Sunday, April 7, 2013

Villedieu, a Tiny Jewel in the Northern Vaucluse

One of our favorite villages near Sablet is Villedieu, a small village (population 514) built on a hill overlooking vineyards, olive groves and pine trees near the Eygues River on the border of the Drôme Provençale.

Place de la Liberation, Villedieu

Villedieu dates to medieval times when the village was a commandery of the Knights of Templar with a chateau with a single tower. The village was founded during a time when potential invaders would come around and you can see the defensive fortifications as you stroll around the village.

14th century town gate with papal coat of arms

In the center of Villedieu is the village square, with a fountain and plane trees, called Place de la Liberation. The Mairie (town hall), a café and two restaurants are situated on the sides of the square. Our friends Bruce and Christine live in Villedieu.

Villedieu Town Hall

La Remise is a crêperie restaurant that also serves tarts and salads. La Remise is only open during the summer as the owners have another restaurant in the Alps. We are big fans of the La Maison Bleue Pizzeria and friends with the owner chef Daniel Roger. The one time we ate at La Remise, I didn't enjoy it very much because I felt guilty that we were not sitting at a La Maison Bleue table.

La Remise Restaurant

The Café du Centre is a bar-restaurant that serves tapas. It seems to be open most of the year.

Café du Centre

During warm weather between March and October, the village square becomes a grand terrace shared by the café and restaurants. Tables and chairs are arranged around the village fountain with the area for the café and each restaurant defined by the color of chairs.

Place de la Liberation

Sitting under the trees with family and friends on the square during a spring, summer or early fall evening is a magical experience and makes the food and wine oh so good.

Place de la Liberation

As I said, Villedieu is one of our favorite villages and we go often. Observant readers of this post will notice that these pictures were shot during three different visits at different times of year.

Statue over doorway

In the heart of Villedieu is Saint Michel Church with the 60 foot tall donjon (keep) and bell tower built on the nave of the church. At the top of the bell tower, there are three openings, each with a bell. The church is Romanesque and dates from the 10th and 12th centuries with later additions.

12th century Saint Michel Church

The oldest known relics (flint tools and weapons) discovered so far in Villedieu date the first settlement back to the Palaeolithic age. They say the odds are high that Villedieu was originally a Gallo-Roman villa near Vasio (Vaison La Romaine) bearing the name Villa Dei. There is no written account of the origin of its name, but probably, Villedieu, comes from the Latin "villa", which means country house and "dei" which means god.

Statue in corner alcove

Villedieu became part of the "Comtat Venaissin" and annexed to France in 1791.

Magnificent stone archway into Villedieu

One of the great things about Villedieu is that although it is quite well known to the locals, it is largely undiscovered to tourists as there is no mention of the town in the Michelin Green Guide and just one sentence in Rick Steve's infamous blue book about Provence.

First time I have seen a cat on a leash

The defensive walls were probably built at the same time as Saint Michel Church. The walls are over 32 feet high. Restored at different times, there are three majestic gates off Place de la Liberation. The middle gate is topped by a belfry and has a clock on the face which dates from the 12th century. On the arch is the papal coat of arms, the only authentic papal coat of arms still in place in the Vaucluse.

Olive trees grow along the Villedieu fortifications

View toward Drôme Provençale and Vinsobres

As I said earlier, Villedieu was a commandery of the Knights of Templar with a chateau with a single tower seen below.

Chateau with one tower

A third of the villagers live within the old defensive fortifications in the center of Villedieu. The other two thirds live on farms and in detached houses that have been built around the village over the last few years. Most of the commune is planted with vineyards.

Another view of the chateau with one tower

The defensive walls with the circular towers are publicly owned in the northeast corner of Place de la Liberation. The rest of the walls are a part of privately-owned dwellings.

More of the Villedieu fortifications

As I told you here, La Maison Bleue Pizzeria is owned by a wonderful chef named Daniel Roger. From a small kitchen equipped with a large wood-fired pizza oven he built himself, he turns out a variety of salads, large enough to share, and pizzas with a variety of toppings on dough perfectly blistered by the wood-fired oven. He also offers pastas and other specials.

We have eaten quite a few meals at La Maison Bleue since our first visit to Villedieu; we've sat in the small dining room and out under the plane-tree covered terrace in front of the restaurant. I strongly recommend that you make reservations since chef Daniel only does one seating and the terrace fills up very quickly.

La Maison Bleue Pizzeria

There are many wonderful restaurants within a short distance of our house in Sablet including several with Michelin stars and others designated as Bibb Gourmand restos but I don't think you will have an experience like sitting on the terrace in Villedieu on a summer evening. So if you are in the Northern Vaucluse, plan to go to Villedieu and eat at La Maison Bleue Pizzeria. By the way we get no financial consideration for this recommendation; we just love eating at La Maison Bleue on the terrace.

11 comments:

  1. Very enjoyable, it makes me want to rush over and enjoy those sights first hand. The cat on a leash was funny. What next?

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  2. Thank you for allowing me to tag along on your travels. The only way for me to be a world traveler is through blogs like yours. This was a delightful post and your blog is perfection. Thank you again.
    Your blogging sister, Connie :)

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  3. Michel, I am getting cross with you - you are giving all our best loved secret spots away....

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  4. Bonjour Michel. I have never visited Villedieu, but I would like it, I think. It is the quintessential French town: Historical sites (to remind us of the past,) a "Place de la Libération," a central square with a friendly café protected from the hot summer sun by platanes (plane trees,) and a handful of good restaurants. Maybe I will go there one day... Veronique (French Girl in Seattle) PS: Hope our friend Rick Steves does not read your review of the place or it will get stormed by tourists within a few months!

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  5. Mimmo - Thanks for your comment. I think you might have been with us on our very first visit to Maison Bleue.

    Connie - Thanks so much for stopping by to read my post and for leaving a comment. I truly appreciate your kind feedback. Have a great day.

    Barbara - I love Villedieu and I probably should have kept it as a secret between those of us who are close by. But I couldn't resist!

    Veronique - I have no doubt about whether or not you would like Villedieu. After having a drink or meal on the terrace, you would be hooked on the village for life.

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  6. Another place to add to the 'must sees'. Again, great photos and information. Thanks. Have a good week, Diane

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  7. Another amazing village bursting with history! I love living in Provence!

    And while I've never seen a cat on a leash, I used to walk my pet rabbit on one :)

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  8. We've tried to walk our cat on a leash several times, to varying degrees of success. We saw one once in the 5th in Paris that was having a great time!

    I love the way southern French towns turn the outdoor squares into extensions of the surrounding restaurants. I remember seeing this in Montpellier, and finding it convivial and charming.

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  9. Diane - Thanks for the nice feedback. If you do get down to the Vaucluse, it is really a magical place to spend an evening; great fun!

    Sara - There are lots of great things about life in Provence but among the best are the lively village squares on a sunny day. I would have liked to see you take your pet rabbit for a walk on a leash.

    Camille - As I said to Sara, there is something wonderful and magical about the village squares in the South of France. You need to come back to visit.

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  10. Just discovered your blog, serendipitously, and am enjoying reading all about this area of France. I have French roots through my French Canadian Great Grandmother Suzannah Papineau. One day I'd love to see Provence, alas for now, I travel vicariously through others' travel blogs. Thanks for sharing!

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  11. Marcia - Thank you so much for stopping in to check out my blog and for leaving a comment. I appreciate this very much. I am very happy to know that you are enjoying traveling with us as we visit Provence. Hope to hear from you on a regular basis.

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