So it was a little unusual a few months back when friend Kari was visiting that we decided to go to Oppède-le-Vieux where Shirley and Kari had not been before. Oppède-le-Vieux is generally not very well known, little is written about the village in the various guide books about Provence but I thought they would enjoy hiking up to the castle ruins.
Oppède-le-Vieux is a partially abandoned village near Ménerbes. Perched on the northern flank of the Petit Luberon, Oppede-Le-Vieux is a mix of buildings on a mountainside. The buildings range from grand houses decorated with elaborate stone carvings, to ivy-clad, skeletal remains of others that open onto the street, which winds its way up toward the castle ruins.
When we got to Oppède-le-Vieux, we had to leave our car in the parking lot at the base of the village; from there, we followed the path up the hill. There is a small fee for the parking lot. The village is not accessible by car
|An old house in Oppède-le-Vieux|
The Iron Cross below gives its name to Place de la Croix where you enter into the old perched village.
We entered the walled upper village through the massive stone arched passageway with an iron belfry on top.
|Arched passageway into upper village|
|A restored home|
The shaded, cobblestone street (called calade) weaves up the hill past the ruins of old houses. Here old doorways open onto spaces that were once someone’s home, but are now wild rooms filled with figs, flowers and brambles.
|Cobblestone pathway to church and castle ruins|
|White Penitents Chapel|
A 15 to 20 minute walk up hill on a cobblestone path through the trees past ruins of ancient dwellings brought us to the summit and the 16th century Notre Dame d'Alidon Church.
|Ahead is Notre Dame d'Alidon Church|
Notre Dame d'Alidon Church is a pretty Romanesque church. It has a gargoyled, hexagonal bell-tower, and was started in the 13th century, and rebuilt in the 16th. Inside there are some lovely though faded frescoes and it is a venue for classical music recitals in the summer.
|Notre Dame d'Alidon Church|
Just above the church are the ruins of the castle which is more tumbled down than standing, and thoroughly gutted. Turrets are open to the sky, massive stones scattered like dice, but there are enough details remaining to fire up the imagination about how life was lived here. The castle is precariously balanced, soaring into the sky, with vertical drops straight down from some walls into the forested gorge far below.
There are many magnificent views from the hill villages in the Luberon, but this is one of the best. Sitting on the warm stone wall the whole of the valley is laid out before you, with its ever changing colors and shifting shadows. Immediately below are the tumbled ruins of the old village, then your gaze moves across the bright terracotta roofs of the renovated houses just beyond, before the view drifts away into the patchwork of fields that decorate the wide valley floor.
|Shirley and I pause for a picture|
|Ruins we pass on our walk about the village|
|A doorway into a village house|
|There are cobblestone pathways throughout the village|
|The arched passageway out of the old village|
|An old village house|
|A terrace café|
|A village shop|
|Another view of Oppède-le-Vieux|
Towards the end of the 19th century, a post office and school were opened down in the valley in Poulivets and the residents of the old village slowly moved out of Oppède-le-Vieux. In 1909, the city hall officially moved to Oppède-les-Poulivets and consequently the old village became deserted.
After World War II, attracted by Oppède's beauty and history, some people returned and refurbished some of the houses beyond the ramparts and little by little the old village has come back to life.
|Sheep grazing outside the village|
I have been to Oppède-le-Vieux several times and suggest that you go, especially if you are fan of ruins (any time of the year) or flowering shrubs and trees (spring). Have a great week!