Aix to Avignon via Luberon

Aug 22nd, 2018, 08:12 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: May 2013
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Aix to Avignon via Luberon

Looking for some advise here.
Planning to depart from near Aix (Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade) at 8 am and need to get to Avignon by about 3-4 pm.
Was thinking of taking a drive through Luberon villages, (perhaps seeing Roussillon and Gordes but open to other suggestions), with a stop for lunch some place along the way. Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade to Roussillon to Gordes to Avignon is about 110 km drive which would take ~ 2 hrs. That leaves about 5 hours for 2 villages and lunch.
Would appreciate any suggestions regarding the most scenic way, villages to visit, and interesting stops along the way.
beam is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2018, 08:43 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
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I think you are shortchanging the Luberon. We've spent 23 weeks in Provence, and the Luberon is our favorite region. But if you are really able to depart by 8AM it is certainly worth the drive through. I would suggest that you stock up on picnic stuff while in Aix and skip any sit-down lunch - which will probably "consume" 2 hours of your available 5 hours.


Below is an all-day drive through the Luberon. It is from my 35 page Provence & Cote d'Azur itinerary that I've sent to over 3,000 people on Fodors. Three so far today. If you would like a copy, e-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach one to the reply e-mail.


Visiting the villages in the Luberon

If you stay in Gordes*, start by visiting this wonderful perched village. You should park in the large lot (pay about 4E) down below the town (steep walk up). Explore this village thoroughly – not just the areas directly around the Chateau. There is an ATM in town on the side of the chateau where the outdoor cafés are located. On Tuesday morning there is an outdoor market in Gordes. It’s a little touristy, but quite good. There is a GR (walking route) that goes through this village and it passes by the lower sections of Gordes. Try to pick it up & follow it down hill. The route is marked by red & white stripes, usually painted on the sides of buildings. As you face the Chateau with your back to the main entrance to town (the steep hill), there are several shops on your right (look for a Pharmacy) and follow one of these streets down to where it passes a church. The road turns right just past this church onto Rue d'Eglise (there is a GR mark where it turns right). (If you go straight past the church, where is a wonderful panoramic view - look for the “Point de Vue” sign). If you follow the GR down hill (after you have turned right past the church) you will see an old medieval wash basin (lavoir) and also get a close-up view of how they built these perched villages on top of rock outcroppings. It’s about a 10 minute walk from the center of Gordes down to this wash basin. There is a nice shaded area near the basins where you can relax & enjoy the surroundings without any tourists. This is a very interesting walk.

After Gordes, head to Oppede le Vieux*. Leave Gordes on the D2 towards les Imberts. At Les Imberts, veer to the left just past a gas station. Then take a left opposite the “Exit” sign to Les Imberts. Go over a small bridge and past vineyards & a lavender field. At an intersection, keep going straight towards the D900 and the Luberon Mountain range. At the D900, take a right and then immediately turn left & go under the railroad tracks. Follow the signs to Oppede les Vieux. There is a village of Oppede that you will pass through which is not “le Vieux” (old). It’s a pretty drive getting there from Gordes. Part of the drive strangely passes through a parking lot. As you approach Oppede le Vieux, get the cameras ready.

After Oppede, head towards Menerbes* (another pretty drive getting there). Explore Menerbes. If you have read Peter Mayle’s book, you’ll know that this is where he lived. Many people just drive through Menerbes – we did the first couple of times we visited. It’s actually a great town to explore on foot. Some of the most interesting areas are on back streets & even on some dirt streets. There are many artisans scattered throughout the village.


After Menerbes, head to Lacoste. Although the “main road” to Lacoste (D109) will take you up on a plateau & directly into Lacoste from the west, I prefer either of the two roads south of the D109 - the D103 which connects to the D3, or the D3 further south which passes through the hamlet of La Peyriere. My two GPS systems, my current Michelin Map, and my IGN map all conflict with each other regarding which road is the D3 & which is the D103. Both of these roads south of Lacoste (D103 towards Bonnieux then the D3) pass through some pretty countryside with vineyards & cherry orchards (bypassing Lacoste). As I said, there is no wrong road in this area - if you have the time, take every one. Both Lacoste & Bonnieux are perched villages – staring at each other over a valley. The settings of both are quite spectacular. The best view of Lacoste is from the D3 just west of where it intersects the D109. Take the D109 into Lacoste & drive up into the village, but turn around at the Mairie parking lot & retrace your route (heading to Bonnieux). This will afford you good views of Bonnieux. One unfortunate situation is that you really can’t get good views of both Lacoste & Bonnieux at the same time of day because of the sun’s position. We usually view Lacoste on our morning drives and Bonnieux in the evening just prior to dinner.

Explore Bonnieux*. Walk up the narrow R Mairie (see the green Michelin Guide) to the Terrasse to get a wonderful panoramic view of the area. Walk down R Voltaire & peek into the antique shop to see a very interesting interior.

Drive through Bonnieux & head toward Lourmarin on the D36 & look behind you to see another great view of Bonnieux – more picture taking. When you get to the D943, head north toward Apt.

An optional stop is at the Fort de Buoux (look for signs just after the turn onto D943) which was a refuge for the Waldensians and then destroyed by Louis XIV. Pick up the English guide & walk around the Fort. A bit of climbing is involved, but I found the fort more interesting than I expected and the views from the top were great. There are usually a lot of rock climbers in this area.

