Thanks for your travelogue of Provence. We will be staying in
Languedoc for two weeks in late August/early September with dips into
Provence so I will print your travelogue for reference.
Regarding the santons: the outrageous prices you found are a result of tourism I suppose. My mother-in-law is from Paris and she has a santon ensemble that is placed in the creche each Christmas that is over 50 years old. The value we place on it is because of the memories. When in Marseilles four years ago, we visited a santon shop and the prices were very reasonable but I didn't bother to buy because I knew we had them at home.
For interested Ziners, the shop is located on the same street as St. Victor's Basilica. The church is on the site of a quarry that became a necropolis in the 3rd century. In the 5th century a monastery was founded in a fortified Abbey known as the "key to Marseilles harbour". It has a great history and houses a statue of the "black Virgin". The church is still active as a local parish. When we visited there was a wedding in progress. There is an interesting history of the church here: http://www.beyond.fr/villages/marssites.html