Transcript for Episode 400: L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

Table of Contents for this Episode

Category: Provence

[00:00:00] Intro

[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 400. Can you say it with me? Quatre-cent! Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France. Everyday life in France, great places to visit in France, French culture, history, gastronomy, but this week there won’t be any news related to travel to France, because I’m on vacation, and so I’m, pre-recording this, and I cannot read into the future.

[00:00:48] Today on the Podcast

[00:00:48] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a conversation with my friend, Elyse Rivin of Toulouse Guided Walks about L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and Fontaine de Vaucluse, beautiful places in Provence where she was recently. And she has great tips for you with a bit of history as well, because it’s important to understand how the places that we love came to be.

[00:01:10] This is our 400th episode and Elyse and I discuss it at the start of our conversation, but I can never say it enough. This podcast would not exist without the support of all the listeners who love the podcast and have made it possible for me to turn my hobby into my profession.

[00:01:27] Annie Sargent: I love it. It’s so wonderful spending my days thinking about ways to help you have wonderful trips to the country that I love, through the itinerary service, the VoiceMap tours. And I love chatting with my patrons as well, they are wonderful people. Perhaps I’ll get a few more Patreon rewards ready in-between visits to the beach on my vacation. I’m certainly hoping to.

[00:01:52] Annie Sargent: And if you’d like to avail yourself of my products and services, because I don’t advertise on this podcast, I’ve been asked to add ads to the podcast and I have resisted, because I’d rather sell my own services, and I have quite a few right now. You can see them at my boutique, joinusinfrance.com/boutique, where you can see my cookbook. I haven’t mentioned my cookbook in a while, but if you enjoy cooking and want to try well-tested, every day French favorites, Join Us at the Table is great for that, as well as my VoiceMap tours and my itinerary service.

[00:02:32] Annie Sargent: And then you have the people who would rather get extra Patreon rewards. And if you go to patreon.com/joinus, that’s P A T R E O N, joinus, no spaces or dashes and sign up, you’ll get a lot of extra content because you get all the rewards I have ever produced, which is about 130. I mean, I started counting and I lost count, but it’s about 130. Can you imagine getting 130 new episodes that you can listen to or watch right now? There’s everything there from help with your French comprehension to deep dives into the history of the Eiffel tower, a few videos, musings about French food and recipes. There’s a lot there, check it out, patreon.com/joinus. And thank you for keeping this podcast going.

[00:03:22] Elyse has been on 168 episodes out of the 400, which is unbelievable. Amazing. I’ve also done a few solo episodes, but the bulk of the episodes have been you, my listeners, because as far as I’m concerned, you have eyes on everything in France and your experiences is what matters above all. Merci et encore, merci!

[00:03:58] 400th episode of the Join Us in France Travel Podcast

[00:03:58] Annie Sargent: Bonjour Elyse.

[00:03:59] Elyse Rivin: Bonjour Annie.

[00:04:00] Annie Sargent: Beautiful day today to talk about L’Isle sur la Sorgue.

[00:04:04] Elyse Rivin: Yes.

[00:04:05] Annie Sargent: And another beautiful place nearby, La Fountaine de Vaucluse. Sorry about that. Well, it could go either way, couldn’t it?

[00:04:14] Elyse Rivin: It could, but it happens this time that it’s ‘de’.

[00:04:17] Annie Sargent: Exactly. And this is all in Provence, in Vaucluse.

[00:04:21] In the Vaucluse.

[00:04:22] Annie Sargent: Is kind of the Luberon area is what we call it.

[00:04:26] Celebrating 400 episodes!

[00:04:26] Annie Sargent: Anyway, but before we get to that we have to celebrate the fact that this week’s episode is the 400th episode of the podcast, which means that you listening out there today, people like you have clicked play on this podcast over 3 million times.

[00:04:45] Elyse Rivin: Absolutely amazing.

[00:04:46] Annie Sargent: I just looked it up this morning, the number’s too big, I can’t read big numbers like that.

[00:04:50] Elyse Rivin: She can’t read big numbers like that.

[00:04:52] Annie Sargent: But there were six, six digits after the three. So it was millions.

[00:04:56] Elyse Rivin: That’s millions.

[00:04:59] Annie Sargent: It’s so gratifying to me that so many people choose to listen to this podcast every week and not just the latest episode. People go back and listen to the older ones as well, right?

[00:05:08] Elyse Rivin: That’s right, they do.

[00:05:09] What information could change from old episodes?

[00:05:09] Annie Sargent: Yes. I get emails every week, but well, sometimes every day, it just depends, it comes and goes the emails, from people saying, so what you said five years ago, is that still true? And I usually respond to people, and it’s usually about details of what we said that they wonder, but yeah, if we said it 5, 6, 7 years ago, perhaps things have changed, do consider that.

[00:05:32] Elyse Rivin: I think that it would be things like entry fees or time or places or things like that. That would be the more likely.

[00:05:39] Or even tactics, strategies.

[00:05:41] Museum Pass no longer a good deal

[00:05:41] Annie Sargent: Like we used to always say to get the museum pass. Well, it’s changed to the point where the museum pass really is not such a good deal anymore.

[00:05:50] Like the Paris Pass was always a ripoff, but the museum pass I think it was good for a while.

[00:05:56] Elyse Rivin: You had to have a certain number of museums each day.

[00:05:58] Annie Sargent: Right.

[00:05:58] Annie Sargent: So it kind of put people in a mindset where they were doing boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, all the museums. Knowing Paris way better than when we started, today I don’t think that’s a good way to experience the city, but yeah, we used to recommend the museum pass and for our tours, we used the museum pass, but of course, we were going to many museums.

[00:06:19] Elyse Rivin: We were going to many museums, and I think that since then, even though that’s what now, only eight years, now it’s much more common that everybody buys their ticket online in advance. Which makes it a lot easier.

[00:06:31] Tickets no longer available very far in advance

[00:06:31] Annie Sargent: Right, the websites have evolved. It used to be that these websites were completely opaque. You couldn’t figure them out, now they’re translated a lot of the time, not always. One thing that’s happening in France these days is that they don’t sell the tickets very far in advance.

