to light up the inside of the chapel with a candle. 

Another must-do in Moustiers is to taste the local beer of Moustiers! The store and factory is located close to the beginning of the Chapel path. Here you will find a little bar called “Saveurs & Nature”. As you will quickly notice, most of the people sitting at the tables know each-others. This is here, in this hidden place that we find the “Mouss’Terrienne. A well found pun!  The Mouss’terrienne is brewed and bottled here in Moustiers , it is a delicious craft beer made with special provence ingredients of this region : Honey and thyme ! a must taste if you coming here in Moustiers. Take a sweet break with our sweet Calisson by Gilles and this local beer; you will remember it all your life! 

The local brewer is also a beekeeper! So you will find a range of products all made out of honey such as lavender honey, verdon honey, gingerbread and other delights. Why you will ask, simply because the brewer is above all a beekeeper!

You can also discover the Faïence museum in Moustiers, renovated in 2014, the Museum tells the story of the Faience since the 16th century. It provides a major collection of Faience which was made thanks to generous donations.

For sure, as in all Provençal villages, a weekly market takes place in Moustiers Sainte Marie! Summer and winter, the market takes place every friday morning till 1pm in front of the city hall and the church.  According to the seasons, the size of the market change, obviously. The best time to get there is during summer season. You will find a lot of local products such as goat cheese, seasonal vegetables, lavender honey and much more. Enjoy!

 

 

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.


La Route du Mimosa February 02 2019, 0 Comments

In January, we discussed the Mimosa: How it was introduced in France, its symbolism and the various species you can encounter in Provence. This month, Calisson by Gilles brings you to the discovery of the French Riviera during the Mimosa season. From January up to the end of March, the region of Var and Alpes Maritimes are dressed with a festival of gold, lights and fragrance from the Mimosa in blossom. The Côte d’Azur is wonderful in winter; the bright yellow of the mimosa perfectly contrasts with the deep blue sky and sea of Provence. It's a good time to discover or rediscover it! 

 The Road of Mimosa :

This symbolic tree of Provence in winter is the star of many festivals: carnivals, corsos  and botanical exhibitions such as Mimosalia in Bormes-les-Mimosas (last weekend of January) where are showcased rare plants, and other unusual varieties.

 

The mimosa is also a 130 kilometers (80 miles) of a perfumed getaway between the department of Var and Alpes Maritimes, a trip of 8 stops in the most beautiful villages of Provence between Grasse and Bormes-les-Mimosas.

Calisson by Gilles gives you an overview of this stunning bucolic road trip. 

Bormes-les-Mimosas

Simply the most beautiful flowered village of France !  A medieval village of the 12th century with more than 700 rare plant species ! The Mimosa remains for sure the main attraction of Bormes-les-Mimosas. From January to March the medieval city is adorned with a long "gold scarf" , a wonderful explosion of yellows and perfume in the village. Capital of mimosa in the Var, Bormes-les-Mimosas has no less than 90 species of Mimosa. Nearby, the famous beaches of white sands and crystal clear waters of Cabasson, Brégançon, and Estagnol are an ideal place for chilling. A little anecdote: Fort de Bregançon is the official summer residence of the French President. Each year, the President of French Republic spends a week or more in this official residence. Late Général Charles de Gaulle was the first French Président to enjoy it and started the tradition.


Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer

The Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer is a charming, peaceful and tiny village where happiness is preserved. The village of Rayol-Canade was created with the extension of the Mole in 1925. It became an autonomous municipality in 1949, it currently includes 3 neighborhoods and extends about 4 km (2 miles). Exceptional site where the hills of Corniche des Maures plunge into the blue water of the Mediterranean sea with breathtaking views of the golden islands.

Sainte-Maxime

With 11 km (7 miles) of Mediterranean shoreline, Sainte-Maxime is a haven of peace in winter, where strolling along the water invite you to savor moments that we would like to be eternal. Have a taste of our sweet Calisson by Gilles at this moment, you will reach the summum of happiness ! The charm of Provence emerges through its houses with old tiles, its typical market, its shopping streets and shady walks. 

