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Extra info for Frommer's Provence & the Riviera (Frommer's Complete)
Since World War II, a building boom has transformed many of the suburbs of such cities as Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, and Arles into urbanized landscapes with their attendant banality. Traffic congestion, especially noticeable during July and August, has diminished lots of the charm of roadside neighborhoods. As the need for holiday villas and housing for service personnel has risen, vast blocks of apartment houses, some stylish, some altogether ordinary, have been erected in more or less appealing ways.
Melons, especially ogen melons from the town of Cavaillon, were so famous that in 1864, civic leaders opted to present a dozen perfect melons each year to the French novelist Alexandre Dumas père as a sign of their ongoing respect. He later wrote that he hoped that the readers of Cavaillon would always find his books as charming as he found their melons. Apricots are delicious anywhere, but if they’re from the slopes of the Roussillon, your menu will usually let you know. Mousserons, one of many varieties of wild mushrooms you’ll see in local markets, evoke frissons among gastronomes when they’re from the Ardèche, west of the Rhône.
This vast amount of money, a total of $14 billion, helped Marseille and other ports of Provence just when it seemed that decay was inevitable. Marseille is the largest port on the Mediterranean, with nearly 100 million tons handled annually. In the past few decades, tourism has become the chief industry of Provence, especially the Riviera resorts. After years of giving Marseille a wide berth because of perceived dangers such as crime, the cruise ships have returned. Even so, Provence and the Riviera are suffering along with the rest of the world because of the falloff in the global economy.