Sorgues > Malaucène
07/07/2021 - Stage 11 - 198,9 km - Mountain
On the road
Population: 563 751
Sub-prefectures: Carpentras, Apt
Surface: 3 567 km2
Specialities: natural sweet wines (Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, Rasteau, Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Ventoux, Côtes du Luberon), olive oil, goat's cheese (Banon, Picodon), Sault lavender, Ventoux pork, Cavaillon melon, Sault lamb, Monts de Venasque cherry, Comtat cherry, crystallized cherry, honey, small spelt
Sports clubs: 81 cycling clubs (cycling, cycle touring, mountain biking, BMX)
Competitions: Tour de France, Critérium du Dauphiné, Tour cycliste féminin international de l'Ardèche
Festivals: the Avignon In and Off Festivals (since 1947), Chorégies d'Orange (oldest French festival created in 1869), Vaison Danses, Choralies de Vaison, Festival des nuits de l'Enclave in Grillon, Richerenches, Valréas and Visan (theatre, painting, sculpture), Festival les soirées d'été in Gordes, the Tremplin jazz d'Avignon, Festival de Lacoste (theatre and opera), Les Musicales du Luberon (classical music)
Economy: food industry "Vaucluse, the garden of France", tourism, building and public works, crafts, trade.
Websites: www.vaucluse.fr / www.provenceguide.com / www.provence-a-velo.fr
Km 0: Bédarrides (Pop: 5,250)
Nicknamed "the town with seven rivers". Indeed, it is watered by the Ouvèze, the Seille, the Sorgue d'Entraigues, the Sorgue de Velleron, the Vallat-Miant, the Réal and the Auzon.
The origin of its name, from the Latin Bitturitae, the two towers, dates back to a Roman victory. Rome made it a villa and called it Villa Bittorita.
The archbishops of Avignon became the spiritual and temporal lords until the whole territory became French. This small town played a part in the destiny of the Comtat Venaissin. It was in the Saint-Laurent church in Bédarrides that the Comtat Venaissin's attachment to France was signed in 1791.
Km 15: Pernes-les-Fontaines (Pop: 10,000)
The village is also called "The Pearl of the Comtat".
At the foot of Mont Ventoux, backed by the Vaucluse mountains, the former capital of the Comtat Venaissin has kept prestigious traces of this period... no less than 22 of its monuments are listed or registered as Historic Monuments.
In 2010, Pernes-les-Fontaines, which hosted the Critérium international in 1994, was the starting point for a stage of Paris-Nice won in Aix-en-Provence by Peter Sagan. Pernes-les-Fontaines was also the home of Derek Harrison, a pioneer of British cycling who took part in the Tour de France in 1968 and 1969 and died in 2018.
Church of Our Lady of Nazareth
Foundation: 11th to 13th century
Style: Provençal Romanesque
Characteristics: imposing church, in particular its fortified bell tower.
History: the site is said to have been founded by Charlemagne himself, who wished to thank the Virgin for his victory against the Saracens.
Current destination: place of worship frequented by parishioners.
Classification: Historical Monument in 1840
Foundation: built in the 12th century for the Hospitallers of the Order of St John of Jerusalem
Style: medieval fortified house
Characteristics: the frescoes on the 3rd floor of the tower are considered to be the first military frescoes in France. They illustrate the investiture by the Pope of Charles I as King of Sicily after the battles he fought in southern Italy to secure his throne.
Current destination: open to guided tours organised by the Tourist Office.
Classification: Historical Monument in 1862.
Listed as a Historical Monument in 1928. A watchtower at the time of the Popes, the clock and the wrought iron campanile were later added, supposedly representing the figure of Queen Joanna of Naples. At the top is a weathervane representing a mouse being chased by a cat.