[00:06:47] Annie Sargent: And I get lots of emails about that as well because people say, the Eiffel tower is fully booked three months from now or six months from now. No, it’s not fully booked, it’s just that they haven’t opened the tickets yet. That’s what happens.

[00:07:00] Listen to each episode’s travel update for current info

[00:07:00] Annie Sargent: Anyway, so things change in the travel space, but I do at the end of each interview, I do a travel update where I try to keep people updated. So do listen to the latest one, even if you are going back to the oldies, you know, because they. I mean, a lot of stuff, like when we talked about, I don’t know, Chartres. It’s not like Chartres has changed that much, you know?

[00:07:24] Annie Sargent: I mean, you explained the Cathedral, the history, the Gothic art, the stained glass windows, all of that is still true.

[00:07:30] Elyse Rivin: That’s the part that doesn’t usually change too much.

[00:07:33] Annie Sargent: Yes, that’s the part that doesn’t change too much.

[00:07:36] Why I started the podcast?

[00:07:36] Annie Sargent: So I started this podcast, years ago to rediscover my own country and I’m very happy to report that I have rediscovered my own country.

[00:07:43] Annie Sargent: I’ve made it into my job and it’s been wonderful to have the support and you know people trust me and you with sharing our experiences and our knowledge about France, which is wonderful. You know, years ago I didn’t know that there were apps to make visits easier. Things have really changed.

[00:08:02] Annie Sargent: I mean, you’ve done a VoiceMap tour of Toulouse, I hope you do more. I have five tours of Paris and I will probably do more, because it’s a wonderful way to get to know a place, even if it’s a new thing in the travel space, I think it’s really important to do that. But I’m not done discovering France, so we’re going to keep going, Elyse.

[00:08:22] Do we run out of subjects?

[00:08:22] Somebody asked me recently, do we ever run out of subjects? And I was thinking about it and I thought, no, actually between places that you have discovered, I have discovered, we have discovered, new ideas when you talk to people who are doing a trip and you want to get the trip reports. Between historical things about people and places, actually, no it’s never ending.

[00:08:45] Annie Sargent: It’s really never ending.

[00:08:46] How do we usually choose our topics?

[00:08:46] Annie Sargent: And especially since we do offer kind of a broad, you know, so this is something that a lot of podcasters do, is they do some research ahead of time to know if a topic is going to generate a lot of clicks. I couldn’t care less. Honestly, I don’t even know, really. I mean, today I looked to see how many episodes had been clicked on because you know,I mean, this is an occasion to look, right?

[00:09:08] Annie Sargent: But normally, on day to day, I do not know. I don’t care, because I bring on people that seem interesting to me and topics that interest me. And so if it’s interesting to me, I will talk about it. I don’t go looking for, if people ask me also, sometimes people suggest things, patrons that we have suggest topics, and that’s wonderful as well.

[00:09:30] Elyse Rivin: But it’s good to have a variety of subjects as well you know?

[00:09:33] Annie Sargent: Yeah, sometimes like today it’s going to be a city, an area. But other times we’re going to

[00:09:37] Annie Sargent: talk, I mean…

[00:09:38] Elyse Rivin: Look at the one about Rosa Bonheur and ironically, I don’t think even you knew when you suggested it, that there is a retrospective in Bordeaux this summer of her work.

[00:09:49] Annie Sargent: Right. So yeah. Yes.

[00:09:51] And there were two things on television about it recently, so it was like, oh, how timely, you know?

[00:09:57] Yeah, there are things that happened that we want to talk about because they’re big in France. There’s something that people in the cultural space in France will talk about.

[00:10:05] Annie Sargent: And so we want to join in and be interested in all these different people, because there’s so many of them, so we’re not done. 400 and we’re not done. And kudos to you for being, you know, on the podcast so much. I mean, you’ve been on maybe not half of them, but you know, third of them, I would think.

[00:10:23] Elyse Rivin: I would, yeah, actually I’d be curious to know. I would love to know.

[00:10:27]

[00:10:27] Elyse Rivin: I don’t know what percentage I would’ve…

[00:10:28] Elyse Rivin: If you go to your website because on your website they all come up. So her website is toulouseguidedwalks.com and To do some maths, God help me.

[00:10:36] We kind of filter, kind of filter all the episodes that Elyse has been on, go to her website. And I would bet it’s like 150.

[00:10:46] Annie Sargent: Well, let me look just a second. It won’t take very long.

[00:10:49] Annie Sargent: Okay. I give up, it’s too many to count.

[00:10:51] Elyse Rivin: Too many to count, but 35% to 40% them you’ve been on, so thank you so much Elyse. That it’s a lot of work and we would appreciate more support for Elyse and her Patreon, which is patreon.com/ElysartTo go to Elyse’s corner.

[00:11:07] Annie Sargent: Elyse’s corner with some interesting, there’s some interesting stuff going on in her head.

[00:11:11] Elyse Rivin: Really interesting stuff about some antique stone buildings I discovered in the Vaucluse but that’s for another thing.

[00:11:18] L’Isle sur la Sorgue

[00:11:18] Annie Sargent: All right. Let’s talk about L’Isle sur la Sorgue, beautiful, beautiful place.

[00:11:22] Elyse Rivin: So L’Isle sur la Sorgue is basically known, not only in the South of France, not only in France, but basically known I think everywhere because it is one of the three most important centers for Brocante.

[00:11:37] What is Brocante?

[00:11:37] Elyse Rivin: And Brocante, I looked it up just to make sure because it’s not easy to understand what a Brocante is. Brocante is a combination of what we would call in English, a flea market, and an antique fair. And it’s both. It’s kind of goes the run, the gamut from the junkiest junk, you know, you would get in the flea market, to the most sophisticated, most expensive kind of stuff you see in a hoity-toity antiques fair.

[00:12:05] Annie Sargent: But I have a feeling that L’Isle sur la Sorgue is not junk.

[00:12:08] Some of it is. A couple of the pictures I sent you, some of the stuff is the kind you see in, what I would say is typical Brocante everywhere, which is like old glassware, you know, old silverware.

[00:12:18] Elyse Rivin: I mean, it’s not junk in the sense that it’s throwaway stuff, but it’s relatively common stuff to see at the different Brocantes in the area.

