Provence consists of three departements: Bouches-du-Rhone, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and thirdly Vaucluse, which is the region we were about to visit and tour. Within Vaucluse there are also three sub-regions, called Luberon, Mont Ventoux and Avignon and we did our best to get in a little bit of all three.
We left Avignon and headed south to Cavaillon, passing through, taking highway D2 towards Menerbes. This was beginning of our tour through small Provencal villages until we made our way to our stay at Auberge du Vin just outside of Carpentras. Wonderful countryside, a lovely drive and numerous hilltop villages to stop at and walk through, such as Menerbes, La Coste, Bonnieux, Gordes and Venasque. All cute and quaint, but Gordes stands out and is really quite something to see from the viewpoint when you arrive from the south on D2. And you will immediately know you are getting close to Gordes because of the unique walls or fences along the highway made solely of rock, flat, shale-like rock, starting with them placed horizontally up to about three meters, and then a top row placed vertically. Very unique.
It was nice to get off the main highway and onto these smaller roads, which sometimes don’t seem wide enough to cars to pass. They wind their way through the hills from village to village. If you miss a road, well, it doesn’t matter, there will be another connection up ahead and you can take to get there. When leaving Bonnieux and heading back to Menerbes, in a period of about 12 km. we passed four roads, all saying the go to La Coste. So its hard to loose your way. And if you do, well, that’s part of the fun driving around in Provence. The locals do drive fast on these roads, though, if you have someone up close behind you, just pull over and let them by. You don’t want to have to rush your trip for them, but you also don’t want to be a nuisance to them. Driving through Provence we can’t help but think of Tuscany; they really do have a lot in common; very similar countryside. Small villages, rolling hills, cypress trees and crops or sunflowers, lavender and wheat.
Menerbes, Bonnieux and La Costa are quite similar, with the latter to looking back at one another from opposite hillsides. There’s a great viewpoint in Bonnieux near the top of the hill where the church always is (closer to God), which shows what you are looking at on a clear day. You can see La Coste of course, but also Gordes and certainly Mont Venoux in this distance, along with a few other villages. This is what’s pleasant about Provence and also Tuscany; often you can see the next town you are heading for before you even get in the car.
Out of Gordes we did miss our intended route of continuing up D2 and ended up on D15, which took us up to Mer. To get back on track to Carpentras, we then took D4 and what a windy road it is through a country that seems to be made nearly solely out of rock. No wonder they made fences and homes out of it, there’s so much of it.
Carpentras – not really worth stopping in for. Its larger town in the area but doesn’t have what other small towns have, which is character. Has the potential, but not quite there yet. We went in for dinner and walked around a bit, dinner was good a Chez Serge, a recommendation of our hotel.