Week 2 of my A to Z and settling on one thing to write about that begins with B is not an easy task. There are the beautiful villages of Bonnieux & Le Barroux, or the extensive Brocante markets that take place in L’Isle Sur La Sorgue every Sunday. There are also the delicious breads such as the lardon or Roquefort studded Fougasse, which is sold throughout the region.
There’s so much choice, but ‘les Balades’ & ‘Les Bories’ sit so comfortably together that it feels right to mention them both. You tend to find that if you go for ‘une balade’ (stroll) you will undoubtedly stumble across some of the ‘bories’ (dry-stone shelters) that are found across the area.
We love walking in the Vaucluse, especially out of season, as the weather is still fine & warm and the roads and villages are quieter than in the height of summer. The whole area is riddled with footpaths, which are easy to follow thanks to clear signposts and the coloured markings that are seen on trees and walls to keep you on track. There are also plenty of routes to keep you busy, whether you fancy an easy stroll along the valley floor or a more energetic hike, such as one that takes you from the back of Oppede Le Vieux up a steep gulley to the top of the ‘Petit Luberon’ (although from experience this is not one that I would recommend in wet weather!!)
Walking gives you a real sense of place, much more so than if you just drive from village to village. It also means you have no option but to slow down, which is great if, like us, you normally feel as if you’re constantly doing everything on fast-forward. As you walk you find yourself immersed in the scents, colours and sounds of the area or simply just the peace that you experience when you take a break, sitting on a stone eating a picnic and watching the world go by.
If you are looking for inspiration for a walk then there are great suggestions on the Provence Guide website http://www.provenceguide.co.uk/itineraries/hiking/offer-33-1.html
with clear details and directions to guide you round. It is also worth stopping in the local tourist offices as they too have details of local walks and are happy to point you in the right direction.
As you walk you will undoubtedly stumble across some of the dry-stone ‘bories’ that are scattered across the area, such as the one below, which is in a field on the route between Bonnieux and Lacoste.
The ‘bories’ are simply constructed from the local honey-coloured stone. The pieces are carefully placed together without the help of mortar to make structures ranging from small shelters and huts, to large dwellings and agricultural buildings.
A great place to see them at their best is the ‘Village des Bories’ a listed historic monument located just off the main road from Coustellet to Gordes. Here you will find some stunning, large bories, which have had a range of uses, from goat-sheds and stables to dwellings – it is certainly worth a visit, if only just to admire the skill of those who built them so many years ago.
More information about the Village can be found here http://www.avignon-et-provence.com/luberon/village-des-bories/gb/#.VLke7T9ya3o
There are so many stunning walks but one of my favourites starts at the Village Des Bories and runs through woodland and a hidden valley finally emerging at the beautiful & spiritual Abbaye de Senanque. From here you can walk back along paths edged with dry-stone walls and bories to Gordes before dropping back down the hill to where you started.
Of course, the final benefit of walking is the fact that after a good day’s hike you never feel guilty about eating dinner!!!