L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is a lovely town in Provence with antique shops and a lively and bustling street market where you will find a wide variety of local items. The canals that branch off of the Sorgue River add to the beauty of this town.
I have been there only twice and each time just for an afternoon, so I asked my dear friend and fellow Francophile, Dr. Shirley Riley, who has stayed in the village on several occasions to share her thoughts and memories of this lovely town. Below you will find Shirley’s memories and my photos.
To support a growing industry of wool and silk in the 16th century, the Provencal town of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue constructed a series of water wheels to take advantage of the five branches of the Sorgue River flowing through the town. In the 19th century there were over 60 of these working wheels. While the wheels are no longer integral to a working industry, they now contribute to a serene beauty and uniqueness of this special place. Today Isle is a beautiful market town filled with water wheels, each dressed with a different shade of mossy green.
The town is crisscrossed with waterways, narrow streets, and old stone buildings dotted with shutters, some sporting shades of that mysteriously lovely Provencal Blue. There is a central park in the center of town filled with tall leafy trees and spotted with benches and stone tables where you can bring cheese, bread, fruit, or a fabulous pastry from the market and simply watch ducks play in the water, observe children learning how to sit upright in a kayak (and sometimes not quite achieving that goal), or just watch the world saunter past. If that is all you do in ‘Isle’ that is fine as it is the simple things that create the most vivid memories.
Of course, there is more. The town is filled with cafes–both simple and grand, home decor shops, and antiques–lots of antiques ranging from upscale shops to weekly market tables groaning with old bits and pieces and treasures. Isle has two weekly market days: the regular market filled with flowers, food, crafts, and Provencal art and a Sunday market with all this plus antiques that draw dealers and antique lovers from all price points. There is never ‘nothing to do’ or see in this special place.
On our first of many subsequent visits to Isle, we stayed in La Maison sur la Sorgue, a small hotel owned by a wonderful couple who left Paris years ago to begin this fabulous venture in Provence. This has become “our place” a refuge of peace and quiet and cooing doves in the center of town. At breakfast on our very first morning we enjoyed goat cheese melted on a fig–unique and delicious. “Where did you find such fresh cheese?” we asked, and the answer was, “…right outside the door early this morning.” We didn’t recall shops outside the hotel door, so peeked out…and saw a cheese vendor directly outside the hotel door as well as many other vendors and shoppers spilling up and down the street and beyond. It was all color and sound and smells and things to buy. It was Market Day; our very first of many yet to come.
Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is an incredibly special place to visit so you can make your own unforgettable memories.
Thank you, Shirley, for sharing your beautiful and descriptive memories of Isle.
I hope you enjoyed this blog and it inspires you to visit Isle at some point. As always, I love hearing from you, so please leave a comment and share your thoughts and memories.
Wishing you grand adventures,