Provence is a delight for the senses – lavender, limestone, herbs and wine, under a brilliant blue sky. And it’s a place that lends itself to exploration – there are endless caves, castles, villages and hidden secrets to be found. Perfect for adventures with children! Here are 6 of our favourites, mainly in the Luberon:
1. Visiting Vaucluse and Isles sur la Sorgue.
The first is a tiny village at the foot of a towering limestone cliff, at the base of which a river springs fully formed from as yet unexplored underground tunnels. The rivers pours down the hillside and powers a variety of mills, including an old paper making mill that you can still visit. It then goes off and runs through and around the town of Isles sur la Sorgue, which is criss-crossed by channels and weirs and tunnels. As a bonus, Isles sur la Sorgue also has a fantastic market.
2. Walking around Roussillon
The landscape is made of red red earth and you can wander around it – it’s magical and even makes grown ups giggle with delight, so children find it fantastic! It’s also true that walking just about anywhere in Provence can be a delight, with myriad paths and old roads to explore, often shaded by holm oaks and with an abandoned village (like Oppede le Vieux) or a village with icecream (like Gordes) at the end.
3. Visit the Palace of the Popes at Avignon (and sing on the Pont d’Avignon)
After a bit of a dispute over the papacy at the end of the 13th century, the new Pope, Clement V, refused to go to Rome and in 1309 made Avignon the new Papal residence. A massive period of building ensued and many of the stunning buildings are still there to be explored, including the old Mint, also known as Pope Paul V’s palace.
4. Explore the grottoes of Thouzon.
Now, I haven’t done this yet – it’s on my list, but I have been looking at it and it looks fantastic. As with any Carsic landscape, Provence is dotted with caves, essentially formed by the limestone being dissolved by rain water. These caves are full of all the stalactites and stalagmites one might want – in fact, why don’t I just give you the full glory of the website descrption? “This cave, with dimensions on a human scale does not have of it less the advantage of having a very intense concretion formation – cristallization : stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, gours, pearls of caves …., but also a geological interest some : chimneys of balance, serce one, clogged diaclase, well, meanders, kidney of flist ….”
Who doesn’t like a good kidney of flist?
5. Visit a market
Most of the hill villages around the Luberon have a market day and these are great fun to explore. Our favourites are at Isles sur la Sorgue and in Gordes.
6. Go Roamin’ around the Romans
Sorry, terrible pun, couldn’t do any better. But Provence is full of Roman remains, some of them very impressive indeed. So visit the Pont du Gard, or one of the triumphal arches at Glanum or Orange – which also has a Roman theatre. The amphitheatre at Arles or the Maison Carree in Nimes are all equally impressive. But the Pont du Gard is probably the best with children as there is a beautfiul river to see as well, and the activity centre at the Pont is a great help.
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