Things to do...
"I am now in the land of corn, wine, oil, and sunshine. What more can a man ask of heaven? If I should happen to die in Paris (where he was based as ambassador), I beg of you to send me here, land have me exposed to the sun. I am sure it will bring me life again" -
Thomas Jefferson wrote to William Short, his private secretary, after his arrival in Aix-en-Provence in 1787.
Lots of historic towns to visit ie Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Orange, Nimes...
Within a short drive you will find the beautiful Luberon villages of Lourmarin, Cucuron and l‘Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Gordes, Menérbes, Roussillon, many mentioned on the following pages.
Just a short drive away, is the famous Cistercian Silvacane Abbey, on the edge of the village La Roque-d’Anthéron, dating from 11th, 12th and 13th century. It is one of the ‘3 sisters of Provence’ or as the French call them ‘les trios soeurs provençales’ the other two being - the most photographed of all the abbeys in Provence, the Senanque Abbey (on our website front cover) near Gordes (40KM/50min) the other Le Thoronet Abbey (110KM/1H40min). The light in the Silvacane Abbey is absolutely fantastic and should not be missed. It is also where the well known Piano Festival of Roque-d’Anthéron and the Silvacane Festival of Vocal Music takes place every summer.
Keen walkers will enjoy the nearby Luberon Regional Nature Park, nearest is Gorges du Régalon just 15min away (look in our info folder). If you decide to visit these beautiful gorges, make sure to wear the right foot wear, bring water, and do check the weather forecast, as the gorges become dangerous and do flood if it’s raining!
Aix-en-Provence (33KM/30min) is an absolutely beautiful city, full of culture and is a must! You simply have not been to Provence if you have not visited this wonderful city, full of beautiful buildings, lots of fountains everywhere and just the atmosphere of this beautiful city! You could follow in Cezannes’ footsteps www.atelier-cezanne.com. Do visit Aix on Saturday as it's market day, the biggest market during the week, it's busy, noisy and wonderful, so feel free to bring our French baskets for your shopping, you’ll need them and you would want to come back again and again as there is so much to see. You will find that in about 30min after the last stall has been packed away, you would never know that there had been a market there, as men had swiped the surface and the big garbage trucks driven around collecting the last bit of rubbish lying about. It’s very fast and very efficient! Every July there’s a wonderful music festival in Aix.
Avignon (50KM/40min) the city of the Popes for 6 centuries. The Gothic palace, Palais des Papes has since 1995 been classified as historic centre of Avignon by UNECCO with its churches, cloisters and chapels. The famous bridge, you know the song ‘Sur le pont d’Avignon, on y danse, on y danse, sur le pont d’Avignon, on y danse tout en rond’, yes, that is 'that' bridge...Pont Saint-Bénezet, sadly most of it has been lost due to flooding. Should you decide to visit the bridge, be aware, ‘that’ tune might well stay in your head for quite some time!
You could continue over the bridge and you’re no longer in Provence, but in the Gard in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon. Just (25KM/30min) on the D981 you should do a little detour and visit the famous Pont du Gard, which has since 1985 been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a very clever engineering contraction and was built to bring water from the hills in the north. It is one of those places, which is an absolute must! You could continue another (14KM/15min) on the D981 to the little town of Uzès, which is a little pearl in the area. Saturday is a busy day here as it's market day. There’s a festival here every summer. Between Uzès and Pont du Gard, on the D981 is the Haribo Museum a place you or your children might want to visit or maybe not, on your way back to Avignon and Pont Royal.
Nimes (91KM/1H) was located on the Via Domitia, a Roman road constructed in 118 BC which connected Italy and Spain. The site known as Serre Paradise goes back to the New Stone Age (Neolithic) during the period 4000 and 3500 BC. Also worth having a look at is the Maison Carrée, which is one of the best Roman temples preserved, built c.16BC (Google this, as it makes an interesting read). The Roman amphitheatre, Arène de Nimes in the center of Nimes, dates from the end of the 2nd century AD and is today used for concerts, bullfights, fairs and fire works.
Marseille (71KM/50min) is big and changing all the time. Being Europe’s culture capital this year it has a busy schedule with all sorts of things happening throughout this year, so maybe worth a visit! Have a look at www.marseille-provence2013.fr and/or www.marseille-tourisme.com where you will be able to find information on ‘What’s On’ in Marseille!
During the summer season you will find some beaches including La Pointe Rouge and a little further along the coast, is the beautiful small town Cassis (85KM/1H), which is very much worth a visit. Cassis has one of the best beaches along the coast here. You could take a short or long trip onboard one of the many boats in the little harbor, out to see the beautiful Les Calanques. The sunset over the castle on the hill side and the sea is stunning. Cassis is so beautiful, the only problem here, is parking, but you might just get lucky, and if not, just enjoy the drive up and above Cassis, that alone is worth getting the camera out for!