[00:12:27] It’s like a garage sale.

[00:12:29] The market in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

[00:12:29] Like fancy garage sale. But what goes on there, and it has to do also with the geography of the place, is that it’s got a slew of antique stores, the shops that are open basically all year round. And what happens is that every single week on Sunday, these shops open up, they extend their goods out onto the sidewalk and cross these canals. And that has to do with the geographic situation of the town. And it’s a town, it’s about 20,000 people, it’s not a village. And then you have other people who have open air stalls that just set up for the day on Sunday. So what happens is that the entire city center, which is built around three or four canals that branch out from the River Sorgue, which is why the town is called Island on the Sorgue River, all of this place is filled up with Brocante stands and the shops.

[00:13:28] Elyse Rivin: And then you have at the same time, because it’s on Sunday, you have what would be a normal in a sense, open air market, which includes food, local produce and clothing and other kinds of items as well. So the entire center of this small city, entire center of it is filled to the brim as a market.

[00:13:50] Elyse Rivin: And it’s very, very famous.

[00:13:52] International Brocante

[00:13:52] Elyse Rivin: Andfour times a year there is what’s called the International Brocante, which means that people pay, who don’t necessarily live in Ile sur la Sorgue, but they bring their wares there because people come from all over the world to these four international markets. And what I learned when going on looking a bit about it, because I visited this place twice when I was in Provence, which was now about a month ago. I went on the Sunday, I wanted to experience what this was like and on the Thursday, when it’s not the Brocante, it’s just the other market.

[00:14:29] Annie Sargent: Ah, so on Thursday they have more like a food market?

[00:14:31] Elyse Rivin: It’s a food market and then clothing and some crafts and goodies.

[00:14:36] Annie Sargent: So like the normal cheese and vegetables and…

[00:14:40] Elyse Rivin: But big, but very big, but very big.

[00:14:43] The town

[00:14:43] Elyse Rivin: And because L’Isle sur la Sorgue, the town is interesting, it’s flat, it’s in the valley of the Sorgue, which is the big river in the Vaucluse area. And this part of the town is cut into like two large islands. And I looked at the map this morning because it makes it kind of long oval, the river divides up and I guess over time, you know, that we’re talking, I suppose thousands of years, it kind of cut the land so that it’s the center of the town is like two or three islands that are connected by a bunch of little footbridges.

[00:15:19] Annie Sargent: Kind of like Paris.

[00:15:20] Elyse Rivin: It’s kind of like Paris, it’s called the Venice of Provence.It’s actually, it’s nickname is the Venice Comtadine, which has to do with the history of the town itself, when it was part of not France, but a papal territory, that was called the Comté Venaissin, so this is the nickname it has.

[00:15:38] The shops and restaurants

[00:15:38] Elyse Rivin: So everything’s centered around the waterways and it’s very picturesque. And what’s unusual about it is that the shops open up onto the water. And the restaurants open up onto the water.

[00:15:49] Elyse Rivin: So you have on one side, lots of shops and all these antiques, and Sunday they drape stuff over the railings, even on the little footbridges. And it’s packed. And so be warned, it really is crowded on a typical Sunday.

[00:16:05] Other Brocantes in the world

[00:16:05] Elyse Rivin: I can’t even imagine on the four international market days, it’s considered to be the third most important Brocante in the world.

[00:16:14] Elyse Rivin: The two biggest being Saint-Ouen in the North of Paris.

[00:16:17] Elyse Rivin: And London, the Camden Town.

[00:16:20] Annie Sargent: Oh, yes, yes.

[00:16:21] Elyse Rivin: So this is considered to be the third biggest. And this was the reason I wanted to go, because I’ve heard about L’Isle sur la Sorgue and its Brocante and, but it’s also charming.

[00:16:30] Elyse Rivin: And what was nice was a lot of the stalls are on the main road, which follows along one of the two branches of the river. And there are a couple of water wheels and there are all these nice little footbridges that go across. But then if you go explore a little bit, there’s more of the market that’s actually a little bit away from the water. And it’s nice because it’s, there’s more to it than what you think.

[00:16:55] What do they sell in the markets?

[00:16:55] And around the church, which is on this old square, you have a lot of people that were selling things like Provençal fabric and stuff like that, which is I’m a sucker for all that kind of stuff.

[00:17:07] Annie Sargent: Yes. Yes. So, are these, like, are they selling like big pieces of furniture, beds?

[00:17:13] Elyse Rivin: Some of the shops.

[00:17:14] Annie Sargent: Okay.

[00:17:14] I went with one of my sisters into one of the shops and it was all 1950s, which is definitely not my thing.

[00:17:21] Annie Sargent: Okay.

[00:17:22] Some of the stuff was very expensive.

[00:17:24] Professionals buy and sell here

[00:17:24] Elyse Rivin: My guess is that since I know that a lot of professionals from other countries come, they must bargain with them because a lot of what is bought there is shipped to other countries. And there are lots of Americans who have antique shops or who have an interest in buying for themselves, that come to L’Isle sur la Sorgue to buy and then ship things overseas.

[00:17:48] Elyse Rivin: So I assume that if you are in the market for things, and you have the kind of budget where we’re talking about things that are in the thousands of euros, that you do some wheeling and dealingwhen you do buy these things.

[00:18:01] Annie Sargent: No, but it’s good to know that they kind of specialize because that’s a sign of the professionals. Because professionals cannot know everything there is to know about all the periods and all of that. But they will know very well, either a decade or they will know a specific type of item, like chairs from this period or this place, so that’s really good that they, and it usually fetches more money.

[00:18:29] Elyse Rivin: Fetches a lot more money that way. There was one store that specialized in old clothing and linens, which is something that I’ve seen in other places in France, you know. There in the 19th to early 20th century, a lot of things were made from beautiful linen and cotton, and they refurbished these clothes and another place had rugs. The stalls tended to be more the kind of small items. I love glass, so I was a sucker for looking at some of these, the glass stuff and things like that. Vases and things. And one vendor sold old paintings, another one sold lamps.

[00:19:05] Annie Sargent: You have the postcards and the things like that, and the old books.

