10 Reasons Why I Love
Vaison la Romaine
My personal definition of ‘holiday time’.
This is a place that people keep coming back to! Growing up, I repeatedly met up with holiday makers year after year as well as local friends –who, after a good 25 years, finally introduced me to my husband! Thanks for the wait guys!
1) Beautiful Setting
Past vineyards, olive groves, lavender fields and ancient rock formations you will arrive at the vibrant market town of Vaison La Romaine. On approach from the south side, you will turn the bend and see the castle of the Comtat of Toulouse dominating the rock that overhangs the Ouvèze River.
It’s a steep climb up to the old upper town, so during the summer months take a bottle of water with you or just keep stopping off for a cool beverage in one of the cafés… or even for lunch. The valley below protected the upper town from invasions. Now, you get stunning views down to the blend of modern and Roman town below.
Leaving on the north side, the ‘Giant of Provence’ –Mont Ventoux is directly in front of you.
It’s always sunny and blazing hot in the summer; the luminosity is incredible for photography. The Ouvèze River runs through the town and under the Roman bridge -which unfortunately was not wide enough to accommodate the torrent of water that ran through the town in the famous flood of 1992 – almost every local you talk to knew somebody who died on that day.
2) The Tuesday Morning Market
Over the years I have bought many original gifts, jewellery, artisinan pastes and ingredients. Just the other day a friend commented on how tomatoey the tomatoes tasted at lunch and guess what? Turns out they were from the Vaison la Romaine market not the supermarket!
My Mum gets her sewing material here (in fact I do too now that I’m old enough to take up sewing) but Dad prefers to sit in a bar in the Place Montfort and keep cool with a beer.
Pop into my good friend’s Italien delicatessens Serre et Pedretti at 18, Cours Taulignan. He has 100% artisanal Italian products and his ravioli is to die for! Another great shop is Le Comptoir de Mathilde. They have an array of truffle infused products, original savoury and sweet spreads, and chocolates and there are yummy little tasters dotted all over the shop. Shh… I’m getting all my Christmas presents from here this year.
Tip: It’s a good idea to go to market by bike during July and August so you don’t have to mess around trying to find a parking space!
3) The Wine Festivals!
There are many village wine festivals close to Vaison la Romaine. La Fête du Vin de Cairanne was my first ever wine festival. Get there early to avoid crowds or leave it till later to avoid the heat of the day. By this time, the Festival is in full swing, live bands on each corner add to the atmosphere. Take your time to crawl around the village and try all the wines from local producers but you may well need a designated driver!
I love the festival in Rasteau; this one is in the evening. I especially like their sweet wine called Doux which is offered alongside the standard red, white and rosé. After touring the entirety of the village and stalls, find a seat in the square for a communal meal of cheese and charcuterie or hotdogs and bottle of wine as you watch the live performance on stage.
Unfortunately Seguret has not hosted a wine festival in the past two years, I do hope they bring it back as it had a stunning in the vines and you took a horse and carriage from stall to stall.
Horses for the wine festival, Seguret
Most villages also host a Fête du Village at some point during the summer. Here, you will find vendors selling local produce, a funfair for the kids, live bands, dances, Pétanque competitions and communal meals of Soupe au Pistou or Paella.
4) Mont Ventoux
Mont Ventoux can be seen from pretty much anywhere in the Vaucluse County but is only a few minutes’ drive from Vaison. It is the first mountain that leads up to the Alps and is most renowned for being a major leg in the Tour de France.
I’ve watched friends cycle up it (as I park on the roadside and give an encouraging cheer) and friends skateboard down it (not at all recommended!). I’ve hiked to the summit through the night and slept on the hill side to watch the sun rise over Provence. However you can easily drive to the summit but try to use your engine breaking as, trust me, you don’t want to be sniffing burning rubber on the way down the mountain side!
From the Mont Serein station you can go on some beautiful walks and discover the birdlife and flora and in winter there is a small, inexpensive ski station with stunning wintery views over the Alps. This week we are going sledging, the week after skiing the week after that, snowboarding.
5) More wine!
