Saturday, July 2, 2011

Oppède-le-Vieux, a Magnificent Old Village in the Luberon.

When friends come to visit us in Sablet, some who may be there for their first and maybe only time in their life, we plan our time together so they see and experience what we think are the best parts of our beautiful corner of Provence.

It is really hard to decide where to go when they are there for just a week even if we say we are not going to go farther than one hour away by car. That distance includes almost all our favorite places except for Cassis which is more like one and one-half hours away; but its our favorite seaside village so we make an exception.

My list of places not to miss include the Tuesday morning market in Vaison-la-Romaine, Crestet, Séguret, Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape for wine lovers, Roussillon and Gordes in the Luberon, Sénanque Abbey especially during lavender season, Pont du Gard although not technically in Provence and the aforementioned Cassis.

We also love Aix-en-Provence, Bonnieux, Lourmarin, Villedieu, Les Baux de Provence and the surrounding Alpilles where the best olive oils in France are produced, the Dentelles de Montmirail and Mont Ventoux. Its hard to whittle our list to make everything fit let alone get to new places where we have not been before.

So it was a little unusual a few weeks back when friends Steven and Susan were visiting that we decided to go to Oppède-le-Vieux where we had not been before. Oppède-le-Vieux is generally not very well known, little is written about the village in the various guide books about Provence but I had it in my head that I wanted to go.

So off we went. Oppède-le-Vieux is a beautiful village with many ruins perched on the northern face of the Luberon mountains about one hour's drive from Sablet.

If you go visit Oppède-le-Vieux, you will have to leave your car in the parking lot at the base of the village; from there, follow the path up the hill. There is a small fee for the parking lot.

It was beautiful and sunny, late April, the day we went and the trees were in full bloom as we walked up the path through the terrace garden into the old village.

Oppède is in fact two villages: Oppède-le-Vieux ("the old" in French), built against the Petit Luberon and dating back 1000 years, and Oppède-les-Poulivets ("nice view" in Provençal), today known as "le village", down in the valley.

There is a terrace café and a few shops in the center of the old village below the church and ruined castle. This is a good place to rest and soak up the atmosphere after your walk from the parking lot.

Cross in the old village square. I love that blue sky.

The walled village and arched passage.

A beautifully restored home.

Chapel of White Penitents in the old village.

A 15 to 20 minute walk up hill on cobblestones through the trees past ruins of ancient dwellings will bring you to the summit and the 16th century Church of Notre Dame d'Alidon.

As you hike up to the village, look back as you have magnificent views out towards Mont Ventoux; Gordes is in the foreground.

Church of Notre Dame d'Alidon is being restored by the commune.

Church of Notre Dame d'Alidon.

The ruins which remain of the castle. Pay attention when you are up on the summit as there are drop offs and no rails.

The view out of a window of the castle ruins.

Besides the church and castle ruins, a climb to the summit from the old village below will be rewarded with fantastic views of the countryside.

More of the castle ruins.

As we walked back to the old village below, we passed more flowering trees.

More restored homes in the old village.


A pretty house. I like the blue shutters with flowering tree.

Towards the end of the 19th century, a post office and school were opened down in the valley in Poulivets and the residents of the old village slowly moved out of Oppède-le-Vieux. In 1909, the city hall officially moved to Oppède-les-Poulivets and consequently the old village became deserted.

After World War II, attracted by Oppède's beauty and history, some people returned and refurbished some of the houses beyond the ramparts and little by little the old village came back to life. I really like this beautiful place and Oppède-le-Vieux is now on my list of places not to miss.

Bonne journée mes amis et à bientôt


  1. I have noted down your recommendations, Michel! Thanks very much. And Oppede-le-Vieux looks just great!

  2. You were awfully close to Le Petit Village! :-)

  3. Sounds like you have another place to add to your "where to take friends and family when they visit" tour!

  4. Thank you for the tour of a lovely town!

  5. Seasonal Cook - Those are my favorites; Oppede-le-Vieux is a new one!

    Sara - I hope sometime I get a chance to meet you and your merry band that you write about from Le Petit Village.

    Megan - If you have not been there, it is worth the drive.

    Camille - Thanks for checking in. A beautiful alternative to some of the other more famous Luberon villages.