A Ray of Sun in Tarascon

.Castle of le Roi René [constructed in 1400 – one of the finest mediaeval castles in France.- © ATOUT FRANCE/R-Cast

No wonder artists gravitate to the South of France. Beyond abundant history and natural landscapes, the storied country offers unparalleled beauty and color.

“In the morning, when you open the window, you see the green of the gardens and the rising sun, and the road into the town….It will not be commonplace.” Vincent Van Gogh

Imagine the vivid splashes of color that flowed from the mind and brush of Van Gogh, and you will grasp some idea of the landscape surrounding Tarascon.  In the heart of one of the most beautiful regions of Provence, the limestone hills of the Alpilles set the backdrop for endless rows of enormous sunflowers, ironically with their backs to the sun.  It’s the perfect photo op for a shot of you, standing next to a flower whose face is larger than yours!

Experience the Tarascon region, and you will never wonder at its ability to unlock the brilliance of artists and writers … and the awe of visitors who have enjoyed the sights, scents and sounds.  You take in purple fields of lavender that stretch across the land and perfume the air. Cypress and golden wheat, apricot and olive trees, lazy river banks and every imaginable variety of flora and fauna present one surprise after another.

Tarascon hugs the Rhone River that feeds southward through the Camargue Regional Nature Park to the Mediterranean.  In between Avignon and Arles, Saint-Remy-de-Provence and Nimes; Tarascon offers a perfect center for discovery.

For a unique experience, visit the “Maison de Tartarin” – a museum entirely dedicated to bringing to life the novel written by Alphonse Daudet in 1872, in which the adventurous hero Tartarin hunts lions in Africa before returning to Tarascon.  The house is filled with neatly-labeled exotic weaponry – Corsican knives and lassos from Mexico, steel guns – lions and costumes.

Souleiado Museum, Tarascon

Wander Tarascon’s narrow streets to 39 Rue Proudhon to discover the “Souleiado – Charles-Demery.”  The colorful printed cotton fabrics replicate the vibrant colors – mustard yellow, raspberry pink and the terra-cotta red – seen throughout southern France.

Today’s Souleiado fabrics symbolize Provençal heritage and are as popular in America as in France and Europe.  The very definition of Souleiado is “a ray of sun shining through the clouds after a rain.” The museum includes pottery displays, a print shop replica, period carved wood design blocks, 18th century costumes and a large variety of creative classes.

The Château du Roy René, another Tarascon attraction, features a vast sprawling fortress that dates to the early 15th century.  Rising some six stories above the Rhone, it is both imposing and interesting to explore.

The entire region offers a feast of interesting villages and outdoor activities, from the antique markets near St. Remy de Provence to the Roman arena in Nimes.  Perhaps, one evening you will visit Van Gogh’s famous cafe in Arles to imagine long ago starry nights and artistry touched with a bit of madness.

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