Situated in southeast France, the Vaucluse is a region or department bordered by the River Durance in the south and the mighty Rhone to the west. The east of the Vaucluse is mountainous with the Giant of Provence, Mont Ventoux being the most dominant peak. The other mountainous regions of the Vaucluse are Luberon, Dentelles de Montmirail and Monts de Vaucluse. This part of the Provence is made up of stunning countryside, vineyards abound, and lavender fields add color and scent the air. The Vaucluse throws up a myriad of things to do and see and this blog takes a look at some of the best things to spend your time doing.
World Heritage Sites
The Vaucluse is an old region, many of the towns and villages date back to medieval times and many of the ancient buildings are UNESCO world heritage sites. And a great way to spend some time is to visit the sites in a sort of historical tourism. One of the greatest towns to visit is Avignon, and your UNESCO journey starts here, apart from having a plethora of historical buildings to view, Avignon has a really important history. The Palais des Papes which translates as Palace of the Popes, signifies an epic part of both French and Papal history.
The Popes of Avignon
A rather little-known part of Papal history started in the thirteenth century when a feud between the then King of France and Pope Boniface VIII rocked the catholic church. When Boniface died his successor, Clement V decided to live in France rather than Rome. And during the period between 1309 to 1377 seven different popes had their residence in France. Hardly surprising that Avignon became both a religious and political capital, and its population grew six-fold. A grand palace was built for the popes of Avignon which took nearly twenty years to build, complete with four and a half kilometers of ramparts.
Visitors can now take advantage of 25 public rooms including formal ceremony rooms and private chambers. Next to the palace is the wonderful Cathedral of Notre Dame des Doms another part of the UNESCO world heritage designation. The final part of your UNESCO tour of Avignon is the Pont Saint-Benezet or Pon’t d’Avignon. This historical bridge was built in the 12th Century out of wood, but was replaced with the current stone construction in the 13th Century. Due to severe flooding problems with the Rhone, the bridge was damaged and only four of the original twenty-two arches remain today.
Legend of the Bridge
The legend of the bridge is told that Saint Benezet worked on the bridge as a twelve-year-old boy, he hurled a large stone in the River Rhone which was the first stone that supported the very first arch. And the bridge inspired the famous fifteenth century French children’s song On the Bridge of Avignon, we all Dance. Our UNESCO tourist tour ends in Avignon, although there are many more unique ancient sites to visit in the Vaucluse. In part two of Things to do in Vaucluse we look at the popular pastimes of shopping and dining out.