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Vaison-la-Romaine in Northern Provence

Pauline

Forums Admin
I am thinking about two weeks in Vaison, or a nearby town, in May. We visited Sablet and Vaison last October, but only for a day trip. We really liked Vaison - loved the Roman ruins, thought the town was beautiful, found a great vegetarian restaurant. It looks like there is good walking/hiking in the mountains nearby (we got a hiking guide to use for the next trip).

I would love to hear thoughts about Vaison, recommendations of places to stay (1 - 2 bedroom vacation rental), information about hiking and things to do in the area.

We spent 2+ weeks in Uzes last year (west of Vaison in the Languedoc) and spent 2 weeks in the Luberon about 10 years ago - so we know those areas. But we don't know the area to the north and east.

Thanks!

Photo of vegetarian restaurant in Vaison.

vaison-restaurant-7093.jpg
 

JeriF.

10+ Posts
After staying in the Luberon several times, my husband and I moved on up to the Haut Vaucluse on our 2012 trip and based ourselves in Sablet, in a house at the top of the town across from the beautiful old church, which is illuminated at night. We think it's the perfect place to stay: easy to get anywhere, big enough to have a couple of restaurants, a grocer, two hairdressers (neither of which I used, but they're there), a butcher, two boulangeries (frankly, neither great). We had thought about staying in Vaison but decided against it, largely because we like smaller places; by the end of our three weeks in Sablet merchants recognized us, knew what to put aside every day for our breakfast, and chatted when we came in, so that I felt comfortable enough to tease the grocer in French when he showed up one day in a white coat that looked like a doctor's jacket.

We stayed here: http://www.sablethome.com/, which was a perfect rental for us, since our adult daughter was with us part of the time. It was a bit too big, maybe, and pretty expensive, but otherwise a gorgeous place, with a drop-dead kitchen. This year, we're staying here, also 2 bedrooms: http://www.maisonsprovencales.fr/index.html, in La Tour des Anges--smaller, less expensive, and much easier access for my aching knees.

We're not hikers, but I know there's a popular hike between Sablet and neighboring Seguret (beautiful, in a museum-y kind of way), and there are trails through the Dentelles. We spent our time visiting places from Cassis up to the Vercors (an overnight) and beginning to get to know the Drome Provencale, which we'd never visited--just a perfect vacation. Can't wait for September and our return.

I'm sure Ann will chime in on this.
 

Parigi

100+ Posts
After staying in the Luberon several times, my husband and I moved on up to the Haut Vaucluse on our 2012 trip and based ourselves in Sablet, in a house at the top of the town across from the beautiful old church, which is illuminated at night. We think it's the perfect place to stay: easy to get anywhere, big enough to have a couple of restaurants, a grocer, two hairdressers (neither of which I used, but they're there), a butcher, two boulangeries (frankly, neither great). We had thought about staying in Vaison but decided against it, largely because we like smaller places; by the end of our three weeks in Sablet merchants recognized us, knew what to put aside every day for our breakfast, and chatted when we came in, so that I felt comfortable enough to tease the grocer in French when he showed up one day in a white coat that looked like a doctor's jacket.

We stayed here: http://www.sablethome.com/, which was a perfect rental for us, since our adult daughter was with us part of the time. It was a bit too big, maybe, and pretty expensive, but otherwise a gorgeous place, with a drop-dead kitchen. This year, we're staying here, also 2 bedrooms: http://www.maisonsprovencales.fr/index.html, in La Tour des Anges--smaller, less expensive, and much easier access for my aching knees.

We're not hikers, but I know there's a popular hike between Sablet and neighboring Seguret (beautiful, in a museum-y kind of way), and there are trails through the Dentelles. We spent our time visiting places from Cassis up to the Vercors (an overnight) and beginning to get to know the Drome Provencale, which we'd never visited--just a perfect vacation. Can't wait for September and our return.

I'm sure Ann will chime in on this.
I second Sablet, a much nicer base than Vaison. Sablet is not only charming but is a truly functioning village and not a museum village like many around it even though they are indeed beautiful.Further north, Grignan is another beautiful and "real" mid-size village, in the region of Drome which is often described as Provence before Provence became too known.
 