L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (35KM/25min) whether you like antiques and/or bric-a-brac, Sunday is the day you should visit this lovely town as it's market day. It's busy and noisy, and absolutely a place we love to come back to time and time again. You should bring our French baskets as there are so many French temptations you would want to buy. Have a look in our restaurant book, where you will find cards from two restaurants in this town. They are based right next to each other in a little square, Place Rose Goudard, just away from the river. Have lunch in either, and you will not walk away disappointed. When you leave here, you should continue to La Fontaine de Vaucluse, which is really worth a visit, famous for its source, despite a lot of research, today they still do not know where the source is coming from. There’s an old ruin up the hill side. It's a beautiful place and if you fancy, you can do some kayaking along here too.
St Remy-de-Provence (37KM/35min) is another lovely town, and Wednesday is market day, and worth a visit. This is also where van Gogh lived and where Nostradamus was born. There is the Glanum archaeological site, the Plateau des Antiques and it's Mausoleum, one of the best preserved in the world. Here you could also visit the Museum of Perfumes and Fragrances. You could finish your market shopping with lunch at a little restaurant at a little square, Place Favier, just down from the church. Every market day there’s a lady and/or her man singing on the corner of the big market square. You will have no doubt about in which country you are, as their singing is in ‘la vrai tradition de chanson française’ and both have absolutely wonderful voices! Yes, we have their CD in the apartment (they are in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue on Sundays too)!
Les Baux de Provence (38KM/45min) is a place that the whole family will enjoy visiting. The château/fortress is from 11th to 16th century. Park in the road below, as it's very expensive to park up in the village. When you leave here, just stop the car a few hundred meters along the road and take the time to visit Carrières de Lumières (previously known as Cathedrale d'Images) which is a must, whatever your age, you will enjoy this. It’s a place you can visit time and time again as every year they change ‘what’s on’. 2008 was Van Gogh, 2009 was Picasso and 2010 Australia. 2011 the place was closed. 2012 the theme was Gaugin & Van Gogh. 2013 the theme is ‘Monet, Renoir...Chagall. Voyages en Méditeranée’. 2014 it's Klimt et Vienne. 2015 was the year of the big renaissance painters. 2016 will be dedicated to Chagall and his colourful paintins. It’s something very different and wonderful, the whole concept of the idea behind this is brilliant! If you decide to go, do bring a jumper and maybe put a pair of trousers on – as it’s pretty cool in there! http://carrieres-lumieres.com/en/home.
Another must is the little village of Lourmarin (20KM/20min) with its beautiful château, where every summer there’s a music festival. Friday is market day, it's not big, but plenty of food, flowers and ‘local French stuff’ to fill those French baskets! Walk down the little cobbles streets, pick a café/restaurant, sit yourselves outside and soak up the sun over a nice lunch and some cold local rosé wine. Our favourite restaurant is in this village.
The little villages Oppède le Vieux (30KM/35min) and Ménerbes (33KM/40min) are both worth a visit.
The village of Gordes (33KM/45min) is on a hill and is stunningly beautiful. The drive up to this little town is something very special. This is where a few scenes from the films like ‘A Good Year’ and ‘Love Actually’ (and many more for sure) were filmed. Don’t look too much in the immobilier windows here, the prices are astronomical, but you can always afford to dream of course!
Bonnieux (35KM/45min) is a lovely little village to visit. Some fantastic restaurants here, and if you just want to stop to have a drink, do stop at one of the little cafés overlooking the valley with wonderful views over to Lacoste.
If you love gardens, it would be worth your time to visit the beautiful garden ‘La Louve’ designed by Nicole de Vésian. She was a designer for the iconic French brand Hermès in the 1950s and 1960s, working alongside a certain young designer Christian Lacroix. After the death of her husband, she moved to Provence, where she bought a house in Bonnieux. Nicole de Vésian transformed the neglected grounds around the house into an amazing, beautiful and influential garden. NB! The property is up for sale, so do contact the Commitee of Parks and Gardens in France where you will be able to get information on opening times etc!
Lacoste (36KM/45min) is another little village, where you could stop and have a drink and enjoy the wonderful views over the valley to Bonnieux. Château Lacoste is famous, as this was where Marquis de Sade lived! The château (and most of the village) is now owned by the designer Pierre Cardin, who for years have organised a cultural festival here during the summer months. Rumour has it that he wants to sell!
Roussillon (40KM/50min) is another special place to visit. When you drive towards Roussillon, the bright red-ochre coloured hills stand out fantastically in the green pine forest surrounding this little hill village. The village is not very big, and it’s best to park below the village. A visit to the ochre mine should not be missed. If you bring children, you might also want to bring an extra set of clothes and an extra pair of shoes!
The little village of Eygalières (25KM/25min) is worth a visit, if only to have a nice lunch or dinner there. On the Route d’Eygalière you could turn off the road to visit Domaine de Valdition www.valdition.com where they produce some nice wines and a couple of wonderful olive oils. The olive oils are not cheap, but very good and a real treat! Just a little further on the Route d’Eygalières you could stop at the 12th century Chapelle Saint Sixtus, a world famous historical monument just before you arrive at the village. (Look in our restaurant book – a favorite village of ours for lunch and dinner).
