The mighty walls of the 15th-century Château de Tarascon rise straight out of the River Rhône, in the relaxed village of the same name. A beauty of a castle, the imposing fortress was built by Louis II to defend Provence’s frontier. Today it's a great destination for a half-day trip. Cross the mossy inner courtyard and explore the dainty chapel, ancient pharmacy and carved grotesques as you make your way to the crenellated rooftop for stunning river views.
After losing battles and suffering a lengthy imprisonment, Louis’ son King René (r 1409–80) turned away from politics and towards the arts, writing poetry, decorating the castle in rich Renaissance style, organising courtly tournaments and instigating the Fêtes de la Tarasque, an Easter parade to celebrate St Martha’s taming of Tarasque, a monstrous lion-headed, tortoise-shelled, fish-bellied beast that legend says once lurked in the river. This colourful festival still takes place today.