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Discover Provençe...


Bouches-du-Rhône coat of arms

Prefecture: Marseille

Subprefectures: Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Istres

Area: 5,087sq km (1,964sq mi)

Highest elevation: 1,658m (5439ft)

Lowest Elevation -12m (-39ft)

Population: 2,048,070

Bouches-du-Rhône - Discover Provence with Pure French Soaps

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chateau d'If Bouches-du-Rhône département of provence

Follow the French soap trail & discover Provence with Pure French Soaps


One of the original 83 départements created during the French Revolution, Bouches-du-Rhône is a region of immense contrasts bringing together ancient history and a rich cultural heritage across a diversity of Provençal landscapes.


Born from the harmonious meeting of the elements; the fire of the sun, the water of the sea, the white limestone rocks sculpted by crashing waves and the impetuous Mistral wind, it is bordered to the west by the Gard département of Occitan and the river Rhône, the Durance river and Vaucluse to the north, Var to the east, and to the south - the Mediterranean Sea.


The principal mountains of the département range from the Alpilles in the north west to the Sainte-Baume massif 1,042m (3,418ft) and Mont Sainte-Victoire 1,011m (3,316ft) to the east. The mountains give way “garrigues” - hills scattered with Mediterranean vegetation and lower still, to plains and forests with intoxicating scents.

Château d'If – inspiration for the literary classic “The Count of Monte Cristo”.

Listed historic centres and festivals bear witness to the Provençal culture. Medieval castles, picturesque towns and villages like Aix-en-Provence, Salon de Provence and Arles, each with authentic living traditions, blend with the wild and varied landscapes.

The port of Marseille, France's oldest and second largest city is the most densely populated in the region with over 2 million inhabitants. Cosmopolitan, vibrant and bustling, it contrasts starkly with the Camargue, a vast wetland area of reed beds, rice fields and salt marshes, which characterises the meeting of the Rhône delta and the Mediterranean Sea.


Along the diverse coastline, attractive ports, harbours and beaches are interspersed between rocky cliffs which rise 400m (1312ft) above the sea. Steep-sided canyons with crystal clear turquoise inlets, ragged ridges and white rocks are pummelled by foaming waves.


The climate is distinctly Mediterranean. The summer is very hot, the sunshine exceptional and the winter mild. Violent winds are common, especially the famed Mistral, which blows 100 days every year. The coast is drier, especially along the Côte-Bleue and the Calanques which include some of the driest areas in France

Calanques département of provence

The Calanques - Rocky cliffs and crystal clear turquoise inlets.

With large urban centres, unspoilt countryside and two national parks, Bouches-du-Rhône embodies traditional charm with a wealth of heritage and has many delights to attract tourists. Visible traces of Roman history weave their way throughout the region contributing to the very strong identity of the département. The life-style is relaxed, and you will be welcomed everywhere by the singing accent of the locals and almost certainly a glass of pastis - to be consumed with pleasure, but also in moderation.

Marseille Gateway to the Mediterranean


Marseille for centuries a hub of activity, art and history, is France’s leading port and second largest city. It plays a major economic role in the Bouches-du-Rhône, exerting considerable influence over the entire region. This cosmopolitan capital of the South has long been a crossroads of Mediterranean trade and commerce and was first founded by the Greeks in around 600 B.C.


It’s a place of tranquil squares and stepped alleys, bustling 19th-century avenues and street markets, and nowhere are folklore and traditions more evident than in the panier district - old quarters of maze like streets with colourful facades. At the city’s heart is the picturesque “Vieux-Port” (old port) with its small colourful fishing boats. In the early morning, on the “Quai des Belges”, the fishermen unload their daily catch which fishmongers sell along the boat-lined quaysides.

Dominating the skyline is the Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, a Romanesque Byzantine church which overlooks this cosmopolitan Phocaéan city, and the islands of Friuli, including the Île d’If and the castle that inspired Alexandre Dumas when he wrote the “The Count of Monte Cristo”.

The Camargue


Where the Rhône delta meets the Mediterranean Sea, lie vast wetland plains with rice fields and large brine lagoons or "étangs", cut off from the sea by sandbars and encircled by reed-covered salt marshes. Now a designated nature reserve of over 930sq km (360sq mi), and with an amazing array of wildlife, the Camargue is home to pink flamingos, herons and cormorants.


The Camargue is perhaps most famous for the “gardians” (cowboys), on their white horses who rear and periodically round up the region's cattle and sheep, many of which are raised in semi-feral conditions and allowed to roam throughout the Camargue within a “manade” or free-running herd.

The Alpilles


The Chaîne des Alpilles, is a small range of low mountains and an area of limestone ridges, rough terrain, hill-top villages, and wooded valleys. Situated in the north of the département and west of Luberon, it overlooks the rich cultivated valleys to the south.


One of the most picturesque regions of Provence, it is characterised by broad valleys and craggy, rocky outcrops and is surrounded by vineyards, olive groves and almond trees which provide a very scenic backdrop in this, the kingdom of the cicadas and a workplace for shepherds.



Arles, a vibrant town with a very “Provençal” feel, is like a journey through time. Once a mighty Roman metropolis, it was an important trading centre on the Rhône River.


Cargo from all over the empire travelled along the Rhône to Avignon, Arles, and beyond. Imports such as tapestries, fabrics, spices, and grains from other Mediterranean ports moved up the river on low-hulled wooden boats. In addition, commercial trade of local products such as almonds, wine, and olive oil was also active.


Arles is also home to the most Roman remains outside of Rome itself. Some of the most impressive are the well-preserved amphitheatre, built around 80–90 A.D., and one of the largest in France. The ancient theatre built during the reign of Caesar Augustus, the Cryptoporticus (huge vaulted underground tunnels) built as foundation for the forum, and the Roman baths of Constantine.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's a peaceful place to visit, with a pretty medieval church and artistic heritage. Both Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin lived and painted here, and the area around the amphitheatre is a focal point for socialising, especially during the big Ferias (festivals) of Easter and September.

Salon-de-Provence & Aix-en-Provence


Commonly known as just Salon, this is one of the oldest villages in Provence with a traditional historic centre, picturesque streets and leafy plane trees. A medieval castle, the Château de l'Emperi dominates this old walled town which is entered through two seventeenth-century gateways. Perhaps most notably, the French astrologer, apothecary, physician, and reputed seer Nostradamus, who is best known for his book Les Prophéties once lived here.


Known as the city of a thousand fountains Aix is a town with a zest for life. There is a buzz but no real sense of hurry, as this one time the capital of Provence is now better known for its cafes, restaurants, street markets and chic shopping.


Its streets and architecture are timelessly classical, leafy boulevards and public squares are lined with 17th and 18th century mansions punctuated by gurgling moss-covered fountains.

It’s a place of culture, once frequented by great writers and artists such as Picasso, Albert Camus, Zola, Edith Piaf and Paul Cézanne who often painted the Mont Sainte-Victoire which overlooks this Roman spa town. The summit provides and exceptional panorama of the region, and on a clear day, you can see both the sea and the Alps.

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Marseille soaps have been produced by French artisan craft master soap makers using

traditional methods for over 600 years.


Uniting the rich organic produce of Provence with natural and ecological values, they create exquisite soaps with exceptional skin care properties.


Here you can discover their heritage and find out why they are internationally recognised

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