The area around Grillon has many interesting places to visit, depending on your tastes. Whether it is just driving or cycling through picturesque fields of stunning blue lavender and rows upon rows of well- trimmed vines; or exploring more historical roman sites and set pieces like the Roman theatre at Orange or the famous Roman aqueduct at the Pont du Gard; or pottering about in hilltop villages, there is plenty to interest for most visitors, for example:
The Pont du Gard. Stunning Roman aqueduct. Allow an hour at least for the Museum, which is excellent, to appreciate the full extent of the work.
The Roman Arena and Maison Carree at Nimes. Equally impressive.
Avignon the walled town and Papal palace.
Orange, Triumphal Arch and Roman Theatre – allow 2 hours and hire the hand held audio-guide which is excellent and allows a more detailed trip if you wish.
The Ardeche gorge. Start as early as possible and canoe down it.
One of the main pleasures of visiting north Provence is exploring the countryside and Grillon is an excellent centre from which to do so. Within an hour’s drive are Mont Ventoux, the Ardeche Gorge, the Gard, the southern Rhone plain, and the foothills to the Alps.
Grillon itself lies in the alluvial plain of the Rhone valley and the immediate countryside is mostly vineyards or groves of truffle oaks, ideal for exploring if you are a gentle cyclist. Richeranches, 4 km away is a major centre of the black truffle trade with markets (furtive looking traders in anoraks and cloth caps, strictly cash only) every Saturday morning from November to March.
To the north is the Drome Provencal with hilly countryside more devoted to livestock farming; there are small field patterns interspersed with woodland against a backdrop of rolling hills merging into dramatic mountainous rocky landscapes.
To the west across the Rhone is the Ardeche. The north part of this area merges into the Massif Central with dark volcanic rock and sombre black-stoned villages. The uplands are often near bare limestone garrigue (scrub-like uplands) with dry stony ground mostly devoted to vineyards or sparse stunted oak forests.
To the south, the land is a more limestone scape pierced by the Ardeche gorge, and further south the lower Gard in a sunnier drier landscape, mistral swept and with cypress windbreaks.
To the east beyond Nyons, self-styled world olive capital, is the pre-Alps, the foothills of the Alps, mostly of limestone with gigantic folds in the landscape where the rock strata on the hillsides can easily be seen folded in to bizarre and dramatic patterns. Finally to the south the appropriately named Mont Ventoux is the crown of the landscape, with its lower slopes wooded with pine and oak forests through which the roads wind up to a windswept lunar landscape of bare rock, and (in clear weather) unrivalled views for up to 100 km around.
Hand in hand with the landscapes are the Villages of Provence. Most are small collections of houses huddled together around hill tops, inward looking and variably fortified. Many were founded in the 12th – 13th centuries and once were completely walled but the walls have been perforated since with windows peeping out of masonry a metre or more thick. Narrow streets afford welcome shade in the summer. Given the difficulties of getting reliable water supplies to such hilltop sites it must have been a dangerous and warlike society.
The stone nearly always reflects the local landscape, mostly sand or limestone often not ideal for delicate carving and wind battered for nearly 1000 years. The northern Ardeche villages, of black volcanic rock, are especially forbidding. All are far too condensed to allow modern roads through them and are bypassed sometimes by roads bending around several hundred metres away and easily passed by and barely noticed. Nearly all are worth a stop and at least brief visit.
The houses are nearly all Provencal vernacular with occasional 16th century and later grander houses with mullioned and traceried windows. The church is usually the oldest and largest building often with quite elaborate external carving but ultra-simple interiors which would have been and occasionally still are frescoed. Solitary chapels dot the countryside where the tiny hamlets they served have disappeared. Most villages have a bar or bistrot open in the summer opening onto a square shaded by plane trees, ruthlessly pollarded to give thick shade in the summer.
Some suggested villages to visit
Maps & Guides