Saint Raphaël

Saint-Raphaël, is a listed summer resort, located at the gateway to the Massif de l'Esterel is beautiful in winter. Mimosa trees are smartly placed everywhere in the village. Saint Raphaël invites you to discover its exceptional coastline and unspoiled nature. Its’ 36 km (20 miles) of coastline will take you from the heart of the city, to the harbors, to the secret coves of Boulouris. Many things to do and discover in this village. 

Mandelieu-la-Napoule

This is the first stop in the Alpes Maritimes department. This is the cradle of Mimosa culture. The village of Mandelieu-la-Napoule is located at the foot of the
Tanneron Massif, home to the largest mimosa forest in Europe. What to do there? a trail.

Take the « Chemin des douaniers » road with its castles along this path. Its red volcanic rocks, plunging into the turquoise water, are worth a visit. 

Tanneron   

Tanneron, with its 22 hamlets nestled in the heart of the massif of the same name, is the largest territory of mimosa cultivated as wild in France. This is a real yellow forest of small fluffy balls. It is totally beautiful to see the mimosa trees in their natural environment . From December to March, the abundant bloom of mimosa will leave you a perfumed scent, with, bright golden panorama : a delight. 

Pégomas  

In Pégomas, the Mimosa is honored, it delights our view and our sense of smell,. Cultivated on the hills of Tanneron, we take care of it, we spend time. The Mimosa Garden is home to 11 varieties. The last weekend of January Pégomas celebrate the first strands through a local event in the heart of the village. Pegomas has a nice and colorful image of a holiday land. Calisson by Gilles recommends Pégomas as a must stop place to discover its true and beautiful nature. 

Grasse

Perched to sunny hills, the village of Grasse discovers its charm when you stroll along its winding streets and cozy squares. World capital of perfumes, Grasse showcases its rich heritage thanks to its Label City of Art and History. Its historic center, its international perfume museum, its tourist perfumeries are all assets for tourists. A must-do village also !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.


The Mimosa of Provence January 04 2019, 0 Comments

A bunch of sun! With its shiny yellow, the mimosa warms the roads of Provence in the heart of winter.

 

A brief history of the mimosa in Provence

Around 1880, the mimosa, native from Australia, made its appearance on the slopes of the Croix des Gardes in Cannes.

The mimosa was introduced its great winter hosts, such as the Marquis of Morès and the Duke of Vallombrosa. The Horticulture and Acclimatization Society greatly contributed to its promotion. The mimosistes (mimosa nursery owner) made their apparition in French Riviera’s cities such as Mandelieu, Pégomas, Tanneron. The train stations of Cannes and Mandelieu were the main hubs to export the mimosa to all major cities of France and Europe.


The mimosa became the king of winter in regions enjoying a warm climate like the French Riviera. This is the only area of Provence where the mimosa can survive the winter. Nevertheless we can sometimes see a beautiful mimosa tree in private gardens throughout the whole Provence region. There are more than 1200 species of Mimosa around the world and over 400 grow in Provence.

 

 

Some types of Mimosa

Gallic (Acacia Dealbata): Large, very vigorous tree with dark green foliage. Abundant flowering (yellow sulfur) that emerges largely from the foliage from late January to March.

Mirandole: Great development. Big leaves with a light green color. Flowering in a large cluster of pure bright yellow from late December to February. The Mirandole Mimosa suits for very large gardens.

Astier (Astier dealbata): One of the Mimosas tree which resists  colder temperatures. It withstands without damage to -8 / - 10 ° C.

4 season mimosa (Acacia Retinodes): It is one of the most resistant to cold (-9 ° C to -10 ° C). Spring-summer bloom. The last producer of this mimosa is located in Tanneron.


The Mimosa and its symbols

Yellow gold, the mimosa is one of the most used flowers in terms of symbolism.
With a delicate scent, it speaks to each of us with the accent of the South of France. Our Calisson by Gilles come from the same area and each mouthful of our sweet delicacy brings you to Provence. The savory blend of almond married with cantaloupe and a hint of orange reminds us of the golden Mimosa.
Here and there in Provence, the flowers of Mimosa naturally represents the Sun. 

In the language of flowers, the mimosa is the evocation of secret loves. Symbol of gold and sun, the mimosa is also the image of triumphant life, owing to the hardness of its wood and the victory over the forces of evil.

The Road of Mimosa

This symbolic tree of Provence in winter is the star of many festivals: carnivals, corsos  and botanical exhibitions such as Mimosalia in Bormes-les-Mimosas (last weekend of January) where are showcased rare plants, and other unusual varieties.

