Sunday, January 3, 2016

What a great day, wine tasting, a leisurely alfresco lunch, and a visit to Carpentras,

We always devote at least 1/2 day to shopping for kid's clothes for our precious grandkids. Shirley's favorite shops for kids are in the town of Carpentras, which is about 12 miles from Sablet. As we chatted one morning about going to Carpentras, it came out that friends Steve and Mary do not like driving around Carpentras so avoid going there.

I will admit we have made wrong turns more than a few times trying to leave Carpentras to return home or crossing town to get to the other side to go to Venasque. But after a fair amount of trial and error, I think we have it figured out.

As we were late getting started that day, we decided stores would be closed for lunch by the time we got to Carpentras, so we should do a quick tasting at a winery on the way and then have lunch in Carpentras. By then stores would be opened and Shirley could shop to her heart's content.

Since Steve and Mary introduced us to Domaine de Coyeux, a winery located high above Beaumes de Venise near the top of the Dentelles de Montmirail, that I told you about here, I decided to introduce them to Domaine de Durban, another Beaumes-de-Venise winery.

Domaine de Durban and its vineyards sit on a picturesque plateau in the Vaucluse, sheltered by the Dentelles de Montmirail, where the Gigondas and Beaumes-de-Venise appelations meet just above the village of Beaumes-de-Venise.

Domaine de Durban

The scenic views make you pause as you consider that wine has been part of the culture here for hundreds of years and ancient philosopher Pliny the Elder was the first person known to praise the Muscat from this place. During the Middle Ages, Domaine de Durban was a fortified farm, which it has been since 1159.

Panoramic View from Domaine de Durban

Jacques Leydier bought the property in the 1960s when the farm had fallen into disrepair. Today, his grandsons, Henri who is in charge of the cellar and Philippe who takes care of the vines, run the domaine.

Tasting Room and Cave at Domaine de Durban

The Leydiers farm fifty-five hectares of vineyards for Gigondas (6 hectares), a Beaumes-de-Venise Rouge (21 hectares), and by all accounts, the most celebrated Muscat (25 hectares) in the Beaumes-de-Venise appellation. The vines are all 35 years of age and over.

Friend Steve in Tasting Room at Domaine de Durban

Pine trees protect the area from the Mistral winds. The soils are rich and deep, a mixture of clay-limestone (60%) and Trias (40%), lending finesse and freshness to the wines. The vineyards high altitude means a slightly cooler microclimate with strong sun exposure, a blessing the Leydiers credit for the amazing consistency their wines enjoy year after year.

View of Dentelles de Montmirail from Domaine Durban

After we finished tasting the wines, bought a few bottles, and admired the views a final time, we loaded up into the car, and headed down the hill and on the road to Carpentras.

Carpentras sits along the banks of the Auzon River. As capital of the Comtat Venaissin, it was often the residence of the Avignon popes; the Papal States retained possession of the Venaissin until the French Revolution. Nowadays, Carpentras is a commercial center for Comtat Venaissin and is famous for the black truffle market held from winter to early spring.

Our go to restaurant in Carpentras is Chez Serge Restaurant which is located on the ring road near Allée des Platanes. The Restaurant has been owned by Serge Ghoukassian since 1987. We usually order from the 3-course "La Formule du Midi" selections which are presented on l’ardoise (slate) for 17 Euros.

Friends Steve and Mary at Chez Serge

Shirley at Chez Serge

Potato Leek Soup

Chèvre Chaud Salad

Roast Veal with Wild Rice and Vegetables

Fillet of Lieu with mashed potatoes and vegetables with beurre blanc sauce

Crème Caramel Renversée

Faiselle with Red Fruit Sauce

After a very tasty lunch accompanied by a chilled bottle of Domaine de Fondrèche Rosé, Shirley headed off to shop and I to wander around the center of Carpentras seeing the sights and taking pictures of whatever caught my eye.

Several chapels can be seen as you walk through the streets of Carpentras, evidence of the many religious orders and congregations which thrived in Carpentras during the 17th and 18th centuries.

The chapel seen below was built by the brotherhood of the black Penitents between 1738 and 1741. The building, has a single nave and side chapels located between the buttresses that support the nave. Outside the apse and side walls are included in buildings that adjoin the chapel.

The Black Penitents Chapel

The 28 foot Roman arch in Carpentras is the only remaining testimony to the Roman period. It was built in the 1st century AD under Emperor Augustus to commemorate the Roman victory over the Barbarians. The single arch is decorated with sculpted figures representing chained prisoners on its lateral sides.

Roman Arch in Carpentras

In the center of Carpentras is Saint-Siffrein Cathedral which was built on the ruins of a Roman church. The cathedral was constructed in Gothic style by order of Pope Benedict XIII. The work lasted for more then a century, from 1404 to 1519. One of the cathedral's most unusual features is the south doorway known as the Porte Juive (Jews' Gate). This ornate Gothic doorway was designed as an entrance for Jews who wished to be baptized.

Saint-Siffrein Cathedral

In 1792, the first Carmélite convent established in 1627 was pillaged and closed (A second convent was built in a new location and operated until it was permanently closed in 2008). The door of the original convent seen below was miraculously saved and incorporated into the north wall of the Palace of Justice in 1930.

