The Simple Charms of L’Isle sur la Sorgue

The Provençal town of L’Isle sur la Sorgue

Before I stayed in the world’s most idyllic country farmhouse/villa, Le Petit Hôpital, I’d never even heard of the Provençal town of L’Isle sur la Sorgue. But since the house was a mere five minutes down the road from the center of town, it wasn’t long before I discovered this small, watery city’s many delights.

A magnet for outdoor market shoppers since the 1500s (the big market in town still happens every Sunday) and formerly studded with dozens of huge water wheels that provided power for local industries (just a handful of wheels remain), L’Isle sur la Sorgue (which means “island in the Sorgue River) is now one of the most popular places in France for antique shopping. It’s full of gorgeous antique shops, flea-market stands and second-hand stores, as well as a dozen or so riverside restaurants where you can take a leisurely load off with a view of flowers, ducks, and some of the clearest blue-green water you’ll ever see.

There also seem to be wine shops, boulangeries, ice cream shops and courtyard cafes every few steps. Y’know, if you like that sort of thing.

I only spent a couple of afternoons wandering around town, but I’ve thought about it just about every week since. (At this writing, it’s been six months since I was there, in May 2012.) If you have the South of France on your mind, I’d definitely recommend a visit or stay here.

If you like the sound and spray of rushing water, have I got a small French town for YOU

There used to be 70 water wheels in L’Isle sur la Sorgue, providing power for local industries, but now there are just a handful

Antiques are the specialty in L’Isle sur la Sorgue

Antique carousel swans are just some of the amazing/random things you’ll find for sale 

Not the easiest souvenir to schlep home, but glass bottles from Provence are delightful

I must have smelled every soap in town, at least twice

An outdoor antiques market is hardly complete without a cat

The Southern Gothic- and Baroque-style Collégiale Notre Dame des Anges (Our Lady of the Angels)

The Pierre Gautier House and Museum in the center of town

In case you had wondered where to find the Cafe de France…in France

There seems to be a heavenly bakery every few feet in town

A popular special-occasion treat for French children, the gateau de bonbons is a meringue cookie topped with candy

You had me at “livres”

The enormous-wisteria-vine-clinging-to-a-Provençal-apartment-building of my dreams

The riverside Le Bellevue Restaurant is one of the most romantic spots in town — and the guys who work there are adorable

Table for two over the river, anyone?

Table for two IN the river, anyone?

Part of me is still hanging out on this canal bridge, people-watching and listening to the wafting sounds of accordion music

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Comments

  1. I’ve never seen seating on a bridge, that has got to be the coolest spot to eat!!! I love southern France, has a completely different vibe than Paris and farther north, Marseille has been my favorite town so far

  2. I love southern France, too, Craig — and I said exactly the same thing about those bridge tables…I didn’t make it to Marseille on this latest trip, but fortunately, life is long. 🙂

  3. Ann Jordan says:

    I am looking for souvenir/art shop in the Sunday mart that had racks of 10 +/- Euro prints of Provencal scenes outside the crowded entry; e.g. fields of poppies; single bright trees, etc. Can you help with this simple but hard to find question?
    I went back after stupidly not buying in the first. Frequent failing. Ann from MI

  4. Ann, I first arrived in L’Isle sur la Sorgue an hour after closing of the Sunday market, by which time many sellers’ wares had been bundled away. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful in your quest!

  5. Daniel says:

    I am in France and saw a show about the town you described and google it and took me here lookig forward to go there looks so charming.

  6. Daniel, I’m so glad! Have you yet been? I’d love to hear about your experience.

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  1. […] driven from L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in Provence earlier in the day (about a three-hour drive along some gorgeously paved stretches of highway) we […]

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