Wednesday, October 8, 2014

L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and an Excellent Lunch at La Balade des Saveurs

Although we are back in Sablet and doing all kinds of fun things which I will share with you in later posts, I am going to tell you about a visit we made last spring with friend Kari to l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, a very pretty and popular town for people who are into antiques.

L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, the 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.


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).

Antique seller of treasures for the outdoors

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.

Shops along one of the canals of the Sorgue River

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.

Statue of Alphonse Benoit and a canal of the Sorgue River

The town holds weekly Provençal markets on Thursday and Sunday mornings in the streets of the old town. On Sunday morning, the place becomes an orgy of antiques and bric-a-brac stalls, the one on Thursdays is more intimate.

Once a year on the 1st Sunday of August, there is a floating market. It starts at about 9 and ends at 12:30 PM. In addition to shopping for fruits and vegetables, you can enjoy ladies and gentlemen wearing traditional Provencal costumes and music.

Homes on one of the canals of the Sorgue River

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.

Colorful shop in l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

There is no shortage of other tourist shops to wander in and out of during a visit to l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.

Flower shop in l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

There are many waterside cafés and restaurants, all within walking distance of each other. The problem over the years as we have visited is finding one that serves good food. That is always a high priority for me.

Restaurant in l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

In l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, there is one of 87 worldwide boutiques of Oliviers and Co. The company was founded on the question, "like wines from the most reputable vineyards, why can't superior olive oils be worthy of being recognized as grand cru?" The boutique sells 110 different olive oils.

Oliviers and Co Boutique

Another all things olive shop

The imposing Notre-Dame-des-Anges Church in the center of the "vieille ville" (old town) was a Collegial church in 1222. Rebuilt in the 17th century, three sides still show signs of its age; the front is refurbished, and includes a lovely clock showing the time, date and phases of the moon.

Notre-Dame-des-Anges Church

The church is surrounded by cafés and shops.

Cafes and shops near Notre-Dame-des-Anges Church

You have to make sure you look up on the buildings so you don't miss any of the unusual colors such as this shop with different colored shutters.

Fading paint on shutters of this bookstore

Brightly colored shop

Narrow streets crisscross the town.

Mother and children on way for lunch

The Sorgue River is never faraway. No matter what time of year you dip your toe into the river, it will always be 13 degrees C (55 degrees F), which is the temperature it shoots out of the earth in nearby Fontaine de Vaucluse.

Restaurants line the canals

Moss covered waterwheel

Shops and other businesses line the canals

Restaurants line the canals

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. Actually, I had already decided before we left home where we were going to eat.

We have generally found that restaurants in the Vaucluse awarded Bib Gourmand by Michelin serve excellent food for a modest price and the recently released at the time 2014 Michelin Guide had awarded a Bib Gourmand to La Balade des Saveurs which sits along a canal on Quai Jean Jaurès.

Kari enjoying the spring weather in l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

The La Balade des Saveurs Restaurant is owned by the chef Benjamin Fabre who is from l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and his wife Sophie who is from Belgium. At the time we were there, the Restaurant had been in business for three years. Madame Fabre told us they served wine from Sablet at their wedding. So I thought that had to be a good sign.

We chose starters and main course from the Menu de la Sorgue for 14.90 Euros and selected desserts from the a la carte menu.

Lentil soup with poached egg

Chevre breaded and fried with greens and lardons

Chevre breaded and fried with greens and vegetables

Kari and Shirley enjoying their wine and our table along the canal

Beef Shepard's pie with mustard sauce

Pan roasted cob over fried polenta with vegetables

Café Gourmand

Chocolate cake

Molten chocolate cake with ice cream

This is really a wonderful restaurant. Amid all of the restaurants serving expensive bad food and wine, this is a little haven of excellent food and hospitality in l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. I would recommend you reserve your table if you want to eat here.

More shops along a canal

La Balade des Saveurs
3 Quai Jean Jaurès
84800 L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
Tel: 04 90 95 27 85


  1. Thank you so much for this! There are a lot of not-so-good options in this wonderful town (and some very good but pricey ones) so I definitely will keep this in mind for the future. Cheers. :)

    1. Hello Heather. Thanks for checking in. We think this restaurant is a really great option for l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Great food, service and very reasonably priced and a location on the main canal. Highly recommend.

  2. One day we will make it in your direction and then I will have to check back on all your posts. As ever a great post with lovely photos. Sorry I have not been around for a while, major computer problems that have finally been solved by buying a new laptop! Take care Diane

    1. Hello Diane. Nice to hear from you. Thanks for checking in. I am very happy to hear you have resolved your computer problems. Computers are great but they can be a big pain as you know. I have not been around a lot either because of work deadlines back in the USA.

  3. I believe that my husband and I ate at this very same restaurant on our first trip to Provence in 2013. I compared my photos and it must be the same place. We just loved it! We are not food experts but love quality. And we defined this place as classy, refined, and artistic. I have been reading your blog ever since stumbling across it while planning our first trip to Provence. This year on our second trip, we plan on visiting Sablet and the other lovely villages as described in your blog. Thank you for providing a little escapism to our lives.

  4. Thanks for stopping in to visit my blog. I am very happy you enjoy my ramblings about Sablet and Provence. We really liked this restaurant too and thought it was a great find for l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Let me know where you visit. I am most interested in hearing about travelers experiences while in Provence.

  5. Hi Michel, I visit Isle sur la Sorgue often, although I live in Australia as I take small luxury gourmet food and wine tours to the Vaucluse. I'm always around Sablet too, my favourite little piece of paradise (stayed there just 3 weeks ago). Constantly on the look out for excellent food and off the beaten track places, I can't get past Café Fleurs when I eat in Isle sur la Sorgue. It's right at the end of the garden with the carousel in it in the very centre of town. An excellent place with a super Maitre D - Christophe who speaks excellent English. The food has been consistently excellent for the last 7 years. A must try. 9 Rue Theodore Aubanel, Isle-sur-la- Sorgue. Another fabulous place and really off the beaten track is La Table du Sorgues in Sorgue superb!

  6. Hi Nikki. Thanks for stopping by to check out my blog. Happy to hear you are a fan of Sablet too. I will make note of your suggestions for restaurants in Isle sur la Sorgue and Sorgue. We like to try new restaurants as often as we can. Please stay in touch.

  7. It's indeed a beautiful town. We went there early this year, but we have not dine there as we thought there were too much tourist, and we wanted something more authentic local food. We will definitely be back. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you so much for stopping in to check out my blog and for leaving a comment. I appreciate this very much. There are always crowds in L'Isle sur la Sorgue during the summer and on Sundays. So we try to avoid going there at those times. This restaurant is definitely not just catering to tourists. They serve excellent food.