Not just a pretty place.
Strange the way one hears about ‘must see’ places. A few years ago, while browsing in Pots & Paraphernalia in Duncan British Columbia admiring beautiful haute cuisine kitchenware, I overheard a friend of the owner talking about this “perfectly lovely little town in the South of France.” I joined the conversation for a few moments to find out exactly where in Sud de France this “gem” was.
The next September, Cynthia and I, along with our friends John and Gwenda visited what turned out to be a delightful Provençal mini-Venice, sited where the Sorgue River divides for a while before wending its casual way to the Rhône.
The strange decaying beauty of dead industries is a visual feast all by itself.
From the 12th century to the 19th, the power created by this division of the Sorgue was harnessed through the use of waterwheels, firstly to grind corn, later to help the wool , paper and silk mills. At the height of their use, there were sixty-six waterwheels in l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.
These slow powerful lovelies also provided water for the local hospital, the monastery and surrounding farms. Today sixteen remain, often best seen from the 'passarelles' that carry pedestrians from the newer part of the town to the old Cité. Many no longer move. Some still turn, paddling the water, but not purposefully. Decorative like a fountain.
As much as we can, we plan our South of France mini-trips around market days. The busy, communal atmosphere of a French morning market just starts a visit right. And so we arrived Saturday afternoon, booked in at a Bed and Breakfast place right on the old town island ...
...which, on Sunday morning, is wholly given over to the largest morning market in the Luberon region.
This is not only a great food market; there are also over 300 antique stalls...
...which makes sense, because this smallish town of around 20,000 people is the second largest antique centre in France and hosts a twice-yearly international antiques fair.
River or sea kayaking forms another part of almost every ‘cunning plan’ annual jaunt with John and Gwenda.
The Sorgue has a pretty and family-friendly kayaking journey that heads downstream from close to its source by the village of Fontaine-la- Vaucluse passing under a viaduct, zooming down a water shute into the canals surrounding the old Cité of L'Isle-sur-la- Sorgue.
There is an added benefit: if you take the fifteen-minute walk from Fontaine-la-Vaucluse village to the headwaters, you reach the largest natural spring in France (fifth largest in the world) with a depth of around 308 metres and a total average flow of 630 million cubic metres of water each year.
For most of the year all you can see is a deep blue pool of water at the bottom of spectacular towering cliffs. During spring, though, the rainfall and snowmelt from Mont Ventoux, the Monts de Vaucluse and the Montagne de Lure siphon the water gushing out at 52,000 gallons every second.
...a good reason why kayaking is only available a little later in the year.