I’m a great fan of the department of Vaucluse. But not the Lubéron area which has become so overrun with tourists in the last few years – partly as a result of Peter Mayle and his books. I particularly love the gorgeous and picturesque area around the Dentelles de Montmirail – and the various Rhône villages such as Gigondas, Séguret, Sablet and Vacquéras – sleepy villages known for their wine. This is a great area to explore – the countryside is glorious and there are so many places to stop and wander around.
Séguret is one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France, and it certainly deserves to be in this list. Laid out below the ruins of a feudal château, you enter the village by the Porte Reynier. The charming old streets, like the rue des Poternes, are lined with ancient stone houses with attractive facades. In the main square, you’ll find the 17th-century Fontaine des Mascarons and a charming belltower. It’s typically provençal with the 10th-century church (St-Denis) and all the usual features of a medieval village.
Gigondas is a typical, pretty, small and sleepy provençal village, and there’s not a great deal going on. Apart from its delicious wine, its main claim to fame is its location at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail. Surrounded by more than 1250 hectares of vineyards, the village and its old houses rise up to the 11th century Sainte Catherine Church with its central tower flanked by a belfry and campanile and by an old sundial. On the rocky ridge above the vilage, the ruins of the medieval castle watch over the village like a sentinel. Next to the church, you can visit the old buildings built in 1678 by a religious brotherhood to house children and the poor. Converted into a hospice in 1800 the buildings were then abandoned. The Hospice today houses winemakers on the ground floor and contemporary art exhibitions upstairs.
If you have the stamina and fancy exploring the Dentelles de Montmirail there are several trails leading from Gigondas village into this magnificent landscape. When I’ve visited Gigondas, I’ve always stayed at a small, family-run hotel called Les Florets. Accommodation is either in the main building, or in an annexe a little behind the hotel. I’ve stayed in both, and I prefer being in the main house. The hotel is in a great location on a hill just before you reach the village with wonderful views. There’s a wonderful restaurant where they serve delicious food and you can sample the wine from their own vineyard. And in the summer you can dine on the pretty terrace with fabulous views of the surrounding countryside. Highly recommended.