Me and art have a love-hate relationship. I love to be creative, to physically get my hands dirty painting a pretty portrait or working a pottery wheel to create a perfectly lopsided vase. But, put me in a museum for too long and I may literally fall asleep while standing. It’s typically time used for answering emails or posting to instagram.
But, the Carrières de Lumières in the South of France was different.
Located in the breathtaking Les Baux de Provence area, the Carrières de Lumières is an art show set to music and projected on the tall limestone walls of a former quarry, hence the reason it’s also known as the Quarries of Light. It was an optional excursion on the Lyon & Provence Viking River Cruise through the South of France, one that took time to actually commit to because of my dislike for museums and the appeal of the competing option for that day, which was to see the wild horses and flamingos of Camargue.
Why did I choose art over flamingos?
I’ve seen flamingos, while on safari in Tanzania. And I’d probably see them again somewhere else in the world. But, there was no guarantee that there would ever be another opportunity to witness 100 video projectors and almost 30 speakers broadcasting incredible artwork on quarry cave walls in the South of France.
The bus pulled up to the discreet front of Carrières de Lumières and its sparseness made me question what would actually be inside and if I had made the right choice.
But, entering the cave of the quarry was absolutely magical.
I was immediately engulfed in the energetic sounds, brilliant lights and bold art. This was not your typical movie or slide show displayed on a wall, it was a kaleidoscope of colors displayed from the floor and all the way up the 45 foot walls to the ceiling.
It was a mesmerizing psychedelic panoramic.
Each year the show changes, featuring different artists. On my visit the exhibition was devoted to Marc Chagall, a Russian artist who secured French nationality in 1937. Select pieces of his masterpiece collection were digitized and played in the quarries over 16,000 square feet of space.
It was journey of Chagall’s career through his art.
We walked from from each section on the ground, and to the upper levels that gave an entirely different perspective. Dozens of visitors stood in front of each wall in complete awe, just like me. Every surface was covered in artwork that changed in tune with the music.
The show was on a 40 minute loop, it started again from the beginning five minutes after the end. At most museums my time limit would have been well over its expiration by the completion of a full rotation, but I could have easily stayed for another round here.
. . . Check it Off Your Bucket List . . .
The Carrières de Lumières is an optional excursion on the Lyon & Provence Viking River Cruise tour through the South of France, but you can also reach it on your own. The closest airports to Les Baux is Marseille Provence Airport (85km away) and Avignon airport (29km away). From these airports you can either rent a car or take the bus. During some months buses do not run all the way to Les Baux, so you will have to take one to St. Remy and then take a taxi from there which runs about 25 euros. Viator also offers an array of tours that include Carrières de Lumières as well as other area.
The official language of France is French. In the large cities of touristy villages, English at restaurants, shops and hotels is widely spoken.
Plug Type E, 230v. Most outlets will have two round prongs. You will need an adapter and a converter if your devices are not dual voltage. I used the Insten Universal Adapter with no problem.
Where to Stay:
Both Les Baux de Provence & Carrières de Lumières make an easy day trip from Avignon or Marseille. But, if you simply want to relax and stay longer you won’t be disappointed with Domaine du Mas Foucray (from $90) or Le Mas D’aigret (from $121) which are both at the foot of the village.
Where to Eat:
For a tiny little village there certainly are a lot of dining options. For an upscale experience try the seasonal tasting menu at La Cabro D’or. If quaint and cozy is what you are looking for then snag a table in the village center at the Une Table au Soleil.
Activity Level: Light to Moderate
The Carrières de Lumières is light activity level, there are just a few stairs in order to get to the upper level, which is optional. Walking around the village of Les Baux is light to moderate activity level. The town is set on a hill and there is a semi-steep incline to explore, plus cobbled streets can always be tricky if you are not careful.
- Les Baux’s streets are steep and cobbled and inside the Carrières de Lumières it is dark, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes that will keep you surefooted.
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My trip to to the South of France was was hosted by Viking River Cruises, but all opinions are my own.