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.
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|
|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
Tel: 04 90 95 27 85