Km 23: L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (Pop: 19,700)
Known as the Venice of the Comtat. Attached to France in 1791, Insula, which officially became L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue on 18 August 1890, owes its birth and its expansion to the water of the Sorgue. Already in the 12th century, the inhabitants of L'Isle used the Sorgue to defend themselves, and the river served as a moat for the ramparts that surrounded the town until 1795. For nearly half a century, antiques dealing has forged the identity of the town, ensuring it an international reputation. L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is, after Saint-Ouen and London, the third European platform for the antiques trade. Over the years, antique shops, decoration shops and art galleries have developed and settled. Today, they constitute a major economic activity for the city, which organises four exceptionally successful antiques fairs each year.
It is the town of the poet René Char, and French singers Renaud, Patrick Hernandez and Patrick Bruel also have residences there.
Notre-Dame-des-Anges Collegiate Church
Foundation: 13th century
Style: Comtat Gothic for the chevet, then Renaissance style composition for the bell tower.
Characteristics: the site is known above all for the richness of its interior decoration, dating essentially from modifications made in the 12th century and reminiscent of Italian churches.
A little history: the Mentasti organ, built in the 15th century, is listed as a Historical Monument.
Classification: Historical Monument in 1911
René Char (1907-1988)
"A man without defect is a mountain without a crevasse, he does not interest me. "
French poet and Resistance fighter born on 14 June 1907 in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. An avid reader, René Char very early on developed a passion for Plutarch, François Villon and romantic authors such as Gérard de Nerval and Charles Baudelaire. He joined the Surrealist movement at the age of 22 and signed a joint collection with André Breton and Paul Éluard, from which he distanced himself in 1934. Famous for having taken an active part in the Resistance during the Second World War, by commanding the parachuting action service of the Durance zone under the name of Captain Alexandre, he recounted this experience in Les Feuillets d'Hypnos (1946).
He is one of the 19 authors who received the honour of being published in the La Pléiade collection during their lifetime. Defined by his friend Albert Camus as "the poet of revolt and freedom".
Km 29 : Fontaines-de-Vaucluse (Pop: 600)
In a valley at the foot of a cliff in the Monts de Vaucluse. The village of Fontaine de Vaucluse had the privilege of giving its name to the department created in 1793 and it is the exceptional site of Vaucluse - Vallis clausa, which means the closed valley, at the bottom of which the Sorgue mysteriously emerges, which gave its name to the village (attested as early as the 10th century in official texts).
Fountain of Vaucluse
The largest exsurgence in mainland France, it is ranked 5th in the world with an annual flow of 630 to 700 million cubic metres.
The water that flows into Fontaine-de-Vaucluse comes from the infiltration of rainwater and snowmelt from the south of Mont Ventoux, the Monts de Vaucluse, the Montagne de Lure and the Gorges of the Nesque, which represent an impluvium of 1,240 km², the only outlet of which is the “fouintain”.
Castle of Vaucluse
Foundation: 13th century
Style: Gothic, with Provençal Renaissance additions
Characteristics: the defensive fortress perched on a huge rocky outcrop is also known as Château de Pétrarque or Château des Évêques de Cavaillon.
History: It was in this castle that the Italian poet François Pétrarque (1304-1374) visited his friend Philippe de Cabassole, bishop of Cavaillon.
Classification: Historical Monument in 1931
Km 33: Lagnes (Pop: 1,650)
Lagnes stands on a hillside at the foot of the Pieï rock. The village is dominated by a 13th century castle (modified in the 16th and 17th centuries) which gives the village a very medieval atmosphere. At the top of the village, there is a superb panorama of the entire Luberon and Alpilles region. Its narrow streets, its 16th and 17th century houses and its covered passages add to the charm of the place. Painter Nicolas De Staël lived in Lagnes, where he painted most of his Provencal works. The Vieux Lavoir (Old washhouse), which used to be the chapel of the Pénitents blancs, hosts exhibitions of sculptures, crafts and paintings throughout the summer.
Km 43: Gordes (Pop: 1,850)
Perched on a rock, the village is listed among the most beautiful in France thanks to its heritage. Located on the Monts de Vaucluse, known for being rich in water. Several waterways run through the village, both above and below ground. Several calade streets (stone-paved alleys) lead from the square south of the castle to the remains of the old fortifications.
