We couldn’t wait to visit L’isle Sur La Sorgue in Provence, south east of France, as we had heard about the 300 or so antique dealers that were all based here in such a small area – an island in fact! The Sorgue river actually splits into 5 branches here and literally flows through, past, in and around this wonderful Medieval town! But how is it possible that this ‘island’ is in fact the 3rd European capital of antiques behind London and Saint Ouen ? We were about to find out!
We flew into Marseille with about an hour transfer to our luxurious B&B! When it came to booking somewhere to stay it was obvious as soon as we hit their website that La Carol’isle was the place for us! We weren’t wrong as the owners Carole & Joel have lovingly and painstakingly renovated this private mansion, that from the street is an unassuming doorway, but once entered opens out into a sprawling 2 storey contemporary living space with courtyard, small pool and 3 stunning suites! We stayed in The Olive Tree Suite with a wonderful terrace and one of the best bathrooms we have ever had! Every morning breakfast was served by Carole who is so friendly, passionate and informative – she makes her own fresh yoghurt which was to die for and everything served was top notch local produce – an absolute delight and the best way to start any day sitting out in the sunny, tranquil courtyard with freshly baked baguettes and home made jams!
With our bellies full to the brim with breakfast we were ready to walk and discover this gem of a place … it’s stunning! Quintessentially French in every way we couldn’t have enjoyed getting lost more in the ancient narrow streets, small character filled squares and of course along the waterways! The water is not fast flowing but calmly meandering, it is crystal clear and emerald green with reeds, with the odd trout swimming along! As ever for us it was heavenly to eat, drink and relax sitting waterside and here everything is set by/over the water! There are numerous moss clad water wheels too dotted throughout the town with many a pretty, authentic footbridge to criss cross over the river where large trees hang down into the water – it is very green and lush even in the heat of Summer!
As previously mentioned we love a good flea market and often go to salvage yards and large scale vintage fairs at home so we were intrigued to see how so many antique dealers could be trading in such a compact area? Only the French could do it so well, so beautifully, so tastefully as from the streets you will come across numerous large gates or entrance ways indicating an ‘antique village’. Upon entering these sites, they open out into huge courtyards, mansion buildings, converted barns, small streets of antique shops – indeed ‘villages’ of antique dealers – genius!! And as expected the items on offer where incredible from small decorative pieces to large scale furniture, from the just about affordable to the telephone number price tags – you get to see it all, set out in the most picturesque and interesting of places – so much fun, so many hours spent, so worth visiting!
And if that wasn’t enough on a Sunday they have an additional large flea market set out along the main stretch of the river PLUS a wonderful Provencal market of fresh food, clothing, gorgeous french linens, traditional arts & crafts and pottery all spread throughout the whole town – in the main square and down many of the narrow streets – what an atmosphere! It is obviously well attended and busy so best bet is to go as early as you can and then take up residence at one of the well placed cafes or restaurants to watch the frenetic scene thereafter! We love to people watch and the French are so effortlessly stylish in their perfectly put together outfits and as it was Sunday everyone was out to promenade, socialise, have a long, lingering lunch and be merry – we want to spend every Sunday there!
And we must mention – and we can’t quite believe we are saying this, as our hearts are purely with the ice cream / gelato of Italy – but Gelateria Isabella which has a great large terrace waterside serves one of the best ice creams we’ve ever tasted – and that is really saying something for us!! So all in all, and needless to say we had a dream of a long weekend and wish for many more French getaways! L’isle Sur La Sorgue has that magical blend of serenity but there is actually lots going on, an exclusive high end feel but without a hint of snobbery or elitism, natural beauty at every turn but again so understated … writing and reminiscing about this place just makes us want to fly right down there NOW!! Until the next time …