Saturday, January 24, 2015

Oppède-le-Vieux, a peaceful escape in the Luberon

Just before we leave for a séjour in Sablet, we start to plan our time so we can see and experience what we think are the best parts of our beautiful corner of Provence. Its hard to whittle down our list of places we want to go to make everything fit let alone get to new places where we have not been before.

So it was a little unusual a few months back when friend Kari was visiting that we decided to go to Oppède-le-Vieux where Shirley and Kari had not been before. Oppède-le-Vieux is generally not very well known, little is written about the village in the various guide books about Provence but I thought they would enjoy hiking up to the castle ruins.

Oppède-le-Vieux is a partially abandoned village near Ménerbes. Perched on the northern flank of the Petit Luberon, Oppede-Le-Vieux is a mix of buildings on a mountainside. The buildings range from grand houses decorated with elaborate stone carvings, to ivy-clad, skeletal remains of others that open onto the street, which winds its way up toward the castle ruins.


When we got to Oppède-le-Vieux, we had to leave our car in the parking lot at the base of the village; from there, we followed the path up the hill. There is a small fee for the parking lot. The village is not accessible by car


An old house in Oppède-le-Vieux

The Iron Cross below gives its name to Place de la Croix where you enter into the old perched village.

Iron Cross

We entered the walled upper village through the massive stone arched passageway with an iron belfry on top.

Arched passageway into upper village

Defensive wall

A restored home

Blooming shrubs

Cobblestone pathway

The shaded, cobblestone street (called calade) weaves up the hill past the ruins of old houses. Here old doorways open onto spaces that were once someone’s home, but are now wild rooms filled with figs, flowers and brambles.

Cobblestone pathway to church and castle ruins

White Penitents Chapel

A 15 to 20 minute walk up hill on a cobblestone path through the trees past ruins of ancient dwellings brought us to the summit and the 16th century Notre Dame d'Alidon Church.

Ahead is Notre Dame d'Alidon Church

Notre Dame d'Alidon Church is a pretty Romanesque church. It has a gargoyled, hexagonal bell-tower, and was started in the 13th century, and rebuilt in the 16th. Inside there are some lovely though faded frescoes and it is a venue for classical music recitals in the summer.

Notre Dame d'Alidon Church

Just above the church are the ruins of the castle which is more tumbled down than standing, and thoroughly gutted. Turrets are open to the sky, massive stones scattered like dice, but there are enough details remaining to fire up the imagination about how life was lived here. The castle is precariously balanced, soaring into the sky, with vertical drops straight down from some walls into the forested gorge far below.

Castle ruins

There are many magnificent views from the hill villages in the Luberon, but this is one of the best. Sitting on the warm stone wall the whole of the valley is laid out before you, with its ever changing colors and shifting shadows. Immediately below are the tumbled ruins of the old village, then your gaze moves across the bright terracotta roofs of the renovated houses just beyond, before the view drifts away into the patchwork of fields that decorate the wide valley floor.

Shirley and I pause for a picture

Ruins we pass on our walk about the village

A doorway into a village house

There are cobblestone pathways throughout the village

The arched passageway out of the old village

Stone ruins

An old village house

A terrace café

A village shop

Another view of Oppède-le-Vieux

Towards the end of the 19th century, a post office and school were opened down in the valley in Poulivets and the residents of the old village slowly moved out of Oppède-le-Vieux. In 1909, the city hall officially moved to Oppède-les-Poulivets and consequently the old village became deserted.

After World War II, attracted by Oppède's beauty and history, some people returned and refurbished some of the houses beyond the ramparts and little by little the old village has come back to life.

Sheep grazing outside the village

I have been to Oppède-le-Vieux several times and suggest that you go, especially if you are fan of ruins (any time of the year) or flowering shrubs and trees (spring). Have a great week!


  1. Thank you for the beautiful pictures! I am so excited because my husband and I are going to be staying in Oppede for vacation this summer. Can't wait! We hope to make it to Sablet as well and see the many beautiful sites as described on your blog. Based on your last post, we hope to have at least an apertif at hotel Crillon-le-Brave.Thank for providing such a wonderful and inspirational blog.

    1. Hello Cheryl. Thanks for stopping by to check out my blog and for leaving a comment. I appreciate this very much. The area around Oppede is beautiful so I am sure you will have a great stay in that area. I highly recommend Crillon-le-Brave and hope you make it to the restaurant. You won't be disappointed.

  2. One of my very favorite spots, not only in the Luberon but in all of Provence! It has been through tough times though - there was an infamous massacre in the religous wars during (I believe) the 13th century when many were thrown from the castle walls into the gorge below.
    On a lighter note, the café terrace which you show was used in "A good year" - not surprising as the film's director, Ridley Scott, lives in Oppede!

    1. Hello Heather. I have watched "A Good Year" at least a dozen times but never picked up the fact that the café terrace is the one in Oppede. I definitely knew about the café in Gordes and you can see Oppede several times in the movie. Learn something new all the time. Thanks for sharing. I hope you are doing well.

  3. I was lucky enough to visit Oppède-le-Vieux once (as well as plain old Oppède) and loved that little corner of Provence. Thanks for the lovely and complete photo visit.

    1. Hello Betty. Thanks for stopping by to check out my blog. I appreciate this very much. Thanks for the nice feedback. Please come by often.

  4. In the movie "Swimming Pool", Charlotte Rampling had her daily coffee at the café terrace shown.

    1. I have not seen "Swimming Pool" so I must check it out. I assume we can down load on Netflicks or one of the other services. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I visited Oppede-le-Vieux a few years ago and I fell in love in IT! It is LOVELY!!! And quite similar to Peillon... Thank You for the beautiful pictures and for the reminder great memories;))

    1. Hello Izka. Thanks for the nice feedback about the post. I definitely like Oppede-le-Vieux and return often to visit that corner of the Luberon.