Sept 19, 2012. Salon-de-Provence, Never Saw it Coming!

Alas, Sept 19th was our last day of vacation.  We had one day left to tour Provence before making our way back to Toronto.

My brother, father and I quibbled a fair bit about where to go and what to see.  Because Elaine loves the water so much and I am also fond of the Mediterranean, I made it my stubborn goal to ensure we could visit at least one beach near Marseilles.  My brother suggested a short trip out to Salone-de-Provence, which was an area not familiar to me.  I learned that it was actually the home town of Michel de Nostredame, better known to all as Nostradamus.  Hence the tongue and cheek title of this posting.  As it turns out, this was an excellent suggestion.

Once again I offer the following synopsis from the Wikipedia article on Salon-de-Provence:

Salon was a Gallo-Roman oppidum well positioned on the salt trade routes between Adriatic, Atlantic and Mediterranean seas, hence its name. This region was under the Phocaean influence since the sixth century BCE, and stretches of the Via Aurelia can still be recognized just outside the town, but the earliest mention of the place under its familiar name is of the ninth century, as Villa Salone. The archbishops of Arles controlled the site.

Its principal claim to fame today is as the place where Nostradamus spent his last years and is buried. His dwelling is maintained as a museum, and for four days every June or July, the city celebrates its history during the time of Nostradamus, attracting tourists.

The historic center still lies within its circuit of walls, entered through two seventeenth-century gateways, the Porte de l’Horloge and the Port Bourg Neuf. In the sixteenth century Adam de Craponne built the canal that still bears his name; inexpensive freight brought commerce to Salon, and the town prospered.

As we arrived early enough and the town is a rather small one (44,000 people), we had enough time to take in the major sights as well as make our way out to the Mediterranean Sea the same day.  Our subsequent visit to the Sea and Elaine’s elation at jumping into the water, fully clothed, will be the subject of my final posting for our France vacation.

Saint Michel Chapel, Salon-de-Provence

Built during 13th century, this chapel boasts a remarkable Romanesque tympanum featuring the paschal lamb.

Fontain Moussue, Salon-de-Provence

This fountain in Place Crousillat has existed since the 16th century. During the 20th century, limestone concretions and vegetation developed, giving the familiar mushroom aspect.

Statue of Michel de Nostredame, Salon-de-Provence

The symbol and mythology of Nostradamus runs strong in this town.  More than likely because it keeps the tourist dollars flowing in.  Personally, I do not believe in the predictions made in his Quatrains, nor do I believe in any sort of supernatural vision.  However, the cultural significance and enduring myth of Nostradamus cannot be denied.

Close up of Michel de Nostredame Statue, Salon-de-Provence

After walking about the town and then eating a calorie laiden stack of crepes, Elaine and I walked over to the Château de l’Empéri.  Another one of the town’s main attractions, perhaps only second to the Nostradamus sites.

Château de l’Empéri, Salon de Provence

The castle, which was the biggest in Provence during the 12th and 13th centuries and was mentioned as early as the tenth, still dominates the old town. It was the preferred residence of the bishops of Arles, when Provence was part of the Holy Roman Empire, hence its name. It became the property of the city after the French Revolution. After damage caused by the 1909 earthquake, it has been restored and now hosts a museum of military history. Every summer, it hosts an international classical music festival.  The vestiges of summer stages were still visible.

Herb Garden, Château de l’Empéri, Salon-de-Provence

If my memory serves, this herb garden is a recreation of  the herbs that Michel de Nostredame cultivated.  After all, he was a apothecary for some years before studying to become a doctor.   Legend says that he created a “rose pill” that supposedly protected against the plague.  The herb garden was as adorned with some unique statues as seen in the photo gallery below.

Château de l’Empéri Courtyard, Salon-de-Provence
One of the locals we met at the bar

We had a few hours to kill before meeting back up with my brother and father.  Elaine and I sat down for few beers and chatted with the locals.  It was unfortunately the last day of really fresh and tasty European beer.  My taste buds were thoroughly spoiled during our tenure in France!  After we all regrouped, we made our way out to the seaside.  As mentioned, those photos shall be my last blog entry for France.


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