[00:19:09] Elyse Rivin: The old books, although books, I actually didn’t see that many of now, come to think of it. There were a couple of bookstores, however, what’s interesting there is that what also adds to the charm of the place, is that on one side of one of the branches of the river, you have all of these restaurants that are actually along the water.

[00:19:28] Annie Sargent: Mm-hmm.

[00:19:29] Elyse Rivin: And so, when we were there it was hot, it wasn’t as hot as it is today, but it was already in the low nineties. And everybody wants to sit at these restaurants because it gets fresh air coming off of the water.

[00:19:40] Elyse Rivin: And the water is, the Sorgue is a river that never dries up, because it comes out of the source, which is not very far away, the underground springs. And so it’s really good running water, and it’s very refreshing. So even though it gets crowded and the stalls can be packed at one point there was a part where it was lots of clothing, and then you have the shops and then you have the stalls. It was fun, it was really a lot of fun and it was really good to go off and discover the stuff that’s off the main drag.

[00:20:14] How long should you spend there?

[00:20:14] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah. So how long did you spend there? Well, how long would you recommend most people plan to see the market and perhaps have a meal?

[00:20:21] Elyse Rivin: Well, if you’re into markets, you’re good for a good half a day. You really are. I mean, the market is from six in the morning to two in the afternoon.

[00:20:29] Annie Sargent: Okay. Six in the morning, wow.

[00:20:31] Elyse Rivin: Well, I don’t know anybody who actually shows up at six in the morning, but I would bet there are people who show up at eight, you know, especially in the summertime when it’s really hot.

[00:20:39] Parking might be hard

[00:20:39] Elyse Rivin: Besides which, one of the things about L’Isle sur la Sorgue is that parking is a little far away from where all of the market is. And once you, I went twice, the first time we went around 9:30 in the morning, and the second time we went a little later, and it was really hard to find a parking spot.

[00:21:00] Annie Sargent: Right. Do they have a paid parking lot?

[00:21:02] Elyse Rivin: They had a few pay parking lots, but they were not that close either.

[00:21:06] Annie Sargent: Right, well,

[00:21:07] Elyse Rivin: So, so you really have to, I would say the best thing to do is to get there as early as you can You can come there from a bunch of different directions. It’s very close to Avignon and it’s close to Cavaillon, it’s close to where we were staying in the Vaucluse.

[00:21:21] Annie Sargent: It’s just a little north of Aix-en-Provence as well. It’s not that far from Aix.

[00:21:24] Elyse Rivin: It’s closer to Avignon, but you can get there from Aix-en-Provence. It’s close to the A7 so you can, you can get off.

[00:21:31] Remember where you parked!

[00:21:31] Elyse Rivin: But once you get out, you know that you’re going to be parking somewhere, remember where you parked, keep it on your GPS. Because the first time we went, if I remember correctly,it was my brother-in-law who had parked the car and thank goodness, he really put it into his GPS, because we were in parts of the city, I thought, where did he park this car? It wasn’t that it was dangerous, just like I would never have found it.

[00:21:54] Annie Sargent: Yeah. I have funny memories of years ago looking for where we parked the car, for a good hour.

[00:22:01] Elyse Rivin: It’s awful, it gets frustrating.

[00:22:03] Annie Sargent: Stupid. Right.

[00:22:04] Annie Sargent: You’re like dang it.

[00:22:06] Take a break around noon

[00:22:06] Elyse Rivin: But one of the other things I liked about it, and this of course is very much the South and is very much Provençal. So again, the first time we went on the Sunday for the full deal, with the Brocante and it was packed, packed, packed. But once you get off the waterway, there are two or three areas that lead out from it, they’re really easy to find, where you have lots of places to get a drink, to have an aperitif, to have lots of restaurants everywhere. And it’s very much the South. So once you get close to noon, all of a sudden everybody’s having aperitif somewhere.

[00:22:40] Annie Sargent: Everybody’s sitting and drinking.

[00:22:41] Elyse Rivin: Sitting and drinking, you know, and what we were doing is, we were still wandering around looking, I wasn’t particularly buying, but you know, other people I was with were. And all of a sudden it was past 12:30 and we could not find a place to sit.

[00:22:57] Annie Sargent: Yeah, that’s how it works.

[00:22:58] Elyse Rivin: That’s how it works. So we finally found a place, we actually cajoled the guy, it wasn’t on the river, but we, it was a table for four, we added two seats and we kind of went, please, please, please, we must have looked pathetic because he said, okay. And it was one of those kinds of things.

[00:23:13] Elyse Rivin: But it was kind of neat, and I just liked the whole feel of it. And you could see that there were people, like there were a couple of really nice wine vendors that are off the main part that, that has the water. Interesting things like little costume jewelry places, where they make their own jewelry, a couple of interesting bookstores.

[00:23:32] It’s not a ‘pretty’ town

[00:23:32] Elyse Rivin: I liked it and it’s not a pretty town. It’s an interesting town, it’s got a certain charm.

[00:23:39] Annie Sargent: So, so define it’s not a pretty town.

[00:23:41] Annie Sargent: Well, it doesn’t have any old picturesque part.

[00:23:45] Annie Sargent: Okay. So like no like medieval Provençal type of thing?

[00:23:49] There were a couple of streets that had old houses, but it wasn’t like they were fixed up to be charming, like you get in some of the villages. They were kind of where normal people live kind of places.

[00:24:02] Annie Sargent: Okay. So it’s not the sort of place where everyone has like flowers in their window sills and things like that, which happens a lot in areas that are Plus Beau Village, because that’s part of the charter.

[00:24:14] Annie Sargent: You have to have everybody, and a lot of these places, the municipal employees actually go around watering from outside. Because people can’t keep up with this stuff. They’re like, hey, I don’t have time for this. So there’s the municipal services that water all the plants every day.

[00:24:33] Elyse Rivin: But don’t forget this is a city, you know 20,000 people is actually a city.

[00:24:36] Annie Sargent: YesAnd we were basically in the center of it, because it’s relatively spread out. But what was nice was taking these little side streets that were very quiet, but really 5 – 10 minutes away from where the water is, and discovering that it was kind of like real neighborhoods, but with nice, charming little shops at the same time. It’s very commercial, in the sense that it’s a city that really runs on commerce of, you know, shops and markets and things.

