As you scale the citadel in Sisteron, you’re treated to views of the hamlet at the foot of the mountain across the Duran river from the town center.
On my second day in Venice, I went to the island of Burano. When you walk onto the first canal, you feel like you’ve walked into a movie set. I got the same feeling as I entered the town center of the tiny French town called Ventabren.
The drive there was pretty nerve racking though. The road is not wide enough for two cars but is two-way and almost always hugs a cliff edge. Once you add in the numerous blind corners you start to sweat!
While I was in Ventabren I stumbled across a Michelin starred restaurant of all things. It’s called Le Table De Ventabren and had just been refurbished and reopened by the chef Dan B. You can find their website here… though it doesn’t include any pictures of the restaurant, just Dan B.
I came back with my whole family (having booked a couple of drivers to take us this time) and it was a great experience. They time the dinner service so that you can sit atop the cliff watching the sunset over the Provence countryside.
The focal point of the citadel in Sisteron is the chapel sat just below the upper ramparts. Unfortunately, it was bombed in the second World War and has had to be completely restored.
To the left of the chapel you can see a tower which is actually built on the top of the bridge. On the front you can see a very small window. This marks the room Prince Jean Casimir Vasa, future king of Poland, was held captive for a whole year. The winter spent up there must have been brutal.
While on vacation in Provence I took a fantastic drive to and through the Verdon Gorge. On the way, I passed multiple small villages. The route takes you through a large military installation but there’s no sign of it as you pass through the forested hills.
This small village, called Ampus, was one of the many we passed by in this region.
Setting out for Sisteron, France I wasn’t sure what I would find following the hour and a half drive there. I also wondered what the roads would be like. I was pleasantly surprised as it turns out there is a nicely paved highway running from Aix-en-Provence most of the way to Sisteron. Once we arrived there, it was immediately clear that the drive was worth it. The town is perched on the bend of the River Durance and works it way up the valley walls. At the top is the Sisteron Citadel, which has significantly hindered the efforts of armies trying to enter Provence from Roman times through to the second world war.
What you see here is the Devil’s Sentry, posted high above the valley on an outcrop of rock. It’s not difficult to understand why it earned this name, especially when you imagine winter winds whipping through the valley and directly into the sentry box.
The drive to this spot, just outside of Cassis, was pretty difficult. The roads were really tight and I was adjusting to driving a manual transmission again for the first time in a few years. At one point, I was driving up a steep hill and a car came round the corner causing me to stall the car. The problem was I also rolled back about 2 yards. I have no idea how I avoided hitting the car behind me.
This is a calanque. It is a narrow-steep walled inlet carved into the limestone rock. When we got there, I had no idea it was going to be full of sailboats like this!
During the UEFA Euros, I was stationed with family and friends just outside Aix-en-Provence. I arrived later than most so when I drove up to the house in my very sharp looking, rented Audi A4, after nervously snaking my way up the steep, tight, windy driveway, I was greeted by people waving from up on the roof. Taking a moment to compose myself and hide the terror I had just gone through, I stepped out of the car and waved back. At this point a couple of friends greeted me from the front door, and immediately began gesturing wildly at the car. I turned back to realize it was rolling backwards down the driveway. As it turned out, the automatic handbrake was not switched on. Luckily I hadn’t closed the door and was able to dive back in and get it under control.
The next day, feeling confident in my ability to drive this car I decided to spend my afternoon in the seaside town of Cassis. With the car full to the brim with people we set off. I successfully made it down the terrifying driveway only to drive straight into a hidden rock at the bottom that I had been warned about but promptly forgot. With the car suffering a significant gouge I pushed on, and it was worth it.
Cassis is a beautiful little town that, at the time, was not as overrun by tourists as we had expected. In the photo below, beyond the traditional fishing boats, you can see the waterfront, loaded with restaurants, across the harbor.