Since the post-war period, the village has attracted more and more artists and personalities, including Marc Chagall, André Lhôte and many others such as President François Mitterrand and his daughter Mazarine Pingeot.
Village des Bories
Also known as the Village Noir (Black Village), this former group of twenty or so dry stone huts was inhabited until the 19th century. The word Borie, of Provençal origin, comes from the Latin boaria - ox-cabin -, meaning a hut. Initially built in the fields to house the farmers' tools, the borie became, over time, the equivalent of a small converted country house. The borie also allowed the shepherds to shelter with their flock. Today it is a museum, with an exhibition of traditional objects and tools, as well as a presentation of the history of bories and dry-stone architecture in France and throughout the world.
Castle of Gordes
Listed as a Historical Monument in 1930. In the centre of Gordes, it houses a painting museum dedicated to Pol Mara (Belgian painter and draughtsman 1920-1998). Formerly the Victor Vasarely Museum (from June 1970 to March 1996). Its most visible part is in Renaissance style.
Notre-Dame de Sénanque Abbey
Foundation: 12th century
Style: the site is one of the purest testimonies of primitive Cistercian architecture
Characteristics: the abbey church is in a very sober Romanesque style and is covered with a slate roof. Contrary to the usual practice, the facade is oriented to the south-west to adapt to the constraints of the terrain.
A little story: abandoned by its monks in 1969, an industrial sponsorship agreement was then negotiated́ with Paul Berliet, who was then looking for a site to establish a cultural centre. A new communitý of monks from Lérins came in 1988, to settle in this magnificent setting.
Current destination: the communitý which resides there cultivates several hectares of lavandin to extract an essential oil. Part of the abbey is open to more or less prolonged visits, including for spiritual retreats.
Classification: Historical Monument in 1921
Km 54: Roussillon (Pop: 1,350)
Listed as one of the "most beautiful villages in France" between the Petit Lubéron and the Monts de Vaucluse. It is most famous for its rich ochre. The stones, the roofs, the environment, are impregnated with the same red tint. It was around the natural wealth offered by the soil that the economic activity of the town focused. Large quarries were exploited since the end of the 18th century, employing 1,000 people until 1930.
The ochre trail
In the 18th century, with the diversification and modernisation of textile processing techniques and the need for dyes, the exploitation of ochre in Roussillon and its surroundings intensified. There were many quarries, some of which are still visible, but also old ochre factories. In the 20th century, modern means of extraction and the discovery of more profitable deposits gradually led to the closure of all the mines. In the early 1980s, tourism replaced the mining industry. Amazing landscapes coloured by ochres of about twenty shades ranging from scarlet to gum-gut (the Val des Fées, the Fontaine des Naïades...).
A 51-km bike tour to discover the area, a small loop crossing the ochre villages, discovering quarries, panoramas, landscapes made of cirques, cliffs but also underground galleries.
Km 61: Gargas (Pop: 3,050)
Small village dominated by the hill of Perréal, culminating at 471 m. At the top of the hill are the remains of a Gallic oppidum occupied until the 1st century AD. One of the last villages in Europe where ochre is still mined.
The mines of Bruoux
Accessible to the public. Former ochre extraction mines.
From 1880 to 1950, more than 40km of galleries were dug into the cliffs to extract ochre. With a 650-metre-long route designed for the public, the Bruoux mines reveal impressive galleries, vaulted, ogival or even semi-circular, up to 15 metres high.
The Société des Ocres de France in Apt still operates the last open-air ochre quarry in Europe at Gargas and produces 800 tonnes/year of pigments used in cosmetics and paint.
Luberon Regional Nature Park
Low French mountainous massif́ which extends from east to west between the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and the Vaucluse. Three mountains: the eastern Luberon, the Grand Luberon and the Petit Luberon. It is home to an exceptionally diverse fauna and flora as well as an architectural and landscape heritage of great value.
Created in January 1977, this park extends over two departments, the Vaucluse and the Alpes de Haute-Provence, over 85 communes, from Cavaillon to the limit of the Verdon Regional Natural Park in the east, with the Durance River forming the border.
