Setting out from Brantes, the northern side of the Ventoux
The little bonuses of a guided hike…
The idea was to venture onto the north face of the Ventoux, to explore the other face of the Provence Giant. The hike Louis Bonnet offers setting out from Brantes has unanimous support. This pretty half-day circuit will satisfy all we could want and our curiosity, combining a dive into the heart of the Toulourenc valley, forest bathing, spectacular panoramic views and discovering the typically Provencal northern village.
At the edge of the Vaucluse…
Brantes, the hike’s departure point, is a little end of the world…
To get to the village, we go round the Ventoux via the east, going via Sault and Aurel. In Savoillans,we follow the pituresque road that runs along the Toulourenc valley to reach our destination. Anyone who arrived the night before will have enjoyed staying at the Gîte du Passage. With an authentic setting, the legendary mountain, we have a front-row seat from the balcony overlooking the river! An advance taste in pictures…
The next morning at 8 am, Louis (Fr) welcomes us in the porch of the town hall. Our little team of regulars are all there and there are 11 of us. Let’s go! We head down into the bottom of the valley, our eyes fixated on the powerful natural wall that rises in front of us.
Tours and detours
Don’t skirt round the cemetery without going through the gate to admire the very pretty Saint-Jean-Baptiste Romanesque chapel. This 12th-century building reins as master of this silent setting.
The Toulourenc valley
We take the old Roman bridge that spans the Toulourenc. It’s the opportunity to have a good look at the sometimes torrential water that flows towards the Cèze. Louis alludes to the wild character of this valley enclosed between the north face of the Ventoux and mountains of the Drome. He tells us that lower down, after Saint-Léger-du-Ventoux, the watercourse becomes gorges and the countryside is something else.
This mountain river is a natural border between the 2 departments, receiving the water from the sheer slopes coming from the Vaucluse summit. Further on, the ford that crosses the Combe de la Mure confirms the attractions of this contrasting topography.
And the climb waiting for us a bit further on won’t let us refute that…
For other getaways, plan to take a detour to the Jardin Singulier (Unique Garden) at Saint-Léger-du-Ventoux (Fr). The library in this unusual cultural space is a treasure mine; a collection of little treats for all readers: nature, literature, novels, comic books…
The Provence Giant, north face
Louis Bonnet’s favourite
“This hike is a little bit magical! It has so much to see… I never tire of seeing the Rolland Valley, the Forester’s Lodge, the breath-taking views of Brantes and the summits of the Drome”.
We all have in mind the silhouette of an isolated mountain dominating the Comtat plain from its 1910 m height.
If the stone wall at the top and its gentle slopes are cemented in travellers’ imagination, landscapes at the Ubac are not so familiar.
We move onto the forest road from the col du Comte and explore this other side of the decor. The north face of the Ventoux shows its own special features, characterised by the harness of the climate and its reliefs, which are wilder, more alpine. Isolated constructions are rare, farming land is limited, the wooded slopes very steep. Louis surprises us by explaining that this zone houses a few botanical species from the great north such as saxifrage from Sptizberg or the Greenland poppy! It’s not for nothing that this legendary mountain is considered part of the biosphere reserves and Regional Nature Park…
Plants, men and women…
An unexpected heritage
All along the paths, looking at the vegetation continually looks to what humans are doing. The succession of landscapes enriches our enthusiast guide’s story. The expanse of the forests, terracing of varieties, identification of wild plants, all brings you back to the unique, rural history rural of these lands.
We learn a thousand and one things. Like that today the forest covers a greater area than at the start of the 20th century, that those who lived there before chose the whitebeam’s hard wood for tool handles or that a carlina flower attached to a door would ward off bad luck!
This immersion in nature brings back popular uses and beliefs and awakens curiosity. Louis points out to us that 2 botanical paths have been set up at Brantes. These walks take about one hour and are attractive invitations to extend our introduction…
When the aromas and flowers edging the paths are turned into yummy things to eat… With Les Aventurières du Goût, we tried cuisine from meadows and gardens, just to hone what we’re learning!
Back to Brantes
After the effort, time to relax…
When we get back we sit at a table on the terrace of La Poterne. Pascale’s cuisine is fresh and authentic and a way to continue the moments of nature and sharing, to immerse ourselves in the colours of the territory.
We enjoy this stop off in a world suspended between the Ventoux, the village and our memories of the morning.
Before leaving this enchanting place, we walk through
paved small streets and vaulted passages, the “soustets” (covered ways), admiring the old stone houses, fountains and wash houses.
This nature setting is also one for gastronomy, art, and crafts, like the Véronique Dornier’s blue nativity figures (Fr), Martine’s pottery (Fr) and Jaap or Joël Fabreguettes’ honey (Fr)… We can only suggest that you go and meet these passionate craftspeople (Fr)!
Fall in love…
For those who enjoy hop products, the Giant is an XXL experience! This wild beer from the Ventoux is brewed with spring water and is 100% natural. It’s organic, local and original!