Before checking into our B&B we stopped in Avignon, a medieval French city most famous for being the home of the Papacy during the Catholic schism in the 1300's.
We found this little gem of a B&B on TripAdvisor. It’s located on the outskirts of Chateaurenard, just south of Avignon. It's owned by a nice couple named Julie & Jean-Pierre. They live in the main house and rent out two charming rooms above their garage. As you’ll see from the pictures below, the house is gorgeous and the view from our room was just perfect. Julie & Jean-Pierre purchased the property over 30 years ago and fixed it up little by little. They raised their children there and now that they are grandparents, their grandchildren come over to visit after school. We had the pleasure of meeting two of the little ones! Breakfast was served on the patio right off the kitchen. Julie always had an assortment of traditional French pastries, yogurt, fresh juice, fruit from the local farms and coffee. She even wrapped up the leftovers for us to take on picnics. They offered great advice on places to visit and we enjoyed the first day so much we decided to tack on a third night to our stay (luckily our room was available!). We are so happy we found this place!
After a nice evening out in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence on our first night, we decided to take a driving tour of the small villages per Julie & Jean-Pierre’s recommendation. Here were the places we visited:
First Stop: Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
The river Sorgue runs through this quant little town filled with over 300 different antique shops.
The Sorgue river begins at “La Source” which is located in this village. No one knows where this spring originates. In the late 1940's, Jacques Cousteau dove into the caves from which the water originates, and could not find the source. He almost died while searching for the source, as an air compressor in one of his tanks had taken in its own exhaust. We walked from the town center about 15-20 minutes to see “La Source” pictured below. It's a nice walk but it was packed with tourists and French schoolchildren who were there on a field trip.
This is one of the prettiest villages in France, especially when you look at it from across the gorge!
This area boasts the most important source of ochres in the world. Ochres are used as pigments in the textile industry. We enjoyed seeing the bright orange-red colors of this village which are so different than what you see in the rest of Provence.
No visit to Provence would be complete without lavender fields. While we didn't actually search for them, we were lucky to stumble upon a few!
Arles was an an ancient Roman city, complete with a large amphitheater at its center which still stands today. Roman emperors frequently used this city as a military headquarters and it's said to have been a favorite city of Emperor Constantine 1 - his son, Constantine II, was born there.
The impressionist artist, Vincent van Gogh, lived in Arles for about a year during which he produced over 300 paintings. One of the most famous is Cafe Terrace at Night. The cafe that was the subject of that painting still exists. A lot of artist drama went down in Arles. Paul Gauguin visited van Gogh in Arles, at van Gogh's request. Vincent's mental health was deteriorating, so Gauguin left Arles due to the eccentric behavior of his old friend. Shortly thereafter, Vincent cut off his ear and was sent to the local hospital. The Arlesians petitioned to have van Gogh committed and he eventually left the city and checked into an asylum in the nearby Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. As you may know, van Gogh never really recovered and eventually took his own life. While it's sad to know that Arles was the beginning of the end for van Gogh, I loved seeing the city that inspired him and appeared in so many of his paintings.
This was a big highlight for us! The Pont du Gard is an aqueduct built by the ancient Romans about 2,000 years ago and is still in excellent condition. One can visit the aqueduct by car and walk across it. However, we decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and see it from the river.
We rented a two person kayak from Canoe Collias. We launched our kayak upriver, kayaked downriver with the current, stopping along the way to swim/rest/eat, and then the company picked us up right after we passed under the aqueduct and brought us back to our car. They provided air-tight barrels on the kayak, so we packed a picnic in our backpack and enjoyed it mid river. There were some mild rapids which were a lot of fun. Definitely the best way to enjoy the Pont du Gard on a hot summer day!