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A Short Guide to the Vaucluse, the Heart of Provence

For me, it is in the Vaucluse region that the beauty of Provence unfolds.  It is a tapestry of orchards, olive groves, ragged mountains and rolling vineyards set against a stunning backdrop of hilltop, postcard villages.  In spring, almond, cherry, and apricot blossoms create a snow-like spectacle, while early summer brings electric blue lavender fields and scarlet poppies and Autumn turns the vineyards into a mellow gold.  The warm air and scents of lavender will embrace you the minute you step off of your train (an easy 3 hours by TGV from Paris).  There is a French saying that “La vie est une fleur dont l'amour est le miel" (Life is a flower, and love is its honey)- nowhere is this truer than in the heart of the Vaucluse.


Avignon is an historical gem, and an easy entry point (or home base) for your travels.  Explore the Palais des Papes, home of the French popes for most of the 14th century, and enjoy the Festival d'Avignon if your travel calendar aligns, as well as superb museums and art culture.  Stay in La Mirande, a foodie’s delight, or La Divine Comédie, an 18th-century mansion with elegant rooms, tearoom, and a private garden terrace, beautiful grounds filled with art and antiques.


Within a 90-minute radius of Avignon, a treasure trove of destinations awaits:

- Arles: Known for its Roman heritage and vibrant artistic offerings, just 45 minutes south.

- Aix-en-Provence: A smaller town with historical charm and lively markets, an hour southeast.

- Marseille: A bustling port city – revel in its maritime beauty, just 30 minutes south of Aix.

- Mediterranean Coastline: Discover pastel-hued fishing villages east of Marseille.


Vaucluse For Wine Enthusiasts: 

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Bonnieux from afar

Wine lovers will be delighted by the up-and-coming wine regions surrounding Avignon. Explore the well-known southern Côtes du Rhône cru appellations of Gigondas, Beaumes-de-Venise, Vacqueyras, and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Smaller vineyards in the Côtes du Luberon and Ventoux are making thrilling wines, many of them natural. Take advantage of well-marked wine routes and the increasing number of vineyards welcoming visitors.

  • Stay in Coquillade Village in Gargas, an enchanting hamlet with a spa, winery, and contemporary accommodations.**

For Foodies:

For culinary enthusiasts, Vaucluse delicacies will not disappoint. Explore the Route des Saveurs for fragrant strawberries in Carpentras, cherries in Venasque and black figs in Caromb. Larger towns such as Apt and Carpentras host vibrant markets, showcasing regional specialties, a variety of local products which are a sight for the eyes as well as a joy for the tastebuds.

  • Hotel La Mirande *in Avignon offers a fun and informative cooking classes in the hotel's 19th-century kitchen, taught by top chefs of Provence. Classes end with a meal and wines selected by the sommelier. (This hotel is an historic mansion with elegant rooms and a sought-after chef's table.)


History Buffs:

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History surrounds in Provence

Vaucluse is not just about exploring towns; it also offers a rich array of immersive historical experiences. The region's ancient history includes sites dating back 60,0000 years to Palaeolithic times, such as L'Abri du Pont de la Combette in Bonnieux.  The area boasts a UNESCO-listed Theâtre Antique in Orange, Gallo-Roman walls, baths, and a beautiful Roman bridge leading to the old town in Vaison-la-Romaine, and the stunning, medieval beauty of Ménerbes.


Art Aficionados:

For antique lovers, L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, known as the "Venice of Provence," is a delight.  It hosts numerous art exhibitions at the Campredon Arts Centre and the Fondation Villa Datris showcases contemporary sculpture. 

  • Pâtisserie Jouvaud offers delectable pastries, chocolates, and sweets, and 17 Place aux Vins Sorgue is a lovely stop for wine enthusiasts to share a glass of local wine and nibbles.


Postcard towns to explore in Vaucluse:

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Lourmarin, Vaucluse
  • Lacoste:  Experience the unique arts and theatre festival in the historic Marquis de Sade's family château.

  • Ménerbes:  A Plus Beau Village de France, home to artists like Nicolas de Staël and Dora Maar.

    • La Bastide de Marie near Ménerbes provides exceptional dining in a postcard-worthy vineyard setting in Provençal farmhouse décor. It's a great base for exploring the many picturesque local villages

  • Gordes:  Postcard-perfect perched village with a Palace hotel and Michelin-starred restaurants.

  • Saignon:  A charming village with well-preserved medieval churches and chateau ruins.

