Day Trip 7 - Magnetic North: Bédoin - Vaison-la-Romaine - Séguret - Sablet - Gigondas
There is a neat loop to the north of the Isle brushing the west side of Mont Ventoux on the way out and looping round the Dentelles de Montmirail to come home via the southern Rhône vineyards. There is too much to do in one day so you will have to pick and choose.
Take the D938 out of the Isle and drive north to Pernes. As you strike the old town you will be forced to turn left and then, after crossing a small waterway, go right at the roundabout on the D1. This Route de Mazan will take you to the town of the same name and as you curve left around the main street there is a right turn at the D163 towards Bédoin. This road joins the D974 which will take you all the way into Bédoin itself. In town you ignore the right turn to Mont Ventoux and carry on towards Malaucène on the D19.
Even though there are some turns described, if you look on the map, the line from Pernes to Bédoin ends up being a straight-line trip across the lowlands heading a bit east of north. That changes after Bédoin and the route is generally northwards but in a lumpy and twisty sort of fashion.
Out of Malaucène on the D938 takes you to the northern most point of this loop and the biggest town we will stop at, Vaison–la-Romaine. The town’s Roman connections are still evident. Its bridge is one of five remaining Roman bridges in Provence, having survived both being hit by a German bomb during the Second World War and the devastating flooding of the Ouvèze in 1992. There are two excavated Roman districts, details of which can found in the Archaeological Museum.
On the left bank on top of a rocky spur is the Haute-Ville, originating in the 13th century. In Medieval times the villagers settled in the heights at the foot of the castle to protect themselves from robbers and invasion. Today the castle is in ruins, but Haute-Ville is a picturesque spot to visit. Market day in Vaison is Tuesday.
This is the northernmost point of the Dentelles de Montmirail, a small chain where the Jurassic limestone has been forced into jagged vertical slabs and then eroded over time. The name dentelles, the French word for lace, refers to their shape obtained by erosion, while montmirail is derived from the Latin mons mirabilis meaning 'admirable mountain'. I don’t see the actual lace myself but they are fairly dramatic.
The D977 out of Vaison takes you a little to the west now and then curves down the other side of the Dentelles. To visit Séguret and/or Sablet you will need to detour a little off this road.
Séguret is a charming, listed, picturesque site and it attracts artists and visitors from all over the world who sometimes become permanent residents. Everything here is beautiful, everything is well maintained, everything has been tastefully restored but, a bit like Gordes, it is very busy in tourist season.
Following your nose south on the minor roads from Sablet are the famous wine towns of Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Beaumes-de-Venise in that order. We ran out of time and drove through here without stopping. Wine enthusiasts might well do this loop in the opposite direction in case they don’t get any further than these southern Rhône wine villages.
You could head home via Carpentras or set a route to bypass this bigger town (eg through Monteux and Velleron).