Amid all the beauty of France, it is hard to be taken by surprise. L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is such a place. A small town 25 kilometres east of Avignon, it’s special beauty is the Sorgue River that runs through and around it.
The Sorgue originates from a spring, the Fontaine de Vaucluse, about ten kilometres north of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. This spring is the largest in France, and the fifth largest in the world. It’s annual water flow is 630 million cubic meters of water.
Arriving in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue before the check-in time at our hotel, we decided to ride up to Fontaine de Vaucluse. The ride passes through farm country before meeting up with the river. In the town itself, I am surprised at the number of tourists there. We were there on Wednesday afternoon, and there were hundreds of people.
The river is shallow, but as one might expect, perfectly clear. A gravel path borders the river, and we push our bikes along the path until it gets too steep. I leave Dennis behind to mind the bikes as I walk up towards the start of the river. At one point there is a river and then a few feet upstream, there is nothing but a giant rock face that rises 240 meters in the air above me. It is a curious thing to see.
As the Sorgue River approaches L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, it breaks into many small tributaries. Historically, the river turned water wheels, used in the textile and paper industries. At one time, there were 72 water wheels in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Today, 14 remain but they are only ornamental. A single textile manufacturer remains, Brun de Vian-Tiran, founded in 1802.
As one walks through the town, a cooling breeze blows off the river. Our hotel, La Prévôté, has a branch of the Sorgue running beneath it, which is visible from the hotel restaurant. With the door open to the river, cool air wafts into the hotel, helping to cool it in the hot summers. The water temperature is a constant 14 degrees Celsius so it functions like thermal heating and cooling.
L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is called “The Venice of France ” but this doesn’t really capture the feel. The water is fresh and crisp and gurgling unlike Venice, which can be a bit unpleasant.
Today was the L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue market. Dennis hadn’t experienced a Provençal market yet so we wandered around the market for the morning. Here’s some pictures to give you a flavour of the day.