[00:25:02] Elyse Rivin: So, there’s no gorgeous old historic part. But it’s a real Provençal town. And it gives you that sense, you hear the accent of the area, you know, they spoke Occitane there until the beginning of the 20th century.

[00:25:17] Annie Sargent: You mean Provençale.

[00:25:18] Elyse Rivin: Exactly, sorry.

[00:25:19] Annie Sargent: Which is a kind of a, you

[00:25:21]

[00:25:21] Annie Sargent: know a flavor of…

[00:25:22] Elyse Rivin: A flavor Occitane, exactly.

[00:25:24] The foods

[00:25:24] Elyse Rivin: Yes. And the foods, like I had this, you know, this is just my thing. I love river trout, as opposed to, you know, I like fish, but I like river trout, which is hard to find in a lot of places, and several of the restaurants, it was on the menu. That made me very happy. It was a kind of place where I didn’t know what to expect, and in the end I thought it was really nice.

[00:25:46] Elyse Rivin: Be aware that it gets very crowded if you go on the Sunday, and you should watch your pockets, you know, I mean, it’s a place where if you, let’s say starting at 10 o’clock in the morning, the streets get very crowded.

[00:25:59] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:26:00] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, so you just have to be careful.

[00:26:01] Annie Sargent: It would be pretty easy pickings for pick pockets or 2 or 10.

[00:26:06] Elyse Rivin: At the same time, you know, everyone seemed to be having a great time. There were a couple of really niceartisanal ice cream places. It was just, it was fun.

[00:26:15] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:26:16] Elyse Rivin: They have special cookies that come from there, you know, with Fleurs d’Oranges which some people like, and some people don’t.

[00:26:22] Annie Sargent: I like it. I think it’s very nice. Fleur d’Orange in English it’s orange blossom.

[00:26:27] Elyse Rivin: Orange blossom.

[00:26:28] Annie Sargent: Flavoring, it’s a flavoring. So if you are seriously interested in looking for certain kinds of pieces of decoration for your house or furniture or old objects, this is the place to go.

[00:26:41] Annie Sargent: And not just Provençal stuff.

[00:26:43] Elyse Rivin: No, no, no, not at all. No.

[00:26:44] It’s a little bit of everything.

[00:26:46] And what’s nice is because there are two canals and two branches of the river, even though the weather gets very hot, you have the, unless you go far from the water, it adds a certain freshness to the air.

[00:26:59] Annie Sargent: And they also have boats on the river.

[00:27:03] Special events

[00:27:03] Elyse Rivin: They have special events.

[00:27:05] Annie Sargent: Ah, okay. Do tell us about that.

[00:27:07] Nocturnal festival

[00:27:07] Elyse Rivin: So in the summertime, and I looked up some of the pictures of it, because there is a nocturnal festival at the end of July, it’s the last weekend of July, and it’s a night festival. And what they do is they have these flat bottom boats, they remind me of the gondolas in Venice. And there are floats and there’s a parade and people wear traditional costumes and they have fireworks and they do this whole big deal and thousands of people come to see this. That’s one night that’s at the end of July.

[00:27:37] Floating market

[00:27:37] Elyse Rivin: But then they have the 1st of August. So I guess that changes which day it is, because it’s always the 1st of August, there’s this very famous floating market.

[00:27:47] Elyse Rivin: And that’s when people dress up in ancient costumes and they go around and they sell food from these flat bottom boats.

[00:27:56] Annie Sargent: You wouldn’t be selling furniture from the flat bottom boats.

[00:27:59] Elyse Rivin: No, but apparently, people come out and then you stand along the banks and you kind of hail them and say, you know, I’d like bread or sandwich or whatever it is, you know, and they just do this whole festival.

[00:28:09] Monthly arts and crafts festival

[00:28:09] Elyse Rivin: And then once a month, starting in May, there’s an arts and crafts festival, also along the water.

[00:28:15] Annie Sargent: Okay. Once a month. So, that’s not like every day?

[00:28:18] No, it’sone day a month, but May, June, July, August, September and October.

[00:28:23] Annie Sargent: So, you should,you should really check the tourist office website.

[00:28:27] And another note on that, when you do check the tourist office website, they often don’t update things until like two weeks before. So don’t go looking for this a year before. You’re not going to know. I mean, if you find it for this year and you’re planning on going next year, you can figure, it’s probably going to be like, if it’s the third week of May, then probably next year is going to be the third week of May, but it’s not going to be on their website, like a perpetual calendar forever and ever, and ever. They update those things, like at best, some places, two weeks in advance.

[00:28:59] And you’re absolutely right to say that because I did go back online and I made sure that I was looking at summer of ’22, to make sure that these were the dates that were for this summer. I wanted to be absolutely sure, because they do change some of the dates.The 5th of August, and I didn’t count on anything before the 15th or 16th of July, knowing when we were putting out this podcast.

[00:29:20] Elyse Rivin: The 5th of August, there’s a festival with games, with floats, with concerts. So if you’re in the area and you want to go, there’s the 5th of August, there’s the floating market on the 1st of August, and there are two night festivals. And they will be, one in July and one in August, but I don’t know which nights those will be.

[00:29:41] Annie Sargent: Okay. Yeah, because it hasn’t been announced yet. So just when you’re in an area, always, always, always go to the tourist office, and they’re not paying us to say this, because they have the latest information on the events. And don’t, like when we talk about a town like this, we want you to get a feel for what it’s like and whether or not it’s a place you’d like to visit. But then as you get closer to your visit, go check out the details of what’s when and where and all that, because things change year on year. And because I do itinerary reviews with people, I often check websites of all these tourist office and occasionally, I have to call them to ask them, you know, what are you like?

[00:30:27] Annie Sargent: I remember somebody wanted some information about the 14th of July, and this was like three, four months ago, and when I called the tourist office, she was like, we don’t know yet. Like, what do you want, woman?

[00:30:42] Elyse Rivin: Well, it’s like, look, this year they canceled two days ago, a bunch of fireworks in different cities were canceled because of the heat wave.

[00:30:49] Annie Sargent: The heat wave and fire risk.

