Founded 600 B.C. - Historic City with a Modern Spirit

Nowhere else in France, a country of contrasts, can you find a greater diversity than in Provence, in the virtural triangle of the Alps, Mediterranean and Rhone Valley; from the mountain slopes of Haute Provence to the fenland of the Camarque, and from the "Grand Canyon" of the Gorges du Verdon to the fertile plains of the Rhone. Cézanne and Van Gogh captured its essence on canvas, but the Greeks and Romans created much of their subject matter. The Greeks introduced the ubiquitos vine, the Romans fruit trees- and and advanced infrastructure of villa, forum, amphitheater and aqueduct, much of it in working order, as visitors to Nîmes, Arles and the Pont du Gard can vouch. In more recent times, cities such as Avignon with it's Pope's palace and Aix en Provence with its fountains and leafy boulevards have become the great cultural centers of the area, whilst the bustling port city of Marseille is the commercial capital. They enjoy a hinterland of sunbaked mountain scenery, interspaced with vineyards and fields of lavender, notably in the much prized Lubéron, contrasting with the great marsh delta of the Camarque, at the mouth of the Rhone, with its dashing white horses and black fighting bulls.

Provence, home to 3 million inhabitants, has been, since the beginning of trade, a crossroads joining the Mediteranean to Northern Europe. Even today you can feel the influence of the Greek and Roman colonizers. In 600 B.C., the Phoenicians from Asia Minor were the first to establish a permanent colony: Massalia which rapidly became a powerful commercial city which founded in turn a number of trading posts: Galnum, Avignon, Cavaillon.

Marseilles, the largest port in the Mediterranean, is also the second largest center for research in France. In Provence a dynamic economy is the driving force for research and manufacturing. Micro-technology, neuro-science and smart cards exist and prosper in harmony with the traditional industry of the region: fruit and vegetables.

Melting pot and port of call, Provence immortalized those who have passed through: a recently discovered cove revealed astonishing prehistoric paintings - 27000 years old; the coming and going of eras and invaders can be observed on well preserved Greek and Roman temples, houses and structures throughout Provence.

A land of history and culture, whose name by itself recalls images, scents and colors... You will taste the richness and beauty of the Calanques during days of the Mistral, particularly at Cassis; the intoxicating perfumes of wild lavender and thyme at Grasse or just tranquillity under the green soothing shade of the umbrella of a pine...

You know well Cezanne's landscapes, immortalizing the majestic Sainte Victoire mountain and images of Provence preserved by Van Gogh, Don Giovanni at the Festival in Aix-en-Provence, the flight of the flamingos in Camarque; you have read Jean Giono's "A Horseman on the Roof," Marcel Pagnol or the Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Nestling in the depths of valleys, the Cistercian Abbeys of Thoronet and Senanque remind us that mankind never chooses at random a place to live.

And if you are at Gordes or Baux or Barjols, tiny villages perched atop hills, punctuated by Campaniles and wrought iron sun-dials, indifferent to changes in weather and the passing of time, you are reminded of the same theme: that of the people of Provence, where aristocratic Aix and Mediterranean Marseille live side by side.

From this countryside originate les santons, the vibrant little Christmas painted clay figurines, the "faïences" which attract collectors from all over the world to Moustiers. Provence stimulates the imagination and the appetite: truffles, tomatoes, melons, figs, almonds, olives, all embellished by a glass of Cassis (white wine), a refreshing Rosé from Côteaux d'Aix or a full-bodied Côtes du Rhône.

You will appreciate Marseilles, an ancient Phoenician city with 26 centuries of history and you will discover its archeological richness, evident even in the center of town. You will be enthralled by the many fountains in Aix-en-Provence.

Arriving on the eve of WACRA® '98 (Wednesday, July 8, 1998) will give you the opportunity to join The Groupe ESC conference hosts for an evening and dinner in Cassis. "Who has seen Paris, but not Cassis, has seen nothing..." declared Frédéric Mistral. The quote might exaggerate a little, but it describes the engaging little coastal village nested at the foot of the spectacular cliffs of Cap Canaille. An old Roman trading center, Cassis easily seduces us with the charm of its quays, lined with cafés and restaurants, its creeks carved into the rocks and its natural beaches. The privately owned 13th century castle overlooking Cassis was built by Hughes de Baux and is surrounded by a garden filled with uncommon, scarce plants and flowers emitting even rarer fragrances. The wine of Cassis, an "AOC-Appelation d'Origine Contrôlée," is a white wine known for its interesting bouquet. It is one of the oldest AOC's in France. The vines grow on steep hillsides, overlooking the sea. Visitors are always welcome at the vineyards to taste the wine.

Marseille is built around its bay. The Vieux Port (Old Port) which now accommodates yachts and leisure boats, once sheltered galleys and clippers. Well accustomed to a constant mixing of goods and races, not even the most unusual neighbors can surprise the Vieux Port. Throughout time, the Vieux Port has seen Marseille gradually expand into the surrounding hills. Marseille is continually expanding away from her mother, the sea, her link to the rest of the world. Misunderstood, Marseille at first does not seem to offer a spontaneous welcome to visitors. To understand this city and its passions, to discover its baroque beauty, you need to be patient.

The second most sunny city in France, a merchant port, trading capital, with a long tradition of international relations, wide-ranging trade links, and a vocation for research have formed Marseille into a city ready for dialogue, ready for development, ready for the future.

Marseille can be explored from the sea. Nothing can equal a trip around the islands - Frioul, Châtaux d'If (where the legend has it, the Count of Monte Christo was imprisoned), Maïre, Pommègues and Ratonneau (with the Caroline Hospital) - to appreciate the panorama of the capital of the Mediter-ranean.

And it all is close by, thanks to its unrivalled motorway network (Spain-Italy), the converging link to northern-based capitals, not to mention its ultra-rapid TGV rail lines and the Marseille-Provence International Airport (directly serving 91 cities in 30 countries).

Welcome to Group ESCMP

Group ESC Marseille-Provence is part of the Marseille-Provence Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Marseille-Provence Chamber of Commerce (CCIMP) was founded at the end of the 16th century and, as such, is the oldest in France. The Chamber is a major player in the economic development of the area.

The Chamber also has responsibility for coordination and development of tourism, sea-trade, international links and, of course, import and export.

The Chamber created and supervises an important system of higher education and training and created the first Teleport in France. Through these initiatives, the oldest of the Chambers of Commerce in France continues to pursue with vigor one of the goals established at the time of its creation: to act for increased prosperity of enterprises in Marseille and the region.

Corinne Elbaum