Vaison-la-Romaine (87KM/1H10min) is another lovely medieval village with its 2000 year old bridge that is still in use today and Tuesday is market day, and all the little streets are full of stall holders. Have a drink or lunch at the little square and maybe enjoy some music there too. You could then continue to the little village of Séguret only (9KM/10min) away, which is an absolute gem, so beautiful and do take time to visit the 12th century church of St Denis. The church warden is very, very, very passionate about the church and its history, it’s his life, and you might find it very difficult for him to let you go, and it's all in French. You could finish your visit to this absolutely beautiful village and have a spot of lunch in the little café overlooking the vines way below...do bring your camera, you’ll need it... and you could continue to Les Dentelles de Montmirail only (3KM/4min) away, a very beautiful and unusual rock formation. Dentelles means lace in French, and that’s exactly what these looks like. If you continue a little further, just (6KM/10min) you will come to Gigondas, well known for its wines. Best wines around and equal to those of Châteauneuf-du-Pape with their own Appellation Contrôlée. If you are interested, you could Google ‘Gigondas France wine's’ as there are too many to mention.
Orange (64KM/40min) is renowned for its Roman architecture and its Theatre Antique, and is still the most impressive existing in Europe. The finest Triumphal Arch of Orange is often mentioned as to date from the time of Augustus or Tiberius, or likely to be much later, maybe Severan. Roman Orange was founded in 35BC. The arch, theatre and surroundings were listed in 1981 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. If you are an opera fan, Theatre Antique is the place to go. The opera festival is in July/August every year.
The river Rhone flows along Arles (66KM/40min) a well known Roman town with the design and architecture of ancient times ie the walls of Les Arenes have been standing since 1st century BC. The ancient amphitheatre Theatre Antique is where the summer festival is celebrated. Arles was made a world heritage site by, UNESCO in 1997.
Saignon (43KM/1H) is another lovely little village well worth a visit with views for miles and miles (360 degree) – do bring you comfortable walking shoes and your camera both highly recommended.
Gorges du Verdon (130KM/2H10min) if you have the time, do visit this absolutely beautiful canyon, also known as the European Grand Canyon. There are lots of things to see and do here. Abseiling, swimming, jumping, canoeing, kayaking, rowing, paddling, white water rafting (September). You should visit the area around Lac de Sainte-Croix. Lac de Sainte-Croix, which is a man made lake, formed as a result of a dam, Barrage de Sainte-Croix. The original village is now completely under water. Rambling is also very popular around the Gorges du Verdon. You are urged to take proper safety precautions before setting out, especially as mobile phones do not work in the gorges. Make sure you have detailed maps, right foot wear and clothes, and always check the weather forecast before setting out! Be sure to bring lots of water, sun cream and your camera! Of course you can just enjoy the beaches and paddle or canoe around a little. On your way back you should visit Moustiers Sainte-Marie, a little village built at the base of a natural amphitheatre. You’ll love this place. A visit to the Chapelle Notre-Dame de Beauvoir founded in 5C by monks, is a must...enjoy...
Les Porquerolles (close to Hyères) (170KM/2H20min incl of a 15min hydro-foil trip from the main land) is a full day away and worth every minute of it, but you need to get going early in the morning if you are visiting in the summer season. The island is so beautiful, and the colour of the sea is pure aqua. No cars are allowed on the island only pedal bikes. There are a few restaurants, but also some sandwich shops where you can buy your lunch and drinks. You can rent bikes, so you might just go that little further and find just that spot on the sandy beach, where you can enjoy your baguette and drink as well as a swim in that clear beautiful water. Check the time table, so you know what time the boat is sailing back to the main land...and don’t forget your sun lotion, maybe a good book, your camera – and then just enjoy yourselves!
Unless you are already ‘en route’ the timings and distances are from Pont Royal, and to help you a little, the below list might make it easier for you to decide where to go (timings are pretty correct)...just remember most of the little pretty Provencal roads are not straight, so a few kilometers might take longer than you have anticipated, whatever any of the online maps tells you, these are often not correct...
We have lots more information in our ‘info folder’ including emergency numbers, where things are at Pont Royal, but also more info about a lot of the places already mentioned as well as others. We hope something in the info folder will help you a little - to decide what to do and where to go! Do have a look at www.photos-of-provence.com as there are lots of wonderful photos from many of the places we have suggested you should visit!
Some of the distances might seem a bit far, but there is so much to see while you try to get there, and you simply forget how many kilometer and how long you have been driving, and you are on holiday, so... this is how we have found a lot of lovely places, just driving along those beautiful Provencal roads, and before you know it, there’s yet another lovely village to visit...
If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact us, we’re only an e-mail or a phone call away!
We hope that you will come and enjoy our apartment and have a wonderful holiday and our agent will be at the Pont Royal gates to welcome you...enjoy...☺