In December 1997, the Luberon was officially admitted by UNESCO into the world network of biosphere reserves (MAB).
Km 63: Apt (Pop: 11,000)
Built in the valley, between the Luberon massif and the Vaucluse Mountains, on the ancient Domitian Way and crossed by the Calavon (or Coulon), Apt once occupied an island. Its town centre surrounds the cathedral basilica of Sainte-Anne.
The city was founded in 45 BC, on the orders of Julius Caesar, and in the 2nd century was equipped with a forum, a triumphal arch, a capitol, temples, baths and an amphitheatre. Excavations have made it possible to calculate that it was equivalent to that of Fréjus and a little smaller than those of Arles and Nîmes.
Fortified in the High Middle Ages, plundered by the Saracens around 895, Apt saw its consulate abolished in 1258. The city was then administered by prince-bishops. Its market (agreement obtained in 1470) reached a notoriety exceeding the local and even regional framework.
In 1770, César Moulin's sons, François and Jacques, earthenware makers, by working and mixing different clays (including ochre), invented the Aptesian marbling. Their successors in the 19th century made plates in the shape of vine leaves, which were particularly sought after (a tradition that is still alive today).
Apt has hosted the Critérium du Dauphiné, the Critérium International, but also three stages of Paris-Nice, the last in 2020, won by Tiesj Benoot.
Foundation: 11th century, then reworked until the 16th century
Style: Romanesque and Gothic
Characteristics: its treasure consists of many rare pieces, including an Egyptian Fatimid cloth (from 1096) that wrapped the relics of Saint Anne when they were transferred from Palestine and is known as the veil of Saint Anne.
History: Apt having lost its title of bishopric in 1801, its cathedral, which is no longer a bishopric, became a minor basilica in 1877 because it had possessed the relics of Saint Anne, the patron saint of Apt, since 1373.
Current use: place of worship
Classification: Historical Monument in 1846
A jewel of French gastronomy, truffle is a Provençal speciality, since the region produces 80% of the truffles in France. Vaucluse is with tDrôme provençale the first producer of tuber melanosporum. The best truffles are those of the month of January, when they reach their full maturity. In season, the markets of Carpentras and Richerenche, the most important in the region, set the prices.
Truffle is harvested up to 1,000 m in altitude. Preferring limestone soils, they are always in symbiosis with white or green oak, ash and hornbeam. It is said that the finest grow in the shade of lime trees. Joseph Talon (who has a statue in Saint-Saturnin-Lès-Apt), the father of modern truffle growing, put into practice his simple principle in 1810: "If you want to harvest truffles, plant acorns".
Km 72: Saint-Saturnin-lès-Apt (Pop: 2,850)
This village on one of the slopes of the Monts de Vaucluse, facing the northern valley of the Grand Lubéron, took the name Saint-Saturnin in 1770. After the French Revolution, the name "lès Apt" was added (in 1794), which in Provençal simply means "near Apt". Its environment is agricultural: cherry trees, olive trees, vineyards and fine lavender.
The old part of the village has a lot of charm, with very beautiful old houses, sculpted porches, doors and window frames. The remains of its medieval castle (the chapel of Saint-Saturnin and the 11th century keep have been recently restored) crown the village as well as three fortified enclosures.
Km 96: Sault (Pop: 1,400)
The first attested human presence dates back to prehistoric times and never stopped growing until the 19th century. The local products of the Sault region are as numerous as they are varied: honey, lamb from the Sault region, Ventoux pork, nougats (white, black and macaroons), goat's cheese, etc. Cycle tour of lavender on the morning of the second Sunday in August. Sault is especially known to cyclists as one of the points of passage to climb the Ventoux.
Km 116: Chalet Reynard
Rustic chalet, situated on the Mont Ventoux at 1,440 m, which serves traditional cuisine and local specialities including truffles... It has been used several times as a finishing point for Ventoux climbs: in 2016, due to the weather conditions at the summit where the Mistral wind was blowing at more than 100 km/h, it became the finish of the 12th stage of the Tour de France, won by Thomas de Gendt while yellow jersey holder Chris Froome started a little jog for his lost bike that became the iconic picture of the edition.
