Vaucluse (84200) Population: 26,090 Altitude: 95 m
Like neighboring Orange, Carpentras is a large town, surrounded by urbanization. The center of Carpentras is concentrated inside a ring of boulevards, and in the center of the center, the cathedral and other ancient sites are located inside a circle of small streets. Our Beyond page covers only the central "old town" part of Carpentras. Market day Fri.
The "focused" center has wide squares, shops, restaurants and much activity. The St Siffrein cathedral, the Roman Arc de Triomphe, the "halls" and a fine old covered passage, with high domed-class roof [Photo-3:], are all here. The surrounding part of the old town is residential; the narrow streets and old buildings are well maintained, but it's obviously not the wealthiest people living here.
Carpentras has been the regional market town for the ancient Ligurians and the Romans on up to the present. It's known for its early strawberries in the spring, and its carmel berlingots (below).
There's a playground, with all the proper equipment, just outside Ave Jean Juarès and the Allée des Platans (that's the long parking are on the southeast, beside the Office de Tourisme). The playground is down at the right-hand end, by the tennis courts.
There's a lovely long park just outside the center on the north side of town (walk out Ave Notre Dame de Santé from the Porte d'Orange). The park follows along the river, with a nice walking path beneath the trees. Small footbridges cross the river, one of them being a real fallen-tree bridge.
The 14th-century Porte d'Orange is a massive fortified gateway at the north side of the old town [photo-4]. This is all that's left of Pope Innocent VI's protective wall with 32 towers and 4 gates.
The ancient fountain [photo-5] is on Bvd du Nord, across the street from the Porte d'Orange.
The Cathedral St Pierre and St Siffrein is right in the center. The cathedral was started, by Pope Benedict XIII of Avignon, in 1404 and finished early in the 16th century.
[Photo-1: The front of the Cathedral]
[Photo-2: Gargoyles on top of the Cathedral]
The Roman Arc de Triomphe [Photo-6] is on Place d'Inguimbert, in the courtyard of the Palais de Justice, tucked down at the side of the cathedral. It was moved here during the Middle Ages, probably from the main cardo leading out of town (like in Orange). It became the porch of the bishop's palace, converted into the Palais de Justice during the Revolution.
The 13th-century Château des Comtes de Toulouse, in the center, has a fabulous 1576 campanile [Photo-7] representing the universe. You'll have to wander around some, though, to get a view of it between the buildings. (beffroi - belltower)
The 15th-century Synagogue in the center is a rather plain-looking building, but it's famous for being the oldest in France. Carpentras (along with Avignon, Cavaillon and Isle-sur-la-Sorgue) had a Jewish ghetto until the Revolution.
History of Carpentras
First record, Mentioned by Pline in the 1st century: Carpentoracte Meminorum or Carbantorate; 4th century: Carpentoratensium civitas
Celto-Ligurian: A Memini oppidum located at La Lègue, about 4 km southeast of town, was occupied from at least the 6th century BC. La Lègue is an area of low hills rising above the plains, near La Masque, La Fauconnette and Piemarin. There's nothing remaining of it now, according to the chef in Le Rich bar-brasserie, at the end of Rue de la République; he was born at Croix de Ponsard, and spent his childhood exploring the area of La Lègue.
Gallo-Roman: The Roman foundation here, called Forum Neronis by Ptolemy, might have been used as a settlement for some of Caesar's legionaries. It was used to control the route from the North into Provence and Italy. The only Roman monument surviving is the triumphal arch (Arc de Triomphe).
Medieval: Carpentras was ravaged successively by barbarian invasions during the 5th and 6th centuries, and again in the 12th century. During the 12th and 13th centuries it was a fief, with rule shared between several lords. It was later shared between the count of Toulouse and the bishop. In the 14th century, it was ravaged by the Routiers and by famine. If it wasn't barbarians, it was disease: the town suffered the plague in 1348, 1374, 1628 and 1631. Then in the 16th century, the bloody Wars of Religion raged, with the town under Protestant attack many times. Carpentras became the capital of the Comtat Venaissin in 1320, under control of the Pope until the 18th century. In 1791, the town was conquered and brought into France.
Market day: Fri.
Brocante: 2nd Sun
Jan-Feb - Truffle market = Fri mornings, late Nov-Feb
Apr - Fete de la Truffe d'Ete
July - Corso Nocturne Fleuri, centre ville
July (2nd half) - Les "Estivales"- 2ème quinzaine
Aug - Festival des Saveurs Provençales
Nov-Dec - Truffle market = Fri mornings, late Nov-Feb
Dec - Grande Crèche Provençale (end Nov to end Jan)
Dec - Foire aux Santons - Santon Fair, Market (2 weeks Dec)
Dec - Truffe de Noel en Fete
• GPS: 44.052077, 5.047693
IGN (1/25,000) #3042 ET "Carpentras"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #27 "Ventoux"
The area around Carpentras is heavily populated, with just about all land filled with farms, vineyards and orchards. Six km south, at Pernes-les-Fontaines, a trail leads into the foothills of the Plateau de Vaucluse. The GR91 (Grande Randonnée) passes along the edge of the Plateau de Vaucluse at Villes-sur-Auzon, 15 km to the east.
There are several good restaurants in the center of Carpentras, including a couple with Provencal cooking. The Office de Tourisme brochure lists the restaurants and their specialties. We tried L'Atelier [several yeas ago] on Rue des Halles, and were not disappointed: nice decor, good service and excellent food. Now named "Franck" (30 Place de l'Horloge, tel 0490 607 500), the food is even better and the ambience great; the same waitress was still here to fill us in on the history of the past years.
The Fruits Confits Clavel shop on Rue Porte d'Orange has the most amazing candy creations we've seen anywhere. Their specialty is "berlingot", a hard caramel candy. The front window is full of creations, from a tall Ariane rocket to a cogged-wheel assembly for a mill. Other creations depict foods, plants, people and complex scenes. The shop owner, who's the personal creator of everything, has the 1992 Guinness world record for the largest berlingot creation, weighing 56 kg. A couple of other delicious looking candies were the truffes au Grand Marnier and truffes au calva (for Calvados).
A bit of reader feedback from "hildegarde.osper", 4 July 2001; and reconfirmed Feb 2005.
|I like what you say about CARPENTRAS but feel
that you should recommend Chez Serge La Garrigue for a good restaurant
that appeals to all tastes and wallets|
Airport Nîmes-Garons (70 km)
Airport Marseilles-Marignane (100 km)
Airport Avignon (25 km)
Carpentras airfield - private planes
There is no train service; railway line comes into Carpentras, but there's no more passenger service. There are large freight yards at the edge of town, but even the freight service is just about finished. The nearest train stations are:
Gare d'Avignon (25 km)
Gare de Cavaillon (27 km) * bus service. A Carpentras-Cavaillon bus service is included in the SNCF timetable "Guide Régional des Transports", available at most train stations.
Gare d'Orange (25 km)
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.