Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes sits in beautiful wine country in the South of France, with stunning scenery and fabulous wines. Its geographical location makes sightseeing in the immediate area easy. The Spanish border is only about three hours away by car, and the Italian border only about three and a half hours, so exploring further afield is easily doable.
My Top Ten list for sightseeing within easy reach is:
The Pont du Gard https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pont_du_Gard My architect Dad spent years telling me the Pont du Gard is the 8th wonder of the world. in 1996, I visited it for the first time just to get him off my back. As I walked around a bend and saw it with my own eyes I realised he was right. It’s number one on my list for a reason. The Romans (what did they ever do for us?) built it 2000 years ago. For 900 years it was used as an aqueduct where the channel carrying water that supplied the city of Nîmes crossed the River Gard at high level. The water was carried 51 Km falling just 17 metres over that distance. It was constructed in stone and not a drop of mortar was used. Or so my Dad says.
The City of Avignon https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avignon Avignon is the capital of Vaucluse, Sante Cécile’s département (county). The old city is walled right round. It is best to park in the Central station carpark situated just opposite the southernmost city gate. The central station was the TGV station until about 15 years ago. Nowadays the TGV arrives at a new station about 5 Km outside the City centre to the South West.
The town of Orange https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange,_Vaucluse is best known for its Roman theatre, that’s still used as a theatre in summer to this day. Outside, opposite the back of the theatre wall are several cafés and restaurants where you can observe this stunning piece of architecture over a meal or a drink.
Chateauneuf du Pape https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the highest in the pecking order of the Southern Rhône wine Crus. In 1935, the village was the birthplace of the quality regulation system, Appellation Controlée (AOC) being applied to wines.
The village itself is overlooked on the top of the hill by the Chateau which was the summer palace of the Avignon Popes. The building is now a ruin having been used by the Germans in World War Two as an ammunition store which they then detonated when in retreat as Hitler faced defeat.
The Roman City of Nîmes is stunning. It gives denim its name apparently: De Nîmes, of Nîmes, denim. The Roman ampitheatre is the best preserved there is.
While in Nîmes make sure you see both the Maison Carrée a well preserved Roman temple used by Jefferson as a model for the Virginia Capitol building, and Norman Foster’s Carrée d’art housing an art galley, a library, municipal offices wirth a great café on the roof terrace.
Arles https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arles Arles is another Roman city, home for a while to Vincent van Gogh.
Cassis https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassis Is a delightful fishing village East of Marseilles. There is a now a little marina with shops and restaurants. There are a couple of little beaches where you can swim in the Mediterranean. The Calanques are inlets in the rocks over a 20Km stretch of the coastline and a boat trip to see them leaves from the marina.
On the quayside is Poisonnerie Laurent a great fish restaurant. A bit upmarket is Le Jardin d’Emile, a fabulous restaurant, also a hotel, opposite the Bestouan beach at the other end of Cassis. It is also close to the Bestouan parking area which is the best place to park in Cassis and relatively cheap for a day’s parking. You’ll need to get there early because it’ll be full well before lunchtime in summer.
The Luberon is a national park containing stunning scenery and some wonderful villages including Lacoste which is overlooked by the Château de Lacoste, once owned by the Marquis de Sade and now being restored by Pierre Cardin. At the edge of the village is a café/restaurant on the side of the hill looking out over the valley to Bonnieux, another stunningly beautiful village.
The quarry near Lacoste supplied the limestone for the sink, countertops and their supports in my kitchen.
Less than 30 minutes drive from Ste Cécile is Saint-Martin-d’Ardèche a village near the bottom of The Gorges de l’Ardèche a great place for a day out. Kayaks and pedalos are available for hire by the hour and the pine trees on the river banks provide great shade for picnicing.
For the more adventurous there is half-day and full-day kayaking down the Gorge. The hire company takes you and a kayak up river in a minibus and you come down the river back to Saint Martin.
20 minutes away is the crocodile farm, the Fermes aux Crocodiles. It is actually a research and conservation facility which breeds crocodiles for release into the wild in their native habitats (happily not in France). It has a visitor attraction for the public to view the crocodiles from safe walkways. Wednesdays is feeding day and tends to draw large crowds. It is a fascinating family day out. These days they have added giant tortoises, exotic birds and other species.
Mont Ventoux can be seen from the house. At 1912 metres above sea level, it is nearly half as high again as Ben Nevis. The road goes over the summit. You can drive over it and several of my visitors have taken a day to hike up it. There are guide books and hiking trails. Every other year the Tour de France goes over it. I can’t say the last two methods have ever tempted me.