Cruising around the winding roads of Provence on a tempestuous Sunday in mid-August, I was introduced to several idyllic villages.
The thing about the southeast of France is that everywhere you go is blindingly beautiful; but after a while, you struggle to separate the different places in your head. There’s so many… Gordes, Les Beaux and Saint Rémy, just to name a few. You can’t blame a girl for feeling a lil’ overwhelmed. However, there was one village that really cemented itself in my memory.
Allow me to introduce you to Roussillon
Often nicknamed the French Colorado, Roussillon can be found in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (well, that’s not a mouthful at all) and has gained prominence due to its abundance of ochre quarries. (For those who don’t know, ochre is a pigment found in the earth that has gorgeous red hues). These deposits give the neighbouring landscape of Roussillon a surreal look that is slightly reminiscent of Mars, and has also inspired the motif of the buildings.
There is folklore behind this ochre. Local legend has it that – during the Middle Ages – a young woman called Séramonde became engaged to the Lord of Roussillon, Raymond d’Avignon. However, because Raymond preferred to hunt than serenade his fiancé, Séramonde fell in love with someone else. When Raymond found out, he killed her beloved and – unbeknownst to Séramonde – served her his cooked heart to be eaten. When she became aware of what she had done, she threw herself off the cliff. The earth was stained red from her blood, and so coloured the ochre. Gruesome, huh?
The afternoon I spent meandering around the narrow, medieval alleys of Roussillon was a very happy one indeed. The commune is built atop a small rise, and a momentary hike to the summit rewards you with jaw-dropping views out over Park du Luberon. A particular highlight of my visit was relishing a lavender gelato cone (yes, you heard that right) whilst basking in the glory of the ochre hillside.
The art galleries dotted throughout only add to the painter’s palette that is this French village. Artists will welcome you inside with open arms to proudly show you their work, and you will find it irresistible to walk away without feeling inspired. Although the price tag of the paintings may exceed your budget, another way to support the artists and bring home a little of Roussillon is to purchase a print. I myself couldn’t say no.
If you have the opportunity to visit France, make it a priority to explore Roussillon. There is simply no other village like it. Whether you are drawn to Provence’s beauty, character, gastronomy or wine, there is something in Roussillon for everyone.
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