The Bouches du Rhône and the sea

There is nowhere more peaceful than the countryside of Provence. The Mistral wind may sometimes clear the hazy skies, disturbing your serene contemplation of nature. But, above all, Provence is a land of idyllic afternoons by the cool water, relaxing in the shade of the scorching sun, lulled by the chirping cicadas and the buzzing bees. In a lazy daydream among the sweet-scented fig trees and silvery olive-groves, you will feel privileged to experience the unique beauty of Provence.

We don't know which came first. But one thing is sure, they've been living in perpertual wedlock: each one reenhancing the other, endlessly, ever since the world began. Provence's sea is Provence's pride.

The sea here shows the various facettes of its personality all at the same time, it is the legendary sea of Greece, the generous sea of fishermen, that of holiday bathing and motorboat excursions, that of sparkling views overlooking the seafront.

At this point Provence becomes very Mediterranean, with the seaside resorts and their untamed creeks from the Calanquesmassif. Marseille, like a cornice with its beaches facing the archipelago of Frioul and the isle of Château d'If. The Blue Coast, its bays and small ports capped by the pine trees, the small cottages scattered along the coastline... Then the fine-sand beaches and the dunes of Camargue.

For physical fitness, Provence offers 3 naturist and 5 sea water therapy centers... And the sea bed: underwater grottos, limestone sea-floors covered by grasses, with a wealth of animal and plant life. Two national sea parks protect the treasures along the Blue Coast and in the Bay of la Ciotat.

In the Bouches du Rhône, nature is natural...

It has remained as it was. With the hint of harshness, a scorn for artificial means which are never quite completely tamed, which ist just as well. Nature, here, is as we like it: authentic.

What kind of nature you're looking for? Flat? Here are beaches of sand, of pebbles ploished by the sea and the wind. Rugged? You'll find it in the scrubs and cliffs of the calanques. Untamed? It's in the Camargue, waiting to be discovered. Or maybe inspired, subtle, cultivated? Whichever you prefern here are the countrysides of Aix, and their masterpiece: the massif of Ste Victoire. Some say that all Cézanne had to do was to sign it.

Take a deep breath, walk around and see for youself. You're in Provence, for all your tastes under the sun. The Camargue Regional Natural Park spreads over 210.000 acres. La Sainte-Victoire reaches its peak a 1.011 m. Natural areas cover 508.000 acres. The departement of Bouches du Rhône is the French departement with the greatest area of protected natural park space. The Camargue is listed as a worldwide heritage.

How can you combine work and pleasure? It is possible on a business trip to Provence

Want to combine business with pleasure? Yes, itÕs really possible on a working holiday in Provence...

With its exceptional geographical situation, the Bouches-du-Rhone Département is the ideal location for business and trade meetings and conferences. The regional capital, Marseille, the pivot of Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, is in the area.

The Département's numerous communications networks and the central position of Marseille-Provence airport allow rapid access to the most prestigious sites.

The available facilities are particularly suitable for organizing seminars, conferences, symposiums or receptions with high quality services and a great variety of possible settings, from mediaeval abbeys to hotels, country houses or conference halls.

There is a wide range of hotels in the Bouches-du-Rhone area: 26 % of the hotels in the Provence-Alpes-Riviera region that have conference facilities are located in the Département.

Provence is a sporting paradise, so richly endowed with sun, wind and waves. Let yourself go and enjoy the thrill of pushing yourself to the limit. There is somewhere for every sport, every challenge and every sensation, from the most sophisticated to the most extreme. Pony trekking, hiking, fun board, climbing, diving, and more. Come and try them.

Cycling touring

With mountain bikes, cyclists can now leave the tar roads to cycle in the middle of the countryside. Mountain bikers can use the same tracks as hikers and explore the Sainte-Baume Massif, the Durance Valley, the Alpilles Hills or the Camargue. However, as for hiking, cyclists must obey regulations and keep out of certain areas in summer. Several associations and some tourist offices propose round tours to discover the Département in an original way.

