When you think of Provence and particularly the Luberon it tends to bring to mind Lavender, sun and the stunning hilltop villages that are so typical of the area. From the stunning Le Barroux on the route through to Vaison-La Romaine to the historic home of the Marquis De Sade at Lacoste on the flanks of the Petit Luberon and of course Gordes, these spectacular villages are great places to visit and offer incredible views of the area.
Over the years we have visited them all and now have some real favourites, which I’ll share below.
1 Oppede-Le-Vieux www.oppede.fr
Sitting on an outcrop on the edge of the Petit Luberon the partially ruined village of Oppede-Le-Vieux is a real gem. From its open square you wander upwards through narrow streets towards the Church and ruined castle, which (over the years) became a real favourite of our boys as they scrambled over its ancient stone walls. There are some finished houses en route, but there are more still that are derelict, open to the sky with walls and old floors covered with ivy, testament to the changing history of the village over the years
I suppose you could say that it isn’t as polished as some of the others that stretch out along the valley but to be honest that is a big part of its charm. It doesn’t have many shops (although the pottery just off the square has some stunning work) and there are only 2 cafes but it never seems too busy. You tend to find a peace here that is more difficult to come by in some of the other villages and I can think of nothing nicer than sitting on the wall of the square in front of the Church (which has been greatly restored in recent years) watching the view
(see previous blog entry ‘A peaceful escape and a view to die for)
2. Roussillon – www.roussillon-provence.com
Whilst the majority of villages in the area are formed from a light, honey coloured stone Roussillon is decorated with the vibrant colours that come from the ochre cliffs that is sits upon. The village positively glows with the orange, pink and yellow hues all year round and never appears dull. The village centre is traffic-free and its narrow main street is home to a number of artists and potters with a good selection of cafes and restaurants where you can rest and watch the world go by.
One of my favourite shops here is Marchand de Couleurs, a lovely pottery (recently moved to a much larger shop) where many years ago we bought our ‘poule’ dinner service and have more recently discovered its tableware decorated with lavender, olives and lemons – www.marchand-couleurs.fr – I have a wonderful memory of ringing to order the dinner-service and hearing the village clock chiming and the screaming of swifts in the back-ground, something that always comes to mind whenever we lay the table.
At the entrance to the village is the ‘Sentier Des Ochres’ , a circular walking trail that takes you through the ochres and offers information on how it was formed and its uses. It is a nice easy trail, although I wouldn’t recommend wearing white or canvas shows as, along with most of your lower legs, they will be a nice shade of orange by the time you have finished!!
3 Venasque – www.venasque.fr
Venasque is found on the northern edge of the Vaucluse Plateau near St Didier and like so many of the other hill-top villages is ‘One of the most Beautiful Villages in France’. It sits on a solid rocky outcrop and whenever we have visited we’ve seen artists sat capturing its delights in what is always a wonderful light.
The village is surrounded by the ruins of its ramparts and is home to an ancient baptistry and Church and like so many other places in the area offers spectacular views, particularly across the plain towards the ever-present Mont Ventoux.
Like Oppede-Le Vieux, Venasque never seems to be as busy as some of the other villages and is on one of our favourite cycle routes. Once you have finished climbing into the village (the ‘Route Touristique’ is slightly steeper, but nicer) it’s lovely to wander through its quiet streets (again home to a number of artists and potters) towards the central fountain, where you can sit and rest awhile.
It seems unfair to just mention 3 of the villages as there are so many and they are all stunning, with their own character and charm, each offering incredible views that give a slightly different perspective on the area – if you fancy exploring some of the others a couple of good websites with more information are
Personally I just keep looking forward to my next visit (7 weeks and counting) so that I can continue to explore them.
This blog is part of Lou Messugo’s AllAboutFrance monthly blog linkup. For other posts about France then please follow the link