ProvenceWeb - Guide touristique. (English) On the main page there is a listing of current festivals, exhibitions and so on. The site covers all six departments of the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur (Bouches du Rhone, Vaucluse, Var, Alpes Haute Provence, Hautes Alpes and Alpes Maritimes).

Tourism in Vaucluse - Official web site in English. A nice feature of this site is the search engine for events in Vaulcuse under Festivities. You have the option of searching by geographical area, town, category, name or period of time.  I especially like the period of time because you can find out what events will be going during the time you will be in Vaucluse.

Avignon

For information on the Avignon Theater, Dance and Music festival go to www.festival-avignon.com and for fringe performances go to www.avignon-off.org. The site has an English version.

Office de Tourisme Avignon where you will find information on market days (when and where they are held), cultural events such as theater and concerts, museums including contact information (addresses and phone numbers). The site has an English version. The Pass Avignon-Villeneuve Discovery Passport (free ofAvignon charge) is available either at participating museums or at the Avignon Office of Tourism,  41 cours Jean Jaures. The pass offers a 20-50% discount at participating museums and valid for two weeks.

Besides the major attractions such as the Popes Palace, Pont-St-Benezet there are several excellent art museums including Musee du Petit Palais (collection of medieval paintings and artifacts), Musee Calvet Foundation Angladon and the Lambert Collection (modern art) and a couple of interesting churches to explore. Those who need their fix of art will not be disappointed. In the evening you can attend a dance, theatrical or opera production at the beautiful Avignon Opera house constructed in 1847. Avignon does not lack in fun things to do or places to eat. I find nothing more enjoyable then sitting at cafe in one of the outdoor cafes opposite the opera house in the Place de L’Horloge and just watch the world go by. Below is a photo of the back of the Musee du Petit Palais and beyond is the Palais des Papes taken from Pont St-Benezet. The large gold statue is of the Virgin Mary (added in 1859) and stands on top of the Notre-Dame des Doms. The second photo is of the front of the Palais des Papes. 

When coming over the Pont Edouard Deladier into Avignon the best place to park is in the Palais des Papes parking garage. The garage is built under the Place du Palais and one of the exits brings you out in front of the Palais des Papes. The Place de l’Horlogue is a few minutes away and the other major attractions are also near  by. The advantage of parking at this location besides the convenience to the major sites is not having to drive  into the city center. When it is time to leave all you do is get back on the highway (outside the city’s walls) and head towards the Pont Edouard Deladier. 

A great way to see Avignon is from the river. Le Mireio offers cruises on the Rhone including day trips to Chateauneuf-du-Pape (famous for their wine) and Arles (famous for Roman ruins and Van Gogh). They also offer a romantic dinner cruise along with a simple cruise that takes you out on the river for some great views of the Palais des Papes.

Restaurants:

Chez Francois, 23 rue de la Bancasse Tele: 04 88 07 00 84. Restaurant/Wine bar on a quiet street south of the Place de l’Horloge. Great food. Focuses on regional dishes using fresh ingredients. Moderately priced.

Le Caveau du Theatre, 16 rue des Trois Faucons Tele: 04 90 82 60 91. A rather inexpensive little Bistro near the Gothic church of San Didier.

Entree des Artistes, 1 place of the Carmelite friars Tele: 04 90 82 46 90. Traditional Provençal cuisine. Bistro with a contemporary feel. Moderately priced. Closed Saturday, Sunday and the entire month of August.

Lou Mistrau, 13 place de l’Horloge Tele: 04 90 82 40 98. Brasserie. Outdoor dinning terrace. I was in the mood for a light lunch - just a salad. I enjoyed the food, service and the location. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and it was fund watching all the activity in the place de l’Horloge.

