Day Trip 6 - The Far East - Apt - Saignon - Cereste - Simiane-la-Rotonde - (Forcalquier)
By now you are getting an idea of the geography of the region. The defining east-west ridge of the Lubéron massif really dominates this area and the main transport route, the D900, is forced to run in the valley, parallel to the barrier raised by this feature. North-south travel is restricted to the Bonnieux-Lourmarin road, going around the western end at Cavaillon or the crossings way off to the east towards Manosque.
Heading due east on the D900, Apt is the first decent sized town and it has a big and busy market in a well-defined old centre. Just above Apt, perched on the side of the Grand Lubéron is Saignon, an attractive little village with a climb up to a rocky promontory to reveal spectacular rural views. Restaurants come and go a bit in Saignon but there should be an acceptable lunch on offer in summer. The turn off to Saignon is found at the roundabout on the D900 immediately after the old town of Apt.
From Saignon, the D48 continues on its winding mountainside way through Auribeau and Castellet passing little pockets of lavender before descending into the valley and rejoining the D900.
Further east is Cereste which straddles the main route and is also a potential luncheon or coffee and ice cream stop. Backtracking a little, there is a route north through Viens to Simiane-la-Rotonde. This characterful village is presumably named after the 12thC rotunda at the top of the settlement. It has lots of narrow alleys and nooks to explore with great views to the fields and hills beyond. There is not much commerce and although we have had simple lunch in the terrace with the spectacular open windows (you’ll recognise it when you see it), I wouldn’t be counting on it.
The D22 is a back way to return to Apt and the highway skirting Gignac, Rustrel and Le Colorado Provençal or if you have had a really early start, you could push on to Forcalquier, the really far east. My only experience of this town is on a summer market day and it was really bursting at the seams (think parking in a field and getting a shuttle bus to the centre).