Fresh flowers always adorn her tomb in Monaco. Princess Grace was killed 30 years ago but she is still revered and remembered. A photographic exhibition dedicated to her life, in the historic village of Les Baux de Provence, is a poignant reminder of how much she was loved.
It ended a week ago, but it was so popular, and with a biopic being made about the princess’s life, it’s rumoured the exhibit will re-open next summer. Entrance to the Grace exhibit was free. Some of it was outdoors, competing with the village’s mountaintop views. Princess Grace visited the village with Prince Albert in June 1982. The former movie star died in a car accident three months later on September 14. The exhibit – with the apt title of A Photo Album – contains snapshots of her as Grace Kelly movie goddess, a blushing bride and then the royal of Monaco and mother of three.
Ever since the accident a persistent rumour has suggested that youngest daughter Stephanie was the driver, but the princess has always firmly denied it.
Much later, it was reported that a postmortem examination concluded that a massive brain haemorrhage had caused Princess Grace to lose control of the car as she negotiated the steep hairpin bends that separate Roc Agel, the Grimaldi family’s weekend retreat, from the royal palace in Monaco town.
The village of Les Baux is set atop a rocky outcrop crowned with a ruined castle overlooking the plains to the south. It’s a windswept promentory, and the summers are hot and dry, winters are damp and biting cold. The lords of Baux claimed to be the descendants of King Balthazar, one of the three wise men. In 1642 the village was granted to the Grimaldi family of Monaco, although it is administered by the French. Les Baux is one of France’s most beautiful historic villages, but now only has a full-time population of 22 inhabitants. About 3000 lived there in its hey day. The Baux Valley is olive-growing land par excellence and it has one of the most striking landscapes of olive groves in Provence.
If you want to visit the village, get there early. Its beauty has almost been overtaken by the tourist industry. Thanks to our Back-Roads Touring guide Jeremy Rose, we were walking up to the village from the car park before 9am and soaking up the ambiance. By the time the tourist hordes arrived we had been there, done that, found the best sunny seats in the cafes and were sipping our cafe au lait.
That’s one of the things Back-Roads does so well. You don’t get much of a sleep-in but the early starts are well worth it. You’re first on the spot at many of the most atmospheric sites throughout this 13-day tour of Provence and the Riviera.
Australian actress Nicole Kidman is starring in the movie about Princess Grace’s life, titled Grace of Monaco, which extensively covers her life before she married Prince Ranier III in 1956. It’s slated for release in 2014.
Les Baux de Provence also draws visitors for its Christmas festivities. On Place de l’Église a nativity scene using live animals is popular with children. Shepherds, drummers, and Arlésiennes Mireilles march through the streets on Christmas Eve and the Church of Saint Vincent holds the Midnight Mass.
Les Baux is 19km from the city of Arles and about 10km from the nearby gentrified town of St Remy.