Pony-trekking

The presence of wooded hills like the Alpilles, La Sainte-Baume and Mount Sainte-Victoire have encouraged the development of this activity in the Bouches-du-Rhône area. Riding clubs can be found all over the Département offering a wide choice of itineraries. For example, visitors can explore the Côte Bleue (Blue Coast) and the Camargue on horseback. This means of transport is particularly appropriate for the Camargue since this part of the region is famous for its wild horses and horseback is one of the best ways of seeing the rich wildlife and finding one's way through the salt swamps and marshlands.

Climbing and Pot-holing/Caving

The Bouches-du-Rhône area is ideal for climbing and pot-holing/caving. There is no lack of rock in this region: there are limestone massifs, sheer cliffs and caves everywhere. The Département has numerous internationally-known climbing spots. The highest rock face in Bouches-du-Rhone is at Mount Sainte-Victoire, near Puyloubier, and reaches almost 250 metres. The Calanques Massif, hanging over the turquoise sea, is a climber's paradise with a large number of listed climbing routes. The Sainte-Baume massif and the Alpilles Hills are also climbing areas. There are more than 30 climbing clubs in the Département that provide beginners' courses and also guides and monitors for day outings.

Golf

Golf has been developing in the Bouches-du-Rhône area for many years. Some very fine golf courses have been constructed near the loveliest beauty spots in Provence, providing a dream setting for golfers. The abundant sunshine in the region is another asset, allowing golf to be played all year round. With seven 18-hole courses, 5 9-hole courses and several practice courses, the green of the golf course is now one of the colours of Provence. Most of the clubs provide training courses lasting several days.

Canoeing & Kayaking

Sailing is a pleasant way to discover the magnificent scenery of the Bouches-du-Rhône coast, including some calanques with their clear turquoise water that are difficult to reach by land. With twenty watersports centres, the Bouches-du-Rhone Département is particularly well equipped for sailing. Most of the centres are French sailing schools, and it is possible to take sailing lessons or follow a training course (in an optimist, a cabin vessel or a catamaran).

1992, Martigues has become the Département's leading Sailing Station. You can choose to sail in the sea or in a lagoon, since many watersports centres are located around the Etang de Berre. There are twenty pleasure ports with room for 13,000 boats in the Département. Anyone that does not have a boat can hire any type of vessel: from a rubber dinghy to a cabin cruiser or a yacht. Some sailing clubs also propose cruises along the coast.

Hiking

The Département offers everything from a leisurely stroll to serious hiking. There are several "Sentiers de Grande Randonnée" or G.R.s (long-distance hiking paths) joining all the major places of interest in Bouches-du-Rhône: - The GR6 follows in the footsteps of the writers Alphonse Daudet and Frédéric Mistral. Starting at Tarascon, the path runs along the foot of the Luberon Hills and crosses the Alpilles Hills. - The GR9 Runs down the Luberon, past Mount Sainte-Victoire to end at La Sainte-Baume. -The GR98 is an alternative path that links La Sainte-Baume -ith the calanques and ends in Marseille. - The GR51 is planned to link Marseille and Arles via la Crau. - The GR99A links the GR9 to the highlands of the Var Département.

In addition to these long-distance paths, the Département is also criss-crossed by many short-distance footpaths. The best seasons for walking and hiking in the region are undoubtedly Spring and Autumn. In Summer, certain high-risk areas are closed to the public to protect them from forest fire. Walkers are advised to check before starting out.

Wind surfing

The Bouches-du-Rhône area is the natural choice for any sport such as wind surfing that requires wind. Winds are frequent and varied. The most famous of them is of course the Mistral - a cold, dry north wind that sometimes reaches more than 100 km/h, to the joy of wind surfing enthusiasts. There is a very wide choice for wind surfers. Numerous watersports centres give lessons and organise training courses, and it is easy to hire a wind surfing board.

For funboard lovers, there are several suitable "spots" in Marseille (Epluchures Beach - Plage du Prado) and in Carro (a major competition venue). Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and Port-Saint-Louis both have a well-known wind surfing speedway.

Skin diving

A limestone sea bed covered in sea prairies, crystal clear water, abundant wildlife and marine nature reserves are irresistible attractions for divers. As a bonus, there are also several wrecks and underwater caves in the area (reserved for expert divers). Most Bouches-du-Rhone diving clubs, including ten located in Marseille, provide training courses for divers of all levels. Diving baptisms give the beginner a first experience of the sea bed.

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