HOW I ACCIDENTALLY FELL IN LOVE WITH CAVAILLON AND 7 MORE REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD TOO - PART TWO
Cavaillon is a mid-sized Provençal town in idyllic countryside, situated in the Departement du Vaucluse, on an eastern spur of the Luberon Range. It’s strategically placed at the crossways of several roads, 22 km from Avignon and 54 km from Aix en Provence.
In my previous blog post, I told you how I accidentally came across this town and fell in love with it when I was on a road-trip in Provence in 2014, and I gave you my Reason #1 for why this is so, namely Colline Saint-Jacques.
If you haven’t already had a chance to read about that, I suggest that you do. But right now, I want to tell you a few more facts about Cavaillon and give you the 7 other reasons why I fell in love with this town and why you might, too.
First of all: The town is perfect to spend a day in before you push out into the Luberon to be wowed by all its river gorges, lavender fields, ochre quarries and perched villages.
As I mentioned to begin with, my
Reason # 1 for loving this town is the green
St. Jacques's Hill – or Colline Saint-Jacques
View from Colline St. Jacques
- which lies in the heart of the city and allows you to have a «walk in the country» only two steps away from the cafè terraces and shopping area. From the top there's a magnificent view of the town itself, and it continues all the way to the plains of Apt, the Luberon, and the Alpilles.
Read all about my walk up this hill in How I accidentally fell in love with Cavaillon, and 8 reasons why you might, too.
Reason # 2) Hôtel du Parc
Picture from the Hôtel du Parc's website
The second reason I personally fell in love with Cavaillon, is the Hôtel du Parc. It had such an inviting and homely feel to it, and the staff was very friendly and service-minded. As far as I can tell from their website, the hotel has been re-decorated since I was there, but it still looks wonderfully charming! In fact: I can’t wait to go back!
I will never forget my breakfast in this hotel. It was served in a beautiful breakfast room, and it was delicious! The food was presented in a very delicate and inviting way: Fresh croissants, fresh bread, delicious butter, a variety of cheeses and sausages… And everyone could boil their own eggs to their own liking. In short: it was a simply marvellous breakfast!
The room itself was beautiful. It had high ceilings, a tiled floor, and a perfect view to the old staircase that lead up to the rooms, and where the railing was a combination of wrought-iron and dark wood.
The room also had typical provençal colors, with details in sunny yellow and light blue, and there were huge windows which offered a perfect view to the terrasse outside. The terrasse was full of green plants and had a fountain that gave a calming sound of running water. There were also a few benches and some simple café tables with chairs, so it was perfectly possible to have breakfast out there, too.
What a perfect athmosphere for a breakfast!
My room in Hôtel du Parc was delightful, with air-conditioning and a very comfortable bed, so I slept like a baby all night. And the bathroom was very clean and inviting. I felt really lucky to have found this great place to stay at such a reasonable price. The fact that they had a safe and free parking space for my rental car, was also a big plus.
I highly recommend that you stay in this hotel if you ever go to Cavaillon.
Reason # 3) Melons and Fête du Mèlon
Photo by Cup of Couple from Pexels
The fertile soils around Cavaillon nourish all kinds of fresh fruit, like the lauded Cavaillon melon. This is actually how most people in France know the name of the town, and there’s even a festival in July to honour this delicious fruit. Cavaillon is actually considered the King of the melon market.
In addition to growing melons, there’s a surplus of cherries, pears and apples in summer. But it’s the melons that have put Cavaillon on the map. According to www.thecrazytourist.com, this cantaloupe came from Africa via Italy in the middle ages, and is in season from June to September.
If you visit the market in Cavaillon to buy melons, the merchants will show you how to pick the best ones. The most important is the weight: the heavier it is, the sweeter and juicier. It's supposed to be eaten the same day, and the stem must be cracked and ready to fall off.
Of course, melon appears in dishes at local restaurants when the melon is in season. You’ll find it as a starter with cured Bayonne ham, in salads, in tarts for desserts, and even as gazpacho (cold vegetable soup).
The melon festival I mentioned earlier, Fête du Mèlon, takes place on the second weekend of July every year. It only started 5 years ago, so it wasn’t on when I first came to Cavaillon in 2014, but I'll definitly try to get back to experience the festival some time in the not too distant future.