[00:30:50] Annie Sargent: If the fire marshal in an area says, we’re not having it, then we’re not having it. So really, you have to be kind of, this is how I think people should organize their vacations in Provence and other places, is you need to decide where you want to go. And of course, maybe the dates, if there’s a big festival every year, that happens, make sure it’s around those dates, if you’re interested in that. And then kind of let it, you know, roll with it for a while until it gets to be two weeks before, and then you can really plan your calendar.

[00:31:23] Elyse Rivin: Exactly. And no, you’re absolutely right, and just of course, to make sure that everybody understands, that all of these special events center around the water, center around the river and the canals.

[00:31:33] Annie Sargent: Which must be really pleasant because you know, July and August, it’s hot.

[00:31:36] Elyse Rivin: It’s very hot. And you know, there are a couple of ancient water wheels that still turn, so you can see what it was like and there’s a little park that’s in between the two branches of the river. And it just was, it was nice. And I have to say the Vaucluse and this part of Provence can be very hot and dry. So it was very nice to be in places where there was water.

[00:31:59] Annie Sargent: Right, because it cools you off a little bit.

[00:32:01] Annie Sargent: Yeah. It makes you feel a little better.

[00:32:03] Anywhere you want to go – get there early!

[00:32:03] Annie Sargent: So also a little bit of strategy again, when you go to not just L’Isle sur la Sorgue, but any place like this in France that has a big festival or a big market or a big, I don’t know, concerts, you know, whatever it is. The strategy is always the same. If you want to go, try to get there early.

[00:32:26] Elyse Rivin: Yes.

[00:32:26] Annie Sargent: You expect that you will not park right up close to the event. You will have to walk. Sometimes, if you have a person with you who like, if you have a disability sticker on your car, then you can drive the person closer and drop them off. And by the way, if you have a person, if you have a handicap sticker from your own country, bring it, because even though it’s not the same, whoever’s doing the security, you just show them that and they’ll go, oh, Okay,

[00:32:57] This is a foreign, but it works because you’re not like somebody who comes back every day asking for privileges. You’re just this one time. Like, it’s fine. So, get there early, expect that you will have to pay for parking, expect that you will have to walk a little bit and expect that you need to find a place to eat by noon.

[00:33:17] Otherwise, you will wait until 1:30 or possibly 2:00. Right. Because, therefore they’re going to serve these people, and so go away, we want, no room. Bye. Goodbye.

[00:33:31] Elyse Rivin: No, that you’re absolutely right. One of the things that happened since we went twice was that we learned our lesson the first time, because we wandered so long.

[00:33:38] Elyse Rivin: And of course, it is true that in France, people do sit down to eat at 12, you know. And because everyone wanted to be as close to the water as possible, there were some places to eat, but they were the points that were farthest away from the river.

[00:33:51] Reserve a place for lunch if you can

[00:33:51] Elyse Rivin: So the second time, we found the restaurant we wanted to go to and we reserved and we said, we’re going to be back.

[00:33:58] Annie Sargent: That’s what I was going to say next.

[00:33:59] Elyse Rivin: There you go.

[00:34:01] Annie Sargent: Right, so if you see a place that looks fabulous, if you arrive, say at 9:00 AM and you see this one place that looks fabulous, go talk to them and see if they’ll save you a table. Do not call them six months before, because they’ll just laugh at you. Do not even go calling them the day before, because they don’t want to mess with all these calls. They are running a restaurant, okay? They are not running an information service or like an aspiration, I would like to eat there. No, they want to serve people who are right in front of them in the flesh. So if you show up and you’re there and you say, it’s 9:00 AM, can I come back and eat at 12:30? They’ll probably save you a table, unless they never do that.

[00:34:46] Annie Sargent: Some places never do that, so don’t take it personally. But that’s the best way to get a good table at these places, you know, just say, Hey, it’s me and my wife, my kids, whatever, if it’s a group of 12, you have a problem, because there’s not a lot of restaurants, French restaurants are mom and pop.

[00:35:04] Annie Sargent: Like, 12 people is, they might not have a table that can do that. So if it’s that situation, then yes, call a few days ahead.

[00:35:14] Annie Sargent: The other thing is that there were a few restaurants that had the beautiful terraces by the river, but also had part indoors. What happens is, there were still some tables available indoors, but that’s, you know, we wanted to be outside by river. Yeah that’s the whole charm.

[00:35:29] Elyse Rivin: Just the whole thing, so. But again, l’Isle sur la Sorgue luckily, has a lot of restaurants. So you can decide, you can check things out, decide where you would like to eat and keep that in mind.

[00:35:43] Annie Sargent: Yes. And you know, it’s the sort of place, when you have that many people that go to a place, it means that all the restaurants there are going to be okay.

[00:35:52] Elyse Rivin: Yes.

[00:35:53] Annie Sargent: You know, don’t obsess over, I got to eat at this particular one. Now, if it’s a starred restaurant or something like that, then they take reservations online, and probably you do that a month or two in advance, but I’m talking about run of the mill restaurants along the river, like, which we have a million of those in France, perhaps more. And so, you know, these are not like fancy places. They just serve you a nice meal.

[00:36:17] Elyse Rivin: And it was fine.

[00:36:18] Yeah, and they’re fine usually.

[00:36:20] Annie Sargent: And it’s, there’s really not much point choosing based on Yelp reviews or whatever, you know, it’s more like, look at what people are eating, look if the tables and chairs look comfortable, look if the shade suits you, if the view suits you and that’s it, you know, like the food will be fine. It’s French food. It’s going to be fine.

[00:36:39] Elyse Rivin: And it was very nice, Provençal food. I have to say.

[00:36:42] Annie Sargent: They’ll have Ratatouille about everywhere.

[00:36:43] Elyse Rivin: I had Ratatouille and a river trout and I was so happy!

[00:36:47] Annie Sargent: And they probably have ice cream places and all of these crêpes.

[00:36:50] Elyse Rivin: They have it all, Annie.

[00:36:51] Annie Sargent: Maybe not so many crêpes, right? Some?

[00:36:54] Elyse Rivin: Crêpes places too, but it was really nice, a lot of the places had just good Provençale food, Southern Mediterranean style food. They had a bunch of pizza places too, I mean, it was nice.

[00:37:04] The food generally speaking, what I saw was very very good.

