Vaucluse (Occitan: Vauclusa) is a department of the Provence region of France. The Vaucluse retains in part its historical identity as the Comtat Venaissin, an independent papal entity until the 1791 post-Revolutionary annexation by France.
Cities and towns
- 1 Avignon — well known for its Palace of the Popes where several popes and antipopes lived from the early 14th to early 15th centuries
- 2 Carpentras
- 3 L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
- 4 Lourmarin — among the most beautiful villages in France
- 5 Orange
- 6 Vaison-la-Romaine
The name of Comtat Venaissin is supposed to derive from either Comitatus Vendacensis (the county of Venasque), or from Comitatus Avennicinus (County of Avignon). The territory belonged to the Popes, but was de facto independent, governed by its own executive representative appointed by the Pope, as well as popular representatives. The area was very marked by the bloody history of the French invasion, as well as the civil war which followed, between the partisans of independence and the partisans of the attachment to France. In line with other departments across France, the Vaucluse was named after a significant local geographical feature, in this case the Fontaine de Vaucluse spring. The new name was intended both a definitive rupture with the past, and as a way to harmonise local administration into the nascent French Republic. However, despite generations of central government attempting to stamp out regional languages and cultures, a strong Occitan identity persists in the department. Linguistic aside: despite looking like a feminine noun, Vaucluse is actually masculine.
The official language remains French, but a language commonly spoken by locals until the 19th century was Occitan in its Provençal dialect. There are still some speakers of the dialect, and it is locally the daily language in some parts of the department, though like all regional languages in France, it is under threat.
The main access from the north is undoubtedly the A7 motorway (Autoroute du Soleil), which bypasses the famous national road N7, nicknamed la Route bleue and la Route des vacances during its mid-20th-century heyday. The A8 and A9 bring traffic in from the east and west respectively.
- Avignon TGV station: on the Paris-Lyon-Marseille corridor, connects the Vaucluse to the outside world.
- Avignon-Centre and Orange stations both welcome regional and national TGVs and TERs, in addition to departmental traffic. A rail shuttle operates between Avignon Centre and Avignon TGV.
- See also: Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur#By plane
- 1 Avignon-Provence Airport (access by bus: TCRA Line 3 from Avignon-Centre). Only receives seasonal (i.e. summer) flights from Birmingham and Bournemouth.
The city is an open-air museum. In addition to the banks of the Rhône and the Jardin des Doms, several places are essential:
- Palace Square is a popular destination for tourists. There is the Palace Square, right next to the Clock Square, but these places can hit by their high prices, and we must not forget that they are inundated with tourists during the hot months. Not far in almost any direction are smaller squares, frequented by locals, where prices are found to be more affordable. Highly recommended is the square pie, with its halls (06:00 to 13:00 every day) where you can buy fresh produce, wine country, cheese, etc.
- Pont Saint-Bénézet is not far from the Palace, down, of course, to the Rhone.
- Calvet Museum whose wealth and the importance of its collections have earned it to be admitted among the "classified museums". They relate to archeology, fine arts, decorative arts, especially goldsmith, faience, porcelain, tapestry, ironwork and ethnology in Asia, Oceania and Africa.
- Petit Palais Museum, a museum of painting and the Requien museum is the natural history museum of the city of Avignon as well as many churches and colleges.
Petrarch Museum and Museum of Resistance
Campredon Art Center
Museum of Arts and Wine Professions
Museum of basketry
Comtadin-Duplessis Museum and Sobirats Museum
Archaeological Museum of the Hôtel-Dieu and Jewish Museum Comtadin - The Synagogue
Marc Deydier Museum
Comtadin Costume Museum
Museum of Cartonnage and Printing
There are many vineyards in this department, so wine tasting is an option for interested visitors.
Some major cultural events take place in Vaucluse:
- Festival d'Avignon - internationally-famous theatre festival held for a month every July, since 1947
- Chorégies d'Orange - opera and classical music festival held in July and August
- Trans'art at Carpentras- Diverse music and comedy concerts in July and August
- Cycle course at Mont Ventoux
- Bike tours in Sorgues
- The Calavon cycle path (voie verte du Calavon), between Cavaillon and Apt. A 28-km-long route meandering through Beaumettes and Saint-Martin-de-Castillon, along the River Calavon. Like all voies vertes, it reuses an old railway corridor.
- Via Venaissia cycle route (along the Dentelles de Montmirail). Following the route of an old railway line, via Carpentras and Orange; it will eventually reach ViaRhôna in the Rhone Valley, and the Calavon path. The first section, 7 km long, between Jonquières and Sarrians, was inaugurated in 2014. An extension, between Sarrians and the Aubignan-Loriol-du-Comtat station, was opened in 2015.
The department has many hiking trails, whose signs are organised by the local council. Three free hiking tours are available at the tourist office in Fontaine de Vaucluse.
Canoeing and kayaking
- A favourite route is from Fontaine de Vaucluse to Isle sur la Sorgue along the very beautiful River Sorgue, although there are also many other opportunities along the same river.
- Mont Serein ski resort - Facing north of Mont Ventoux, the resort is equipped with several trails. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are available, and there is a children's ski school on site.
Markets of the Comtat
Make sure to arrive early, as French markets hit their peak in mid-morning and all but the largest mostly begin packing up around lunchtime.
- Halles d'Avignon (daily) - the city's covered market hall
- Isle-sur-la-Sorgue market (Sunday) - the most beautiful market in Provence
- Apt market (Saturday)
- Bollène market (Friday)
- Cavaillon market (Monday and Friday)
- Carpentras market (Friday)
- Coustellet market (Sunday)
- Malaucène market (Wednesday)
- Vaison-la-Romaine market (Tuesday)
- Coustellet market (Wednesday evening)
- Monteux market (Wednesday morning)
- Petit Palais market (Saturday morning) - in a hamlet of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
- Velleron market (daily at 18:00, 1 Apr- 30 Sept; 16:30, 3 evenings a week 1 Oct-30 Mar)
- Carpentras truffle market (Fri morning 16 Nov-15 Feb, Jul-Aug, dependent on the two truffle seasons)
Some fairs are over 700 years old.
- Avignon Fair (mid-Apr)
- St Andrew's Fair (Avignon, end of Nov)
- Fair of Saint-Siffrein (Carpentras, end of Nov)
Large shopping centres
- Avignon-Nord (at Le Pontet) - Auchan supermarket, plus a shopping mall including major retailers
- Cap Sud (north of Avignon on RN7) - Casino Supermarket, and commercial gallery, including Galeries Lafayette and a Pathé Cap Sud cinema complex
- Mistral 7 (south of Avignon on RN7) - Auchan and a shopping mall
Dishes to try
- Daube avignonnaise - shoulder of lamb or mutton marinated in local white wine
- Papeton d'aubergines - an eggplant flan
- Crespéou - a savoury layered cake, made with eggs, Mediterranean vegetables and herbes de Provence
- Thirteen desserts for Christmas!
- Melons of the Cavaillon variety
- Several goat cheeses, including tome de Provence