The main canal joins with the Sorgue to make the town virtually an island so you can't get lost. Plenty of life along the streets and canalside for people watchers. Come back to your departure point through the rue Théophile Jean, where there are still waterwheels running although no longer in use. The restaurants, of course with the fine weather were practically all running full, with other people sitting along the canalside with a sandwich and a drink.
All along the avenue de la Liberation are the permanent antique dealers. Colours and variety guranteed. No problem walking around, although we were asked not to touch too much, which I suppose is normal. There is much more to see on a Sunday when there is the weekly antique market.
Chapelle des Penitents Blancs (Chapel of the White Penitents) dates back to 1742. Not much is known about the church which today stands derelict on Rue Danton. It is overseen by a local historical group in the area.
The Chapel is not open to the public. On the contrary, it is very securely locked and bolted. I would love to know what it looks like inside. I grew to be very intrigued by it during my two week stay in L'Isle sur la Sorgue, as I had to pass it every time I walked to the main square
If, like me, you want to see as much of the countryside as you can in the time you have available, then the way to go is probably to pick a location that you can use as a base. This is especially good advice for people relying on public transport to get around. There is nothing worse than having to pack your bags every morning and do the whole train on and off thing, followed by the finding the next hotel thing and the unpacking and settling in thing before you can go out and do some sightseeing.
L'Isle sur la Sorgue is a near perfect town to use as a hub. From here you can go to Avignon in twenty minutes and places beyond such as Arles, Aix en Provence, St Remy, Nimes etc. etc. etc. in a little longer space of time. Just so long as you bear in mind that public transport back to L'Isle from Avignon stops at around 7.30pm, you will not have a problem. Of course if you have a car, then the sky is the limit.
If I haven't convinced you by now that L'Isle sur la Sorgue is a place worth visiting, I will just leave you with some pictures of the wonderful waterways that wend their way around the town after the River Sorgue splits into two sections a few kilometres after it leaves its source in Fontaine de Vaucluse. There are numerous little bridges in lanes and alleyways around the old town where the water runs at a very fast pace. It is crystal clear and very pretty to look at.
This mansion is situated right on the water in what is probably the busiest street in L'Isle sur la Sorgue. It is believed to have been built by a wealthy merchant in the halcyon days of the textile and paper industries in the area. Today it is a bank and also houses a nice looking restaurant. I would hazard a guess and say that this would be the most photographed building in town. Maybe not for the building so much but for the setting. It makes a lovely pic.
There are 12 side altars or chapels in the Collegiate Church of Our Lady of the Angels and these are usually ablaze with votive candles which are lit by visitors to the church. Each chapel is dedicated to a different saint or to Mary or Jesus and each is quite different to all of the others.
The altars are framed by exquisite golden archways which extend the full length of the nave. The presence of these side chapels means of course, that it takes quite a while to really see them all properly. For this reason one needs to have plenty of time to spare when visiting this church.
Right in the centre of town, there is a wonderful main square where there are many shops and cafes to be found. The main focus of the square however, is the magnificent Church of Our Lady of the Angels. Some would say that it is overkill in a town of this size, but I say, "So what?" It is truly beautiful. This is baroque at it very best.
The almost bare Southern Gothic design of the outside of the church is in stark contrast to what lies within. The interior is a golden celebration of the angels at every turn. This is one of those churches that really needs to be seen to be believed. It is simply not what one would expect to find in such a small location. It is believed that the reason for the opulence of this building is quite easily explained. When it was built, the town was a hugely successful industrial centre manufacturing textiles and paper with the help of its 70 odd water wheels. Simply put, they could afford a beautiful church, so they built just that.
Sunday mass is held at 10.30am. On Monday to Friday it is open from 10am till noon and then again from 3pm to 5pm. Closed on Saturdays.
When the textile, wool and paper industries were in their heyday in centuries gone by, there were something in the region of 72 of these water wheels to be found in the waterways of L'Isle sur la Sorgue. I believe there are about 13 still there today, although not in use. Having said that, they can still be rotated manually if you feel the need to give them a good hard push.
I would think that these are considered to be iconic in this town and they do make a wonderful sight as you wander the streets and lanes as they can be found all over the place. Most are almost completely covered in green moss.
The markets are held every Thursday and Sunday from early morning till 12 noon. The stalls fill every street, lane and alleyway in the shopping area of the town. The lines of stalls seem endless and the goods on sale are the best of the best. Cheese, charcuterie, spices, fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh flowers, bread, preserves, olives, soaps etc.etc.etc. I could never name everything that is on sale here. That would be impossible.
The regular shops of the town are all open as well, as are the cafes, bars and ice cream parlours.
This is not one of those markets where you just walk through on your way to somewhere else. This is an outing in its own right and will easily fill as many hours as you have to spare.
There are several little winding streets and alleyways which go to make up the centre ville area of L'Isle sur la Sorgue. Without exception, every last one of them is lined with the most fabulous shopfronts I have ever seen gathered together in one place.
The term that springs to mind is "shabby chic". I have always been a lover of shabby chic furniture and accessories but I never even imagined that there could actually be shabby chic buildings even in the South of France. Thus to see so many of them all side by side was simply sensational.
I never get tired of watcing the swans and ducks that inhabit so many of the lakes and waterways in Europe. The ducks in L'Isle sur la Sorgue are no exception. They can be found at most times in the main waterways in the town and are really colourful and downright pretty. They are a joy to watch and I found them curiously therapeutic, very peaceful and relaxing indeed.
The promenade is fit for all visitors, not only for you that read this tip. Especially in the evening but also in the early morning, ducks will come on the promenade. In the evening, they will (successfully !) beg for some bread from customers of the restaurants !
The front terrace of the Bar- Restaurant “le Cours d’Eau”, is amazing. The inner part is built with round columns and topped by vaults. On each side of the entrance, a carved niche is now used to hang an add for a beer but was obviously designed for another use! (second photo). The third photo shows a close up on a figure that sustains the vault of the niche. It shows a man clad in a XVth or XVIth garment twisting a bundle of something (flax, hemp?) in water. On the right, a woman does the same (photo 4). One possible explanation would be that there was here a plant working on one of these materials. I will try to check that.
The two photos show a small canal flowing behind the Restaurant “le Cours d’Eau” (the River flow). They have a small terrace laying close to a moss covered paddle wheel, still operating slowly. On a hot summer evening, dining on this terrace must be delicate pleasure!