- Cosmopolitan castle
- Woods, vineyards and sunflower fields
- Historic homestay
- Lush Luberon
- Trad turreted eyrie
- Seven-house hamlet
- Well-travelled townhouse
- Waterside brocante market
- Fabulous farmhouse finesse
- Van Gogh country
Vaucluse, Provence Overview
- Fruitbowl of Provence
- Country life
- Petanque and pastis
Cultivated for centuries beneath the peak of the mighty Mont Ventoux, the Vaucluse is the earthy, abundant counterpart to the show-off glitz of the Riviera and the Côte d’Azur.
Melons from Cavaillon, truffles from Carpentras, lavender from Sault, classic Rhône wines – tempting produce is showcased daily in the local markets. The soft valleys and craggy peaks are diverse and beautiful, Provençal sunlight alchemising vineyards and villages into instant art; walkers and cyclists can tackle the Alpine foothills or laze in lavender fields. You could spend a lifetime sampling the culture – summer festivals, specialist honeys, Avignon’s mansions and museums – or you could simply tug the brim of your straw hat down a bit and lie back until it’s time for that apéritif.
Very Vaucluse, Provence
Know your food and craft markets: there’s one in Avignon every day except Monday. Bédoin (Monday) is lively but touristy; Vaison (Tuesday) and Sault (Wednesday) are great for a wander; Carpentras (Friday) is best for delicious local food.
- It’s best to book in advance. Your hotel should be able to arrange a pick-up from the train station in Avignon or the airport in Marseille.
- Tipping culture
- A service charge is automatically added to restaurant bills, but it’s usual to round up the bill or leave a few euros.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Lunch is observed strictly between 12h–14h; you can expect to dine 19h–21h30.
- Packing tips
- A programme for one of the summer’s theatre, dance
- Recommended reads
- The Man who Planted Trees by Jean Giono; Market Day in Provence by Michèle de La Pradelle.
- Gastro-Provençal reigns – refined dishes of lamb, game and fish with olive, lavender and herb flavours. Local wines are a must: ask for something from the village’s own vigneron (wine-maker) or look out for wines hailing from Rhone-valley villages such as Gigondas, Lirac, Vacqueras, Beaumes de Venies, and the classic, Châteauneuf du Pape. Do make like a petanque-playing village elder and order a Ricard (a popular brand of pastis), starting with one part pastis to three parts water.
- Euro (€).
- Dialling codes
- Country code for France: 33. Provence: (0)4.
- Do go/don't go
- Spring and autumn see the region in its sunniest mood. Only the postcard-prettiest villages get crowded, even in summer. Winter is chilly when the Mistral wind blows.
Don't go home without...
… a few bottles of the red stuff: a good tasting cave in Gigondas is the Cave de la Fontaine, where master sommelier Guy Brémond presides with great enthusiasm and knowledge over a selection of traditional and modern Gigondas wines, mostly made with Syrah, Grenache and occasionally Mourvèdre grapes. This up-and-coming wine region is more than a match for its more famous neighbour, Châteauneuf du Pape (where Guy is usually to be found at the Cave du Verger des Papes, www.caveduverger.com). He can export wine back to the UK or the US and also makes ‘tasting visits’ to private addresses – contact him for further details.