[00:37:07] Annie Sargent: So it’s really interesting because today we’re talking about L’Isle sur la Sorgue, which is in Provence, but would you expect something similar in Bretagne, in Britany?

[00:37:15] Annie Sargent: Maybe not quite so crowded.

[00:37:16] Elyse Rivin: It would more but more crêpes places and things like that.

[00:37:19] Annie Sargent: Right. But otherwise, the same strategies apply, you know.

[00:37:23] Annie Sargent: Anyway, enough travel tips.

[00:37:25] Fountaine de Vaucluse

[00:37:25] Elyse Rivin: So this is my suggestion. When you go to L’Isle sur la Sorgue, you go from there, it’s seven kilometers away, which is literally at the most, 10 minutes away by car. And you go to a lovely, tiny village called Fountaine de Vaucluse, which is where the Sorgue river begins.

[00:37:51] Elyse Rivin: And it’s lovely to do this, especially if you do it in the order of going L’Isle sur la Sorgue first, because in the afternoon, it’s always hotter than in the morning. And we’re talking basically about visiting in the summertime. And the attraction of Fountaine de Vaucluse is the fact that it’s a small village. The permanent population is just a little over 600 people.

[00:38:14] The River Sorgue

[00:38:14] Elyse Rivin: But it’s built up around these magnificent limestone cliffs where the river comes out of a very deep, underground spring.

[00:38:25] Elyse Rivin: They’ve actually done these, they’ve been doing these geological underwater tests, these dives, because they have never gotten to the bottom of it. And the Sorgue is a river that, it’s not a huge river, so if you I’m sure most people have heard of the Rhone and of course, they’ve heard of the Seine and the Garonne and all the big rivers, but it turns out that in Provence, the Sorgue is one of the most important rivers, and it’s famous because the amount of water that comes out from under these limestone cliffs, is one of the largest flows of any river in France, and it has never stopped.

[00:39:08] Elyse Rivin: It’s a river, that’s not only predictable, but it’s a source of the waters that feed all these towns that are nearby. But what’s even more wonderful about it, it’s a lovely, charming little place to go to.

[00:39:22] Three attractions

[00:39:22] Elyse Rivin: And the attractions are, there are three basically, three attractions. One is walking along the water and it is charming because you can hear the water come out. You can visit where the water comes out of the rock, you can actually stop there and see the source where it comes out. And they’ve built this walkway that takes you on a kind of tour, so that you go at a kind of contour. You start on one side of the river, you cross over, you walk along the other. And in the space that they’ve built there, there are a whole bunch of craft shops. And a lot of the crafts are crafts that require water. So they go back to old times, like late Middle Ages, because there’s a paper mill and there’s a museum of the history of paper. And there, the town used to make its living by being one of the places that produced the most high quality paper starting in the 1600s and 1700s, because of all of the rushing water.

[00:40:18] Elyse Rivin: And there’s still one place that has all the old machinery. So you can see what it was like in the old days, the way ground the pulp to make the paper.

[00:40:27] Annie Sargent: But is it smelly?

[00:40:29] Elyse Rivin: No, not at all. Not at all. They don’t do the smelly part. And then they have a shop where you can buy these very beautiful small pieces of like handmade paper and all these lovely things.

[00:40:37] It’s very cute. And then they havecouple of jewelry places and a couple of pottery places.

[00:40:42] The Poet Petrarch

[00:40:42] Elyse Rivin: But also, you can visit the home that is now the museum of the poet Petrarch. Now Petrarch, okay, you and I was kind of like, okay, Petrarch, I know I’ve heard the name, okay. You know, Petrarch.

[00:40:55] Elyse Rivin: So Petrarch, it turns out, put this little village on the map in the 14th century. Petrarch was originally from Italy, he was originally from Florence, but at the time that he moved from Florence to this little village, it existed already. It was when all of this area, which included L’Isle sur la Sorgue was not part of France, but was part of a territory that belonged to the popes, which is part of the history of Avignon, which we did a long time ago.

[00:41:27] Elyse Rivin: And he went there and becamethe official poet of the area. And he was so famous, he was, let’s put it this way. If you can imagine, in the middle of the 1300s, he was the equivalent of a rock star.

[00:41:41] Annie Sargent: Oh wow.

[00:41:42] Elyse Rivin: He was so famous as a poet and as a humanist, so he sang songs like the troubadours did, and he sang about love and about, and he createdthis whole history of this woman named Laura, who was this love that was unrequited love. But he became so famous in France and in Northern Italy, that other poets came to live there at the same time. And so for 15 years he lived in Fountaine de Vaucluse, and it became the center of poetry in the middle of the 14th century. It sounds so very romantic.

[00:42:14] Annie Sargent: This is very nice, which goes to show you as well that Provençale is probably, it was somewhat close to his dialect, his Italian dialect.

[00:42:25] Elyse Rivin: Absolutely.

[00:42:26] And so, there is the house that he lived in, that is now a museum. And unfortunately, it was closed the two times I did go, but there are pieces of poetry translated into French that have been put on the walls outside. And one of the reasons he liked it there is because he said that the river and the spring was a source of inspiration for him.

[00:42:52] Elyse Rivin: And so he wanted a quiet place, so his house has this gorgeous garden in the back and it backs right up to the river about a hundred meters from where it comes out of the rock. And he lived and worked there for 15 years and then he went on to go to Avignon and then, he was really “the man” in the middle of the 1300s, you know?

[00:43:11] Apparently, he would go back occasionally. He never went back to live on a permanent basis after the 15 years, but it became known as the Village of Petrarch.There’s a statue of him, there’s a painting of him.

[00:43:22] Elyse Rivin: And I was walking around with one of my sisters and it was like, oh, look at how romantic it is. And, you know, they have these little sayings, because it was all about this kind of, you know, the romantic love of this woman, this unrequited love and stuff like that.

[00:43:35] Annie Sargent: Okay. So it’s not like deep philosophy, you know, about like, oh death whatever. No, it’s pleasant.

[00:43:42] Elyse Rivin: It’s really pleasant, you know?