Cameron

500+ Posts
When our sons were teenagers (14 years ago), we stayed (2 rooms for 5 days) in a rural B&B outside Vaison, below Le Crestet. Back then, it was difficult to find apartments to rent outside Rome and Paris. Vaison was enjoyable, especially the market. This was a great base for day tripping the region and catching local events such as a vintage car show that included the cars driving up Mont Ventoux; arts and crafts markets (bought great pottery). We loved walking through the countryside around our B&B. We ventured to Pont du Gard, Tarascon, Nimes/Arles (Can't remember which one) and the wine villages around the dentelles de montmirail. We love the area.
 

Ann

100+ Posts
A third vote for Sablet, as Jeri predicted. We chose to stay there for a week last spring, based on Jeri's rather enthusiastic review, and I was converted -- we're returning for 2 weeks in October, staying here again (Tony gave us a nice break on the price since there will be only the 2 of us, we'll be there off-season, and probably also because we're return guests). It's not that I have anything against Vaison -- we love the market (on Tuesdays), the restaurants, and the sense of history -- but Sablet's size is what makes it so appealing to us, allowing us to fit into the rhythm of the town and its inhabitants pretty quickly. Wherever you choose, Pauline, there's another wonderful market in Nyons (the olive capital of France) on Thursdays, and beautiful scenery everywhere -- Brantes, Sault, the Nesque Canyon, Le Poet Laval to name just a few places.
 

Anne

100+ Posts
My mother and I both loved Vaison-la-Romaine when we were there last spring. We splurged on an exquisite newly renovated condo immediately overlooking the Roman ruins - VRBO listing is here. I notice the price has gone up since we stayed there though, so to be honest it's now out of our price range but otherwise I wholeheartedly recommend it. It is truly divine! The owners, Jean-Claude and Colette are the sweetest hosts you can imagine, they even invited us for dinner one evening with some friends of theirs.

I've only stayed in the area once, so can't compare locations, but Vaison was perfect for us. We really enjoyed the contrast between Roman, medieval and modern areas...all in one compact little town. It didn't feel like a museum town at all to me. Mind you we were there the end of April so there weren't that many other tourists around.

I believe there are several hiking trails around Vaison, but we didn't explore those (my mother was awaiting knee replacement surgery at the time so hiking was not on our agenda.) We had a great time exploring the area by car though...barely scratched the surface in a week. The little wine museum near Rasteau is a fave memory...I'd never had a wine tasting before, and thought it was fun that my first experience included 8-9 different kinds of wine, including Chateauneuf du Pape.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
I am back to working on this. It looks like we will be in France the last two weeks of May and I am thinking of spending two weeks in Vaison if I can find a vacation rental in the town or in the area.

Last year we stopped in Sablet on our way to Vaison because I knew that Ann liked the town and there are several vacation rentals. It seemed like too small a town and not that interesting - but I am sure we were wrong, since several of you love it. It is funny how you can form a quick and possibly wrong impression of a place. If possible, I would like to stay in Vaison though.
 

JeriF.

10+ Posts
Pauline, I'm not sure I'd try to argue that Sablet is exciting or particularly outstanding, either to visit or to stay in. Perhaps that's why I like it so much. It is a thoroughly unglitzy, untouristy place, big enough to stroll around in the late afternoon and to meet basic needs for shopping and services, with enough charm for me and a superb location. You'll never see a tourist bus there--and that's just fine with me. It lets me live out my fantasy of actually being part of the community, if only for a few weeks at a time.
 

Parigi

100+ Posts
Many of my friends also like Sablet, so I am ready to like it. Actually I have stopped a few times there, andI also came away with a similar impression as Pauline, no doubt … incomplete.

May I ask if it has qualities other than a lack of tourists? I don't like a place overrun with tourists of course. But I grew up in Hong Kong and San Francisco, and now live in Paris, and I have grown to try to be helpful to all travelers. Tourists are not all human pollution. We travel too.They/we are not ambulatory destructive eye-sores, I hope.

