L’isle sur la Sorgue & Avignon are located in the Vaucluse Department in Provence which offers so many different landscapes and varied activities that it is sometimes difficult to choose. It is named after a spring, the Fontaine de Vaucluse, one of the largest in the world, & you can see it in the village of the same name which is a short panoramic drive from L’isle. It is mainly fed by melt water from the mountains & in late winter/early Spring it gushes out of the ground with great force. However, in May the meltwater will have subsided somewhat & the spring level will probably have dropped but the village & the spring are well worth the visit.
The name Vaucluse itself derives from the Latin Vallis Clausa (closed valley) as the valley in which Fontaine de Vaucluse is located ends in a sheer cliff face from which the spring emanates. The Romans were very active in Provence & you can still see the remains of small dams & river diversions that they built in the village. Plenty of riverside restaurants here that are recommended for a relaxing lunch stop. Ask us about parking in the village if you intend to visit Fontaine de Vaucluse. Also, if you decide to drive into L’isle sur la Sorgue from our hotel ask us about parking in town.
Fontaine de Vaucluse River Cafe
L’isle sur la Sorgue
Kayaking on the River Sorgue
The French Popes marked the main Provençal city of Avignon with their presence from 1309-1376 after Rome fell out with Philip IV of France. Their historically fleeting visit had a lasting influence on daily life in Avignon. The Palais des Papes (Popes' Palace) is in the city centre which is surrounded by medieval stone ramparts. And then, of course there’s the bridge made famous by the song Sur la Pont d’Avignon ! It’s busy & a bit touristy but still a very interesting place to visit.
About 8 miles north of Avignon is the village of Chateauneuf du Pape (Pope's new castle) which is overlooked by the ruined palace that the 2nd French pope built to escape the summer heat in Avignon. After the popes went back to Rome it was robbed of some of its stone for other building projects in the village & in World War 2 it was dynamited by the Nazis in an effort to prevent the advancing Allies using it as a billet & look out post. Substantial ruins still remain & it’s a lovely short winding drive to the top of the hill on which it stands. We’ve done this a few times on our way for lunch at the adjacent hilltop restaurant with stunning views over the valley towards the River Rhône. We’ll offer this as a group option & will book the tables for our visit if required.
Chateauneuf du Pape Village & Ruined Palace
Chateauneuf du Pape Restaurant
If you love your history a visit to the Roman Arena at Nîmes is a must. It’s one of the best preserved Roman remains in existence & regularly features concerts from world famous bands & artists. It also replicates the Roman Games but without the blood !
If you like Roman history another fantastic site is the Ancient Theatre of Orange. This town is around a 45 minute drive due north of L’isle sur la Sorgue & is on the route back up north to Calais on your return journey if you don’t want to drop by to visit the Ancient Theatre during the tour. Like the Nîmes Arena, regular shows are performed in this stunning venue.
Ancient Theatre of Orange
The historic & visually stunning hilltop town of Gordes is just a 20 minute drive from L’isle sur la Sorgue. The views on approaching the town are wonderful as is the panorama over the Luberon Valley from the town itself. Some great shops & lunch spots are scattered throughout town with something to suit everybody. Tuesday is market day & it gets very busy & the car parks can fill quickly so another day is recommended. Ask us about where to park in Gordes if you intend to visit.
The hill town of Gordes overlooking the Luberon Valley
Around a 10 minute walk from our hotel in L’isle sur la Sorgue you’ll find the family run Domaine Tourbillon where we’ll be hoping to arrange a wine tasting session for you. So if any of you are likely to have a glass or 2 too many it’s just a short walk to the hotel !!
If you have a head for heights the 80 minute drive North East from L’isle to the 1,900 metre Mont Ventoux is a great drive out. The mountain is known for its exhausting Tour de France stage where the cyclists have to ascend the mountain twice !! Legendary British cyclist Tommy Simpson died on the ascent during the 1967 Tour & there is a memorial to him at the spot where he died.
If you have any questions please email info@ContinentalRoadTrips.com
We’ll be happy to help.