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The 4th leg of our family South France road trip itinerary would be the last one to be packed with things to see from early morning to late evening. It would get easier the next days. We started the day early north of Marseille in Vitrolles and drove from our hotel towards the Montmajour Abbey and to the old remains of the Roman city called Glanum. After a nice pick nick lunch we continued to the Silvacane Abbey and the last stop was at the Salagon Priory & Gardens. In the evening we arrived at the Intercontinental Hotel Dieu in Marseille. I wrote about the planning of the trip before (Planning a “free” south France road trip and the first day in Carcassonne) and how we would end up earning money by doing this trip. Now it’s time to share with you the fourth leg of our trip in France.
TIP! Make sure you reach the first place when it opens which is recommended for any road trip. This will make sure you can do more on a day.
The ultimate 10 day South France itinerary for a road trip packed with culture
The history at the place where now the remains of the Montmajour Abbey are goes back as far as the 3rd century BC when the hill was in use as a graveyard. The current abbey remains date to the 10th through 18th century. Most notable are the stone graves which are carved in the rocks. From the top of the tower you have a great view on them. You can also lay down in one of them pretending you have died; funny with kids 🙂
Personally I found the Benedictine Montmajour Abbey of great interest to visit because of the various buildings and the preservation state. The oldest remaining one is the Chapel of St. Peter from the early 11th century. Outside of the abbey walls you find the Chapel of the Holy Cross said to contain a piece of the original cross of Jesus. When we visited unfortunately the chapel seemed closed. The crypt of St. Benedict, which is partly build inside the rocks dates to the 12th century with on top the abbey church. On the south side of the Church you find the cloister which dates to the same period. The tower from the 14th century gives a great view over the abbey and in the back you see the 18th century Maurist monastery which is mostly in ruins.
The abbey has put art objects in various rooms which otherwise would be empty and boring. A great way to enhance a visit to the abbey. Did you know that painter Vincent van Gogh visited the abbey many times to paint it and the views on the country side? He liked the view over the surrounding plains. Unless you want to paint the abbey it takes around two hours to explore. Around 11AM we drove to our next stop of our South France road trip itinerary, the Roman ruins of the city of Glanum.
Glanum Roman Village
We already drove by the previous day and were very excited to visit Glanum today. It’s a well-preserved Roman city with a beautiful arch and mausoleum which are the best preserved from that period. It wasn’t that crowded and after buying our entrance tickets we were standing on an old Roman road. I closed my eyes for a moment and saw Roman carriages passing by, kids playing in the street, people chatting in Latin. Just as if I was there, 1800 years ago. It must have been a great city to live in. We walked up the hill first to have a beautiful view over the whole city.
Glanum was founded mid-1st century BC after the Romans conquered the previous town which was completely destroyed. The location in the valley was a big advantage to develop it into a thriving town. Forums, market places, temples, dams to provide water to the baths and residences were built over two and a half centuries. To the end of the 3rd century the town got destroyed having the people move out of the valley on to the plains where they started the town now called Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The old Glanum got buried under mud and stone due to the water drainage stopping to work. The two monuments outside of the city, the Arch of Triumph and the Mausoleum of Julii got preserved and are now still in outstanding shape. During the 20th century the place was fully excavated so that visitors can explore it. Personally I liked this place a lot as you can see how the Romans lived centuries ago. It is also a great place to visit with kids, mine loved it to explore and learn about the history. Two hours later we finished and we headed to our next stop: lunch!
We bought at a local supermarket some French bread, smoked salmon, various cut meats, a good wine and some greens for a pick nick on the way to our next destination on our South France road trip itinerary. I love those French pick nicks! We just pulled over on the first nice place we saw and had lunch in the fields. After our delicious lunch we arrived at the Silvacane Abbey, a Cistercian monastery.
TIP! If you are in a hurry, or just like to pick nick, buy it fresh at a local French supermarket and eat it in the fields! It’s cheaper and for sure as delicious as going to a restaurant!
The Silvacane Abbey was built at a quiet area like most abbeys of that time. It was built with many Romanesque and Gothic elements but without a lot of decoration. The abbey got prosperous and the nearby Benedictine Abbey of Montmajour, which we visited earlier that day, did not really like that. They had a big fight but finally the Cisteriens got released again by the Benedictines. In the 15th century the monks had to abandon the abbey due to financial problems. After this it changed hands over the centuries and it was finally acquired by the French government which opened it for the public. The site is not so big and just over an hour will do to see the abbey. We continued our South France road trip itinerary which contained one more place.
The ultimate 10 day South France itinerary for a road trip packed with culture
Salagon Priory & Gardens
We arrived around 4:20 PM at the Salagon Priory & Gardens just before it would close at 5 PM. The last stop for today on our South France road trip itinerary. The gardens are on the list of national gardens in France and the place is a good example how a place developed over 2000 years. You find traces of the Neolithic period up to the 20th century! You can visit the priory, church, residences and buildings used for agricultural use. The site however is most famous for its gardens with almost 2000 different plants. I found the walk very quiet and peaceful and happy that I stopped by. Unfortunately the skies got very dark and rain was coming so we left the gardens for what they were and headed back to our car and drove to Marseille.
We would sleep the next two nights of our South France road trip itinerary at the Intercontinental Hotel Marseille Dieu. It was a nightmare to arrive! We had put the address in our navigation but it directed us to the back entrance which was in a car free zone but due to an emergency for the firefighters the place was accessible and we didn’t know. The streets got smaller and smaller until we could not go further! We had to turn! I still hear the tires touching the sidewalks when I think back on this situation. Somehow we managed to turn and we arrived at the front entrance of this luxury hotel. In the next post I will tell you all about Marseille, stay tuned!
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