Between the cities of Avignon and Orange Châteauneuf-du-Pape is right in the heart of a region full of history, culture and joie de vivre. At its summit stand the vestiges – a wall, a tower and the lower hall – of the château built by the popes in 14thcentury as their summer residence, to let them escape the city heat of Avignon. It was, in fact, the popes who planted the town's first vineyards. The château was sacked and partially destroyed during the wars of religion. The German army administered the coup de grace in 1944. Accessible on foot by way of the stairs that lead from the top of the village or, more easily, by car, you can wander around the ruins as you admire the views over the Dentelles de Montmirail, the Mont Ventoux, the Rhône and even Avignon and its Popes' Palace. Leaving your car in one of the free parking lots, the village can be visited on foot. You can stroll its small winding lanes, passing in front of the medieval houses, the communal oven, the olive oil press and the town hall with its round tower. There is also the picturesque little grocery shop still frequented by the villagers. The Place de la Fontaine with its outdoor cafés and restaurants invites you for a break before you go off to discover, or rediscover, the wines. The village keeps its greatest treasure in its wine cellars, in which the village abounds with a cellar or shop every few meters in which you can taste the famous wine. Châteauneuf-du-Pape was the first wine-growing area to receive an appellation contrôlée. A very strict appellation that must be respected for a wine to be worthy of bearing its name... You can also visit the wine estates. Some have splendid homes, such as the Château des Fines Roches, Château La Nerthe, Château Mont Redon, and some other beautiful wineries. Also to visit: the Brotte Wine Museum, at the edge of the village, with its collection of winemaking tools and a presentation of the history of the appellation.
At the gates to Provence, it is a city incredibly rich in history, from its Celtic fortifications to its Roman monuments, all very remarkable. Liberated from the Saracens by Guillaume d'Orange and de Comtat, the city took on the statute of Principality in 1150 under the Princes of Les Baux, then belonged to the Princes of Nassau from 1530 to 1702. It became Dutch under William of Orange, a Stathouder or governor from the House of Nassau. The principality was seized by Louis XIV in 1703 and annexed to France in 1713. But its history doesn't stop there. For the more complete story, the museum of art and history of Orange welcomes you year-round.
You will be amazed by the quality of the Roman monuments that you will see in Orange, starting with the two most remarkable: the Roman amphitheater and the Triumphal Arch, both listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. You will also find ruins of temples on the Saint Eutrope Hill (named after the patron saint of the city in 460 AD) as well as part of the city walls, the aqueduct and the western wall of the forum. During the summer the famous lyric art festival gives you the opportunity to enjoy a high level concert in the emblematic Roman amphitheater.
Located in the Provence of the Rhone at the foot of the Mont Ventoux, this town, papal land from 1229 to 1791, offers to the visitor's gaze its spruce ochre façades, cool lanes and fountains. Sheltered from the Mistral wind, it's a privileged vacation spot for those who want to enjoy the Provençal way of life! In the heart of a rich agricultural plain in Provence, Carpentras represents a land of quality, proven by its weekly market that goes back to the origins of the city. The entire region is devoted to gastronomy and fresh fruit and vegetables. The market gardeners cultivate strawberries and melon, the vineyards produce the AOC Côtes du Ventoux wines and truffles are honoured during the famous truffle market of Carpentras that takes place every Friday from late November to early March. Don't leave without tasting the sweet specialties: the berlingot and the candied fruits, all prepared in the true craftsman's traditions. From art and history side many monuents to vist as the Synagogue which is the oldest in France (1367), the Hôtel-Dieu hospital and its 18th century pharmacopeia, the former Episcopal Palace which is now the law courts, the Roman Arch of the city gate Porte d'Orange, the Saint Siffrein cathedral and as well as the Belfry which dates back from the 15th century.