Find Saignon on your map & drive there on the D232 from Bonnieux. There are some pretty lavender fields on each side of the road as you approach Saignon. There is a picturesque view of the village from this road too. Explore Saignon thoroughly on foot – there are only a few shops in town and 3-4 simple restaurants. The main square in town is very picturesque – covered with plane trees, a beautiful fountain, lavoire (washbasin), and an ivy covered building.

Take the D48 to Apt. There’s another lovely view of Saignon from this road and another lavender field. Notice the rock formations west of this road. This Saignon/Apt excursion will add about 45 minutes to your touring, and the outskirts of Apt and some of the urban sprawl are not what you want to experience. However, Saignon is quite lovely & it’s in a pretty setting and the lavender fields make a wonderful experience (in early summer when the lavender is in bloom). If the lavender fields are not in bloom & you need to save some time, then skip this excursion. Instead of heading to Saignon after Bonnieux, take the D149 north to the D900. There is actually a very pretty lavender field with a view of Lacoste in the background along this road. My wife has taken several pictures of this scene.

Head to Roussillon* and explore this village (map in the green guide). You will have to park below the village & walk up. There are a lot of shops in Roussillon and they are open on Sunday (never been there on a Monday). This is a good place for lunch and, although the cafes might seem a little touristy, it’s a fun spot if you happen on a sunny day. Visit the ochre fields close by, but do not wear white shoes, white sox, or touch your face with your hands. The ochre color is hard to get out. Don’t try to drive through Roussillon – my wife got stuck on our last visit & she was mad at me for hours for insisting that she drive through Roussillon.

After Roussillon, take the D104 to Goult and explore this town. Pick up a free map/walking itinerary at the tourist office next to a parking lot (there are 2 parking lots). Check out the restaurants I recommended (Bartavelle & Le Carillon). Wander through this town that is a bit off the main tourist itinerary. Find the Chateau & walk along the streets around it. Like Gordes, notice how the Chateau engages the rock outcropping it is sitting on. There is an area near a windmill with some wonderful views looking south. There is another great viewpoint marked “panorama” – look for the signs at the windmill end of the village, towards the chateau. It is marked #5 in the TI map. Market day is Thursday (perhaps summer only). If I had to live in one of these pretty towns in the Luberon, this is where it would be.

After Goult, drive through St Pentaleon, and then back to Gordes.

If you have seen pictures of an Abbey with large Lavender fields in the foreground, that’s Senanque Abbey** just outside of Gordes. This scene is actually on the cover of my Michelin Green Guide. The drive there from Gordes is beautiful and the setting is lovely. The only way you can visit the interior of the Abbey is on a guided tour. The tour takes anywhere from 1 to 1 ¼ hours, and it is only offered in French. The tour can be a bit tedious if you don’t understand French. The Abbey opens up in the morning between 9:45 & 10 - but the grounds where you can take pictures of the lavender opens earlier (we got there at 9:30 and there were already people returning from picture taking). The first tour of the Abbey in June ’10 was at 10:10 and the next tour and last one of the morning. was at 10:30. The first tour in the morning is the best time to visit Senanque because it is less crowded then, the sun is in the best position of the day to shine on the lavender and the “front” of the Abbey, and it will be much cooler at 10 than at 2:30 PM. There were only about 10 visitors at the Abbey when we arrived at 9:30 (and took pictures of the Abbey & lavender) but it was “mobbed” when we left at 11:30.



Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2018, 09:16 AM
  #3  
 
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Plot a way via googlemap or better viamichelin or with your GPS. Not many roads go through Gordes and Roussillon. Actually last I was in Roussillon I was blocked for some minutes because 2 trucks wanted to pass at the same time in opposite direction at the entrance of the village, the road being too narrow to allow this.

Visit the 'carrières de l'ocre' (ochre mining ?) it is really worth it, more, as Stu hints at, than to sit and eat.
thibaut is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2018, 10:33 AM
  #4  
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Thank you for the marvelous suggestions. We definitely plan to come back to Luberon and linger for at least a week, so this trip is just to get a taste of the place and to see where we want to base ourselves next time.
Certainly seating down for a long lunch is not what we want to do. Ideally we could get some sandwiches and a bottle of wine to picnic some place along the way (say near Senanque Abbey or any other ideas welcome). Any suggestions on where is a good place to get picnic food?
beam is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2018, 10:41 AM
  #5  
 
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You should be able to find some goodies for a picnic in the villages you will be visiting in the Luberon. Just about any bar will make you a jambon beurre or other type of sandwich. I always manage to get a tuna sandwich somewhere.


Stu Dudley
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Aug 22nd, 2018, 11:03 AM
  #6  
 
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So true. You are very rarely far away from a sandwich in France. This isn't something that needs to be planned.
StCirq is online now  
Aug 22nd, 2018, 12:40 PM
  #7  
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I love food, so you might call me a 'foodie'. Consequently I plan all of my meals, at home and when traveling.
beam is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2018, 02:52 PM
  #8  
 
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We're foodies too. But our big meal is at dinner. During the day I want to experience the things we travel to France for - castles, history, beautiful countryside, medieval villages, culture, "old world charm" - but not lunches. At times, we'll have a lunch (like on a Sunday) and I want wine and at least 3 courses. Afterwards, I'm dragging for the remainder of the day & often snooze on the beach, garden of our gite, or anywhere I can. I don't accomplish much in the afternoons after a sit-down lunch.


Le Fournil in Bonnieux & Le Carillon in Goult are nice & simple outdoor restaurants for lunch. Both are in the Michelin Red Guide. There are several outdoor places in Roussillon. Most of the ones in Gordes are too touristy.



Stu Dudley
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