Door of the Old Carmelite Convent

Saint Siffrein Cathedral, named after the Bishop, patron of Carpentras in the 7th century, is an example of southern Gothic architecture, characterized by unified space and strong wall space. It is the biggest church in the Dioceses: 190 feet long, a 138 foot long nave with six ribbed bays. The cathedral was built on top of two previous churches, and vestiges of the 13th century Romanesque church can be seen on the northern side of the apse.

The interior of the cathedral testifies to the great artistic fervor during the papal presence in the Comtat Venaissin. Painted panels of the Crowning of the Virgin, 15th century stained glass windows, precious marble Genoan altarpieces, gilded wood sculptures by the Bernus family, outstanding wrought iron work by the Mille family, paintings signed by G.E. Grève, N. Mignard, E. Parrocel and Carpentras artist J.S. Duplessis.

The Roman Arch next to Saint-Siffrein Cathedral at Place d'Inguimbert

Boyer Passage, also known as "rue vitrée" (glass-roofed street), is a covered passage built in 1848 by the unemployed put to work by the Ateliers Nationaux (National Workshops). The street was built to connect the little Halles and the market.

The Boyer Passage

The Synagogue was built in 1367 and restored in the 18th century. It is the oldest active synagogue in France. It stands as testimony to the Jewish community which sought pontifical protection after being persecuted in the Kingdom of France, and settled here in the Comtat Venaissin in the 13th century.

The discreet façade dates from 1909. The prayer room has an 18th century Baroque décor, with pillars and faux marble. The ground floor holds the oldest parts of the building, the ritual baths and 2 bakeries, one reserved for daily bread, the other for the preparation of the unleavened bread, and a room dedicated to Jerusalem within the prayer space.

The Synagogue of Carpentras

The town of Carpentras has a long history connected with agriculture and has been an important place of trading since Greek times and served as a grain station for the Gallo-Romans. The Town Hall is one of the center pieces of the old town and was built with the significant finances that the public purses had gained through being such a prominent part of the agriculture industry for so long.

Market day in Carpentras is Friday and takes place at Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, which was the center of the Jewish community until the 19th century, when the houses were cleared away to make way for this large open square.

Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) of Carpentras

On the north side of Carpentras stands the last vestige of the 14th century ramparts, the Porte d'Orange, the Orange entrance. seen below was originally part of a defensive wall with 32 round and semi-round towers. This last tower stands proud and tall at 78 feet high. The Orange entrance was saved from destruction during a major urban renewal project which took place in the late 19th century.

Porte d'Orange (Orange Entrance)

Oh by the way, the best way to get out of Carpentras back to Sablet is to make a sharp hairpin right turn at the light by the Porte d'Orange and go down the hill and follow the signs for the D7 toward Aubignan.

I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays. We wish you and yours a very Happy, Healthy and Safe New Year. I appreciate the comments on the blog or emails I get from you telling me you are enjoying my pictures and ramblings about our life in Provence. It makes the effort all worthwhile. A bientot.

Chez Serge
Rue Cottier
84200 Carpentras
Tel: 04 90 63 21 24


  1. Every time you mention "Chez Serge" I make a mental not to go there! Your food photos are mouthwatering!

    1. You should go, especially during this time of year. He always brings in lots of truffles, plus he has a great wine list.

  2. Enjoyed the reminder of Chez Serge where we enjoyed lunch twice while spending a month in Lagnes in the fall of 2012. We have been back twice since then but haven't returned to Carpentras. Now I'm thinking we should return. If you happen to find your way to Sacramento when you are stateside, my French-practicing friend and I would welcome a visit over coffee or lunch somewhere. Here is the title my own book about this part of France plus more in the south (Adventures in the Southern Corners of France). If I knew how to gift you the book, I would; but my skill lacks the finesse necessary for such an action. It includes mention of Chez Serge. If you send email to me, I think I can do that. I am at

    Thanks so much for your post. I enjoyed it.

    Chris Webb-Curtis

    1. Hello Chris. Thanks for stopping in to check out my blog and for leaving a post. We live in Sonoma County and I come to Sacramento often for business. I will definitely get in touch with you. We had a French friend here for Thanksgiving and she recommended l'Auberge de Lagnes. Have you been there? A bientot.

  3. I was so happy to stumble upon your blog! My husband and I will be staying just outside of Carpentras for three months starting this April, and it is nice to get a feel for where we will be staying.

    Take Care!

    1. Hello Nicole. Thanks so much for stopping in to check out my blog and for leaving a comment. It is much appreciated. I am very happy you found my post helpful. April to June should be a good time to be there. April will be a little unpredictable weather wise but you will be in the area for the Transhumance and the beginning of sunflower and lavender season in June. I hope you have a great time.

  4. Hi Michel,

    It's always a pleasure to see others who are "living the dream" in France. Ours began in 1998 when we fell in love with a rambling farm house near Bordeaux and wishing that our 3 young sons could spend summers there, becoming bilingual. We made this happen by pooling resources with 8 other families from the Portland, Or area and buying La Bruyere. My latest fractional ownership property is one block from the Place aux Herbes in Uzes. Great details, photos and content. Merci!