Stepping back in time at Simiane La Rotonde 

Over the summer one of our favourite cycle rides took us to the delightful Boulangerie at Simiane-La-Rotonde, just across the border from us towards Banon in the neighbouring Department of Alpes de Haute Provence.

Cycling down towards Simiane from Oppedette

The Boulangerie itself is worth the hour long uphill cycle, but it’s not the only attraction as the village itself is worth exploring.

The village looks like a set from a film, sitting high above the plain

The first time we saw the village I could only think that it looked like as if it should have been from the set of one of the Lord of the Rings films, sitting on a hill above a high plain with the remains of a Castle at the top and incredible arches in the buildings surrounding it.

It is, we now understand from Marina (our friend, Provençal Guide and French Teacher) a great example of a traditional Provençal village with the Chateau at its heart, the Church in the walls and businesses on the outskirts.

The ancient bell tower sat in the walls of the old village


Our amble through its streets started at the bottom of the village by the War Memorial & I must admit to being surprised to see the names of 5 RAF airmen engraved along with those of the local young men who had lost their lives. 

A poignant and telling memorial

These 5 young men perished when their Wellington Bomber crash landed near the village on 10th May 1944, believing that beacons had been set by the local Resistance,(headed up by the famous local poet René Char) to show a landing strip, when in fact it was there to mark a parachute drop-zone. Another sad story of the war and the impact it had put n young lives and one I’m determined to research a bit further.

Wandering on you start to climb through the streets, which wind their way up towards the 1th Century Chateau at the top, passing this wonderful old 2CV, resting under a tree in a garden….

I can’t tell you how much I would love to own this car!


On past wonderful old houses with incredible stonework and heavy wooden doors……

Such a beautiful old door


Before passing through the archway into the heart of the old village, where you can take a moment to just stop in the the wonderful open building with arched, unglazed windows, which offer incredible views across the plain.

The beautiful open building & its incredible view


Here you see the Village’s Coat of Arms, which represents the Fleur de Lys of the King of France and the Chateaux of the Counts in the region – the way they are arranged is such that if the Chateaux fail then the Fleur de Lys & as such the King of France will fall and vice versa. A simple design with so much hidden meaning …

The Simiane Coat of Arms


At the top of the village you arrive at the remains of the Chateau – not just a collection of stones, but a spectacularly beautiful round keep ‘La Rotonde’ that has been restored to its former glory, with an incredible vaulted roof and beautiful carvings. It could easily have fallen into a state of total ruin, but in 1841 it was classified as a ‘Monument Historique’  and happily saved for the Nation.

The courtyard & La Rotonde


The ‘donjon’ was part of the original 12th Century build, but its Romanesque design and stonework sets it apart from anything else I have seen. The skill of the ancient engineers who designed and built such a beautiful space and incredibly precise roof is clear to see and I marvel at what they have constructed.

The beautiful 5 metre high vaulted roof


Below the intricate stone roof is a beautiful, circular space with 12 niches built into the walls, separated by columns topped with carved finials of people, plants and animals. 

A section of the stunning interior


Many of the carvings are original, but some have been restored or replaced and there are some great characters…

Grumpy

Toothy

Dopey


‘La Rotonde’ has evidently been an attraction for many years, with visitors leaving their mark, scrawling graffiti on the ancient stones – in some ways just adding tthe the history of the space (although I’d probably feel rather differently if it was Gary loves Shannon- or similar- scrawled in marker pen!).

I wonder who Justin Boyer was?


The great thing now is that this beautiful space is used each year as a venue for a Festival of Ancient Music  http://festival-simiane.com/  and I can’t think of a more beautiful setting & can only imagine that the acoustics must be superb.

To one side of La Rotonde is another room that has now become the ‘aromatherapy’ laboratory & presentation space for Young Living,  which owns the lavender farm at the foot of the village https://www.youngliving.com/en_GB/company/younglivingfarms/europe creating beautiful products and selling them from the Chateau in the village.

Young Living laboratory & presentation space


Around La Rotonde there are great displays of the work that has been done during the restoration process, but also documents relating to the history of the building & its fall during the Revolution, when the symbolism of Simiane’s Coat of Arms really came to pass.

The family that owned this Chateau were huge landowners across the Vaucluse and beyond with different branches of the ‘Agoult’ family owning the Chateaux across the region as shown below….


However the last ‘Seigneur’ of Simiane met his end in July 1794 when he faced the guillotine in Paris during the Revolution, bringing to a close the rule of the Dukes in Simiane and the wider area.

Timeline of the end of an era


Simiane may be a little way from the traditional and well-visited villages of Gordes and Roussillon, but it is certainly worth the extra drive (or cycle) for a visit. It has a wonderful peace, even in the height of summer and is simply a delightful place to wander around and just enjoy the sights and history that it has to offer. 

Pretty views from the village


And of course there’s always a warm welcome, good coffee & fantastic pastries to be had at the Boulangerie! 

Shared via #AllAboutFrance via the Lou Messugo Blog 

http://www.loumessugo.com/en/blog/entry/all-about-france-link-up/ 

A perfect place for coffee & a croissant or two !

6 thoughts on “Stepping back in time at Simiane La Rotonde 

  1. Thanks very much for introducing us to this most interesting village! I like all your photos, but the picture of the 2CV also inspired envy, and that of the medieval door is my favorite. (And while I consider myself a connoisseur of Romanesque architecture, I’ve never seen a structure at all like this donjon — I’m adding this to my list of places to visit!)

    • Oh I’m so pleased I’ve inspired you to visit – it’s such a beautiful place and La Rotonde is stunning & certainly worth a visit. The 2CV captured our imagination too & we are hoping to buy an old one (at some point in the future) to potter around the area in, when we’re not on our bikes. Thanks again & I hope you do manage to visit at some point.

  2. This is a lovely village! I must admit, I think my favorite bit is that rusting blue 2 cv under the tree…fantastic! Are you here in January? I’m away for a lot of the Autumn but free to explore then!

  3. What an amazing building, the views from it (and in it of course) are gorgeous. You really do a=get to see a lot on your cycle rides, I’m always impressed. Thanks for linking to #AllAboutFrance

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