In February 2020, climbing the slope from Bédoin, the chalet was the finish of the 3rd stage of the Tour de la Provence, won by Nairo Quintana.
Km 122: Mont Ventoux (1,912 m)
Also called́ the Bald Mountain or the Giant of Provence, it is the highest point of the Baronnies massif and the highest in the Vaucluse. Culminating at 1,912 m, it is about 25 km long on an east-west axis and 15 km wide on a north-south axis. Its geographical isolation makes it visible from great distances.
The mistral wind, sometimes violent, blows almost half the year.
Mont Ventoux is listed as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO and as a Natura 2000 site.
During the Second World War, the Mont was home to the Ventoux maquis, one of the most important maquis in Provence.
Since 1966, the summit has been topped by a 42-m-high observation tower with a 20-m antenna. A television transmitter with a power of 195 kw, whose signal is so strong that it can be received from 90 km away, uses a 50 m tower built in the 1960s. It has been broadcasting TNT since 2007.
The Ventoux is also the most famous summit in cycling because of its difficulty and the exploits and dramas that have taken place there. It has been ridden sixteen times in the Tour de France since 1951 and saw Ferdi Kubler and Jean Malléjac suffer terrible failures there in 1955. In 1967, the death of British rider Tom Simpson on its slopes further enhanced its mythical status. In 2016, it was again on this climb that Chris Froome found himself without a bike, forced to run up to the summit. The Ventoux has also been climbed in the Critérium du Dauphiné, Paris-Nice and the Tour de la Provence. Since 2019, the Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge is held there.
Tom Simpson Stele
In memory of British cyclist Tom Simpson, who died́ on 13 July 1967, while climbing the Ventoux. He had been knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1964 after his victorious Milan-San Remo. Tom Simpson, who died of fatigue, dehydration and possibly from taking amphetamines, was also the 1965 world road champion and won the Tour of Flanders in 1961.
Km 128: Mont Serein (1,437 m)
On the northern slopes of the Ventoux, Mont Serein is home to a small winter sports resort. In 2008, Robert Gesink won a stage of Paris-Nice there.
Km 150: Le Barroux (Pop: 640)
Castle of Le Barroux
Foundation: 12th century
Style: medieval fortress, converted to Renaissance style in the 16th century.
Characteristics: defensive by nature, this castle with its refined silhouette nevertheless has multiple fire hydrants in the walls that prepare it for possible sieges from Saracen or Italian invaders.
A little history: occupied during the Second World War, the castle was deliberately set on fire by the German troops when they left.
Current use: as a place to visit, also open to cultural events.
Classification: Historical Monument in 1963
Km 155: Bédoin (Pop: 3,100)
Tourism is a fundamental part of the town's economy, thanks to the fame of Mont Ventoux.
The winegrowers of Bédoin cultivate about 818 hectares of vines with the appellations AOC Côtes du Ventoux and Vin de Pays. The climatic and geological characteristics of the commune allow these wines to be quite typical. Bédoin has a cooperative cellar (the Vignerons du Mont Ventoux) as well as various estates (Galinier, As des sœurs, Le Van, la Grange de Maximin).
Fruit orchards represent another important part of agriculture, they are the third source of income after the vine. The production of red cherries is widespread in the commune, as are apricots, plums and figs. The olive trees have been producing oil since the 18th century, but the frost of February 1956 greatly reduced production. Since March 2007, the oil of Bédoin and Caromb has been awarded the regional AOC Huile de Provence.
Bédoin has been the start and finish of stages in Paris-Nice and the Critérium du Dauphiné for stages in Ventoux. Winner of the 1984 Tour of Spain, Eric Caritoux is a winegrower in Flassan, 6 km from Bédoin.
Chapel of the Madeleine
Foundation: 11th century
Characteristics: small basilica-type construction, made of irregular rubble, rectangular in plan. Surmounted by a square bell tower from the 12th century with a rather rare layout.
Current use: private chapel open to visitors at weekends.
Classification: Historical Monument in 1947.
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