After days of exploring teeny villages and hamlets with just a handful of streets, driving into L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue was a bit of a shock to the system. It’s a proper town, with the hustle and bustle (and traffic) to go with it. It’s famous for its Sunday morning antiques market (I think it’s the country’s biggest antiques market outside of Paris), but as we’re not really into our antiques, we decided to skip the crowds and head over on a Saturday instead.
The town is built on a network of canals, hence its nickname, the Venice of Provence. They encircle the old town, with a few threading through the middle of it, too. Dozens of cafes and restaurants line the banks and the bridges…
We stopped for a café crème first, before taking ourselves on a little walking tour around the town. We started by delving into the ancient lanes that weave through the old town.
There are plenty of shops here, including some fantastic independent delis and cheese shops (and a L’Occitane – it is Provence, after all). As you’d expect for somewhere that hosts a famous antiques market, there’s a strong collection of second-hand and antique shops (hundreds, apparently), but you’ll find the majority of them outside the old town, on the other side of the canal.
After exploring the lanes, we found ourselves back on the banks of the main canal, which we followed almost the entire way around the island. As we got to the northern edge, the cafes, restaurants and crowds thinned out, until we were the only ones strolling along the waterside beneath the plane trees.
The water is Evian-clear and looks incredibly inviting (especially on a stifling hot day), so I stopped to dip a toe in. I wouldn’t recommend it. The water springs from the ground at the Fontaine de Vaucluse just a few kilometres away, and so maintains a toe-numbing 13-degree temperature pretty much year round. Brr.
Every so often, we came across one of the town’s huge water wheels, rusting and covered in spongy moss. A couple of them still work, although they don’t actually ‘do’ anything any more. But beside most of them, you’ll be able to spot a grand mansion that would’ve been the home of wealthy merchants back when L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue was big on silk and paper production.
The walk around took about an hour, with plenty of dawdling and photo stops. If you’re not fussed about the antique shopping, you could easily see the best bits of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in a morning or afternoon.
I wish we’d have thought to go into the town for dinner one evening, as I imagine it would be lovely to dine alongside the canal as the sun sets. Maybe next time…
City Walk Giveaway
Thanks to the team at GPSmyCity app, I’ve got 20 free downloads of their self-guided walking tours to give away. There are loads to choose from in dozens of towns and cities around the world – including some in Avignon and Aix if you’re planning a trip to Provence. Just take a look at their website for the full list and pick the one you fancy, then let me know what you’d like in the comments.
Until 17th February, they’re also running a crowdfunding campaign which means you can also get a lifetime membership to the app for just $60. So you pay once and can download as many different walks and travel articles as you like, forever! Find out more here.
How to enter: All you need to do is leave a comment on this post – it’s that simple! Each code will be for London (my beloved home city), unless you let me know in the comment that you’d prefer a different city. Don’t forget to state whether you’d like it for iOS or Android.
Terms & conditions: Competition closes Friday 17th February. Codes will be sent to winners by email after closing. Codes are valid for 28 days (this is the code only, not the app – once downloaded, the app is valid forever).