Salon de Provence

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47km (29 miles) SE of Avignon; 37km (23 miles) NW of Aix-en-Provence; 53km (33 miles) NW of Marseille

The hometown of Nostradamus is centered between Aix-en-Provence and Avignon,
and makes an excellent stopover between these towns. Today a busy modern town, it
grew up as a fortified hilltop fortress centering on Château de l’Empéri. With a population
of some 35,000, it has been a center of the olive oil industry since the 15th
century, although it owes much of its prosperity to the French Air Force’s officer training
school centered here.
Salon de Provence was the birthplace of Adam de Craponne (1527–76), creator of
the famous canal that irrigates the region of Crau and bears his name.

 

GETTING THERE Train connections, about seven a day from Avignon, are the
best and most direct (40 min. each way). For information and schedules, contact the
local tourist office. From Aix-en-Provence, about seven daily buses (trip time: between 30 and 45 min.) make the trip to downtown Salon de Provence’s place Morgan.
For information on bus travel into and around Salon de Provence, call (&08-91-
02-40-25). Train connections from Aix are less convenient and require a transfer in
Marseille.
If you’re driving, Salon de Provence is strategically located at the junction of highways
connecting Avignon with Aix-en-Provence (N7), and Marseille with Arles and
Nîmes (N113), as well as the A7 and A54 autoroutes.

 

VISITOR INFORMATION The Office de Tourisme is at 56 cours Gimon
(& 04-90-56-27-60). Hours are July and August Monday to Saturday 9:30am to
6:30pm, Sunday 10am to noon. The rest of the year hours are Monday to Saturday
9:30am to 12:30pm and 2 to 6pm.

 

EXPLORING THE TOWN

A major attraction in the town is the Fontaine Moussue on the place Crousillat just
outside the Porte de l’Horloge. Covered by a thick mound of moss, this much-photographed
fountain dates from the 18th century. It is surrounded by plane trees planted
to commemorate events over the centuries. One was planted in 1799 to mark the end
of the Revolution; another was planted in 1919 to mark the end of World War I.

Château de l’Empéri This château is surrounded by ancient circular walls. You
can enter through the 17th-century Porte de l’Horloge or the Porte Bourg Neuf. The
château dates from the 10th century and is one of the most beautiful in Provence, with
its courtyards, towers, and walls. Once this was the residence of the archbishops of
Arles, lords of Salon. Both François I, in 1516, and Marie de Médici, in 1600, visited
and stayed here. From 1831, it was used as a barracks and was severely damaged in an
earthquake in 1909. Over the years it, has been gradually and attractively restored.
The château houses the Musée de Art et d’Histoire Militaire, with a collection of
more than 10,000 artifacts, including military uniforms, weapons, waxwork figures,
and military flags. The museum covers the era from Louis XIV, the Sun King, up to
France’s entry into World War II.
Montée du Puech.&04-90-56-22-36. Admission 3.05€ ($3.95) adults, 2.30€ ($3) children 7–18, free for ages 6
and under.Wed–Mon 10am–noon and 2–6pm. Closed May 1, Nov 1, Oct 12, Dec 24–25, and Jan 1.

 

Musée Grevin de la Provence In this wax museum, lifelike tableaux attempt to
re-create 2,600 years of the history of Provence. That history is re-created in part in
the exhibition of some 15 historical paintings, one of which depicts the fabled marriage
of Gyptis and Protis. Their marriage sealed the union of the Phocaeans with the
Celtic-Ligurians. The exhibits go up to the 20th century, including scenes from the
cinema. The museum is hardly Madame Tussaud’s and it’s a bit kitschy, but families
with children in tow might find it worth a half-hour visit.
Place de Centuries. & 04-90-56-36-30. Admission 3.05€ ($3.95). Mid-June to mid-Sept daily 9am–noon and
2–6pm, Sat–Sun 2–6pm.

 

Musée Nostradamus Nostradamus (1503–66), who was born in St-
Rémy-de-Provence, spent the last 19 years of his life at this little house close to the
château. It’s now a museum devoted to him and his famous enigmatic predictions of
the future. A series of fairly unconvincing tableaux depicts scenes from his life, with a
rambling commentary on portable CD players.

Nostradamus was born into a family of converted Jews and trained as a doctor in
Montpellier. He treated plague victims in Lyon and Aix. He married a woman from Salon in 1547 and settled here, where he studied astrology, publishing almanacs and
inventing new recipes for cosmetics. Written in the future tense, his Centuries in
rhyming quatrains was published in 1555, bringing him instant celebrity. Nostradamus
is buried in the interesting 14th-century Eglise St-Laurent, which lies just to
the north of the town center.
11 rue Nostradamus.&04-90-56-64-31. Admission 3.05€ ($3.95). Mid-June to mid-Sept Mon–Fri 9am–noon and
3–8pm, Sat–Sun 2–6pm; rest of year Mon–Fri 9am–noon and 2–6pm.

