It's that time again: The wonderful annual Journées du Patrimoine (Heritage Days) event takes place September 17 and 18 in cities and villages all over France; a few have activities on Friday the 16th as well. The program was started by the French Ministry of Culture in 1984 and has since spread all over Europe (where it's also called European Heritage Days). This is the 33rd year.
The idea is that a wide range of historic sites, monuments, buildings, estates, gardens and domaines are open for special visits...along with many sites that are normally closed to the public. Most sites have a guide on hand to enhance your enjoyment of the visit (most tours and talks are in French) and most offer free entry. Some may require you to sign up in advance...but for the most part, you just show up.
The website with all the participating venues is here but you'll do much better checking in with the Tourist Office or the tourism website of the village or city you want to visit. For example, the main Patrimoine website lists just seven participating sites in my village of St. Remy. But as in years past, the village has published its own terrific guide and map featuring 22 participating sites. You can download it here or pick up a printed one at the Tourist Office or at most of the participating sites.
The best idea is to choose the village you wish to explore, pick up or download their schedule as early as possible and map your route, because some events happen only at certain times.
Here are some additional city and village Patrimoine schedules that I was able to find online: Aigues Mortes, Avignon, Aix, Arles, Beaucaire, Cannes, Cassis, Chateauneuf-du-Papes, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, Gordes, Isle sur la Sorgue, Lauris, the Luberon, Marseille, Nice, Nimes, Orange, Tarascon, Uzes, Vaison la Romaine and Valreas.
And here are listings for various Provence departments: Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Alpes-Maritimes, Bouches du Rhone, the Gard (not really Provence but never mind), the Hautes-Alpes, the Var and the Vaucluse.
Beyond that, you're on your own...but here's a list of most of the Tourist Offices in Provence and they should be able to help. Enjoy!