From what I’ve learned, there’s a market on both the Saturday and Sunday morning during the festival, inviting producers and artisans from around the region, as well as dozens of the best melon growers from the area.
As the Saturday progresses, things get livelier: There’s a melon-themed parade and cooking contests, and most of the bars in town set up stalls at an open-air bodega. There’s also live music until the early hours.
However, the most memorable moment happens at 22:00 when 100 white Camargue horses are released to run through the city streets. Being a horse-lover myself, I’d sure like to watch this some time! It must be a spectacular sight!
I actually met some horses while I was exploring the area, as you can see below.
But Cavaillon has more attractions to boast of, like …
Reason # 4) The Roman Arch
The Roman Arch on Place du Clos
According to www.thecrazytourist.com, nobody is too sure what this Roman arch on Place du Clos was built for. What they do know, is that it wasn’t always at this location. It was moved here piece by piece in the 19th century, and before that it had been integrated into Cavaillon’s episcopal palace. The palace was sold off and destroyed after the Revolution, so maybe the arch is what’s left of it and was therefor preserved. I don’t know.
Whatever its purpose, the arch is definitly something to inspect up close so you can get a good look at the rich carving that covers almost every surface. There are beautiful rosettes and acanthus leaves, and you can also make out the faint outline of a winged deity.
The Roman Arch was one of the first things I noticed in Cavaillon, since it’s placed in the vicinity of the parking area where I first landed, on Place du Clos.
Reason # 5) Lavender
A cornerstone of Provence’s identity is definitly lavender, which also grows near Cavaillon.
The time to come and see this beautiful spectacle is around July when the colors are at their boldest, just before the lavender is harvested at the beginning of August.
The Musée de la Lavande is also in the vicinity of Cavaillon, in Coustellet, which is 9,5 km away. I went there, and it's well worth a visit. In addition to the museum itself, there's also a shop where you can buy products made from or with lavender.
Reason # 6) Via Ferrata de Cavaillon
As you can see from the picture above, you can reach the Via Ferrata de Cavaillon by the same path that leads up the Colline Saint-Jacques, or to be more precise: The starting point is Colline Saint-Jacques.
I haven't yet tried this out, as I'm a little bit scared of heights, but I'm considering if for my next visit to Cavaillon. Even though it's a little bit outside of my comfort-zone, I think the fact that this is a possibility, is a reason to love Cavaillon. It's definitly one of the reasons why I do.
I grew up in Åndalsnes, Norway, which is a town with a rich mountaineering history, and which has another Via Ferrata and plenty of other mountain adventure possibilites at close reach. If you want to know more about that, I've written about it in another blog post. My background is probably why I love everything related to mountaineering. Discovering that there's a Via Ferrata in Cavaillon, made me feel even more at home there.
If you’re new to Via Ferratas, they’re horizontal climbing courses attached to a cliff-face. You follow the route via rope bridges, ladders, monkey bridges, Tibetan bridges, gangways and beams.
There are two courses in Cavaillon: Via Natura and Via Souterrata. The first one is family friendly and carries you along the cliff-face. The other one, the Via Souterrata, is more challenging and guides you into the Colline Saint-Jacques’ cave network.
If you like adventures like this, you'll love Cavaillon, for sure!
Reason # 7) Plenty of leisure activities
Via Ferrata Cavaillon picture by Simon Bié
Cavaillon is a great place to stay for so many reasons, but especially if you want to have a variety of activities to choose from.
Here’s a list of leisure activities that you can choose from in Cavaillon:
Monday morning market
Cycling / mountain biking
Climbing (with the Via Ferrata de Cavaillon as a great option)
A variety of summer events (the Fête du Melon is just one of them)
If you’re in decent shape you can see what Provence is all about on the “Luberon à Vélo” cycle trail. It slices through the Luberon Massif, all the way from Cavaillon to Forcalquier, more than 100 kilometres away.
This obviously isn’t for everyone, but you can ride sections of the route, or go halfway, which means to the town of Apt, and never have to deal with a main road.
Whatever you choose, you’ll ride through the Provence of movies and paintings, with its garrigue scrubs, cedar forests, limestone gorges, ochre ridges, olive groves and - of course - lovable perched villages where you can stop for meals and breaks.