 

SHOPPING
Despite the vast amounts of soap and detergent sold by large corporations in France
today, Salon de Provence maintains two small-scale artisans that continue to make
soap the old-fashioned way, in limited batches, by hand. They are Rampal, 71 rue
Félix Pyat (& 04-90-56-07-28), and Marius Fabre, avenue Paul Bourrat (& 04-90-
53-24-77). Visits to the first are conducted only by prior appointment; visits to the
second are possible only on Monday and Thursday at 10:30am.

 

WHERE TO STAY

Abbaye de Sainte-Croix No hotel in the region can boast origins as authentic
and charming as this ancient one-time monastery from the 1100s, 4km (21⁄2 miles)
north of the city center. A Relais & Châteaux hotel, it lies behind thick stone walls,
with most of its original arches and vaults, and a severely dignified, sometimes forbidding
kind of grandeur evocative of the Middle Ages. The generally spacious bedrooms
feature a simple elegance: lovely old furniture, terra-cotta floors, and sometimes
spectacular views over fields of lavender and rugged hills. The place is more famous as
a restaurant than as a hotel—see “Where to Dine,” below.
Val de Cuech, 13300 Salon de Provence.& 04-90-56-24-55. Fax 04-90-56-31-12. www.hotels-provence.com. 25
units. 170€–335€ ($221–$436) double; 422€–453€ ($549–$589) suite. AE, DC, MC, V. Free parking. Closed Nov to
mid-Mar. Amenities: Restaurant; bar; outdoor pool; limited room service; babysitting; laundry service; dry cleaning.
In room: A/C, TV, dataport, minibar, hair dryer, safe.

Hôtel d’Angleterre Set on the northwestern fringe of the peripheral boulevard
(cours Carnot) that flanks the edge of town (a 10-min. walk from the center), this is
a conservative, not particularly exciting three-story hotel with roots in British tourism
during the early 1900s. Everything has been radically modernized from its original
turn-of-the-20th-century charm, with touches of kitsch and an overwhelming sense of
bourgeois, and somewhat tense propriety. One of the few appealing touches is the circular
skylight in the breakfast room. Come here for the relatively low rates, as bedrooms
are spartan and not particularly cozy. They range from small to medium and
are reasonably comfortable; bathrooms are a bit cramped.
98 Cours Carnot, 13300 Salon de Provence.&04-90-56-01-10. Fax 04-90-56-71-75. www.hoteldangleterre.fr. 26
units. 46€–64€ ($60–$83) double; 57€–74€ ($74–$96) triple. MC, V. Closed Dec 24–Jan 2. Amenities: Lounge. In
room: A/C, TV, dataport, hair dryer, safe.
WHERE TO DINE

Abbaye de Sainte-Croix FRENCH/PROVENÇAL In the hotel of the
same name recommended above, this restaurant serves the best food in the region.
Part of its appeal comes from its architecture of medieval soaring vaults and high perpendicular
lines. From its terrace is a view over the low hills of the Alpilles. Menu
items change with the season and the inspiration of the chef. They include lobster
salad with a walnut-oil vinaigrette; sliced sea wolf with a fondant of green and red truffles from the Luberon in clarified butter; turbot with morels; and aiguillette of
duck with a tapenade of olives.
Val de Cuech, 13300 Salon de Provence.&04-90-56-24-55. Reservations recommended. Main courses 34€–42€
($44–$55); fixed-price menus 45€ ($59) lunch, 78€–108€ ($101–$140) dinner. AE, MC, V. Closed Nov–Mar.
Mas du Soleil (Restaurant Francis Robin) FRENCH/MEDITERRANEAN
In an 1850s stone-sided farmhouse, the ocher-colored facade of this inn is a 5-minute
walk from the center of town. The critically acclaimed cuisine of Francis Robin
changes according to the season and the availability of the ingredients. Menu items
include such treats as a rosemary-infused rack of lamb for two, filet of beef layered
with escalope of foie gras, warm salad of filet of red snapper, and a medley of grilled
Mediterranean fish. One tempting main course that the chef is particularly proud of
is a civet (stew) of lobster. Dining room windows overlook a swimming pool in the
garden.
An upper floor contains 10 well-maintained bedrooms outfitted with flowered wallpaper
and traditional furniture. Each has a bay window overlooking the garden and
terrace or a private patio. Rates are 300€ ($390) in a double.
38 chemin St-Côme, Salon de Provence.&04-90-56-06-53. Reservations recommended. Main courses 13€–45€
($17–$59); fixed-price menus 30€–87€ ($39–$113). AE, DC, MC, V. Tues–Sun noon–2pm; Tues–Sat 7:30–9pm.