Explore the Luberon to the south
Drive into the beautiful Luberon valley, whose spectacular countryside ranges from farms, vineyards and orchards to vast fields of lavender to dramatic river gorges. There are Roman remains and medieval castles to discover and a number of lovely hilltop villages - some of which are mentioned below.
As you approach Gordes, officially one of 'the most beautiful villages in France', it really is impressive to see the village perched atop the hill ahead, the stone often taking on a reddish tinge. The old town is wonderfully preserved with some lovely buildings and the most fantastic views. There is always a great atmosphere in the square, with several restaurants dotted around the imposing castle in the centre.
About 25 minutes drive away, near Gordes, the Abbaye de Sénanque is a Cistercian monastery dating from the 12th century. It is still home to Cistercian monks who cultivate lavender and produce honey. If you go between early June and mid July you will find the lavender in bloom - a quintessential Provencal postcard view!
Visit the Village de Bories
The Village de Bories, just outside Gordes, is a cluster of typical stone shepherd huts shaped like cones. Visitors can wander around and get a taste of how life was many years ago.
On Sunday, get up early and go to L'Isle sur la Sorgue...
where there is the most amazing market that goes on until lunchtime. Home to the most number of antique shops outside of Paris, Sundays see the streets filled with antique dealers selling their wares, as well as a fantastic Provençal market where you can buy everything from fresh fruit and olives to handmade soaps and artwork.
Drive along the country roads that go up and over the Plateau de Vaucluse
to Sault, famous for its lavender fields. Go at the beginning of July to see the area awash in the colour purple, or go on 15th August for the Fete de Lavande, held in Sault itself.
Or head to Banon, a small village famous for its goats cheese
wrapped in dried chestnut leaves and tied with a raffia ribbon. More than 600 000 banon cheeses are made each year! Make sure you try at least one during your stay.
Lourmarin (30km), in the Grand Luberon,
is a very pretty village, dominated by its chateau. Visit the chateau or explore the narrow streets lined with art galleries, cafés, and craft shops. Try the local sweet snack called 'gibassier' which is a sweet cookie made with olive oil, shaped like an oval leaf and about a foot long.
Play a round of Golf
Close to the picturesque village of Saumane, you will find a lovely 9 & 18 hole golf course.
Visit Roussillon (33km)...
home to rock formations, and the most vivid red hued soil you will have ever seen. The colours span the spectrum of reds, oranges and yellows and are truly amazing. The village itself is a delight to wander around with its arty shops and lovely cafés.
Choose a clear day and drive to the top of Mont Ventoux
(you can cycle but it is so much easier driving!). Take a jumper, as even in the summer it is cold at the top. There are lots of picnic spots on the way up with large information panels about the amazing and varied flora and fauna that you can find on the mountain.
Van Gogh in St Rémy de Provence
Approx 45 minutes' drive away, St Rémy is a chic and pretty town, and was once home to Van Gogh, who was inspired by the light and landscapes of Provence. Look out for the 21 signposts dotted around St Rémy, each with a reproduction of one of Van Gogh's paintings and an explanation in French and English.
St Rémy marks the gateway to the Alpilles hills, where there are plenty of hiking and cycling opportunities for lovers of the great outdoors. The landscape is semi-mountainous interspersed with verdant plains and characterised by scrubland, and pine and oak forests.
Anyone for tennis?
Book a court in St Didier and enjoy a few games of tennis to work up an appetite for lunch. Don't forget your racquets!
Also classed among the ‘most beautiful villages of France’, Venasque's narrow cobbled street ends in a tiny square with a fountain whilst at the other end sits a lovely church and a baptistery which dates from the 6th century AD and may originally have been a pagan temple dedicated to Diana, Venus or Mercury. There is also an amazing view across the valley towards Mont Ventoux. The cherry tree orchards on the way to Venasque produce some of the best cherries in France and are a marvellous sight in spring when the blossom is out.
Take the children to Pernes Les Fontaines (6km) ...
to count the fountains (there are 40 in total dotted around the village). To help you, the town's tourist office has printed a map on which they are all marked.
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