Fort Buoux: A Discovery in the Hinterlands

This post comes with a new look, the beautiful header across the top.  Friend and photographer David Regan (A Fishy Tale)  created it using my photos.  As you click on different parts of the blog, you’ll see other examples of his skill and creativity.  And, recipes are back, now listed alphabetically on the right below “Recent Posts.” For the latest treat, try “Watermelon Salad” at the end of the list.

There’s no shortage of interesting places to visit in these parts. Even though I’ve lived in Provence for seven years, I’m still discovering new attractions.  This spring I visited two for the first time: Fort Buoux and the archeological site of Glanum (see future blog post for Glanum).

Buoux was thanks to our friends Lynne and Larry from Germany who rented our guest apartment (www.les-rosiers.com) in April.  Lynne found Fort Buoux in a Rick Steves guidebook.  Off they went and returned ecstatic with the discovery.

I’d been to a restaurant in Buoux, a tiny place of no more than a few houses, but I knew nothing about the fort.  When my cousin Stewart’s son Tom and wife Melissa came to visit, I decided it was time to explore this place.

Tom and Melissa had GPS, but even with this high tech gadget, it was not easy to find. After a few wrong turns and backtracking, we arrived at the parking lot, then followed   signs for a long walk down a shady road, under a “baume,” (a  natural cave beneath overhanging cliffs), then a climb up a rocky path to the entrance. Fort Buoux is definitely “off the beaten track.”

There were warning signs:  Visit at your own risk.  Watch children.

What kind of place was this?  After paying admission, we set out up a set of treacherous  steps carved in the rock.  Up and Up.  We climbed past piles of ruins, deep trenches,  cisterns, all numbered with their identification provided in a pamphlet we had been given at the entrance. The views of the surroundings –ravines, rock outcrops, cliffs and distant hills — are splendid.  We even saw rock climbers attempting to conquer a rock face.

The brochure explained that caves in this area, the AiguebrunValley, have been occupied since earliest antiquity. The fort is of the 12th century, built on the site of a Roman settlement. It  was obviously built for defense and was important during the Middle Ages.  During the religious wars (1562-98), the fort served as a refuge for the persecuted ProtestantWaldensians,  members of a Christian movement of the late Middle Ages who were considered heretical.  Later, Protestant families settled in the region. In 1660, Louis XIV, who feared rising religious independence, ordered the fort destroyed.

The brochure identifies  37 different sets of ruins.  Following the path which leads to them can be challenging.  The terrain is stoney.  The trail climbs. You need sturdy shoes – and no fear of heights.  Sheer drop offs plunge from the edge of the cliffs.  As this is France, there are no ropes or barriers.  While children enjoy scrambling amid the ruins, they need a tight rein lest they run too far.

One place, the “Hidden Stairs” had an extra warning: “Not advisable for elderly people, pregnant women and little children.”   Melissa and I stayed back, but Tom  charged down the crumbling stairs for more discovery.

Among the ruins are those of a 13th century church, houses, a cistern, towers and defense walls. Exploring them all is an exhilarating adventure.

Fort Buoux is located on a winding minor road,  D113, 8 km from Apt.  The fort is not in the town of Buoux (population 125), but in the surrounding hinterlands.

2 thoughts on “Fort Buoux: A Discovery in the Hinterlands”

  1. Thanks for the credit! I can’t wait to read what you have to say about Glanum. We went there for the first time this summer. The 3 (Celtic-Gaul, Hellenistic, and Roman) layers of the ruins (especially around the Sacred Spring) reminded me of Troy!

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