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A rich vein of ocher runs through the earth of Roussillon, occasionally breaking the surface in Technicolor displays of russet, deep rose, garnet, and flaming orange. Roussillon is a mineral showcase, perched above a pocket of red-rock canyonlands that are magically reflected in the stuccoes applied on every building in town, where the hilltop cluster of houses blends into the red-ocher cliffs from
which their stones were first quarried. The ensemble of buildings and jagged, hand-cut slopes are equally dramatic, and views from the top look over a landscape of artfully eroded bluffs that Georgia O’Keeffe would have loved.
Unlike neighboring hill villages, there’s little of historic architectural detail here; the pleasure of a visit lies in the richly varied colors that change with the light of day, and in the views of the contrasting countryside, where dense-shadowed greenery sets off the red stone with Cézannesque severity. There are pleasant placettes (tiny squares) to linger in nonetheless, and a Renaissance fortress tower crowned with a clock from the 19th century; just past it, you can take in expansive panoramas of forest and ocher cliffs.
Actively ugly from a distance, with a rash of modern apartment blocks and industrial buildings, Apt doesn’t attract the tourism it deserves...
Of all the monuments in France—cathedrals, châteaux, fortresses—the ancient city of Avignon (pronounced ah-veen- yonh ) is one of the most dramatic...