Where a river is born
UNKNOWN DEPTHSIn the 50s, Jacques Yves Cousteau came with a submersible to explore the depths but did not find the bottom. Since then a probe has made it to a sandy bed at a depth of 308 metres (1010 ft) but the spring itself comes from somewhere even deeper. It is said that all the rainwater from the Luberon and other surrounding mountains comes out of this one source, making a catchment area of 1100 square km (425 sq. miles). For most of the year all you can see is a deep blue pool of water at the bottom of towering cliffs. But during spring or very heavy rainfall it lives up to its name, with water gushing out at 200m3 (52,000 gallons) every second - this is one of the largest springs in the world.
THE SORGUE RIVERThis extraordinary phenomenon forms the crystal-clear Sorgue river, which soon turns a startling emerald, and it's this vivid hue that dominates the town of Fontaine de Vaucluse. The spring and the beautiful Sorgue river have made the Fontaine de Vaucluse a tourist trap, and souvenir stalls line the walk up to the source (although it must be said that if you are after souvenirs, they are quite good). Go early morning, late afternoon, or simply out of season if you want to avoid the crowds.
EXPLORING FONTAINE-DE-VAUCLUSEApart from the tourist shops the village of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse has a selection of riverside restaurants, some intriguing museums, a 1000-year old church, and if you look up you'll see the remains of the castle. The paper museum (Moulin a Papier Vallis Clausa) is where you can see the old water-wheel pounding pulp to make paper. It also has a shop selling all sorts of fancy paper. A surprising museum to find here is the Museum of the Resistance, which is a sober and informative look at French life under German occupation in WW2. There is an Engish audio guide. The official name is Musée d’Histoire Jean Garcin: 1939–1945. You will also find museums dedicated to the poet Petrarch, who dallied here; the Provencal figurines called santons; and the explorations of a noted cave explorer. Right in the centre of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, plain and unassuming from the outside, is the 1000-year-old church, Notre-Dame et St-Veran. The interior is also austere, but beautiful. It contains the tomb of St-Veran himself, a noteworthy person in these parts, as he once chased off a river-dragon and saved the town.
FUN WITH KIDSFontaine-de-Vaucluse is also a good port of call if you have kids, as there are two kayak/canoe rental companies just outside the village, as well as an accrobranching centre.
AMENITIES IN Fontaine-de-Vaucluse
Restaurants | Cafes | Bakery | Mini-Supermarket | Ice-cream | Museums