Let’s visit the vineyards… Leave Vaison la Romaine from the north and hit the stunning hilltop village of Crestet only a few minutes away. You must go up and have a drink or snack in the Panoramic bar -the views are breathtaking. Head on over the other side of the village till you find the Domaine des Dentelles. They offer intensive wine and cooking courses as well as magnificent accommodation!
6) The Roman Ruins
There is a ton of Roman ruins to walk around at two sites (Puymin and La Villasse). No need for directions, they are smack bang in the centre of Vaison la Romaine, either side of the Tourist office.
The Puymin site was the heart of the ancient town and you can witness the vestiges of Patrician homes and the Théo Desplans Archaeological Museum where they have a collection of over 2000 everyday objects which present the Gallo-Roman way of life.
La Villasse would have been the affluent quarter hosting homes, shops, baths and fountains – look out for the communal Roman toilets! Many of the ruins can be seen from the street side or you can pick up an audio guide and pay to look at the ruins up close.
7) Stunning villages to visit:
View from Crestet, Ventoux
- Crestet. Perched village with panoramic views
- Villedieu. Pretty village close to Vaison with a lively bar serving tapas
Seguret from Sablet vineyards
- Le Barroux. Medieval castle and even a medieval festival with ancient games for kids in August
- Brantes. A stunning village after an equally stunning drive through the Toulourenc valley
- Buis les Barronies. Artisanal markets, impressive rocks–perfect for rock climbing!
8) Fabulous activities for kids. Here’s my top 10…
Zip lining, Oxygene, Vaison la Romaine
- Oxygène Acrobranche: Assault course and zip lining in the trees. Town centre, along the river Ouvèze. Take a Picnic and swimmers and you can cool off in the river (also great for fit adults)
- Vaison Funfair: It comes to town several times a year. Go there on Bastille Day (July 14) and you will see the fireworks over the Roman ruins
- Mini Golf du Theos: Town centre. Crazy golf. Food truck with restaurant like food
Pony ride, Le Palis, Vaison la Romaine
- Centre Equèstre: Pony rides and lessons. Le Palis. 5.3km
- Ventoux Aventure: Assault course in the trees and zip lining. There is a restaurant and a lake right on the doorstep-for a picnic. Don’t forget the fishing net, bucket and spade. 30km. (Also great for fit adults)
- Ventoux Vertical. Canyoning, rock climbing, river hiking, via cordata, via ferrata. 31.2km. (Also great for fit adults)
- La Forêt Enchantée: The Enchanted Garden. 33km
- Wave Island: Water Park. Monteux. 36.5km
- Parc Spirou: Theme Park in Monteux. 37km
- Le Carbet Amazonien. Tropical butterfly breeding farm. 42km
9) Top 10 Restaurants in and around Vaison la Romaine
- Bistro du ‘O: Set in an old barn of the castle in the upper town.
- Auberge la Bartavelle: Long time popular restaurant. Local cuisine in Vaison centre
- Le Moulin à Huile: Local cuisine. Along the Ouvèze River close to the Roman Bridge.
- Le Bateleur: Local cuisine. Along the other side of the Ouvèze River close to the Roman bridge.
- L’ Epicurien: Modern bistrot-brasserie style. Friends of the family. En route to Crestet. 3km
- Auberge d’Anais: Set in the vineyards. Good for kids to run around.4km from Vaison on the road to Entrechaux
- Coté Terrace: Stunning views from one of the ‘most beautiful villages of France’. Seguret. 10km
- L‘Oustalet: Michellin star restaurant, pricey with even pricier wine! Gigondas.15km
- Saint Hubert: Dad celebrates practically every birthday here! Amazing food and presentation. Entrechaux 7.4km
- Le Laurier: Dad celebrates the other birthdays here! -also top notch. Puymeras. 6km
10) It’s now my home.
More people come to visit me here than anywhere else I have lived in the world but I can’t host everyone at my house; so visitors tend to stay increasingly more in beautiful rented villas where they can try out the local cuisine for themselves and enjoy the pool with a view.
I feel so honoured to call this majestic slice of France my home!
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