Vaucluse, Avignon & Alpilles
Our most northerly properties are situated at the top end of the Vaucluse département, where the jagged hills of the Dentelles de Montmirail form a dramatic skyline. Enchanting villages nestle here among vineyards noted for their excellent wines, and the Roman town of Vaison la Romaine is well worth a visit.
Slightly to the east, the soaring Mont Ventoux is the highest peak between the Alps and the Pyrenees and the ascent is awe inspiring – the higher you climb, the sparser the vegetation becomes until you reach the white limestone gravel covered summit which affords breathtaking views.
The historic city of Avignon should not be missed on any itinerary. Lying on the banks of the river Rhône, vestiges of its eminent past remain in the imposing Palais des Papes, a magnificent building that looms over the city. Wander elegant boulevards or simply while away an afternoon in one of the many cafés.
Continuing south, the charming villages of St Rémy and Les Baux act as a gateway to the Alpilles national park, which is wonderful for walking and other outdoor pursuits.
Luberon & Verdon Gorge
The valley known as the Luberon is probably the best known area of Provence, abounding with elegant restored villages perched on hillsides overlooking valleys of vineyards, orchards and fields. A designated national park, it remains unspoilt and beautiful. The burnt sienna coloured houses of Roussillon and Rustrel echo the ochre sands found in the area, used for art and building work.
And further west, within reach of the Luberon, you will find the largest canyon in Europe, the spectacular Grand Canyon du Verdon. Stretching for 21km, the sheer cliffs and the rushing vivid green torrents of water combine to create a most amazing sight.
Bursting with colour, fragrance and flavour, the local market offers irresistible stalls burdened with the best local ingredients. Sun ripened tomatoes, ripe black olives, deep hued aubergines, the reddest strawberries and juiciest melons lie alongside fresh fish from the coast, lamb from the hillside and tables laden with herbs.
Provençal vineyards offer many quality wines. Rosés are perfect for long summer days and warm evenings. Châteauneuf du Pape is famous worldwide for its excellent reds whilst villages such as Vacqueyras and Gigondas in the Vaucluse offer equally good wines. Muscat de Beaumes de Venise is a superb dessert wine and for an apéritif, a pastis from Marseille is the obvious choice.
Provence offers an abundance of colourful outdoor summer festivals. History and tradition are honoured with celebrations ranging from the huge Avignon Festival to the smallest village fête.
Natural heritage is commemorated too; for example, with the Fête de la Transhumance at St Rémy de Provence in May, as well as the August lavender festivals, notably in Sault and Digne. In September every grape producing village has its own festival offering thanks for the 'vendange' or wine harvest.
Musical events range from opera and classical music in the Roman amphitheatre in Orange to jazz festivals in Apt and Aix-en-Provence. A renowned theatre festival takes place annually in Avignon, whilst the Roman theatre in Vaison-la-Romaine plays host to a famous dance festival each year.
Provence is renowned for its temperate weather and long sunny days. July and August can see temperatures rising into the thirties. Spring is a lovely time to visit when all the flowers are in bloom and the trees in blossom. Warm enough to sit outside, the temperatures range from 21°C to 25°C whilst in autumn it remains mild enough to sunbathe and swim.