Unlike me who have always lived in cities with a fair share of tourists, for good reasons, my husband comes from Oelwein, Iowa, where there is not a single tourist.

Personally I can't get an assessment of a place based solely on the presence or absence of tourists. So please tell me other things that make so many of you love Sablet.

(Pauline, the Rich Text Editor does not work on this thread. I did not click RTE when I posted, and had to do "edit" and put back all the paragraph separators. And during edito, I had to click RTE first thing. If I click it at the last minute before clicking "save changes", everything reverts to one lump paragraph. I did not change the rolleeyes emoticon, because I did not know how to, and this back&forth retyping is getting tiring.)
 
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jonathan

100+ Posts
I'm also interested in this area (like several, I've stayed in the Luberon and in St-Rémy, but never in the northern Vaucluse). And I know that Parigi is a traveller of impeccable taste... So I'm confused by the contradiction between messages #3 and #9 in this thread!
 

JeriF.

10+ Posts
Okay, Parigi, I'll try to explain. First, when I say that a place is not touristy, I mean more than the physical absence of tourists. I mean that it has a certain integrity, that it exists to serve the people who live there. Sablet is not stunningly beautiful like Seguret, for example; it doesn't have a great market. What it does have is a friendliness that allowed me to begin to sense what it would be like to live there as part of a community. As I walked around, people smiled, wished me bonjour; merchants chatted a bit, asking questions about New York, how I learned my (very imperfect) French, where we'd been on our trip.

I loved the old walls, the ancient houses in the Grande Rue, the architectural unity of the village core and the newer houses with their bowers of flowers, the old fountains. I loved our views over the vineyards and the Dentelles. I loved the tranquility, the slow pace, the personal quality that went with getting our croissants every morning and our poulet roti et haricots for dinner.

I could done these things in any number of villages and developed the same affection for them. I was very happy in Bonnieux, where we spent three weeks a few years ago, and in Murs. But for whatever reason I didn't develop the same emotional tie to those towns. Go figure. Sablet is quiet. It's not très animé. But it suits me perfectly.

Sorry this is so long. I hope I've answered your question.
 

Ann

100+ Posts
Jeri has eloquently expressed our feelings about Sablet. We were there only a week, and yet after a few days, people recognized us and spoke to us. I'm looking forward to staying there for 2 weeks this fall.
 

Roz

500+ Posts
We are in Vaison now, and staying, like Anne, in an apartment overlooking the ruins. But ours is a different one, and I think not so expensive, although we are finding it perfect for our needs. Here is the link.

We have not yet been to Sablet to compare it with Vaison, but we are finding Vaison just exactly the right kind of place for us. It is big enough to have lots of excellent restaurants, some good food shops (especially a fabulous cheese store), a lively central place, and of course plenty to see, along with a great market. But it's small enough not to be crowded or overwhelming, and also seems to me like a "real" town, with tourists, sure, but at least at this time of year, not so many as in the Luberon, for example.

I hope Dana sees this because I wanted her to know how much we have appreciated the Cadogan guidebook writeup on Vaison. It has such a good description on the cathedral, which I think we would have completely overlooked without having read about it in the Provence guide. It is so sad that those books are no longer being published.

Here is a photo especially for Pauline, who I know is a cat lover. The ruins across from us are a favorite playground for the town's cats, and we love watching them leaping around, chasing each other, and staking out their territory.
IMG_5030_catsruins.jpg
 

Anne

100+ Posts
That's fantastic you found a more affordable apartment overlooking the ruins. The condo we rented was very much a splurge for us, even though we paid a fair bit less than its current going rate. Not that we regret it, of course! Our time in Vaison was priceless :)

I loved all those cats around the ruins!! This young 'un was one of my favourites:
DSCF1444.JPG
 

Roz

500+ Posts
Anne, that's a great photo of that little cat. His color blends into the stones around him.

Pauline, here is a collection of my photo albums from our time in Vaison. We really loved that area, and would definitely go back sometime. We have passed our hiking days, but it is a wonderful region to explore, and Vaison was one of the best places we've ever stayed. I highly recommend the apartment we had (link is above).
 

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