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Pays de SaultThere are few more breath-taking sightsthan fields of lavender in bloom as observedfrom the heights of the village of Sault. Ilove to start with an early morning 90-minute walk through the deep purple fieldson the Lavender Road. This 5km sign postedroad is a treat for the senses and offersplenty of opportunities for Instagramworthyphotos along the way. Be sure toadd some time to take a stroll through thenarrow streets of medieval of Sault. Theweekly market, which dates back to theearly 16th century takes place onWednesday morning. Consider taking a tour(and tasting) of the Boyer nougat factory, avisit to one of the lavender distilleries or ademonstration of traditional soap-making atthe Savonnerie de Provence.A picturesque drive on the D1 will take youfrom Sault to the tiny hamlet of Monieux.There’s not much to see apart from a 12thcentury bell tower and some 17th centurychurches but what’s really special here is thedelicious lunch at Les Lavandes. Reserveahead and snag a table outdoors near thestatue of Anesca (La Nesque). There are two“menus” - the Saveurs et Senteurs (flavorsand aromas) menu and the perfect-for-lunch3-course menu du jour (both at a greatprice). Dishes focus on local truffles, honey,mushrooms, lamb and “petit épeautre”, theancient regional grain currently gaining greatpopularity. There’s also an a la carte menu.During lunch, you will undoubtedly see anumber of cyclists stopping in town to filltheir water bottles taking a brief breakbefore tackling the steep and winding roads.
Gorges La NesqueAlthough much of the Provencal countrysideis made up of gently rolling hills, vineyards,wheat and lavender fields, the Vaucluse areahas a wilder more rugged side. The relaxinglunch at Les Lavandes prepares you for thedrive along the spectacular gorge of LaNesque. Start your adventure on the D942which affords arresting views of La Nesqueriver and into the deep canyon clefts. TheD942 however, is not for the faint of heart.A classic “balcony road” so called because ofthe lanes cut into the sides of the cliffs, theroad is much loved by cyclists for its twistsand turns. It is a very narrow road anddefinitely not for those who are afraid ofheights.There are many spots where the road isreally only wide enough for one car so keepyour fingers crossed that you don’t meetanother vehicle coming in the oppositedirection! Fortunately, the D942 is notheavily traveled and you can drive at a veryleisurely pace while you take in the dizzyingvistas during the 22 km drive. Stop at theCastellaras viewpoint, the highest point ofthe gorge at 872 meters (2861 feet) andadmire the Rocher du Cire (Rock of Wax) socalled because of the layers of wax coatingfrom the hives of wild bees. You’ll find a slabhonoring the Provencal poet Frederic Mistralwho celebrated the legend of the Rock.End your journey at the small village ofVilles-sur-Auzon with its ancient fountainsand ochre houses. Unwind with an apero atone of the small cafés. If you’re there in lateJuly or early August, you can enjoy worldclassmusic for free (or for a nominal fee) atthe annual Villes-sur-Auzon jazz festival.
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