The mimosa is also a 130 kilometers (80 miles) of a perfumed getaway between the department of Var and Alpes Maritimes, a trip of 8 stops in the most beautiful villages of Provence between Grasse and Bormes-les-Mimosas.

Calisson by Gilles will give you an overview of this stunning bucolic road trip next month. 

 

 

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.


The Roquefavour aqueduct and surrounding villages December 03 2018, 0 Comments

This month Calisson by Gilles brings you to the discovery of the Roquefavour aqueduct and villages around this stunning area. The theme of this month is located in the Bouches du Rhône department; between Aix-en-Provence and Marseille. Whether you are a family discovering the region, a local or a student, these protected spots from the crowds are worth the visit. In our blogs, we try to provide unique and original contents that will encourage you to visit Provence and discover its traditions. This blog is a good example. 

Now let’s get ready and discover the town of Velaux.

Velaux is a lovely old Provençal village, perched high on a hill. The village is surrounded by a beautiful lush countryside. Slopes covered with vineyards are wonderful in spring and summer. Velaux has experienced a fast growing population in the last few years owing it to its privileged location as the closest village of Ventabren that we will see here below. 

The main place of the village is named Place François Care and is very pleasant. Shady on summer, this is the spot to be! Here you will find the town hall, the grocery store, bookstore, the traditional provençal bakeries and of course the bars. What  can be better than having a relaxing moment here! 

Just take a seat at the terrace of a café, order a long coffee that you will taste with our sweet delicacy of Calisson by Gilles. Coffee and Calissons are the best suited combination! From your seat you can observe little scenes of the everyday life of the village: children playing in the square, old men chatting on a bench, a little piece of the Provençal way of life. 

From this main place you can visit the little church, then have a stroll in the old streets of Velaux, take your time to get lost in the tiny streets you will see several beautiful old houses. There is a little and beautiful castle which has been fully restored in the street of Château d’If and worth the visit. You will find close by Velaux’s Museum named "Le Donjon". The museum hosts the archives of the village of Velaux, old tools which were used in agriculture in Provence, archeological pieces and Provençal period costumes which are exhibited during traditional celebrations. 

 

Let’s continue our trip with the town of Ventabren!  Ventabren is a very pretty village, established at the top of a hill and dominated by the ruins of the Château de la Reine Janne (castle Queen Jeanne). 

Perfectly located, this charming village is at the same distance from Marseille, Aix-en-Provence and Salon-de-Provence. It clearly breathes the picturesque Provençal countryside; still only 30 minutes away from a major urban area. Over the last few years this privileged location developed considerably below the village where new houses have been built. Currently the permits of building new constructions are now restricted to preserve the village of his success.

In the old village, just under the ruins of the castle, you will fell in love with the tiny
cobbled streets filled with flowers and colors. You will be captivated by these little houses meticulously restored and all different from one another. Be ready to climb the steeply stairs to reach the main square of the village called Place de l’Eglise. The church is 500 years old! You can for sure visit the ruins of the Château de la Reine Jeanne. Built around 940, the castle was a considerable defensive structure. Furthermore due to its dominant position, it was very hard for invaders to attack. Dazzling and panoramic view can be appreciated from these ruins.

Ventabren enjoys also the privileged location of being the closest village to the largest aqueduct in the world, the acqueduct of Roquefavour.

Roquefavour:

Roquefavour is the world’s highest stone aqueduct. This area is completely undeveloped as a tourist attraction in the heart of the Provençal countryside. This breathtaking and contemplative scenery is according to Calisson by Gilles a must-do for anyone visiting the region who wants to get off the beaten track, literally.

The aim of an aqueduct for Marseille

As Marseille was growing in size in the middle of 1800, the main city of Bouches du Rhone was facing a persistent problem of providing clean drinking water during a period when cholera outbreaks were legendary. The construction of the aqueduct was firstly planned 200 years before, in the 16th century.
The city of Marseille finally gave the green light to start this huge infrastructure project. The main project was rather simple, bring the water from the Durance river to the city. The Roquefavour Aqueduct is one part of this ambitious scheme of waterways and pipes that culminate in Marseille at the Palais Longchamps (which itself was built to commemorate the arrival of water in the city).