Gordes

GordesHas its fair share of shops selling the usually souvenirs and tour buses especially during the busy summer months. Putting aside the usual tourist trappings that come with popularity, you can’t help to love the setting and the village itself. There are art galleries, restaurants and high-end hotels.  And to be honest I have bought my fair share of souvenirs that some people may consider tacky that I cherish nonetheless. Temporary art exhibitions are held at the chateau which also has a permanent collection. There is the church along with the narrow lanes and passageways to explore and while away an hour or two. Afterwards you can relax with a glass of wine or a cafe under the tree beside the fountain in the town square. In the summer concerts are here and at the Abbaye de Senanque. On Tuesday a local market is held in the town square. A trip to Provence would not be complete with a visit to Gordes, one of the quintessential “village perché” of Provence. For information on cultural activities such as art exhibitions along with other information including restaurants and hotels in Gordes, go to http://www.gordes-village.com/html/presentation2.html. Below are several photos I took. One was taken from the road leading up to the village, the second one is of the countryside below the village and the third one is the town square beside the chateau.

If you visiting the area between June & September you might want to check out the International String Quartet of the Luberon. They perform in a number of venues including in Rousillon, a nearby hilltop village and the Abbaye de Senaque along with several other locations. If you would like more information go to http://pagesperso-orange.fr/festival-luberon-quatuors/index.html.

Abbaye de Senanque

Abbaye de SenanqueThe abbaye is nestled in a wooded valley surrounded by lavender fields. The drive down from Gordes via the D177 (from March through September one way due to high traffic and the narrow road) is one of the most scenic ways to approach the abbaye. One of the best times of the year to visit is summer when the lavender is in full bloom. However, I was here once at the beginning of October and there was still the scent of lavender in the air, the abbaye and surrounding countryside were still beautiful. The simple and rather austere church and the cloisters (dating from the 13th century with alterations in the 17th century and additions in the 19th century) are delightful anytime of the year . I find it interesting in the fact it is still a working monastery and the monks earn a living from honey and lavender they grow. In the gift shop you can purchase some of these products along with tour guide that I thought was a fascinating read. You get a glimpse into a modern religious lifestyle devoted to prayer and communal living set in a monastery that dates backs to the 12th century. When leaving if you are heading back to Avignon take the D177 towards Venasque, from there take the D28 towards St. Didier, continue on through Pernes-les-Fountains (the town has 36 fountains) until you reach Avignon. It would be quicker if you just drove back into Gordes and continue on to Avignon from there, but though the drive is longer you get to see beautiful countryside and go through a couple really pretty villages. Better still if you have the time continue on to Carpentras from Pernes-les-Fontaines. Nearby is Carpentras, which has a great market on Friday mornings. Throughout the year the town has festivals and other cultural events. For more information on events go to www.tourisme.fr/carpentras/e-loisirs.htm. The site has an English version.

Les Dentelles de Montmirail

Gigondas along with Séguret are two of the prettiest villages in the area. The first photo was taken from the cemetery looking towards 11th century church in Gigondas, the second photo is a house in Gigondas and the third photo was taken from the village of Seguret looking out over the valley. Both villages are part of the Les Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range, highest peek is 2,400 feet and noted for the hiking and walking trails. Gigondas also produces exceptionally good red wine. The vineyards are located at the base of the village. A particular favorite of mine comes from Domain du Grapillon d’Or. Of course like anything else wine is subjective, which is why it’s nice to be able to taste the wine before you purchase it.  In the village there are several “cave des vignerons” where you can sample and purchase the local wines. I happen to be partial to vins doux naturels (desert wine). Rasteau (northwest of Séguret) is noted for their vins doux naturels. Another vins doux naturels that I like comes from Domaine Brusset. For more information including directions click on the respective links. All the villages are in proximity of one another so you you can spend a day on a wine tasting adventure starting with Rasteau in the north and ending up in Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the south. Driving through wine country in the fall around September/October right before the grape harvest is one of the best times to see the countryside. Something magical about acres and acres of lush vineyards. For more information on the village of Gigongas and the general area stop in the the Office for Tourism located on the Rue du Portail, right across from the parking lot in the center of the village. On this street there are a couple restaurants/cafe along with something like three or four ”cave des vignerons”.

