France From The Inside

France From The Inside: Explore Oppede le Vieux Situated in the Heart of the Luberon

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Oppède encompasses two villages. The mostly abandoned old village and Le Clos de Poulivets.

The first archeological evidence of human habitation of the old village of Oppède le Vieux, is Roman. Built on a rocky spur on the Northern face of the Luberon mountains, the old village became the property of the popes in 1274 and at the height of its prosperity, in the 14th century, over 900 inhabitants settled behind its protective walls.

Oppéde le Vieux became for the most part abandoned, when in 1909 the local authority moved outside of the hilltop fortified village to the flatter, more accessible area below to create Le Clos de Poulivets, Oppède. But it's the ancient village that attracts hundreds of visitors - artists and photographers among them - every year.

The Terraces of Saint-Cècile, Oppède le Vieux, Provence

Parking is obligitoire, 3,00€ for an unlimited stay, on the outskirts of the old village. It is then a few minutes walk through the beautifully landscaped terraces of Saint-Cècile into the village. The terraces contain an abundance of shrubs and trees including:

The Service Tree, or sorbus domestica - a variety of white oak, this tree has edible pear shaped fruit which turns reddish-brown when ripe.

The Montpellier Maple, or acer monspessulanum - a tree that can grow to up to 10 metres in height with small three-lobed leaves that turn red during the autumn. Green/yellow flowers appear before the leaves and it is a hard wood, commonly used in carpentary and joinery.

The colourful flowers of the season guide visitors through the terraces and the air is filled with the heavy scent of lilac in the springtime and the fresh fragrance of the lavender bushes during the summer.

There are a couple of view points along the way to the village. The first provides a clear view of the old village perched high upon the rugged rocks of the Luberon mountains. Then, further along the path, the trees thin out to reveal the truly magnificent Calavon valley with its lines of vineyards, cherry and olive orchards stretching as far as the eye can see. Mount Ventoux, snow capped in winter, dominates the horizon and the striking hilltop village of Gordes and the red rocks of Roussillon are clearly visible.

Exiting the terraces, pretty honey-coloured stone houses line the route down to the old village. The winding street opens out onto a large square with the original stone wash houses on one side and the trail leading past the ancient walls on the other. The square is dominated by the ancient belltower, its arched gateway leading through to the rocky network of abandoned houses that form the very heart of this intriguing village.

The history of the ancient village seeps out of the thick ruined walls of the buildings as the path winds upwards to the top of the settlement. Although most of the buildings are ruined and abandoned, renovation work is increasing and quaint gateways and arched courtyards still exist, along with entire rooms carved out of stone that are still visible.

The Church, Notre Dame de Dolidon of Oppède le Vieux, Luberon, Provence

At the top of the old village is the 16th century church of Alidon, or Notre Dame de Dolidon. The restoration of the church began in the early 1900's with the roof and the bell tower and is ongoing. There is alot of work still to be completed but there are various pieces of refurbished artwork on display. The church is open to visitors who are free to marvel at the gold and blue decorative ceiling above the alter, which remains impressive even in its delicate state.

A volunteer greets visitors and is happy to answer any questions while offering an information sheet containing key facts about the history of the church and its restoration . Books are avaliable to purchase if more information is required.

Events Held in Oppède, Luberon, Provence

Weekly market, held in Oppède le Poulivets every Saturday morning.

Music Festival, held during July and August.

The Grape Harvest Celebrations, held during the third week of October.

The ruins of Oppède le Vieux and the church are illuminated at night, creating a stunning spectacle against the darkness of the Luberon mountains. But wether during daylight or at night, any visit to this stunning village is truly memorable and can easily be included in a tour of other local hilltop settlements such as Menerbes and Lacoste.
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Travel and Culture

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