A weekend visit to one of the most beautiful villages of France offers a breath of fresh air that restores your spirit, sanity and appreciation for the pastoral beauty of the countryside. Venasque, a small village of about 1,000 residents, perches on sheer rock outcroppings with a panoramic view towards Mount Ventoux.
Just 31 kilometers (20 miles) northeast of Avignon, Venasque overlooks the valley of the river Nesque and is the first village built around the mount of Vaucluse. It shares the countryside in the heart of Provence with nearby Carpentras, Isle sur La Sorgue and Gordes, to name just a “tip” of the iceberg of charm in a region that is riddled with abundant vineyards and orchards, lively markets and ancient historical sites.
Be prepared for a pleasant blend of outdoor enjoyment, art and craft exhibits, petite shops and historic exploration. Begin in the small village with the starkly beautiful 5th century baptistery – Le Prieure de Saint-Pierre-Les-Thermes and the church of Notre Dame. The beautiful church dates to the 13th century with a high bell tower overlooking the valley. Three large Saracen towers are classified historic sites and add to the imposing, thick-walled fortification.
Wander from the village center up the Chemin de Peiriere to the highest point overlooking the valley and Mount Ventoux. In fact, you should drive or cycle up to the latter for a panoramic view at 1890 meters (6200 feet). Discover a beautiful and varied landscape in the Gorges de la Nesque that cut through the mountains between Mont Ventoux to the north and Plateau de Vaucluse. The Nesque River flows through valleys and gorges, dropping some 300 meters (984 feet), as it drops through the dramatic countryside.
A few excursions will add to the pleasure of your stay. Enjoy an afternoon trip to Gordes and the nearby 12th-century Cistercian Abbey Notre-Dame-de-Sénanque. Surrounded by lavender fields, the church is in the form of a tau cross with the apse extending beyond the outer walls. The village of Gordes is one of the most picturesque in Provence with a delightful collection of shops, galleries, studios and bistros.
Take in the authentic French market in Carpentras on Friday morning and the Sunday market and antique fair in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. After a delightful round of antique shops, we stopped for lunch at a charming crêperie – Bistrot de L’Industrie. On the outdoor terrace, we feasted on wild mushroom crêpes and topped our meal with a Grand Marnier crêpe. Délicieux!
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