Official site of the village of Beaumes de Venise and the Dentellees de Montmail. You will find information on events - listed under Festivities program, outdoor leisure activities including rock climbing and hiking, food and lodging. The site has an English version. Known for their sweet fortified wine made from the Muscat grape.

Inter Rhone - Good site for information on the wines of the Rhone valley.

Restaurants:

Domain de Cabbage (restaurant/hotel) Tel: 04 90 46 91 12. Between the villages of Seguret and Sable. Moderate-Expensive. Refined country dishes. Lovely outdoor dining terrace surrounded by vineyards. I enjoyed the food a lot and the setting was just wonderful. There is also a tasting room where you can sample and buy  wine.

Des Florets (restaurant/hotel), Tel: 04 90 65 85 01.  Provençal cuisine using fresh ingredients and produce from the area. Moderate to expensive.  Located in a beautiful setting above the village of Gigondas. Lunch or dinner on outside terrace on a warm sunny day with a slight breeze blowing through the trees is heavenly. The food is quite good and setting is just magically.  Reservations are necessary during high season. 

Orange

Has two significant monuments to Rome, the Arc de Triomphe and the Théâtre Antique (the best preserved in the world). Right in front of the theater is a sectionOrange of the city called “old town”, where you find tree lined squares and places to eat along with shops. Traffic can be intense and trucks are especially annoying. Fortunately on Sundays trucks are banned so there is less traffic or at the very least no trucks.

If you are coming down from the north on the N7, you will pass the Arc de Triomphe, keep to the right and stay on N7/D976. Eventually you will see a public parking lot on your left. Once you park you can walk to all the major sights: Arc de Triomphe, Théâtre Antique and “old town”. You will also be near the tourist office.

The official website for the town of Orange is www.ville-orange.fr (in French only). The tourist office is located at 5 cours Aristide Briand (on Ave de Gaulle).

Les Chorégies d'Orange - world renowned music (opera, dance, concerts) Festival. Performances are held in several venues including the Théâtre Antique (without amplification I might add - the acoustics are that good). If you have a chance, definitely worth going at least once even if opera is not your cup of tea. Instead of seeing an opera you can attend a concert. I find the setting so unique and feel the only way to truly experience it is to attend a performance. The web site has an English version along with booking online.  

Entrance to the Musee Muncipal is included in the price of admission to Théâtre Antique. I have to say the audio guide tour is especially good. You learn about theater productions in Roman times, the building and the city of Orange. The commentary is lively and fun. In the gift shop you can buy a guide (in English) published by Des Connaissance Arts. As I said, I like the audio guide, but I also wanted a guide to take home to read at my leisure. 

Restaurants:

La Rom'Antique,  5 place Sylvain Tele: 04 90 51 67 06. Provençale cuisine. Cozy decor with a terrace. Offers a set menu with three different price brackets; addition to, offering a la carte dishes. I always find the set menu is the best value. Close to the Théâtre Antique. As you are leaving the theater, make a right. Walk along until you come to rue Pourtoules and make another right. Walk down rue Pourtoules (as you are walking the theater will be to your right) , eventually you will come to place Sylvain.

Alons’O Bistro, 58 Cours Aristide Briand Tele: 04 90 29 69 27. A charming Bistro decorated with the colors of Provence overlooking an interior courtyard not far from the Théâtre Antique. The chef creates modern bistro dishes using local ingredients. For opening and closing times contact them directly via telephone or e-mail at alonsobistro@orange.fr. Across the street from the entrance to the Théâtre Antique you will see the Musée municipal d'Orange. To the left of the museum there is a street called rue Pontillac, which runs west. If you walk down this street you will eventually come out on to the cours Aristide Briand near the restaurant that is located at number 58.        

Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Has a picturesque ruined castle with commanding views of the surrounding countryside and a nice if commercial village, but of course the real draw are the well known (justifiably so) wines. Once the summer residence of the Pope, the palatial castle is no more except for a couple of walls. Of course the main purpose of coming here is for wine tasting and of course wine buying. You can get some great deals on exceptional wine. Once you park the car you can walk around to the different “caves”  located around the center of the village. Not all French wines are imported in the US. Plus I find sometimes it is cheaper buying directly from the source. I use to carry the wine on the plane with me when I came home. However, due to airline regulations this is no longer possible so I pack the wine in my check-in luggage. They make cardboard carrying cases that hold three bottles. I surround the boxes with lots of clothes to provide a cushion.       

The Luberon

Les Routes da Lavande - six driving tours of lavender country. Includes restaurant and hotel recommendations. Download maps with the itinerary (translated into French, English and German). The site also tells you when the best time to go. For more information click on the link.

L’isle-la-sorgue

L'isle-la-sorgueIs z beautiful little town with canals running through it and a fabulous outdoor market on Sunday that takes over every nook and cranny. During the summer it can be crowded, yet despite all the people it is still one of my favorite markets. I do confess I usually visit France in the Spring (April/May) and in the Fall (September/October) so there are less people during these times of year. I enjoy the Fall especially around wine harvesting and in Spring when the flowers start coming out. I do recommend at least one visit between June and September when the Lavender is in bloom. When the fields are a sea of lavender and the sweet scent fills the air. Getting back to L’isle-sur-la-sorgue, there are tons of  shops to explore. These days it is pretty difficult to find a bargain, still chances are you will run across something that strikes your fancy even if it is a bit pricey. Treat yourself, you are on vacation. The market usually winds down by around 1 or 1:30. A lot of the shops close for lunch between 1 and 3. I usually try to arrive around 10:00 or 10:30 and spend the morning strolling through the market. I have a leisurely lunch around 1:00 at my favorite restaurant, Cher Nane. It is such a tranquil setting you really don’t want to rush. After lunch I will wonder around for a bit browsing in the shops. The Office of Tourism has a website http://www.oti-delasorgue.fr/. The site has an English version. Two sections that are particularly informative are on the markets in and around L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and information on  Fontaine-de-Vaulcuse, the source of the Sorgue River. Gordes and Abbaye de Senanque are a short distance away so it is possible to visit them the same day as a visit to L’isle-sur-la-sorgue. I did and did not find it too arduous, but I do take a cooler with ice packs just in case I purchased any perishable foods at the market since it was a full day being out and about.

Restaurants:

la marmite bouillonnante, L’ ile aux Brocantes - 7, avenue des Quatre Otages Tele: 04 90 38 51 05. The outdoor dinning terrace is beside a canal (below is a photo I took of the canal in May, you can’t see the restaurant, but it is a little ways down on the left). Sometimes while you are eating, ducks will swim by and you can throw them a few pieces of bread. In the Spring is especially fun to watch the cute baby ducks swimming around. The menu is seasonal, the food is exceptional and the service is wonderful. When I  arrive, my first stop is the restaurant so I can make a reservation for lunch around 1:00. Eating with the ducks (as a friend calls it) has become a tradition. A visit to L’isle-la-sorgue would not be the same. The restaurant is located in a group of buildings called the Passage du Pont (L’ile aux brocantes) that house a collection of stalls and shops selling antiques. After lunch I like to walk through checking out the different stalls. Their is an entrance from the restaurant. You reach the restaurant by crossing a bridge off of the avenue des Quatre Otages, a major street that runs through town.  Coming from Avignon via D901, once you enter town the D901 merges into the avenue de la Liberation. Going straight the street eventually merges into the avenue des Quatre Otages. On your left you will see a building (now a bank) with a clock tower and a waterwheel. The entrance to restaurant (look for the sign for Passage du Pont) is across the street from the waterwheel. There is another entrance off of the Cours Rene Chars. When I drive into town on the D901 I keep driving along the avenue des Quatre Otages until I come to the first roundabout and make a 3 o’clock turn onto Cours Rene Chars. I continue on Cours Rene Chars until I find a parking place. Usually I find a parking spot a little ways past the second roundabout. Parking can be a pain even in Spring and Fall when there are less people. When you enter town on the D901 you will notice several places where you can park, but they do charge. I don’t mind parking a little ways out and the restaurant I like is on my way into town so I pop in to make reservation for lunch. I found a decent map that shows the location of the restaurant at   http://restaurant.118000.fr/v_l-isle-sur-la-sorgue_84/c_restaurant/e_chez-nane_0490385105_C0000873690.

