Monday, February 11, 2013

L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Antique Capital of the South of France

L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, literal translation is "Island on the Sorgue (River)," is a small town about 22 miles south of our home in Sablet that straddles five branches of the Sorgue River. As you can imagine, there is water pretty much at every turn.

The area was swampland in the 12th century when a handful of fisherman and their families built houses on stilts where the town now stands. The Sorgue River has been essential to this area's economy for centuries providing fish, water for crops and power for industries.

Le Bassin where the Sorgue River enters town and divides into branches

Canal waterwheels provided the power for silk, wool, rugs, dyeing, and paper-making industries making l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue the most important town of the Comtat-Venaissin, now known as the Vaucluse. It is said that at one time, there were approximately 70 waterwheels, only a few remain today.

Pretty shutters on a house along the Sorgue River

As the town modernized, these industries disappeared and today the town's economy is driven by tourism and sales of brocante (second hand goods) and antiquaires (antiques).

A little house sits right on a canal

Today, l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue has the second largest concentration of antique dealers in France after the market in Saint-Ouen in the northern suburbs of Paris. Over 300 antique dealers exhibit in l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue on a permanent basis.

Waterside restaurants and cafes

There are two international antique fairs held in 'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue every year - one at Easter and one on August 15 - when over 500 dealers come to town. On Sunday mornings, the permanent antique shops and antique villages are joined by sellers who set up stalls along the canals.

A statue of Alphonse Benoît and one of the canals of l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

The town holds weekly Provençal markets on Thursday and Sunday mornings in the streets of the old town. The Sunday market is huge, the one on Thursdays is more intimate. Once a year on the 1st Sunday of August, there is a floating market.

One of the moss-covered waterwheels that remain

L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is fun to explore and it's interesting to check out the antiques even if you are not looking to furnish your home. Be forewarned, it's not cheap! Parking is a challenge almost anytime but especially on the weekend.

After walking around l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and in and out of antique shops all morning, where to eat is the next thing to figure out. We generally fore go the view and opt for good food which is what we got at Le Jardin du Quai Restaurant.

The entrance to Le Jardin au Quai Restaurant

The restaurant is owned by the Chef Daniel Hebet who opened the restaurant on April 1, 2004. Prior to opening the restaurant, Chef Hebet worked in various kitchens including a stint as Chef des Cuisines at La Mirande in Avignon where he was awarded a Michelin star. In March 2010, he was named Maître Cuisinier de France (Master Chef of France).

The garden dining area for Le Jardin au Quai Restaurant

The menu changes daily based upon the season and the whims of the chef. As soon as we sat down, a tray with tapenades and a basket of sliced baguettes was brought to the table.

Amuse bouche tapenades

That day, Chef Hebet offered only a single three-course menu for 35 Euros.

We chose a bottle of pale Domaine de Jale La Moure Rosé, a crisp blend of 30% Grenache and 70% Cinsault, AOC Côtes de Provence.

Domaine de Jale La Moure Rosé

To start, we had a brandade made with fresh cod served with celery root in mayonnaise, topped with a few leaves of fresh spinach dressed in a vinaigrette.

Brandade de Cabillaud et Céleri en Mayonnaise

As I said, the Chef offered just a single option for each course and since the main course was a preparation of beef which Shirley doesn't eat, he graciously substituted a piece of pan-roasted fish set over coco beans prepared in a Provencal style with a light tomato sauce and Nicoise olives.

Poisson et Coco à la Provençale

I had the roast fillet of beef set over coco beans prepared in the same fashion as Shirley's roast fish.

Filet de Boeuf Rôti et Coco à la Provençale

For dessert, we had a fruit tart accompanied by a refreshing strawberry sorbet.

Tartelette aux Fruits Rouges

To complete a perfect lunch, the server brought out a large container of a house-made marshmallow type of confection.

Le Jardin du Quai Restaurant
91 Avenue Julien Guigue
84800 L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
Tel: 04 90 20 14 98

One of the great things about our corner of Provence is that there is something for everyone, no matter what your passion is, be it sunshine, food, wine, art, historic ruins and monuments, biking, hiking, or antiques, all in a beautiful setting. If you have not been to Provence, you must put it on your bucket list. If you make it, you will be most happy you did.

Bonne journée mes amis et à bientôt.


  1. Yes, yes and yes again to your last paragraph - that is exactly what is so good about our life here in Provence!

  2. One of my favorite places to have lunch when the sun is shining and warm!

  3. This is one of our favorite cities in Provence. We especially love their Sunday market.

  4. Barbara - You who live full time and others like us who are only there part of the time are truly blessed with abundance of riches in Provence.

    Sara - We will definitely return for lunch again. It is the best place we have found so far.

    Lee - I agree; the only thing I don't like about l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue especially on Sundays is trying to find a place to park.

  5. We were there the first summer it opened and have been back several times: one of our favorites is the entire town!

  6. If we are in that direction we will certainly pop in for a meal, it looks delightful.
    Love all you photos. Have a great week Dciane

  7. An Eye for Detail - We too will return many times to this restaurant as the food and setting is very good. Thanks for stopping in to visit my blog and for leaving your comment. I appreciate that very much.

    Diane - If you like antiques, this is worth a trip and if you come, this would be a very good place to take a break from shopping for antiques.