  • Bonnieux:  Explore the well-preserved ramparts and enjoy breathtaking views from the Forêt des Cèdres.

  • Saint-Saturnin-lès-Apt:  Delight in the Tuesday morning market and the panoramic views from ancient château ruins.

  • La Roque-sur-Perne:  Discover the romantic ambiance and stunning views in this restored five-room château.

    • Stay in the Château la Roque, a lovingly restored five-room château with panoramic views.

  • Venasque:  A superb one-street town with historical landmarks and cherry blossoms in March.

  • Cucuron:  Home to the standout restaurant L'Auberge Fenière, offering non-gluten gastronomy.

  • Lourmarin:  An adorable, small town with an old castle and often live street music.

    • Visit the restaurant Edouard Loubet for original and refined Provençal cuisine.

    • Auberge La Fenière near Lourmarin offers Michelin-starred, non-gluten gastronomy in a Provençal setting.

  • Gigondas:  Savor local wines and a delightful menu at L'Oustellet, a favorite among winemakers.

  • Le Barroux:  Explore the charming hilltop village with an 11th-century château hosting cultural events.

  • Saint-Didier:  Experience the lively Monday morning market and artisanal nougat.

  • Fontaines:  Discover a town famous for, guess what?:  its 40 fountains and Romanesque church.

  • Brantes:  A village perched high in the mountains with breathtaking views of the Toulourenc Valley.

  • Crestet: The winding streets of this impossibly picturesque village can be explored in an hour. Continue over a rocky road to the elegant Chêne Bleu wine estate to sample their award-winning wines, or Grab a “petit brève” at the village summit.

  • Le Castellet: Explore lavender essential oil production. Classes, tours, and a boutique offering lavender-based skincare products. At the Musée de la Lavande.


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Provence delectables

If you would like to coordinate your village hopping with things to do/ activities:

  • Attend cultural festivals such as the Avignon Festival, Festival de Lacoste, and Avignon Jazz Festival.

  • Outdoor Enthusiasts: explore the dramatic landscapes of the Luberon Massif for its sheer rock walls, flower-strewn fields, and stunning views, and the lush Forêt des Cèdres, above Bonnieux, offering 750 acres of ancient Atlas cedars for a refreshing walk or picnic.


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Buchette in Provence Market

Other places to stay and eat:

o   The Domaine de Fontenille***, near Lauris, serves as an ideal base for exploring villages along the southern side of the Luberon. With ancient cedars, rose gardens, and a picturesque grotto, this quintessential Provençal country estate offers stylish décor, award-winning wines, and Michelin-starred dining.

o   Coucoo Grands Cépages (Châteauneuf-du-Pape):  Secluded contemporary eco-bungalows set on a turquoise lake with private hot tubs

o   L'Oustellet in Gigondas offers a delightful dining experience under plane trees

o   La Closerie in Ansouis, a Michelin-starred restaurant, serves dishes prepared with the finest local ingredients in an old post office with Luberon views.

o   L'Auberge Fenière in Cucuron, a standout restaurant in all of Provence, offering non-gluten gastronomy.

Whether you are a wine connoisseur, a foodie, a history and art enthusiast, or an outdoor lover, the Vaucluse region in Provence has something special to offer. It holds a special place in this traveller’s heart.

I would love to help you plan your own excursion to this beautiful place! Send me a note.

 Guide to the Vaucluse

*Travel Perks if booking through Viewfinder: Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability

Daily Breakfast for up to two guests per bedroom; $100 USD equivalent Food & Beverage credit utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full); Early Check-In / Late Check-Out, subject to availability; Complimentary Wi-Fi


**Travel Perks if booking through Viewfinder: Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability; Daily breakfast for up to two guests per bedroom, served in the restaurant (already included in property rates) ;$100 USD equivalent Resort or Hotel Credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full) ;Complimentary 50 minute massage for up to two guests per room, once during stay ;Bookings in select Luxury Suites (numbers 37 to 41) will also receive complimentary roundtrip private airport transfers ;Stays of 7+ nights will receive an additional $200 Resort or Hotel credit (for a total of $300 during stay) ;Early Check-In / Late Check-Out, subject to availability;Complimentary Wi-Fi


*** Travel Perks if booking through Viewfinder: Breakfast included for 2; Upgrade + early check-in + late check-out upon availability at time of check-in; 1 complimentary experience per stay – in case of long stay, 1 experience per week; One way transfer from the airport or train station for every stay of more than 5 nights in Suite

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