Thursday, April 6, 2017

Visit to the beautiful hilltop village of Venasque and lunch at Les Remparts Restaurant

We frequently take day trips from Sablet to explore the hill-top villages of the Luberon. To get there, we drive down the D4, a scenic route that takes you across Carpentras before it becomes a narrow winding road flanked by cherry orchards until it passes below the village of Venasque.

Venasque is a small pretty village that clings to a rocky hillside overlooking vineyards, garrigue and cherry trees. It is classified as one of the "Plus Beaux Villages de France" (translated as most beautiful villages of France), one of seven villages with that designation in the Vaucluse region where Sablet is located.

Cherries have been grown in this part of Provence since the 17th century and it remains the largest producer in France. Those from Venasque are said to be the best: the village refers to its cherries as diamants rouges (red diamonds).

Arched doorway through the defensive walls

Venasque is one of the oldest villages of the Comtat Venaissin often referred to simply as the Comptat. Comptat means county in its original sense, or land belonging to a count and Venaissin refers to Venasque, a former bishop seat which gave its name to the Comptat.

The fountain in the center of Venasque at Place de la Fontaine

You will recall that last fall, dear friends Steve and Mary visited from Michigan. They love Sablet and have been with us several times plus they have visited on their own with family and friends several more times.

I am telling you this not as a complaint for sure, we love their visits, but to say they know the area almost as well as we do, so its not easy to find new interesting places to visit or excellent new restaurants to try.

Sign for Les Remparts Restaurant

As I was studying the map one morning, my eye caught "Venasque" and I immediately recalled that there was a nice restaurant with good food and excellent views in the middle of the village. I called and confirmed that Les Remparts was open and made reservations for noon.

As we were slow to get away from Sablet that morning, by the time we got to Venasque and found parking and walked into the village, it was noon and time for lunch. The restaurant is located just a few steps from the fountain in the center of the village.

Les Remparts Restaurant

At Les Remparts, you can sit in the interior dining room, a large sun room or on a small outdoor terrace with views of the valley on sunny days. We hadn't reserved soon enough to sit in the sun room so we were seated in the interior dining room.

Shirley and I at Les Remparts Restaurant

Les Remparts offers a number of prix fixe menus, including a vegetarian menu for 27 Euros. We made a very important decision right away, choose a wine, a 2015 bottle of Château La Canorgue Rosé, an organic wine made of Provençal staples Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre.

2015 Château La Canorgue Rosé wine

We all chose the vegetarian menu for 27 Euros. The starter of Tomato Tarte Tatin with salad was a  huge delicious hit. Both Mary and I vowed to try and replicate this at home. The crust was perfect and the caramelized tomatoes were so good.

Tomato Tarte Tatin with salad

The main course choices for the vegetarian menu were a Vegetarian Crumble that sat on a roasted tomato sauce seen below or;

Vegetarian Crumble (ratatouille vegetables, mozzarella and crumble) with roasted tomato sauce

a plate of creamy Porcini ravioli with a Porcini mushroom sauce. It was the heart of mushroom season and I couldn't resist a dish with Porcini mushrooms. The dish fully lived up to my expectations.

Porcini Ravioli with a Porcini mushroom sauce

Next came a cheese course with a selection of 5 goat cheeses and two cow's milk cheeses seen below.

Cheese course (5 goat cheeses and two cow's milk cheeses)

Dessert choices included Chocolate Mozart Cake;

Chocolate Mozart cake

a yummy Lemon Tart;

Lemon Tart

Lavender Crème Brulee.

Lavender crème brulee

As soon as we were brought "l'addition" (the bill), we paid and headed out to walk about the village and take come pictures. The restaurant was as good or better than what I remember. I think Steve and Mary liked it a lot too. The first thing I saw was this old building seen below with the words carved in stone which said "Ecole des Filles"

Old Girl's School

Venasque's location on top of the hill provided a natural defense against attacks from enemies. Nevertheless, in Roman times, a defensive wall with towers was built around the village. The arched doorways were restored at the beginning of the 20th century.

Tower and an arched doorway through the defensive walls

The thick walls of the ramparts which survive connect three Saracen towers and two arched doors "portes". Supposedly the stones in the defensive wall that no longer exist were removed as if the wall was a sort of rock quarry and used to build the school and village houses.

Mary and Shirley in front of the defensive Saracen towers

There are over 200 bories in the area around Venasque. These simple stone huts first appeared before even the Romans arrived, and continued to be used as housing until the 20th century, more recently as shepherds' shelters or sheep pens.

View of village cemetery from Venasque

Venasque is a very long and narrow village, like most settlements built on the crest of a hill, with superb panoramic views.

Arched doorway through the defensive walls into the center of Venasque

As you wander around Venasque, you will come upon the "House with Blue Shutters."

La Maison aux Volets Bleus (The House with Blue Shutters)

One of the many pretty streets you will come across as you wander around the village. They are deserted at the moment while everybody stops for their mid-day meal.

Steve and Mary walk down Venasque street

As you can see, Venasque is a small village. There are only 1,099 people who reside in the village according to the latest census. They are known for the cherries and table grapes (Muscat de Venasque) they grow around the village.

Arched passageway called Impasse Du Moulin

The village is artfully decorated with plants and flowers and even the post office, with its vine-covered terrace, is a little gem.

La Poste (The Post Office)

Pretty house with statue in wall

Water was piped to houses throughout the village between 1959 and 1965. Prior to this time, villagers got their water from the various fountains throughout the village.

Venasque fountain at Place de la Planette

The Notre Dame Church in Venasque dates from the end of the 12th century. The side chapels date from the 17th and 18th century, the bell tower from the 17th century.

View of the Notre Dame Church Bell Tower in Venasque

Inside the church, there is a very beautiful baptistry. Its origins are unclear, but it is believed to be the oldest religious baptistry in the region.

Notre Dame Church in Venasque

Iron cross near Notre Dame Church in Venasque

War Memorial near Notre Dame Church

Notre Dame Church in Venasque

Statue above side door entrance to Notre Dame Church

Hotel de Ville (Town Hall)

It is definitely worthwhile to turn off the D-4 and drive up the hill to Venasque. As I said, it is small and will only take you a couple of hours to do a walking visit through the village. Try to time your visit so you can eat lunch at Les Remparts. Make sure you reserve a table. You will be happy you did.

Les Remparts Restaurant
36 Rue Haute
84210 Venasque
Tel: 04 90 66 02 79
www.hotellesremparts.com

3 comments:

  1. Another good restaurant destination to add to our list for September, thank you

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    Replies
    1. Flights just booked - so pls more recommendations.

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