Ever since my first visit of the Provence in France, I have been captivated by the beauty of the narrow alleyways in Provençal villages. The maze of the narrow alleyways in Provençal villages connects the local daily life, a life in slow motion and a relaxed atmosphere. In some small villages with a few hundred inhabitants, a few narrow alleys are the business and social centre of the locals. While in bigger villages, I have found out that the backstreets are enjoyable as well.
The types of houses lined up the narrow alleyways, the narrow street construction material, the decorations along the alleys among the Provençal villages are quite different from each other. Being seduced into those secrete scenes, I cannot help but let myself getting lost in the beauty of the narrow atreets while seeking the best shot through the viewfinder of my camera.
I notice four main differences between narrow alleys in Provençal villages:
- The ground of the narrow alleyways
- The looking of the Façade along the narrow alleyways
- Highlights of the narrow alleyways
- Staircases that connect the narrow alleyways
The ground of the narrow alleyways
Many narrow alleyways are cobbled-stone street. But in some places, for example, in Saint-Remy-de-Provence, several narrow alleys are paved. They are in light-yellow colour and look so new, and have become part of the village scene.
In Eze Village, the centre part of the main alleyways has the pavement in rows of red tiles, which provide orientation to the visitors. Its neighbouring village, La Turbie, has the same style of narrow streets. In Chateauneuf-Grasse, however, the narrow alleys have crazy stone pavement outlined by orange-coloured tiles.
The looking of the Façade along the narrow alleyways
The façades set off the scenes of narrow alleys in Provençal villages. For example, in Les-Baux-de-Provence, façades are made of limestones extracted from the local quarry. In Gourdon, the walls of houses use light grey stone without having any coating. They look natural and earthy. Many façades indicate the architecture of a worn ambiance, using rough plaster and natural stones. In Saint-Paul-de-Vence, one of my favourite hilltop villages in Provence, the natural stone facades of the houses take dominant place alongside narrow streets.
The colours of the exteriors are usually in that quintessential Provençal yellow or creamy caramel, but barely white. Menerbes, the charming village I have visited in Luberon National Park, has houses painted in sand-colour. But in Rousillion, it has houses painted with pigments from the ochre hills in the area, and their façades have vibrant shades of rust.
Hightlights of the narrow alleys
Window shutters, plants on the walls, and plants in front of the doorway are highlights of the narrow alleyways. In the hilltop villages in Luberon, for example, shutters are in sky-blue colour. In Aix-en-Provence, most shutters are in cream-white. Dark-coloured shutters beside front-facing windows provide a striking contrast against light-coloured exterior walls. And the decorations, such as wrought-iron hardware added to the shutters, enhance the architectural style.
Flowery façades in the Provençal’s medieval villages are another highlight. Many climbing plants, for example, bougainvillea, have grown over the walls. In front of doorways, flowers in flowerpots, flower stands, and sometimes flower shelves are lovely and fresh. These decorations are fashionable and sometimes look festive.
Undoubtedly, these highlights have created decorative scenes that enhance the romantic and rustic ambiance.
Staircases that connect the narrow alleyways
Many staircases connect narrow alleyways that wind in the Provençal villages. The flights of steps lead to one hidden sight after the other. During my trips to Provence, one of the most memorable villages with such staircases is Lacoste. The steps go up and down, wind their way through a charming little labyrinth, and end at the castle residence of the famous Marquis de Sade, now owned by the well-known fashion designer Pierre Cardin. It was such a delight to discover the village that kept all its charm step by step.
The steep and secret alleyways in Eze are magical. This postcard-perfect mountaintop village on a hill above the French Riviera is all about tiny snaking alleys and lovely stone houses converted into shops and restaurants. Each step leads to a beautiful sight, such as a cozy courtyard or a bright blue glimpse of the ocean.
Get lost in the beautiful narrow alleyways
Get lost in the narrow alleyways is something that I am so fond of doing in Provence. Along the narrow streets in the centre of Lourmarin, I could search for my favourite local products in the well-stocked shops. In Les-Baux-de-Provence, I smelt the lavender-scented alleys lined up lovely stone houses. In Saint-Remy-de-Provence, I was busy looking for Van Gogh’s artworks through the narrow streets. When I lost my way in the maze of narrow alleyways in Aix-en-Provence, I found myself on sunny café terrace to stop for a coffee and my husband a glass of wine.
Sometimes, a narrow street is a simple walkway, such as those in Seillons and La Ciotat. There was no sign of any tension as I strolled along an enchanting narrow street of Seillons and La Ciotat. I felt frozen in time as I wandered through those alleyways. But it was more a genuine depiction of Provençal living than a tourist spectacle.
The narrow alleyways in each medieval village have a rugged beauty and distinguish themselves by all the features described above. By joining one of the following tours, You can see several typical villages in one day. My favourite Provençal village is Eze Village since I love to wander through its narrow street. What is yours?