In this article, I have chosen to tell you about the village of Bédoin, where we stayed for a fortnight in Spring. Situated at the foot of Mont Ventoux, the village benefits from many tourist assets. Here is a small summary of our stay in this little corner of paradise. Between vineyards, cherry orchards, lavender fields and pine forests… Provence the way we like it!
My discovery of the Provençal village of Bédoin
Bédoin is a small town of about 3,100 inhabitants, situated at an altitude of 300 metres at the foot of Mont Ventoux.
From Carpentras, it is reached by the D974 which crosses the Comtadine plain. Along the road, vineyards and orchards of cherry and olive trees follow one another for the pleasure of the eyes.
We have chosen a gîte situated 2 km from the village centre. A pretty location near the vineyard and on the edge of the woods.
The village centre
From our first visit, we understood that the Avenue Barral des Baux was the backbone of Bédoin.
The town’s shopping street is lined with venerable plane trees. There are restaurants, shops, bakeries…
The historic centre starts west of the avenue. With its narrow streets with colourful facades, the old town occupies the slopes of the Saint-Antonin hill.
A Provençal atmosphere is guaranteed on every corner.
Not forgetting the fountains!
The streets converge towards the Saint-Pierre church. The imposing Catholic sanctuary was built between 1708 and 1736. Its façade was designed in the Jesuit style.
The square bell tower is surmounted by a wrought iron campanile.
The church was under renovation at the time of our visit to Bédoin. The scaffolding was hiding the bell tower…
Here is a picture showing the church before the works:
The Saint-Antonin hill
The site of the old castle occupies the top of the hill, of which almost nothing remains. Except for a few sections of the old medieval ramparts.
The hill is called colline Saint-Antonin.
The view of the surroundings and the Mont Ventoux is superb.
I particularly like the views over the roofs of the village with their typically Provençal tiles.
Mont Ventoux and its forests
Of the 9,100 hectares or so that make up the commune of Bédoin, 6,280 ha are covered with forests. It is one of the largest communal forests in France. It extends between 350 and 1,900 m in altitude.
The forest is famous for its cedar trees, its Austrian black pines, but also the 1,000 species of plants listed on the mountain.
A bald mountain!
Mont Ventoux, for its part, peaks at 1,910 m. Nicknamed the Giant of Provence, it has the particularity of being “bald”.
Hmmm, that is to say?
Well, as you can see in the photo, the summit of Mont Ventoux is bare of vegetation.
This character trait makes it a symbol of Provence, easily recognisable (especially from Avignon).
During a visit to Vénasque, a lady accosted me to ask me the question :
“Is it snow that you see on the summit of Mont Ventoux?”
Not at all, dear! It is not snow (in the summer) but limestone. In fact, the summit owes its vivid white colour to the many scree stones that make it up.
Bédoin, a must for cyclists
This is what you may have discovered on TV while watching the Tour de France. The cyclists climbed it 16 times (and will be back in summer 2021). It offers a windfall of publicity for tourism and the local economy.
In summer, the population of the commune thus increases from 3,000 to 12,000 inhabitants!
Back in Bédoin, cycling is the sports activity par excellence!
What could be more normal since it is the starting point for cyclists who want to try the ascent of the Giant of Provence?
Sportsmen and women who are going to face its most difficult face:
- 1,610 metres of difference in height
- over 21.5 km,
- i.e. a slope of about 7.5%.
The first ascent of 1336
The first documented (pedestrian) ascent of Mont Ventoux dates from the 26th of April 1336. The mountain was climbed by the Florentine poet Pétrarque (1304-1364). As for my first ascent, it dates from May 16, 2019! I couldn’t stay in Bédoin without climbing the mythical summit!
I chose to climb to the summit on a sunny morning. To discover a breathtaking panorama from the Provencal plains to the snow-capped peaks of the Alps in the far distance.
The markets of Bédoin
This is an activity that Rachel and I love to do.
Going to the market.
The REAL market.
The one that is set up on the streets and squares of a village has become pedestrian for the occasion.
The Bédoin market is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Provence.
It takes place every Monday morning and brings together many local producers and artisans that offer a wide range of seasonal farm produce and crafts, including hand-made soaps and colourful tablecloths.
The farmers’ market
This weekly market is completed in the tourist season by a farmers’ market on Saturday evening.
It is held on the Place de la République every Saturday from 06/04 to 28/09/2019, from 5.30 pm to 7.30 pm.
The farmers’ market brings together about twenty small local producers who offer a wide range of seasonal farm produce: fruit and vegetables, jams, quince paste, almonds, honey, fruit juices, shellfish, meat, eggs, cheese, flowers, olive oil and tapenade, basil, AOC Ventoux wines…
Just look at that:
On the way out of the market, we would pass by the local boulangerie for some delicious French bread before heading back home.
Under the late afternoon sun, we would set the table “à la bonne franquette” (casually, without fuss) with all the food and wine we gathered from the market.
And for a moment, experience the great “joie de vivre” of Provence.
What to see in the vicinity
We have chosen to stay in Bédoin to take advantage of its central position in the Vaucluse département.
The village is close to some remarkable sites… some examples:
Pernes-les-Fontaines and its 41 fountains!
Avignon, the Popes’ City
Vaison-la-Romaine and its Roman remains
The Dentelles de Montmirail massif
Vénasque, one of the most beautiful villages of France
L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and its Little Venice allure
The (extremely-touristic!) village of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse
The hilltop village of Gordes
However, much closer to Bédoin, you can discover very picturesque Provençal villages: Flassan, Crillon-le-Brave, Mazan, Mormoiron, Le Barroux…
Near the hamlet of Les Baux (commune of Bédoin), you will find the famous “demoiselles coiffées” (the ladies wearing hats). These strange rock formations are located in an old ochre quarry.
Find out more!
- Read this article in French on our blog Mon Grand-Est
- The page of Ventoux Provence about Bédoin
- The Wikipedia article on the village [in French]
- My friend Martine’s blog with beautiful reports about Provence [in French]
- For your hikes in the region, don’t leave without good topographical maps! The village is one the IGN map “Mont Ventoux”, scale 1:25000, 3140ET
Where to stay in the region
Some addresses (affiliated links) on accommodation in the region (centred on Bédoin):
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I’ve visited most of the villages you mention: in fact Provence was the first part of France I discovered after relocating to Paris: a colleague allowed me to use his house at Méthamis. I returned to Provence many times, particularly to the area around Gordes [with its village of bories] and the Abbey of Sénanque and Venasque, where I still remember the civet de sanglier! But my most striking memory of Provence is not one of the villages, but what I wrote about in my book, On the Trail in France in my chapter on Provence:
“After having hiked all over France for over forty years, I can recommend to any walker the section of the GR 4 running from Montfuron to Cérest as one of the most unforgettable trails in France. The path runs east-west through a forest of oaks and boxwood along the narrow crest of a steep ridge about 600 meters above sea level. On the south side of the ridge, 200 meters below, is the bucolic, pristine valley of the Aiguebelle. On the north side of the ridge the little town of Reillanne dominates the wide valley of the Encrême dotted with poplar trees planted in rows to serve as windbreaks, their autumn foliage luminous and silvery. By zigzagging through the trees slightly left or right you can alternately view one valley or the other…”
Thank you Ronald… this section of the GR4 does look like a special Provençal treat. I Will have a look at it next time I’ll be exploring this corner of Provence! 🙂