When I think of all the great things to explore in Cavaillon, I know for sure that I need to go back before too long. I love markets, good food, horses, tennis, checking out old buildings and museums, and of course learning more about the history and culture of a place, - and Cavaillon has all of this.
Beside the above mentioned reasons why I've come to love Cavaillon, I know there are even more I could include here. But I’m sure you’ll find your own reasons if you go there, because there are plenty of more things to see, buildings to visit, and so on, - like Le Musée Archéologique de l’Hôtel Dieu and l’Hôtel d’Agar, just to mention a few.
The last (but not the least) reason why I love Cavaillon, is ...
Reason # 8) It's a perfect starting point for exploring the area
Since Cavaillon is situated strategically at the crossways of several roads, it’s easy to get to other places in Provence from here. For instance, you can make day visits either to the Alpilles or the Luberon.
In the Luberon, there’s the regional nature reserve to see, and plenty of beautiful villages to admire.
The Alpilles conveys an image of the deepest Provence, the authentic Provence, with its style and refinement. This is the Provence of St Rémy de Provence and Les Baux de Provence. This is the land of the authors Alphonse Daudet and Frédéric Mistral, and also the land of Van Gogh, who lived in St Rémy and who was inspired by its light, its sunflowers and its famous cypress trees.
L’Office du Tourisme in Cavaillon can provide you with information on different excursions with themes such as «The Ochers of Roussillon», «The Lavender of Lagarde d'Apt», or «The stained glass windows of Gordes», just to mention a few of the opportunities.
Apt en Provence
Adorable hilltop villages
Provence wouldn't be the same without its adorable hilltop villages, and there are dozens of them within reach of Cavaillon, so it's definitly a perfect place to stay if you want to explore Provence.
Well-known towns can easily be reached from here. Avignon is 22 km away, l'Isle-sur-le-Sorgue 8 km, Aix en Provence 54 km, St Rèmy de Provence 20 km, Ménerbes 15 km, - just to mention a few.
Ménerbes is rated as one of the most beautiful villages, not just in this region but all of France. The village is no more than a few streets and alleys crammed onto a narrow hilltop, but the stone architecture is wonderfully rustic and there are traces of a citadel from the 1500s.
Marcel Pagnol is one of the many authors who have written about Provence, and Mènerbes is often mentioned in his work. The village is also known because Pablo Picasso had a house here.
Gorges de Régalon
Literally at Cavaillon's doorstep is also the Gorges de Régalon, which is only 10 kilometres away. This is an otherworldly canyon hidden in the rocky garrigue countryside.
The gorge has sheer walls of limestone, and these walls taper so much that they block out the sunlight. You’ll even have to squeeze through in places.
In other places, falling rocks have been suspended by the walls a few feet above the canyon floor to create archways.
The canyon is a humbling natural sight, but be aware: It can be dangerous to explore this area during or after heavy rainfall. That’s why it normally closes during sustained periods of bad weather.
If you want to know more about this beautiful place and find practical information about hiking there, I recommend that you read Carolyne Kauser-Abbott’s blog post about her experiences with it. It’s very informative.
And this is just the beginning
Enough said for now! You just KNOW that you need to go to Provence some day, don’t you? Because what I’ve covered here is just the beginning. Provence is so rich with culture and history, good food, beatiful villages, activitites for everyone, whether you're travelling alone or with family or friends - that I don't think I'll ever be done exploring or writing about it.
That's why you'll definitly find more about Provence in future blog posts from me, so stay tuned if that's something you'd love to read more about!
And as for Cavaillon: This town has firmly rooted itself in my heart, and I'll definitly be going back there, - sooner, rather than later. Who knows... Maybe you'll beat me to it? If so, I'd love to hear about YOUR experiences!
If you want to find out more about this great town and the Lubéron, you should definitely visit https://www.luberoncoeurdeprovence.com/decouvrir/villes-et-villages/cavaillon
For now, I'll just say ...
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I'm Else Kosberg, author, life designer and passionate globetrotter. I want to share with you my travel tips & experiences and hope-fully inspire you to travel more and maybe also start exploring the roads less travelled.