France: Rhône Valley

East and South of Orange

Gigondas, Vacqueyras and beyond
By Liz Berry MW

This Guide was last updated on 22 February 2010
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Main towns and villages


The town of Orange appears slightly drab on the outside, but the historic centre has some lovely little narrow roads with interesting shops. The antique theatre, dating from the 1st century, and equipped now with a modern glass roof to keep out the worst of the weather in winter, is stunning, as is the 12th century cathedral, and the Roman Triumphal Arch. A good view over the Provencal tiled roofs of the town can be had from the Saint Eutrope Park.


Carpentras is a classic Provencal town, with narrow streets, brightly painted shutters, and terracotta tiled roofs. It is an important centre for market gardeners, and is known throughout France for the quality of its fruits (strawberries and melons) and vegetables. Carpentras is also known for its Berlingots, rather violently coloured luminous red and green boiled sweets. There is an excellent market every Friday in the main streets of the town, and also a truffle market in winter, although it is may be safer to buy your truffles in a good greengrocer’s shop, as the less expensive Chinese truffles may be passed on to the unwary at the market!


The village of Lourmarin is set on the hillside, with a large stone château brooding over the tiled rooftops of the village. Park your car in the village car park, and walk around the pedestrian centre on foot. There are a number of pleasant cafés and bars, as well as some excellent food and craft shops. Parts of the village can be rather self consciously touristy, but the back streets are lovely.

Vaison la Romaine

This is a very attractive village on the banks of the river Ouvèze. Unfortunately these banks overflowed a few years ago, and swept away a whole camping site, but all vestiges of this tragic accident have now vanished. The village has some charming old streets, and is in fact one of the largest archaeological sites in France, with Gallo Roman remains in several sites.


The village of Gigondas is dominated by the Dentelles de Montmirail, and is an excellent centre from which to explore the countryside. (Remember in the summer, access may be restricted to parts of the countryside, as there is a fire risk in hot dry weather). There is not much going on in the centre of Gigondas, but there are a couple of quite decent restaurants.


The village of Bedoin is a classic Provencal hillside village, dominated by an imposing fortified stone church. This is a very popular village for tourists to the region, with a host of restaurants, cafés and bars, with prices and styles to suit all tastes.


The village of Bonnieux is the embodiment of ‘A Year in Provence’. Very attractive steep narrow winding streets, picturesque locals, and British RangeRovers are all to be found here. There are a number of small cafés lining the streets, as well as souvenir shops with local produce. A good place to soak up the atmosphere of the Luberon.

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