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 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.
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.