DENTELLES DE MONTMIRAIL
Already known around the world as a rock-climbing paradise, the Dentelles de Montmirail will seduce you with the remarkable harmony of the landscapes and the endless rows of grapevines cultivated on the terraced land, all of which you can discover along the many hiking trails that wind through the massif. This craggy mountain stretches out over 5 miles between Carpentras, Vaison la Romaine and the Mont Ventoux. Its name comes from the saw-toothed limestone crests, made so by erosion. The Dentelles stand out distinctly from the surroundings of olive orchards and AOC vineyards, ringed by the deep Mediterranean blue sky. Its rocky faces, visible from the plain, are highly coveted, as much by birds like the Eurasian eagle-owl that nests there throughout the year, and the Wallcreeper that returns every spring, as by rock-climbing enthusiasts who can practice their sport in all seasons, aspiring to ever higher cliffs. Hiking paths, mountain bike circuits, the Wine Road... the Dentelles de Montmirail offer a multitude of activities.
Inhabited since prehistoric times, colonised by the Romans and seigneury of the Princes of Orange in the Middle Ages, Gigondas is a village at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail in the Haut Vaucluse. There are several hypothesis about the origins of its name: it comes from gignit undas which means “risen out of the waters” or maybe from Jucundas, a legionnaire and first owner of the place. Whatever it may be, its Roman name "Jocunditas" means joy or jubilation, very appropriate for this little village with a population of 700 which gives itself over to the cultivation of grapevines and the pleasures of wine. Surrounded by more than 1250 hectares of vineyards, the village and its old houses rise up to the 11th century Sainte Catherine Church with its central tower flanked by a belfry and campanile and by an old sundial. Much higher up on the rocky ridge, the ruins of the medieval castle watch over the village like a sentinel. The vestiges of the old fortifications and protective wall descend and run along the village to the east. Next to the church, you can visit the old buildings built in 1678 by a religious brotherhood to house children and the poor. Turned into a hospice in 1800 the buildings were then abandoned. Thanks to restoration work undertaken since 1982 by the association "Gigondas d’Hier et d’Aujourd’hui", the Hospice today houses winemakers on the ground floor and contemporary art exhibitions upstairs. The village went a bit wild with its artistic spirit by installing 21 monumental sculptures created by contemporary artists, but there certainly must be something for all tastes.
The "Giant of Provence", which culminating at 1912 meters, dominates the landscape. At his foot, the plain of the Comtat Venaissin and the vineyards of the Cotes du Ventoux, the Val de Sault and its large lavender fields, the Toulourenc valley and its perched villages, the antique Vaison la Romaine. A land smelling good the black truffle, lavender and the wine.
VAISON LA ROMAINE
Between the Rhone Valley and the Mont Ventoux, Vaison is situated at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail, in a hilly countryside perfumed by vines and olive trees. Vaison only got its full name in 1924. Excavations undertaken by the Abbot Sautel in the early part of the 20th century uncovered such an array of ancient splendours that the city was re-baptised “la Romaine”, or the Roman City. Under the old Roman bridge flows the Ouvèze whose course separates the town into two parts. On the left bank, the medieval town, called the "high town", clings to the abrupt slopes of the hill and surrounds the ruins of the 12th century castle. The panoramic view from the summit will compensate for the effort of climbing to the top. A stroll along the narrow winding lanes is an enchantment. You can admire the double fortifications, the belfry, the Catholic church, the old and richly ornate doors, the squares adorned with cool fountains, the houses built on the side of the cliff... On the right bank of the Ouvèze the lower town stretches out. The Roman town has been brought to light over an area of 15 hectares, revealing a rich Roman city, capital of the Voconces, a Gallic people allied with the Romans. Right in the town center, on each side of the Tourist Office, the ancient sites of Puymin and Villasse have their place amidst the squares, cafés, restaurants and houses and still today form the biggest archaeological dig in France. The Roman Theatre houses prestigious cultural events, such as the Festival of Vaison-La-Romaine and the Choralies. The cultural events, concerts, expositions, conferences, theatre all year round make Vaison an authentic City of Art. Other monuments to see as The "Puymin" and the "La Villasse" archeological sites, The Theo Desplans archeological museum on the Puymin site, The Cathedral Notre Dame de Nazareth and its cloisters, The St Quenin Chapel, The Roman Theatre, The Medieval Town and the Chateau, The Roman Bridge, The 9 Damoiselles Garden and its 81 blocks of stones, all carved with poetic glyphs by Serge Boyer.