Places to visit - close-by and further afield
The lovely village of Gordes, in the Vaucluse, part of the Luberon Regional Natural Park, is one of the 7 "Most Beautiful Villages in France", located in Vaucluse. It is easy to get to, just 45 minutes east of Avignon and an hour 15mn to the north-west of Aix-en-Provence.
Gordes lies in the heart of a region
Whether you plan on spending a couple of days, or a couple of weeks,
Gordes (5 minutes / 2km from guest house), perched high above the Calavon Valley, offers a picture-postcard view of a typical Provencal village. Take time to wander its narrow streets and alleyways. The chateau is well worth a visit, if only to admire its superb Renaissance fireplace, which dates back to 1541.
The neighbouring village of Bories offers another chance to admire the charming architecture so typical of this corner of France.
L'abbaye de Sénanque, a Cistercian abbey founded in 1148, nestling at the foot of the small Sénancole Canyon, is especially beautiful from mid-June to mid-July when the lavender is in bloom.
Near L'Asphodèle, between Gordes and the Petit Luberon
The villages of the area ooze charm with their ancient stonework and their steep alleyways: in the Petit Luberon, Oppède-le-vieux (20mins/15km) has an atmosphere all of its own, with its ruined houses which Mother Nature has already started to reclaim, and with its château, founded by the Counts of Toulouse; or Ménerbes (17mins/13km), looming over the valley like a great stone ship.
In Roussillon (15mins/12km), ochre is to be found all around you - from the open quarries at the foot of the village to the walls of each and every house.
Continuing eastwards across the valley
On "Monts de Vaucluse" side, you will be amazed by the natural settings of some of the villages, such as Lioux (18mins/15km), nestling at the foot of its magnificent cliff, St Saturnin les Apt (23mins/19km), lying in the shadow of its château which clings precariously to its narrow rocky outcrop above, or Gargas (22mins/19km), with its underground ochre quarries (open to the public since 2009).
On the slopes of the Monts du Luberon, Lacoste (20mins/17km), overlooked by the château which was once home to the Marquis de Sade, or Bonnieux (24mins/21km), with its steep alleyways, are both well worth a detour.
From Bonnieux, this charming voyage of discovery through the Luberon's ever-changing landscapes will lead you to Saignon (34mins/26km), a little village perched above Apt, passing through Buoux (37mins/32km), well known for its cliffs and its hill fort.
West of the Monts de Vaucluse
North of Gordes is the little-known hilltop village of Vénasque (16mins/13km) whose baptistry, one of the oldest religious buildings in France, dates from the Merovingian era (VI Century).
Pernes les fontaines (26mins/24km), situated on the Comtat Venaissin Plain and capital of the Comtat from 1125 to 1320, is home to many historic monuments, ramparts, fountains, the clock tower,... Antiques enthusiasts should not miss L'Isle sur sorgue (24mins/20km), which lies at the confluence of various branches of the river Sorgue.
In Fontaine de Vaucluse (22mins/15km) - home for sixteen years to the famous Italian poet Petrarch (1304-1374), not forgetting the famous Laure - the famous resurgent spring of the river Sorgue is a cool spot to visit even in the height of summer.
Moving further away from L'Asphodèle,
To the East, beyond Apt
"Colorado de Rustrel" (35mins/29km) is a walkers' paradise, with its hiking trails through the old ochre mines.
Returning to the plateau of the Monts de Vaucluse, take the road to the charming village of Simiane la rotonde (50mins/43km) via Les gorges d'Oppèdette (50mins/41km).
South of the Monts du Luberon
Travelling further south from Bonnieux, after travelling down through a superb coomb, you will find Lourmarin (50mins/41km), the final resting place the author and philosopher Albert Camus.
Other charming villages in the area include Vaugines (50mins/41km), Cucuron(50mins/41km), which has been used as the setting for various films, or Ansouis(50mins/41km) with its château.
If you're at L'Asphodèle for a longer stay,
To the North
Sault (53mins/46km) and its famous lavender fields (from mid-June to mid-July) is a lovely starting off point for the long descent into the gorges de la Nesque (46mins/40km). Further north again, the natural wonders of Mont Ventoux (1h10/60km) or the Dentelles de Montmirail (52mins/41km) are a sight to behold.
On your way back, why not make a short detour to Chateauneuf du Pape (50mins/54km), where you can do some wine shopping, or just take a little time to enjoy this charming village.
To the West and South-West
One of Provence's most well-known cities, Avignon (45mins/40km), has much to offer the visitor; there is of course the Palais des papes, but the Musée Lapidaire in the former chapel of the Collège des Jésuites, or the Musée du petit palais are not to be missed.
Villeneuve lez Avignon (51mins/52km), on the other side of the Rhône, makes for a pleasant day out, with many of its monuments dating from the middle ages. And why not make a real day of it, and travel a little further to see the famous Pont du Gard (1h10/67km)?
Further south, but north of the Alpilles, you can visit St Rémy de Provence (50mins/43km), with its charming old town, and to the south of the Alpilles, Les Baux de Provence (1h/53km), both of them being especially pleasant in the low season. Travelling a little further, the city of Arles (1hr10/93km) is packed with ancient monuments and of course there is the Musée Archéologique, and for nature-lovers, the Camargue.
To the South and South-East
Aix-en-Provence (1h05/82km) is well-known for the famous cours Mirabeau with its elegant 17th and 18th Century town houses, but visitors should also take time to stroll through the many pedestrianized streets of the old town centre, and visit the cathedral of St Sauveur, where hoppefully its famous "triptyque du buisson ardent" is on show again.
For those interested in art, and in particular Cézanne, a visit to the famous Mont Ste Victoire (1hr15/96km) is a must.
And for a taste of the Mediterranean, where better than Cassis (1hr30/128km), with its rocky inlets, les calanques, and the famous Cap Canaille, rising 400m above the sea.
And last but not least, cap à L'Est
If you have the time, a trip to the impressive Gorges du Verdon (2hr30/135km) is well worth it, followed by a stop in the charming village of Moustiers Ste Marie (2hr/110km).
In all cases, journey times and distances given are from L'Asphodèle.
Thierry TARQUIS - L'Asphodèle