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Exploring the Vaucluse region in France with Debbie Grace

France, by nature, is a country built on romance, passion and exploration, drawing tens of millions to its shores every year to experience it for themselves. However, while France is a well-known destination, there are certainly regions that don’t attract the same fanfare as others. The Vaucluse department, part of the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, is a perfect example – offering breathtaking scenery and fabulous encounters, without the crowded streets.

As part of a wider trip to Europe for a wedding, FBI Travel Manager Debbie Grace explored the Vaucluse with her husband; her fourth trip to this part of the world.

Where is the Vaucluse department?

The Vaucluse department is located in southeast France, north of the gateway city of Marseille. This part of France, including Marseille, Nimes and Aix-en-Provence, is very popular with holidaymakers, but very few explore inland where the gem of Vaucluse hides away.

Named after the famous Fontaine-de-Vaucluse spring, the Vaucluse is a mountainous region lined with small towns in the valleys which produce some of the best wine and food in the country.

Where to stay in the Vaucluse department?

Debbie based herself at Hotel Crillon le Brave – a luxury destination situated in the small town of Crillon Le Brave. Debbie notes that one of the first features of the hotel is its location as it sits at the base of 1,912 m Mont Ventoux which was made famous by the Tour de France. Hotel Crillon le Brave also looks over the wider Vaucluse region with expansive vineyards, lush lavender fields, farms and small villages dotting the green landscape.

In terms of accommodation, there is little better than Hotel Crillon le Brave which is part of the Relais & Chateaux Group. Perfectly designed bedrooms and suites are complemented by stylish restaurants and bars offering premium wine and food showcasing the local region. Of course, with a heated outdoor pool, tennis court and Spa des Ecuries, there is the chance to relax and let the Vaucluse take care of your every need.

Debbie explained that it’s possible to use Hotel Crillon le Brave as a base for the Vaucluse department – driving from destination to destination as you whimsically explore every nook and cranny. So, what are the must-see sights?

1) Mont Ventoux

As mentioned above, Mont Ventoux was made famous by the Tour de France – visiting every second year. With a 21.4 km climb for cyclists, it’s a true test of endurance that has broken some of the best riders in the world. When Debbie visited Mont Ventoux, the Tour was about to arrive with the festivities ready and campers lining the roads. If you fancy the challenge of climbing Mont Ventoux, like Debbie’s husband did, there are cycling tours available during the warmer months.

2) Vaison-la-Romaine

First inhabited in the Bronze Age, Vaison-la-Romaine has the look and feel of an old Roman town positioned high on a rocky cliff. However, the medieval settlement has much more to offer than just ruins and architecture.

As you walk the historical streets lined with cathedrals and churches, look out for the famous open air market which is held every Tuesday throughout the year. Peruse the enchanting evening farmers market – enjoying fresh produce and tasty French patisserie.

3) Carpentras

Carpentras is famous for its black truffles with a market that occurs every Friday morning during the winter. There is also the chance to go on truffle hunting trips to experience the rush of a find.

The commune town sits in the middle of the Vaucluse department and is the ideal base for exploring the various vineyards in the region. While it’s impossible to sample every drop, the rich volume of both red and white wine produced means you are never too far away from outstanding vin de table.

While exploring this centre, you can’t miss a trip to the Carpentras Synagogue. Built in the 14th century, it was originally used to protect the Jewish community who were being persecuted in the Kingdom of France during this time. Inside the Synagogue, you’ll discover baths and pools (mikvé) as well as beautiful gothic architecture – often crafted by hand.

4) L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

To the south of Carpentras is L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, a quaint town of just 18,000 residents. Complementing Carpentras, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue’s specialty is antique shops and markets – lining the magnificent river Sorgue. Take time to admire the waterways from the many waterside cafes and restaurants. A quiet glass of wine anyone?

5) Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Ever wanted to taste multiple varieties of wine in a single session? Debbie explains that this small town is famous for its wine tasting area where you can easily walk between cellars and explore the unique taste of each type. At several spots, there is also the chance to enjoy an exquisite dish on the side, complementing the rich flavours inside your glass!

If you enjoy one in particular, consider purchasing a bottle or two to take back home.

Heading home?

Of course, France isn’t the type of country where you can just leave a region to go home – there is plenty more to see! Debbie took this opportunity to explore the City of Love – Paris – flying from Nice.

Debbie and her husband topped the holiday off with three brilliant days in Paris, staying at the Mandarin Oriental – a luxurious 5-star hotel with legendary service and located just steps from Place Vendome. Upgraded to a Deluxe Room, (Yes, all FBI guests get a free upgrade when available) the pair enjoyed the Mandarin Oriental dining and bar options with the Michelin Star restaurant Sur Mesure par Thierry Marx are a real highlight at the hotel.

The hotel is very close to all the major Parisian attractions. To embrace the more modern and new attractions, if you’ve been to Paris before, Debbie suggests checking out the Fondation Louis Vuitton, the newly-renovated Paris’ Picasso Museum and Palais de Tokyo.

So, are you in the mood for a French holiday with a difference? If so, feel free to get in touch with Debbie Grace and the FBI Travel at 1800 FLY FBI.

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