Les Calades

On arrival in Forcalquier,we will pass by the gardens of the ancient  convent named the Cordeliers, which dates back to the middle ages. Sitting in the garden, an old distillery machine reminds you that you are in lavender country. Once the capital of the Alpes de Haute Provence and a fortified town, Forcalquier is today the most important market town of the Alpes de Haute Provence and is in itself a popular attraction . You will be enchanted by its narrow paved streets and passages.

Take the time to follow the cobbled path leading to the Citadelle. The view is magnificent overlooking the valley, where you can see the Montagne de Lure, the Luberon, the Alpes and even Mont Ventoux.

Forcalquier has  some of the purest  skies in France.

We will go on to the Luberon and the plateau d'Albion. Lunch will be at a friendly boulangerie with excellent home made food using local produce. Outdoor seating is available. After lunch we will take the short journey to the Abbaye de Valsaintes.  

Dating back to ancient times, there is a legend which tells a story of the Dragon Rock. At the entrance of of the gardens, there is an ancient solar calendar carved into the rock. There is also a church which has a unique solar phenomena happening once a year on winter solstice. On that day at 14.32  exactly, a disk of sunlight shines through the window and lights up the middle of the altar.

Every afternoon in July and August, we are treated to a wonderful performance of Gregorian songs in the little church.

As well as having more than 600 varieties of roses, (flowering depends on the season) the garden holds many other surprises which are well worth seeing. Flowers, plants, trees, insects and birds live harmoniously in this little paradise. The dry garden  has more than 300 dry soil plants and enchanting paths leading to the “nid d'amour.”

We will then visit Simiane la Rotonde, a  lovely perched provencal village.

Rows of ancient and high narrow houses, form the ramparts facing the fields of lavender of the plateau d'Albion. Classed as a "cité de caractère", the village is steeped in history. Whilst walking through the cobbled streets, you will come across beautiful façades, sculptured doors and delicately worked window frames.

The large round  stern building at the top of the village is all that remains of this 12th century castle. Its ceiling inside, is a delicate dome, where each year a festival of ancient music is held.


(Entrance to the Abbaye de Valsaintes included)

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