France the French way


Roussillon - Spilt Blood

Posted: 2011-04-20

The Count d’Avignon from Roussillon in Provence was a dapper young man who was often led to fight for his country and to travel with the Crusades of the 12th century. His wife was a very attractive woman and enjoyed far too much the pleasure of other men, while her husband was away from town. Her husband was not too impressed with her behaviour, and on the return from battle chose to have a large banquet. He chose for the main course to serve to his wife the heart of her lover, but of course only chose to tell her this fact when she had finished her dinner!  The Countess in her distressed state threw herself off the cliffs of the village of Roussillon, and thereby her blood was said to have stained the cliffs and lands of this delightful Provencal village!!

Legends, don’t you love them!

The red ochre cliffs of Roussillon

But the “blood stained” cliffs and land of the village of Roussillon attract travellers from around the world. No-one knows this story but they all leave with ample photographs and very fond memories of this place. It is clear to see that the main feature of this village are the multi coloured ochre cliffs and surrounding land. What stands out is the complete sensitivity that the French have towards their land and architecture and how the houses and villages arise out of the ground as if they were just an extension of it. In many countries architects try to create a difference, to create a mark that stands out from everything – this is not the French way!

When you come to Roussillon there are limited parking places, but don’t give up. You should start your visit by walking up to the top of the village, past the compulsory postcard shops with glass bottles of ochre, and artists galleries. At every turn you will be greeted by views that take your breath away. Continue right to the top of the village until you arrive at the viewing table which offers you magnificent views over the surrounding countryside; Mont Ventoux, Mont Blanc, the Luberon Valley, Gordes, all stretch before you.

Once you have done this it is your turn to walk through the ochre cliffs. Signs clearly show you towards the “falaises” (cliffs) where for a small fee you can walk through these extraordinary “structures” seemingly painted in every shade of yellow, orange and brown. This is a fantastic thing to do, but be warned not to wear white shoes as the ochre could easily re-colour them!

Make sure you go for a walk through the cliffs - just don't wear white shoes!

If you choose to stay and admire this extraordinary countryside you could pause at the Restaurant David or  just the local pub on the main street where I’ve recently had the most glorious provencale lamb daube – slowly roasted lamb casserole.

Roussillon in the last century saw a valuable trade in ochre for dying of paints etc, but of course with the development of synthetic colourings this industry has disappeared from the region, but today it has been replaced by people like me and you, just appreciating it for its sheer beauty.

Roussillon lies about one hour’s drive from Avignon.

This is Roussillon, and on the right side you can just see the Restaurant David "hanging" over the cliffs!