Roquefavour is the largest stone aqueduct in the world!

The Roquefavour Aqueduct is similar to its cousin of Avignon, the Pont du Gard which is one the most visited monument in the region. The pont du Gard is 18 centuries older than his cousin Roquefavour! The Roman found an efficient and effective way to conduct water where needed and the city of Marseille used the same technological solution to sustain their need of water for the city. 

Roquefavour is much bigger and higher than Pont du Gard; it is about 400 meters long and 80 meters high (in comparison, Pont du Gard is around 270 meters long and 50 meters high). The construction began in 1841 and 5 year later, the water was flowing along the aqueduct towards Marseille.

Driving directions:

Public transport solutions are very poor in this area; the best way to reach Roquefavour is by car. From Aix en Provence, a very nice and memorable way to get there is to bicycle! You can easily rent bicycles in Aix en Provence. Here the new trend is to borrow electric ones to clearly and simply enjoy your bucolic road trip without being exhausted on uphill. Parts of the roads are dedicated to bicycling so it is very pleasant to use this solution during a sunny and warm day of spring or autumn season.
Calisson by Gilles clearly disclaims doing this during cold and windy winter days or hot and dry summer ones. 


The area lacks tourists and development so you won’t land in a crowded place with a bunch of people. On the contrary you can drive directly to the aqueduct and park your car directly underneath. Take a break and have a picnic nearby.

It’s also memorable to paddle in the river underneath; the point of view is stunning. 

If you have walking shoes, you’ll find some steps where you can hike up to the top of the aqueduct and enjoy different angles and point of views. The path is rocky, so take your time, be cautious and walk slowly. 

For braves and sporty persons who want to associate sport activity with a cultural one you can ride the 35 kilometers rural cycling route that will bring you in the past, at the time of the WW2. Start from Roquefavour and drive to the Les Milles Internment Camp before returning back to the Roquefavour. 

Things to know before you go

It sounds obvious, but Provence can get hot. This area as stated above is very light of tourists, which makes it a wonderful and quiet place to relax and enjoy. The bad point though is that there are no amenities like toilets or shops with reliable opening hours, so make sure you have ample food and drink, especially water. It can get windy when the Mistral is in town. If you are going to the top of the aqueduct keep in mind that there are no barriers on the highest parts of the walk, so be careful up there. The path is dangerous, and much more when Mistral blows. 

 

 

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.


Aubagne, Pagnol's country November 07 2018, 0 Comments

Aubagne is known in France and beyond our borders as the birthplace of Marcel Pagnol.

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.


Le Savon de Marseille (the Marseille’s soap) October 05 2018, 0 Comments

he origins of soap go back to the Egyptians. They described soap recipes on their famous papyrus. In Europe, the Gauls were apparently the first to intentionally manufacture soap from goat's tallow and potash from beech ash. 

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.


Transhumance September 03 2018, 0 Comments

This month Calisson by Gilles brings you the still living tradition of Transhumance in Provence. 

A living tradition

Transhumance, -trans- “through” (on the other side) and –humance- humus (land, country), is the semi-annual migration of grazing animals from the plain to the mountains and the mountains to the plain. It helps the shepherds overcome the drought of the summer and hard conditions of mountains’ winter.

In June, the herds steer to the nearest mountains, where the grass is green and so abundant in our pastures. They will be back from the mountains between September and November, before the snow reappears. 

The Transhumance is an ancestral know-how, and is perpetuated from generation to generation.

There are different forms of transhumance:

The "great summer transhumance" connects the low plains of the Mediterranean coast with Alpine mountains. 

The "local" transhumance refers to the rise of herds living around mountain villages area to a higher level for summer pastures.

The "winter" transhumance is practiced by some mountain herds, who spend the winter in the plains of Basse Provence.

The most famous transhumance is the one between Provence and the Alps. It is not regulated by any written law except one, which limit the width of their passage to 5 fathoms (10 meters) The mountains of Barcelonnette are the best, they are covered with beautiful grass. The sheep belong to shepherds living around Arles and Salon de Provence.

In autumn, sheep come back from the mountains fattened. The shepherds of la Crau rent the right of grazing in the mountains for six months. 


