Bouches-du-Rhône (13570) Population: 3,877 Altitude: 51 m
Barbentane is a fairly large village with a small center of cafés and shops and a larger Medieval center worth a visit of walking and exploring. Located where the Durance joins the Rhône, just south of Avignon, Barbentane has some of its original fortified portals, a tall lookout tower, a windmill and a Renaissance style chateau (private).
Two café-restaurants (with terraces) in the old village center make Barbentane a welcome place to visit: a café is always our first order of business when visiting Provencal villages.
The ancient streets of the Medieval center are narrow and authentic looking, clean, without being overly renovated. It was a pleasure to wander the streets, up through the Port Calendrale by the center to the Porte du Sequier at the higher southern side.
Information panels are posted at the key historical points around the town. The panels are only in French, but include nice drawings of the sites, and the dates are obvious.
Barbentane Town Hall
The Hotel de Ville of has occupied the Hotel des Barons de Chabert since 1888. This building was built in the 17th century, in the style of Louis XIII, and was the first construction outside of the fortified village walls.
The wrought-iron campanile, with bell, and the clock were added in 1899. The clock was working then, and is still giving the correct time now.
Medieval Ramparts and Portes
Barbentane was fortified in the 12th and 13th centuries with ramparts that circled the village, including towers over the two entry portals. The towers are long gone, demolished in 1752, but the portes remain.
At the higher, south side, of town is the Porte du Sequier (this photo). The square tower at the left of the portal was the original prison tower.
At the lower, north side, of town is the Porte Calendrale, built in 1253 and restored sometime around 1985.
Anglica Tower and French Maps
The huge watch tower, the Tour Anglica was built overlooking the south side of the village in 1365, by Bishop Anglic de Grimoard. At the time, the Bishop was Lord of Barbentane and Noves, a position he earned by being the son of Pope Urbain V, one of the Avignon Popes.
On top of this tower, in the 18th century, the cartographer César-Françoise CASSINI drew the first maps of France.
Market Day - None
There is no weekly market in Barbentane (2015). There was a very large weekly market every Friday, taking the full length of Le Cours in the village center. But a eight or ten years ago the market began diminishing a stand at a time, until its current size of zero. The cause is said to be the modernisation of the village center, making wide sidewalks, narrowing the main street and making it one-way; traffic passing from west to east (towards Avignon) now has to make a long loop around the town to get to the center, and when they do arrive parking is difficult. This must have benefited some people, but the local shop owners (commercants) aren't happy about it.
For a fairly large village, Barbentane has a small center, but all the necessary shops. There's a good baker in the center, and a produce shop has very fresh and local fruits and vegetables, and a good selection of local cheeses; we did our shopping here for all of those items.
A sort of General Store, La Farandole, has maps, office supplies, and is also an old-style hardware store with household supplies. They also have local products, such as a local olive oil, which we purchased.
Windmills of Barbentane
Six windmills were built in Barbentane between 1565 and 1774, and only this one remains today. (We did find the stone foundations of another windmill just a short distance up the hill from this one.)
This last windmill of Barbentane was in operation until 1845, and is called Le Moulin de Bretoule, named for a stutterer. The last occupant of the windmill was Claude Berlandier. M. Berlandier had an hereditary stutter, which is called bret in Provençal: hence the name of the windmill.
• GPS: 43.899448, 4.747471
Barbentane is at the northern edge of a low range of hills, La Montagnette, that stretches southwest about 15 km to Tarascon, with St Michel-de-Frigolet Abbey in the center. There are several PR (Petite Randonnée) hiking trails, with yellow marks, that cross through these hills. The area can be very hot and dry during the summer so be prepared. During very dry periods, access is sometimes restricted.
A full day's (7 hour) figure-8 loop hike itinerary is: Barbentane, Frigolet Abbey, Boulbon village, San Salvador, Frigolet Abbey, Barbentane.
The Frigolet Abbey (Abbaye Saint-Michel de Frigolet) is about 5 km south, making it about a 3 hour round-trip hike.
The village of Graveson is in 8 km hike southeast, with a loop through the hills and across the farming plains.
For an absolutely flat walk, a 6 km loop hike from Barbentane goes northwest across the rich farming lands and along the edge of the Rhône river to the junction with the Durance.
Department 13, Bouches-du-Rhône Buses
- See Beyond's Bouches-du-Rhone (13) Bus Schedules for downloading Bouches-du-Rhone bus-lines map and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).