[00:43:43] The castle ruins

[00:43:43] Elyse Rivin: And when you go there, besides walking along the river and visiting the paper mill, if you want, you can climb to the top where the ruins of an incredible castle that belonged to the lord, that was the lord of the area for a very, very long time. It’s now just,it’s a ruin, but it’s very impressive. I did not go up to the top.

[00:44:03] Annie Sargent: Cause there wasn’t a museum at the top.

[00:44:05] Elyse Rivin: No, because I was lazy. Because I was lazy. Really, yeah. But also, I was with a group of people, it was kind of complicated, strategically. But it was a lovely, lovely, lovely place to stop. And it was so nice that actually, the first time I went there, I went just with one person, and we thought it was so charming that I convinced the whole group that I was with, after to go back.

[00:44:27] A magical place

[00:44:27] Elyse Rivin: And they were happy after we had done the morning in L’Isle sur la Sorgue and lunch in L’Isle sur la Sorgue, we went there and it was charming and refreshing, and eventually everybody got an ice cream and walked around. Even more refreshing because you get to really sit by this water, and they have these trees there that are about 300 years old that are absolutely enormous. And it’s kind of a magical spot. And then I was doing some history-checking online and it turns out that it was a place that the Romans considered to be magical.

[00:45:04] Annie Sargent: Oh.

[00:45:05] Elyse Rivin: Because they had a lot of water gods in their Pantheon of gods. And they decided somehow that there was a god of whatever this source of water was. And so, they used to go there and they built a temple around where the water actually surges out of the river. And in the recent past, they’ve uncovered over 1600 coins from Roman times, some of them in solid gold, because it was kind of like the fountains in Rome, people would go there to make wishes and throw the coins into the water. So now they’re pulling out all of this stuff and they’re learning more about what the Romans did at the time, because they thought it was a magical source of water.

[00:45:49] Annie Sargent: Well, but you know, it shows also that people did not use to take a steady source of water for granted. And we do today because obviously, we just open the tap and there’s water. But long ago, it was a miracle that there was this water constantly, you could just count on it. And it was worthy of a temple and ofsome respect.

[00:46:11] Elyse Rivin: Absolutely, you’re absolutely right. And it’s still to this day considered to be remarkable that it is one of, they don’t know how far down under the cliffs, the actual water goes. And it is,they measurethe flow of the water, and the hydraulic engineers are still to this day astonished by how much water there is that actually comes out.

[00:46:35] Elyse Rivin: So I have to say that I think it’s a wonderful thing to do in combination with going to L’Isle sur la Sorgue, and if you do it in that order, it’s nice because it really, it’s very shady. It’s not an old, it’s not like typical village in the area and the Vaucluse, the stone houses perched on top of a hill that in the dead heat of the summer, you’re going to die if you walk around in the afternoon. This is a small cluster of houses, big, big trees everywhere, lots of shade.

[00:47:04] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:47:04] Elyse Rivin: Very nice little thing to do.

[00:47:06] Annie Sargent: And probably not as crowded as L’Isle sur la Sorgue.

[00:47:09] Elyse Rivin: Absolutely not, not nearly as crowded. And I had a nice little lunch and a little place there and one day. Not the day we were in L’Isle sur la Sorgue, the other day.

[00:47:18] Oh, so you did not have two lunches in a row?

[00:47:21] Elyse Rivin: Nah.

[00:47:21] Annie Sargent: Not this time.

[00:47:22] Elyse Rivin: Nah, not this time. Not this time. If it had been trout, maybe, I don’t know. But nah, nah, I’m not that bad. Come on, Annie.

[00:47:29] Annie Sargent: Yeah but it’s good, but it’s good to know that there are some restaurants and places you can have a drink and a ice cream and meal and all of that. I mean, you said it’s a little cluster of houses, so it could be places where it’s a cluster of houses and that’s it.

[00:47:42] Elyse Rivin: That’s true. No, no, no. It has a few cafes, it had a couple of ice cream places, it had a couple of restaurants there, even a couple of hotels and there’s a little church from the 12th century that is actually visitable. But it’s just that it’s not, it’s a little bit more scattered. It’s not a densely populated little stone village, up on top of a hill.

[00:48:01] Elyse Rivin: And that’s because it’s got the water. So it’s got all these gorgeous trees.

[00:48:05] Elyse Rivin: So they don’t have to worry about that.

[00:48:07]

[00:48:07] Annie Sargent: And this whole time you were staying at an apartment, a house you had rented.

[00:48:12] Close to Cavaillon

[00:48:12] Elyse Rivin: Which was not far away, because this is really, this is still the Vaucluse. And both, l’Isle sur la Sorgue and Fountaine de Vaucluse are close to Avignon, they’re close to where we were, which was near Gordes. They’re close to Cavaillon.

[00:48:26] Annie Sargent: Wonderful melons over there, by the way, folks. Les Melons de Cavaillon is like a standard summer food here, which we usually eat with cured ham.

[00:48:37] Annie Sargent: It’s delicious, I had some yesterday.

[00:48:39] Annie Sargent: I’m out of ham, but I still have a melon, but I’m out of ham. What are we going to do? We might have to have the melon by itself. Oh, oh, you could put Port wine in it.

[00:48:50] Annie Sargent: That’s good too. Like you cut it in half and you put some Port wine in. Oh, see, it’s lunchtime. I’m hungry. Can you tell?

[00:48:56] She’s going crazy, I can tell by the flutter in her eyes.

[00:48:59] Parking in Fountaine

[00:48:59] Annie Sargent: One more question.

[00:49:00] So parking situation in Fontaine?

[00:49:02] Elyse Rivin: I’m glad you asked. They have two nice big roomy parking lots. Considering the size of the village, it’s easier to park there, even though you have to pay, than the parking was in L’Isle sur la Sorgue. No problem.

[00:49:14] Oh, that’s good. That’s good.

[00:49:15] Elyse Rivin: No problem.

[00:49:17] Annie Sargent: Thank you very much Elyse and here’s to 400 more.

[00:49:20] Elyse Rivin: And here’s to 400 more.

[00:49:21] Annie Sargent: Au revoir.

[00:49:22] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France Travel Podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and copyright 2022, by Addicted to France. It is released under a Creative Commons, Attribution, non-commercial, No derivatives license.

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Category: Provence