•Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04150) • Population: 940 • Altitude: 760 m
Banon is perched around a small hill [photo-1] on the edge of the high valley of the Coulon. The vieille village is very picturesque, with narrow cobblestone streets between ancient houses. The top of the hill, with the 17th-c romanesque église St-Marc and tall bell tower was once circled by its own defensive wall. What remains of that is the old entrance at the Place du Portail [photo-2] and, at the top, the ruins of the walls, one with a tall larch (meleze).
From the village, and especially the top, is a view of the valley and the surrounding hills. To the east, the Montagne de Lure is still snow-covered at the top on the last day of winter (March 1999).
The valley of farms and lavender fields is spread across below the front of the village; around the sides and back are low hills, wild, wooded and natural.
The lower part of the village [photo-3] has wide streets, small commerce, a gendarmerie, a weighing station for the local produce, and a small market. It really comes alive here on Tuesday market day. There's a modern hospital and residence at the edge of the village.
Nearby: along the valley to the north, where the small D12 road goes up to l'Hospitalet and loops back down through Lardiers and Ongles, there are many fields of lavender, and the occasional little distillery, like this one [photo-7] about 3 km from Banon.
Fromage de Banon
The Banon goat cheese [photo-6] is famous. It's wrapped in chestnut (chataigne [sp]) leaves [photo]. It was described to us as "gouteux" ("full of flavour", or perhaps "strong"). The white cheese is actually fairly mild, the "flavour" coming from the coating. We tasted it with a local "pain de brillard", a bread made from three flours.
History of Banon
First record, 11th-century Banonum
Prehistoric: Nearby is the neolithic oppidum des Mures.
Gallo-Roman: There's a Gallo-Roman oppidum af Chastellard and a Gallo-roman villa and necropole at Font-Crémat.
Medieval: Banon was in the fief of the Simianes from the 12th-c until the revolution.
Every Tue - Market day
Last Sat - Foire Artisanale
Next to last Sun Aug - Fête de la St-Just
Every May - Fête du Fromage (cheese festival)
Department 04, Alpes-de-Haute Provence Buses
See Beyond's Alpes-de-Haute Provence (04) Bus Schedules for downloading Alpes-de-Haute Provence bus-lines map and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).
• Latitude, Longitude: 44.038032, 5.627859
IGN (1/25,000) #3240 OT "Bannon, Sault"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #28 "Montagne de Lure, Val de Durance"
A serious Grande Randonnée, the GRP Tour de la Montagne de Lure, passes through Banon. A full loop (Banon, Sommet de Larran, Station de la Lure, Saint Etienne, Forcalquier, Limans, Banon) is over 60 km. A shorter loop (Banon, Sommet de Larran, Col de St Vincent, Saumane, Lardiers, west of Limans, Banon) is about 40 km.
West out of town, this trail then turns north and goes to the Sommet de Larran (1431 m), 15 km, turns east along the ridge and then loops south again.
There are also a lot of shorter hiking trails accessible directly from Banon, especially through the forested hills that run north. Following the GRP trail east across the valley, about 2 km, takes you into the hills of Les Chastellas and Les Mures where there are many little trails.
Restaurant des Voyagers
In the center. Menus: 130F, 150F, and a fair selection à la carte.
La Brasérade, Pizzeria
Ordinary but OK. We ate (salade-fromage, tagliatelli and coffee) for 205F.
The Salade de Chevre Chaude was excellent, with fromage de banon, cooked apples, walnuts, fresh lettuce and a provencal-flavoured herbe sauce. (The fromage is "pannée": dipped in egg, then very fine bread crumbs, lightly fried to brown, olive oil added and then heated in the oven.)