Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sablet, beautiful village in the Vaucluse

We live in Sablet (our home away from California), a pretty village (pop 1,300) located at the base of the jagged Dentelles de Montmirail west of Mont Ventoux in the Vaucluse Department of Provence France.

The village sits on a hill bordering the rich alluvial (sand, silt, clay, or gravel deposited during floods) plain of the Ouvèze River. The origin of the name Sablet comes from "sable" (sand) as the village is built on sandstone.

Sablet's neighbor to the north is Séguret, one of the "Plus Beaux Villages de France" and to the south is Gigondas, a small hillside village which produces world class red wines from the surrounding vineyards.

Sablet is known for its production of Côtes du Rhône wine produced from grapes grown in the vineyards which are planted all around the village. Like most wine produced in the Côtes du Rhône, Sablet wines are vinified in red, rosé and white with the predominant varietal being Grenache (reds and rosés) and Grenache Blanc (white).

The vineyards were first cultivated by the Counts of Toulouse to whom the area then belonged. During the 14th century, the vineyards became papal possessions when the papacy moved to Avignon.

Sablet wines were awarded the classification Côtes du Rhône Villages Sablet in 1974. This mark of distinction gives the local vignerons (winemakers) the right to put the name Sablet on labels for bottles of wine produced from grapes grown within the commune and vinified in accordance with AOC rules.

In 1867 after most of the vineyards of France were ravaged by Phylloxera, local resident François-Frédéric Leydier invented a device that enabled American root stock to be grafted onto French vines, thus thwarting the epidemic. Ironically, Sablet is one of the few places in France that did not require Phylloxera resistant root stock.

In Sablet, you will find charming and picturesque shaded streets adorned with flowers, passageways with exposed beams, fountains and stone village houses lined along the narrow streets.

Shirley Augsburger standing in "Grande" (big or wide) Rue in Sablet.

Some of the streets are named after the artisans who lived and worked there like Rue du Cordonnier, the shoemaker's street.

Boulevard des Remparts

Escalier de l'Eglise (stairs to the church) at the north end of our house.

Sablet is a circular village and the streets curl up in concentric circles to the Romanesque church of St. Nazaire (12th century). The bell tower of the church of St. Nazaire is the highest point in the village. The church bell rings hourly between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

The pretty fountain with the adjoining laundry basin. We still see ladies in the village washing clothes in the laundry basin.

The city walls and towers were probably started in the 14th century and completed in 1500. It has recently been restored by the Association des Compagnons des Barrys; it remains one of the most beautiful reminders of historic times in Sablet.

Within 2 to 3 minutes walking distance from the house we can find most everything we need during our stay in the village; two boulangeries (bakeries), boucherie (butcher), two mini marts, a florist, a pharmacy, a tabac/presse (where we can buy local and Parisian daily newspapers such as the Le Monde, Figaro, Le Provence and the International Herald Tribune), 2 hair salons, a bibliothèque (library), bank with ATM machine and post office.

One of the two boulangeries in Sablet.

The Boucherie, the butcher shop.

The library and one of the hair salons

The main village square is also home to the tourist office or “Syndicat d’Initiative” where you can find all the information you need about the village and about touring the area. The tourist office is also the showcase for the local independent wine-makers who have made the village famous; you can taste and buy their wines there.

In the main village square, there is a traditional village bar; a good place to watch the world go by, gossip with the locals or read the paper while you enjoy your morning coffee.

There is also a casual family restaurant and pizzeria right next door to the bar in the main village square called Les Remparts. There is indoor dining and a large terrace for outdoor dining and beautiful views.

A short walk down the hill along the Route de Vaison to the Mairie past the roundabout at the northern entrance to Sablet you will find an excellent gastronomic restaurant called Les Abeilles. They offer indoor dining and a lovely plane tree shaded terrace for alfresco dining.

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