South of Bédoin

SOUTH OF BEDOIN

Monts de Vaucluse & The Luberon

L’Isles sur La Sourge & Fontaine-de-Vaucluse

About 45 mins south of Bédoin is the town of Isles-sur-la-Sourge. If you’re into antiques this is the place for you. However, if it’s regualr brocante you’re after then maybe not. All all along the banks of the Sourge are shops selling high end antique furniture and art – an interior designer’s delight. Sunday is the best day for a visit as the shops move outside onto the streets which makes browsing for the curious (rather than for the serious shopper) much easier. The antique market is combined with a truly enormous marché Provencal with stalls filling almost every available space in the centre of the town. Plenty of excellent places for lunch – dive in early or book ahead, it can get very crowded. We especially like Au Chineur.

Fontaine-de-Vaucluse

15 minutes west of Isles-sur-la-Sourge is the charming town of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse and the source of the river Sourge. In the town itself the river cascades across a weir and under a bridge where there are restaurants where you can admire the waters as they flow by. From the main square a walkway makes its way out of the town a few hundred meters to the source itself. There is a rather frightening looking pool here where it is alledged that people can swim. After you, in my view, I like a bit of wild swimming but I wouldn’t fancy your chances.

A much better way to appreciate the river is to go by kyak. I highly recommend this. There are a couple of places where you can hire them just outside the town. As river is a protected area the trips are guided but don’t be put off. The water is crystal clear and no more than a meter deep. Furthermore the water temperatures maintains a colling 15ºc all year round which is especially welcome in the summer heat.

Fontaine-de-Vaucluse

Fontaine-de-Vaucluse

La Sourge

The Luberon

Mention the Luberon to most English people and they’ll come back at you with Peter Mayle’s ‘A Year in Provence’ – at least anyone over fifty. Mayle quite rightly brought this lovely little area of South East France to the attention of the British and it’s still a destination of choice for second home wonders from the UK. Of course it’s all about its medieval hill top villages, there’s plenty to see but here’s my favourite four.

Venasque

Perched on tis hill top with a commanding view over the Nesque valley and Mt Ventoux beyond, Venasque is a real bijou village and a perfect gateway to the Luberon. The main attraction here are the shrine of Notre-Dame de Vie with it’s origins back to the fourth century CE and the Eglise de Notre Dame – one of the oldest Christian sites in France.

Gordes

The poster boy of hilltop villages, Gordes can be a bit of a nightmare in high season. But, as Ruskin said of mountains, that they are better seen from the valley, so Gordes is best seen from the D15 before you enter the village.

From Gordes don’t miss the Abbaye de Sénanque, the perfectly formed twelth century Cistercian monastery. Nestled in the bottom of the valley, with its famous lavender field, no calendar of provence is complete without it.

Oppède

It’s a bit of a schlep up from the official carpark but worth the effort and the carparking arrangements do mean that the village itself is car free and the better for it. Take the walk all the way up to the castle and enjoy a spectacualr view over the Luberon.

Rousillon

Unlike Oppède Rousillon has not banned traffic from the centre of the village and is the worse for it. However, you’re not here for the village (pretty though it is), Rousillon is all about its open-cast ochre mines. The site was first commercially exploited at the very beginning of the eighteenth century and although it’s not extracted here now the circular route through the old workings is definitely worth the trip. It’s billed as a mini Grand Canyon, which is stretching it a bit, but as you walk you can reflect that Impressionist painting would have been the poorer without the yellows, reds and browns unearthed here.

Venasque

Gordes

Abbaye de Senanque

Oppède

Roussillon