Shops:

La Maison Biehn, 7 Ave des Quatre Otages (the shop is located a little ways down from Passage du Pont as you are walking towards the waterwheel). Michel Biehn mixes the old with the new; local creations from Provence with those from the exotic far east, to create a rather unique and quite fabulous shop. It is wonderful just to wonder around exploring the nooks and crannies. You will find textiles including Provencal quilts, hand blocked printed cottons along with ceramics and pottery, antiques and other beautiful and exquisite creations.  

In the Place de la Liberte across from the entrance to the church is a wonderfully preserved Art Nouveau building. Built in the early 1900’s for a firm of drapers, Fauques Beyret (you can still see their name above the door). Today the building houses a delightful  shop that sells decorative and household items such as glasses, silverware and other goodies.

Nearby are the Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, the source of the Sorgue river. Best time to visit is in the Spring when the water jetting out from the side of the mountain is at its peak. 

Vaison-la-Romaine

Vaison la RomaineIs really three towns in one. A modern town (and when I say modern I mean the 19th century when people started to move out of the Haute-Ville) built over a Roman town (some parts of the city have been excavated to reveal the Roman ruins) and on the other side of the river a Haute-Ville (Medieval hilltop village), which has been beautiful restored by artists after being abandoned towards the end of the last century. Earlier due to conflicts people moved up to the Haute-Ville for safety. Eventually when things calmed down people started to be back to the other side of the river. Vaison-la-Romaine (the modern town) boasts a superb example of Provençal Romanesque architecture, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth. Started in the 6th century on top of the ruins of an important Roman building, but mostly dates  from the rebuilding they began in the 12th century. From time to time concerts are held in the church. Personally, I have always loved attending concerts in churches. I findRoman ruins the setting and acoustics perfect especially for religions pieces of music such as Bach’s Mass in B Minor. ly Admission ticket to the Quartier de Puymin (museum), the Quartier de la Villasse (Roman ruins) also gives you access to the cloisters of cathedral. The town is separated by the river Ouveze. You cross a Roman bridge that dates back 1,800 years (survived the devastating floods of 1992 with minor damage that totally destroyed a newer bridge) , to reach the charming Haute-Ville (hilltop village). There is a lot see and do so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to see everything and still enjoy a leisurely lunch. During the summer markets are held several days a week. From mid July through mid August  L'Eté de Vaison (a music, dance and theater festival) are held in the Roman amphitheater. Other cultural activities are also held throughout the year. For more information go to the official website for the town at www.vaison-la-romaine.com (there is an English version). The tourist office is located at pl Chanoine Sautel, Tele: 04 90 36 02 11. Opening and closing times vary depending on the time of the year, but they do close for lunch from 12:00 to 2:00pm throughout the year.

Restaurants:

Le Bateleur, 1 place Theodore-Aubanel Tele: 04 90 36 28 04. A wonderful family run quaint little restaurant in the charming “Haute-Ville”, near the Roman bridge. Simple, regional dishes with friendly service.

Auberge la Bertavelle, 12 place Sus Auze Tele: 04 90 36 02 16. Regional cuisine. Dishes (including truffles when in season) are inventive and delicious. Charming ambiance. Quite reasonable and the service was excellent. Closed Monday and Friday lunch time.