Sunday, January 26, 2014

Beautiful villages around the Dentelles de Montmirail

It might seem like our day trips take us a long way from Sablet, the village we call home in Provence, but that is not the case at all. Most day trips are are less than one hour drive and quite a few take just a few minutes.

One of the most scenic trips is the 62 km "Route des Vin" (wine road) that goes around the Dentelles de Montmirail with stops to visit one or more of the pretty wine-making villages along the way. The Dentelles de Montmirail are short, steep mountains with a distinctive rocky ridge extending west geologically from Mont Ventoux which is located just to the east.

The name Dentelles, the French word for lace, refers to the jagged, rocky tops obtained by erosion, while Montmirail is derived from the Latin mons mirabilis meaning "admirable mountain" though the alternative connection with teeth, "dents" in French is equally good in my opinion.

The Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range is about 8 km (5 miles) long and runs from Vaison-la-Romaine on the north end to Beaumes-de-Venise on the south. The tallest peak of the Dentelles de Montmirail range is St-Amand, at 734 m (2,400 ft).

View toward the Dentelles de Montmirail with Sablet in the foreground

As you know, we live in Sablet, which we think is one of the prettiest villages along the Dentelles de Montmirail wine road. You can check out Sablet here, here and here.

Sablet

Next door to Sablet is Séguret, a small village elevated above the vineyards that separate Sablet from Séguret and wraps around the bottom of a steep hill topped by ruins of its medieval castle.

We go often to Séguret, sometimes on foot through the vineyards up to Séguret then through the pretty village before heading back to Sablet on the connecting road. Séguret is classified as a "most beautiful village of France" and is most deserving of this honor.

Séguret

When you get to Séguret, you will have to park in one of the parking areas just below the village as Séguret is accessible only on foot. From the parking lot, walk up the hill and enter the village through the arched portal of the old wall around Séguret to the main street.

The small central square of Séguret has a 14th-century stone bell tower with a 17th-century belfry and a single-hand clock dating from 1680. On this same square is a lavoir built in 1846 and the 17th-century fountain with its four stone faces.

Shirley and friends at the fountain in the center of Séguret

The village of Séguret is long and narrow with cobblestone streets and rough stone walls.

Cobblestone street in Séguret

Séguret has a number of tourist-oriented shops along Rue des Poternes including several art galleries and santonniers. In case you don't know, santonniers are makers of hand-painted terracotta nativity scene figurines produced in Provence that I told you about here.

Rue des Poternes in Séguret

The Huguenots' gate which still has its two iron bound wooden shutters.

Séguret's Huguenots' gate

Below you can see one of the village lavoirs near the Huguenot's gate; lavoirs are a public place set aside for washing clothes.

A Séguret lavoir

As you exit Séguret, you will pass the public toilet facilities. Let's just say that public toilets in France are a mixed bag of good and bad and we recommend ladies, that you carry toilet paper in your purse as you travel about. Toilets deserve a post of their own and someday I will tackle this topic as a public service.

Public toilets

Fourteen km on the wine road around the Dentelles de Montmirail we come to the tiny village of Crestet. It is perched on a crest at the northern edge of the Dentelles de Montmirail facing Mont Ventoux.

Crestet

Drive up the narrow winding road, in some places more like a path, up to the medieval castle sitting atop Crestet where there is a spectacular view towards Mont Ventoux.

The castle is one of the oldest castles in Provence. It was renovated and enlarged in the 14th century and for a while the bishops of Vaison-la-Romaine resided there. What remained of the castle was restored in 1984. It is now privately owned and not open to the public.

Crestet castle

The village is tiny, population 434. From the castle, you head down the narrow cobblestone street into the center of the village. You will enter into a medieval world with old stone houses, narrow alleys, arches and cul-de-sacs. Beware, none of the streets are flat.

Narrow cobblestone street in Crestet

The steeple of Saint-Sauveur-et-Saint-Sixte church

Cobblestone stairway

One of many stone structures in Crestet

A statue along the path

Steep narrow cobblestone street in Crestet

All the streets are cobblestone and barely wide enough for two people

The construction of the village church began in 890. Three chapels were added successively in 1380, 1495, and 1563. It wasn't until 1760, that the church was dedicated to Saint-Sauveur.

Saint-Sauveur-et-Saint-Sixte church in Crestet

The beautiful fountain seen below is in the center of Crestet near the village church. It was built in 1843.

Crestet fountain near village church

Cobblestone steps and archway in Crestet

Village lavoir

The Annonciade chapel seen below was built in 1545.

Annonciade chapel

Old stone well in Crestet

Cross against backdrop of the end of the day toward Mont Ventoux

Stone house with sun dial

Stone archway in Crestet

Cobblestone path uphill back to castle

There is almost no commercial activity in the village; a restaurant at the top which we have not tried and Poterie de Crestet, a pottery maker at the entrance to the village.

If you are in the Vaucluse, you should set time aside to drive the wine road around the Dentelles de Montmirail. Sablet, Séguret and Crestet are definitely worth a visit along the way but so are Gigondas, Beaumes de Venise and Vaison-la-Romaine.

Although we have driven around the Dentelles de Montmirail many times, we have not yet stopped and explored Suzette or Lafare. Maybe when we are there in a few week.

Have a great week. Chat soon.

8 comments:

  1. Lovely photos as always Michel, of the prettiest villages around here!

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  2. I loved this post! Michel, I can't believe that I haven't visited any of these villages, they all look so beautiful. I showed the photos to Remi and so I think that a visit will be in order at some point. And do you remember my mentioning a pretty rental on the market in Sablet? It was gone in less than two days! Obviously, there are folks out there that know what a special place it is...lovely photos too! Merci. :)

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  3. It amazes me how many interesting villages there are locally. They seem to go on for ever :-) Lovely set of photos. Bonne journée. Diane

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  4. Hello my name is Francesca and I'm Italian. I found your blog by chance and I loved it. I have joined your followers. If you go too foul. Thank you. Francesca.

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  5. Barbara - Thank you so much.

    Heather - Thanks for the nice feedback. Sorry to hear the house is rented, was hoping we were going to be neighbors.

    Diane - Thanks. There are beautiful villages around every corner of France it seems. We seem to have so many of them in Provence, truly blessed.

    Francesca - Thanks for stopping in to visit my blog and for leaving a comment. I appreciate this very much. I hope you will be a frequent visitor.

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  6. Michel, just a thank you for your note on my blog--it came on a day when I really could use a little encouragement to keep going!

    I know that your next visit to Provence is relatively short but I would love to meet you and Shirley at some point. I still don't drive (ex-NYer) but I could easily meet you half-way in Avignon if you are interested. Lots of good new restaurants there! ;) If not this trip, another time but something to think about...

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  7. This post takes me back to our first day in Sablet when we did the Rick Steves' Cote du Rhone loop tour. We stopped in Seguret for a visit then an afternoon glass of wine in Suzette (which so charmed us that we went back there for our final dinner in Provence). Obviously from this post, I missed some important stops. There will be a next time!

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    1. Liza, you have one up on me, I have passed by Suzette but have not stopped to check it or eat there. So we may have to go there when we are back in Provence in a few weeks. Hopefully, the restaurant will be open.

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