Posted by: vlibrizzi | May 5, 2009

Six days in Provence: Cotes du Rhone scenic tour, Roussillon, and Gourdes

dsc_03381For our final two days in Provence, C. and I left the major cities of Provence and headed deep into the Luberon for a taste of the small town life.

First, on Sunday, we went to the famous (and jam packed!) market in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. We were utterly shocked to see the amounts of people crammed into the small town. It seemed like all of Provence goes to this market every Sunday. And I can understand why…it is enormous! Literally, every street in the whole town has stalls selling meats, breads, cheeses, lavender, soaps, etc. You name it, they sell it.

dsc_03341Suffice it to say, we were a bit overwhelmed by the market, but we wormed our way through the crowds and left the town (after taking a few photos of course!) with a wonderful picnic lunch of cheese, a baguette, strawberries, olive tapenade, and some Provencal cookies for dessert (you can see me holding our baguette on one of the bridges in the town in the photo to the left). 

dsc_03471We then drove to a vineyard up through the switchbacks of Beaumes de Venise and stopped there to have our picnic lunch. The vineyard was closed for tourists on Sundays, but we snuck in and sat along the vines to enjoy our lunch (I know, we’re so rebellious!).

After lunch we spent the afternoon driving (literally) around the Dentellies de Montmirail mountain range (up and down switchbacks….it was really scary at times!) to stop in some local villages.

(I have posted photos of the villages we visited and a very brief description of them below.)

dsc_0360First, we sampled some wine at a tasting shop called Caveau de Gogondain the famous wine growning town of Gigondas. 






dsc_0375Then, we drove to the little hilltop town of Seguret, walked through the town’s streets (I think there were a total of three streets!) and stopped in a little tea shop to have afternoon tea and a snack (we felt very British).
















dsc_0397We then walked through the even smaller hilltop town of Le Crestet (maybe two streets instead of three, and a population of only 35). 









dsc_04071And, finally, we drove to the town of Suzette and took this beautiful photo of the town’s church to the left. 





dsc_0427By the end of the afternoon, C. had had enough of driving through switchbacks and my stomach was starting to feel a bit queasy after all of the hairpin turns we took, so we drove to Roussillon, our final stop, checked into our hotel and called it a night, after we checked out the town at night a bit. 

dsc_04611The next morning, Monday, we had a lovely breakfast at our chambre d’hote (L’Comedie della Arte) and tried our best to make small talk with the French-speaking owner. 

We then packed our things and drove into town. We had meant to drive home early, but the day was so beautiful and we wanted to see more of Roussillon that we decided to stay until lunch. 

And we’re so glad that we stayed.

dsc_04741The town of Roussillon is most famous for its ochre cliffs, which once brought the town mining wealth but now are part of a national preserve.  We walked for about an hour through the forest with mouths wide open, not believing how beautiful the cliffs could be. The colors (bright oranges, burnt reds, and muted yellows) reminded us of Sedona, Arizona, but the chalky ochre was nothing like the Red Rocks in the US.

dsc_04831The village itself, which sits on top of the cliffs, has made the most of its location by matching the colors of its buildings to the surroundings — houses of yellow, orange and blue line the streets, and stand out brilliantly on a blue sky day like the one we were lucky enough to enjoy.

As we walked, we couldn’t help marveling at the amount of natural diversity in France. Before we arrived this year, we had not fully appreciated that such a relatively small country would have beautiful beaches, stunning mountain ranges, rolling hills, lush countryside, and ochre cliffs too! What a great place!

dsc_0506Then, before we headed back to Fontainebleau, we made a pit stop to see the town of Gordes, which the owner of the first chambre d’hote we stayed in recommended that we visit. It was beautiful to see from the outside, but unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to go into the city.


dsc_05161Then, we stopped at  the Abbey Notre-Dame de Senanque to see if any lavender was growing yet…which it wasn’t. Apparently in a few weeks, this Abbey is a true sight to see with all the fields surrounding it filled with lavendar. Just our luck, we came three weeks too early. But it was still beautiful. 


As we drove home  for what seemed like all day long (7 hours is a long time in the car!), we talked about each of our favorite places we visited this past week. 

For C., it was the Ochre Cliffs in Roussillon, and for me, well, I just loved walking around the towns like Aix and Avignon. Provence is a place you just have to go if you get the chance. Hopefully, our photos have helped whet your appetite for this amazing region just like Peter Mayle’s book did for me.

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