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Vaucluse is a mountainous department in the southeast of France. In fact, Vaucluse is home to the “Giant of Provence, Mont Ventoux, at an impressive 1,912 metres tall. Hikers and mountain bike enthusiasts alike will enjoy the trails in the region’s hills while road cycling fans will know the region well because of its extensive history in the Tour de France. The main town in the region is Avignon, a historical city with museums and churches to visit, while the nearby town of Orange is well-known for its remaining Roman architecture.
One of the main attractions in the town of Avignon is the bridge made famous by the children’s nursery rhyme. Unfortunately, only a few pillars of the famous structure remain, but it is possible to walk on what is left of the bridge for a photo opportunity. The Palais des Papes was the home to many Popes of the 14th and 15th centuries and can still be visited today to appreciate the art and furniture collected by the church. Similarly, the Musee du Petit Palais has an impressive collection of Renaissance paintings. The town’s cathedral was started in the 12th century and is famous for its examples of Gothic carving while 14th century ramparts have survived, including the 39 large watchtowers and several gated entrances.
The name Mont Ventoux will be most familiar to fans of the world-famous cycle race, the Tour de France. Stages have finished at the peak of Mont Ventoux on eight occasions often on the route following the most difficult ascent from Bedoin over a distance of 21km with an average gradient of 7.5%. If you want to take on the challenge yourself, amateur cyclists usually take between two and three hours to make the climb. Once at the summit, stop at the memorial to Tom Simpson, the British cyclist who died climbing Mont Ventoux in the Tour de France of 1967.
The outstanding Roman architecture is the main reason to visit the town of Orange, including the theatre, which is one of the most impressive still standing in Europe today. Alongside the theatre, you can see a triumphal arch thought to date from the time of Augustus or Tiberius. The area around the theatre and the arch were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. The town’s museum, unsurprisingly, has many Roman artefacts found in the area. These include maps of the region that are the largest of their kind ever found and etched onto marble.