If spectacular and sustainable sound like a big ask for an Easter family holiday, then you clearly haven’t come across Vaucluse on your travels yet. It’s the area of Provence where you’ll find Tour de France legend, Mont Ventoux. It’s also the place for iconic Provencal sights like endless fields of lavender, gold and ochre landscapes, impossibly perched mountain villages, vineyards and imposing wine châteaux - Châteauneuf du Pape comes from Vaucluse.
You’ll find wildly beautiful Luberon in the east of Vaucluse and one of the world’s most celebrated medieval cities, Avignon, is in the west. And that’s where the sustainable part of your Easter adventure comes in, as Avignon is now under six hours from London on Eurostar. So now you know how to get to Vaucluse, here are some more reasons to go this Easter, handpicked by the experts at Vaucluse Tourism just for families.
There’s no denying the grandeur of medieval Avignon. The 14th century Palais-des-Papes is the largest Gothic palace in the world, equivalent in size to no less than four Gothic Cathedrals. There actually is a Pont d’Avignon – bust out dance moves with caution, it’s an imposing sight but has only stretched halfway across the River Rhone since the 1600s. And it’s impossible not to be impressed by the city’s fortified walls – not least because they’re so well preserved and massive. Yet, for all its historical importance and UNESCO World Heritage status, Avignon’s still very much a living city and spring’s the perfect time to explore with kids; especially as the weather’s sunny, but not too hot and everywhere is a lot less crowded than it is during summer. It’s well known that France does delightful villages like almost nowhere else on earth, so it gives you an idea of how exceptional the Vaucluse variety are when seven of them officially qualify as ‘Most Beautiful Villages in France’. Again, Easter’s a good holiday to see quite a few without too many tourists in the frame. There’s more space to linger over the views, wander round markets, dip into local history, get a true sense of traditional Provencal character and, in many cases, introduce yourself to some great wines – graceful chateaux and exceptional wine caves are very much part of Vaucluse village life. Vaucluse has always attracted attention, in fact the Ancient Romans loved it so much they stayed and created what is now Vaison-La-Romaine, the largest Gallo-Romaine site in France. Covering an area of more than 15ha, it’s basically a phenomenal open-air museum which sneaks learning into monumental drama so even younger kids find it exciting. And, it may be designated one of ‘the most beautiful detours in France’, but it’s actually not too far off the beaten track – less than an hour’s drive north of Avignon – so it makes for a completely effortless Easter day out.
The landscape of Vaucluse alone should give you a hint about how good it is for outdoor adventures. This is the part of Provence for Mont Ventoux, one of the most challenging Tour de France stages which doubles as a fabulous family playground come spring. Think tree-top adventure parks, inflatable theme parks, tubing and karting, hiking, climbing and cycling too, of course – if you’re not up for King of the Mountain’ extremes, electric bikes for hire give less serious cyclists a taste of Tour de France achievement. Parc Naturel du Luberon is also incredibly bike-friendly and two wheels are by far the best way to explore this untouched by time area in the south east of Vaucluse. It’s astonishingly dramatic in parts, scattered with mountain villages and, if you’ve come looking for the typically Provence palette of ochre, yellow, lavender and even deep, rich scarlet, this is definitely where to see the entire spectrum – often in the space of a single afternoon. Another Vaucluse phenomena is Grottes de Thouzon, the only natural cave in Provence and one of the most intact in France thanks to careful management since its discovery in 1902. It opens in March every year and family-friendly tours are close to magical for kids. More magic in colourful, fluttery form is the speciality of Le Carbet Amazonien butterfly farm in Velleron. And if kids like their creatures a little creepier and crawlier, they’ll love Naturoptère the eco-friendly living museum where all manner of insects can be seen and studied in their natural environments. It’s set in the hometown of Jean-Henri Fabre, one of the world’s leading entomologists, and dedicated to his work, so comes with serious enough credentials to satisfy budding young scientists.
Vaucluse is stunning but doesn’t just rest on natural attractions to keep families happy this Easter. Wave Island in Monteux, just 20 minutes from Avignon, is one of the best waterparks in France, has the longest lazy-river in all of Europe and nowhere else in the entire world lets kids surf on a simulator as big as the one here. Breathing space comes courtesy of 4.7ha of landscaped parkland – dotted with fabulously exciting chutes and slides, of course. And there’s plenty of play areas and gentle splash-around fun for younger kids too.
Excitement in Monteux isn’t only on water. The town’s also home to Spirou Land, a giant amusement park themed around Belgian comic book characters. Don’t worry if your kids aren’t familiar with Spirou and his crew, the language of white-knuckle is universal and the rollercoasters and rides here are fast, tall and totally awesome.
Vaucluse is in Provence, South East France
Avignon is just over an hour’s drive north of Marseilles,
and 45 minutes’ drive east of Nimes.
How to get there
Eurostar from London St. Pancras to Avignon takes from five hours, 52 minutes.
Easter’s in April this year. Just a couple of months away, but plenty of time to find out more about Vaucluse at www.provenceguide.co.uk or get in touch with Vaucluse Tourism and let them help plan an extraordinary Easter family holiday.