Sunday, June 28, 2015

Brantes, One of Rick Steve's Top Ten Provencal Towns and Villages

We make a conscious effort to visit new villages, eat at restaurants and taste at wineries we have not been to before so I have new material for readers of "Our House in Provence" blog. I get ideas from reading other blogs, talking to Sablet friends and French relatives and from guide books.

Among the guide books I check out, are those blue and yellow books authored by Rick Steve's. Although I have a collection of his books, I am not a big fan. After buying each new edition of his Provence book for quite a few years, I have concluded that he does very little research for new editions, so his information is not always up to date.

One morning last month, I was flipping through guide books when I came across a list of "Top Ten Provencal Towns and Villages" in "Provence and The French Riviera" by Rick Steve's. We had been to all of the towns and villages on his list except for Brantes, which he described as "a spectacularly situated cliff village with little tourism."

I Googled and found that Brantes was not far from Sablet (37 km), so off we went. We discovered that Brantes is a very small village (population 81) that lies on the northern border of the Department of Vaucluse at the border of the Drôme at the foot of Mont Ventoux, overlooking the Toulourenc Valley.

Mont Ventoux

Saint Jean Baptiste Chapel seen below, sits in the middle of the village cemetery and dates from the 12th century. It was the first church in Brantes.

Saint Jean Baptiste Chapel

Interior of Saint Jean Baptiste Chapel

Saint Jean Baptiste Chapel

Family plot in the cemetery near Saint Jean Baptiste Chapel


Brantes is nestled on the flank of the mountain and is full of old stone houses, narrow lanes, cobblestone streets, and vaulted passageways.


The first mention of Brantes is in 1163 under the name "Brantule" and in 1254 under "de Brantulis." During the War of Religion (1562 -1598), the village was occupied by Protestants (Huguenots). In 1697, the village is purchased by Pierre du Blanc, Lord of Buisson who held it till 1790. The population declined until the end of the 20th century, when the inhabitants set about restoring Brantes.


The Town Hall of Brantes seen below is situated a little over 1500 feet elevation. The top of Brantes is over 6,000 feet elevation.

Town Hall and Fortified Gate into Brantes

Vaulted Passageway

Bell Tower of Saint Sidoine Church

The stone Chapel of the White Penitents which dates from 1705, today serves as an exhibition hall for the "Friends of Brantes."

Chapel of the White Penitents

The fountain seen below is one of several that run in the village which villagers depended on as water was not installed in Brantes' homes until 1958.

Water fountain

Rick Steves was right; there are not a lot of tourists so therefore not a lot of tourists shops or cafes to be found in Brantes. One of the few shops that exists sells faience made on site. If you don't know like me, faience is the name for fine tin-glazed pottery on a delicate pale buff earthenware body.

A Faience Workshop in Brantes

Saint Sidoine Church seen below, was built in 1684 upon the ruins of Saint Elzéar Church which itself was built at the end of the 1300s at the location where an old hospice once stood.

Saint Sidoine Church

Saint Sidoine Church Bell Tower

The interior of Saint Sidoine Church is decorated with a "trompe l'oeil," a style of painting intended to give a convincing illusion of reality. It was restored in 1989.

Interior of Saint Sidoine Church

We stopped in at La Poterne, a combination of café, gallery, and concert hall in the middle of Brantes with excellent views of Mont Ventoux and the Toulourenc Valley.

La Poterne Café

Shirley takes a break to enjoy the beautiful views from the café

View from Café

Flowers alongside a path in Brantes

It was spring, and many flowers were in bloom.

Yellow roses alongside a path in Brantes

The Toulourenc Valley lies on the north side of Mont Ventoux, and is an oasis of cool fresh water and nature, thanks to the Toulourenc River which flows 30 km before joining the Ouveze river outside of Vaison la Romaine. We were told that the Toulourenc Valley is full of little creeks and springs which are great for swimming during the summer heat.

View of the Toulourenc Valley

Ruins of the Brantes Castle

A Brantes house with a sign saying they sell honey from Ventoux

Irises in bloom in Brantes

Pansies in a pot

Chapel of the White Penitents and Iron Cross

Entrance to a house in ruins

I don't think we would say Brantes is one of our top ten towns and villages of Provence. But having said that, it is definitely worth a drive out through the Toulourenc Valley to walk through Brantes. It might be good if you go to the Vaison-la-Romaine market on Tuesday morning, drive out to Brantes after lunch, as this would be a perfect afternoon outing.

Have a great week. Chat soon.


  1. Well, I think you have me on this one, Michel! I don't think that I have ever been to Brantes. :) It does look charming though. And I agree with you entirely - I am not a fan of Rick Steve's Provence recommendations AT ALL. He is always insisting that everything can be done while taking public transportation which is simply not true and not convenient and the restaurant suggestions (at least for Arles) are downright boggling...

  2. What a lovely adventure.