Vaucluse (84500) Population: 13,835 Altitude: 55 m
Bollène is an interesting town built around a low hill in the Rhone river valley 20 km north of Orange, on the small river Lez. The medieval town center, once walled, has small streets surrounding a large central square with an imposing 19th-century town hall, and even old sites on the town hills, like the 11th-century Collegial Saint Martin. Market day Fri.
Our town map shows only the principal sites, to help you get oriented for your explorations.
Apart from its own sites, Bollène is central to some other tiny medieval villages worth visiting, and could be a handy base. (We've done overnights here ourselves for that very reason.) There are enough hotels and restaurants in Bollène to give you a fair choice.
The central square of Bollène is Place Henri Reynaud de la Gardette, in front of the imposing town hall (Hotel de Ville). The square was created in 1880, followed by the neoredaissance Hotel de Ville, built in the image of the Hotel de Ville of Paris.
The left wing of the town hall was designed to house a grand bazzar. Today it hosts the town cinema.
On the south side of Place Gardette, facing the town hall, is a magnificent statue called Les Lutteurs (the wrestlers), by Bollène's own Félix Charpentier. Depicting Greek-Roman wrestling that was popular in Provence in the 19th century, the statue helped Charpentier win France's Légion of Honour in 1892. In 1900 the statue itself won the Paris Salon's highest Medal of Honor.
An excellent brochure of walking tours is available from the Bollène's modern tourist office (near the river), describing two different themed tours. The Historical Circuit covers most of the town center and the old town, up to the river. This route visits many hôtels particulier (townhouses) dating back to the 16th century, including (our photo) the 18th-century Hotel Roquard with its columned doorway at the right and an elegant sundial.
The Medieval Circuit walking tour is much shorter that the historical, but is hilly, with very many steps. It visits the four main historical sites on the hills just south of the center. Using a map, you can avoid the long steps of the official route by taking alternate streets: fairly steep but no steps.
The jewel at the top of the hill is the Collegiale Saint-Martin. The church was consecrated at the beginning of th4e 12th century, around 1112-1119. The priory was added much later, in 1427. In 1562, at the beginning of the Wars of Religion, Protestants destroyed the priory and damaged the church. The Catholics recaptured Bollène the following year, and the town subsequently rebuilt church and priory, in 1579. The large, rectangular clock tower was rebuilt into its currrent form in 1618.
There are some great panoramic views from both sides of the Collegiale Saint-Martin.
You have an excellent view across the town's medieval rooftops and over the Donzère-Mondragon canal, where the medieval scene in counterpointed by the steam from the nuclear power plant cooling towers. To the north you can see the hills where the Barry Troglodyte Village village is located.
The Cours Jean Jaures is the main street curving across the "upper town" of Bollène, lined with almost bungalow styled houses, and leading around to the southwest to the pretty Three Crosses Chapel. About half way along this street is the Casino du Puy, a good bar-restaurant with simple lunch menus and a great local ambience.
In the southwestern part of "upper" Bollène is a 17th-century chapel sitting in the middle of an open park. Called on a local sign, Chapelle des Trois Croix (Three Crosses Chapel), town brochures label this Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Calvaire. Whatever its true name, its a simple, but pretty, stone chapel, and from the edge of the park you have a terrific view out across the countryside, with a handy panorama identification table.
The tall, rectangular stone building jutting up all on its own, without windows except for a row of tiny ones around the top, is the 15th-16th century Tower House Maison de la Tour. It was once part of the "Cardinals'" palace complex, and is no-doubt missing some of the connecting parts. The tiny windows around the top were shooting slots for defense.
The Maison Cardinale (Cardinals' House) was built in the 12th century. Its name came from much later though: the Cardinals attached to Avignon who owned the priory in Bollène lived here in the 14th century ... and so it became known by that name.
Barry Troglodyte Village is an ancient cave-dwelling site just 5.5 km north of Bollène (a 10-15 minute drive).
Mornas is a small medieval village 15 km south of Bollène, with a hilltop fortress and a medieval festival every July that's great fun.
Market day: Fri.
Puces (flea-market): 2nd Sun
• GPS: 44.279206, 4.751631
IGN (1/25,000) #3040 OT "Orange, Massif d'Uchaux"
Immediately south of town (between Bollène and Orange) is the mostly forested Massif d'Uchaux.
One hiking trail, the Tour du Massif d'Uchaux, circles the area, passing by Mornas, Mondragon, Rochegude, Sérignan-le-Comtat and back to Mornas.
The GR4 hiking trail passes east-west through the center of the area.
• East, the GR4 continues on to Lagarde-Paréol, Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes and Cairanne.
• West, the GR4 goes past Mondragon to Pont-Saint-Esprit and beyond.
Piscine (Swimming pool), open all year
Planche à voile (wind surfing), tennis, fishing
Bollène is on the main Marseille-Avignon-Orange-Valence rail line, which includes the TGV and car trains. Around 18 trains a day stop at Bollène on weekdays, and 3 or 4 on Sundays and holidays.
The bus company Les Rapides du Sud Est provides transportation in the area.
• The line Montelimar-Orange has service to Montélimar, Chateau du Rhône, Donzère, Pierrelatte, Saint Paul-Trois-Chateaux, Cité IV, Saint Pierre, Bollène, Mondragon, Mornas, Pielenc and Orange.
• The line Lapalud-Bollène has service between these two places only, also stopping the the Bollène train station.
• The line Mojndragon-Saint Andéol goes between Mondragon, Bollène, Lapalud and Bourg Saint Andéol. Mon-Fri during school periods only; Mondragon-Bourg Saint Andéol around 7h00 and Bourg Saint Andéol-Mondragon around 16h30.
Department 84, Vaucluse Buses
- See Beyond's Bus Schedules Page 2: Vaucluse Department for downloading Vaucluse bus-lines map [Plan global des lignes] and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).
• Avignon has train or bus connections to Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Nîmes, Saint Remy-de-Provence, Paris.
• Cavaillon has bus connections to Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Saint Remy-de-Provence.
• Pertuis has bus connections to Aix-en-Provence and Marseille.