Tag Archives: Provence

Roussillon – the Artist’s Palette

Today we leave L’isle Sur la Sorgue and travel about 30 minutes east to the ochre cliffs of Roussillon (roo see yohn).  Designated as one of the most beautiful villages in France, Roussillon is a small, quiet village, famous for its beautiful ochre cliffs.  

Photo by Herve Vincent

 Surrounded by a beautiful pine forest, Roussillon was home to a thriving ochre industry that began in the late 18th century and flourished well into the 20th century.  The ochre was harvested and used to tint paints before artificial pigments were introduced. 

 As you look across the cliffs, you see the whole color palette that inspired Cezanne, Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir  and other great artists.  Every shade of burgundy, red, rust, crimson, rose, salmon, peach, gold, saffron…even green is evident in the cliffs on which the village is built. 

 The rich, varied hues are everywhere, in the facades of the buildings, the trompe l’oeil paintings, as well as the pottery and textiles.



 Active travelers will enjoy one of the two hiking paths that wind through the pine forest…there’s a 30 minute loop and a 1 hour loop.  Art enthusiasts may want to check out the Conservatory of Ochre and Applied Pigments, where you will learn the history of the pigment industry and can join in on artist workshops. 


But today, let’s just sit in an outdoor café and enjoy lunch overlooking the valley below, surrounded by the rich, vibrant hues.  You’ll feel like you are part of the painting itself.  Pick up some post cards, tableware or small pottery items to take the beautiful color palette home with you.

L’Isle sur la Sorgue – San Antonio River Walk in the Heart of Provence

Choosing your favorite village in Provence is a little like choosing your favorite child…..an impossible task!!  You love them all!  Though I try to be impartial, there are a few special villages that have captured my heart.  Come along with me over the next few weeks and I’ll take you to some of my favorites.

 Let’s start in L’Isle sur la Sorgue.   Phonetically, you would pronounce this something like …  Leel sur la sorg.   But roll that “r” in the back of your throat. 


L’Isle sur la Sorgue is known as the “Venice of Provence”, for the Sorgue River that splits just north of town, and winds it’s way through the village via a network of canals.  I’m not sure I’d call it the “Venice of Provence”, but I would definitely call it the “San Antonio Riverwalk of Provence”.  My daughter calls it “the easiest place to get lost in the world”, but that’s another story….(something about mom’s ability to get hopelessly lost even with the rental car’s GPS system, whose annoying female voice my son nicknamed “Giselle”……her British accent got on my nerves after a while). 


L’Isle Sur la Sorgue charms you with: 

  moss covered water wheels




 narrow cobbled streets,



and patisseries with fluffy, mile-high meringue clouds my friend Babs would die for.   


Sit outside in the evening and savor Provencal cuisine at one of the many outdoor cafes lining the crystal clear canals.  Feed Mother Duck and her babies scraps of baguette as you wait for your entrée.





Admire the beautiful views from every turn:



If you go in mid-summer (recommended), as you approach the village, you will be greeted on the outskirts by fields of brilliant sunflowers……which I probably never would have stumbled upon if I hadn’t gotten us hopelessly lost!  Good thing I didn’t listen to Giselle.



L’Isle Sur la Sorgue comes alive on Thursdays with a delightful Provencal market.  And on Sundays, the village hosts the largest antique flea market in France, outside of Paris.  Arrive very early if you have any hopes of finding a parking spot.  Or better yet, spend Saturday night in one of the local hotels or inns and you’ll be in the heart of the action come Sunday morning.  


Enchanted France


France is a dream to me…..and Paris, the most exciting city in the world.  Fresh-baked croissants, a steaming café au lait at a sidewalk café…..the Eiffel Tower sparkling in the night…fields of fragrant lavender and brilliant sunflowers in Provence…..sybaritic beaches on the Cote d’Azur….France is seductive in her charms, and will tempt you back again and again.