Sisteron, the sheep capital

In the heart of Provençal country, the city of Sisteron is at the center of traditional sheep farming. For centuries, Sisteron collects, sorts and delivers the best lambs for its customers every day. The lamb of Sisteron is prized for its fine and unctuous meat, it is generally cooked with herbs of Provence.Les Drailles

The “drailles” is a Provençal word, there were stony paths that were entirely reserved for transhumant herds, some of which went from Arles to Italy. Draille or Carraire (closer to Marseille) designate the transhumance path. 

Often corresponding to the most natural way for herds to join the summer pastures, the Drailles and carraires were the first lines of communication between the plains of low Provence and the alpine mountains. Some of them use the path of ancient Roman roads. In order to facilitate the progress of the livestock, these transhumance paths reached up to one hundred meters in width. They weren’t considering the unevenness of the landscape and were drawn as much as possible in a straight line. 

The routes preferably took the ridges line of the hill and mid-mountain regions in order to avoid the valleys and cultivated plains.

The drailles were delimited by stones planted in pairs, on either side, every four or five hundred meters. These roads were public roads and were maintained with royalties paid by the owners of the Arlesian (Arles region) flocks.

Over the centuries, these pastoral routes were difficult to maintain against the increasing population and new transport solutions of the industry era. 

The roads were only used two months each year, a month in the fall and a month in the spring. The locals did not hesitate, meanwhile, to use them. The rise of struggles and clashes in the 19th century led the shepherds to avoid these traditional roads and borrow the more modern ones of the valley.

 

The Transhumance is an event

In recent years, transhumance has made a comeback under the spotlights and is becoming a moment of celebration and cheerfulness, which allows to inhabitants of Provence to rediscover their terroir and the old professions of pastoralism. 

The ancestral practices of herd management, which had disappeared, replaced by truck transport are now revived. Because of the pollution of diesel engine, rugged terrain which are hard to reach, the tradition is back and it is beautiful to see the mountains of Haute-Provence with a shepherd and his flock of sheep!

 

Where and when to attend a transhumance

Where ? 

You can attend to transhumances in the Alps, at the north side of Provence. 

When ?

Two times a year


During the spring : for the climb to the high mountains where animals will graze for the summer. Or during the fall : for the descent to the lowlands for the winter season. 

Depending on the location and events, you can watch the passage of animals in the village or follow the herds from one village to another for a hike. In the latter case, it is often necessary to register by contacting the organizer, or the town hall of the village.

A transhumance hike represents on average a journey between 5 to 20 km (2 to 13 miles) , and there are different hiking formats.

One day: you can for example take your picnic, for this option, be sure to bring in your bag a box of our sweet Calisson by Gilles. All the natural ingredients in our Calisson cantaloupe, almond … will marry perfectly with the discovery of Provençal traditions and will bring you the energy to fully enjoy this moment.

Several days: nights and meals are often proposed by the event planners and registration is charged. 

Parties are usually associated with the transhumance tradition and villages are the place where beautiful and picturesque parades take place. You can see animals in the villages, kids games, markets and many other activities.

Celebration of the transhumance of Riez-la-Romaine (Alpes de Hautes-Provence): 

Watch the passage of animals in the center of the village, enjoy the folk entertainment and stroll through the local markets. Your children will love watching the sheep. This celebration usually takes place the 3rd or 4th Sunday of June. 

Celebration hike in the Mercantour - Roya Valley (Alpes Maritimes) :

Go on a 2 days trek alongside sheep and goats. You will be responsible for monitoring the flock with your kids ! From 5 to 8 hours of walking per day at the end of June. 

Celebration of transhumance in Saint Rémy de Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône) :

Young and old will be truly impressed by the parade of thousands of sheep in the streets of Saint Remy de Provence. This day will also allow you to attend demonstrations of the work of shepherds and shepherd dogs. You will be able to enjoy the stunning flea market of Saint Remy. The event takes place the last week of June. 

You won’t be able to assist to all of them, so you have to choose one according to your time, your family size and your preferences! 

 

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.


by Gilles
23416 Caminito Valle Laguna Hills Orange County, CA 92653 United States 800-334-2081 gilles@bygilles.com
by Gilles
23416 Caminito Valle Laguna Hills Orange County, CA 92653 United States
800-334-2081 gilles@bygilles.com