Vaucluse (84230) Population: 2,062 Altitude: 117 m
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a medieval village on the side of a hill, guarded by the ruins of an ancient chateau towering above. From the chateau hill you have an outstanding view in all directions, mostly of vineyards, of course. Off to the east and south, the Rhône winds across the fields, and the afternoon sun turns it silver. Market day Fri.
The village streets are narrow, curving around the hillside or climbing up and down between the houses. The buildings are old, but everything is very thoroughly restored, and this is clearly a tourist town, and its purpose is to sell wine.
The street heading up the hill from the main junction, Rue Joseph Ducos, has some interesting small shops and restaurants, and passes in front of the town hall (mairie) with its round tower. One of the shops is this picturesque little grocery store (épicerie) that does a steady business with the local residents.
The chateau ruins at the top of the village are accessed by walking up Rue Joseph Ducos past the front of the mairie to the main church at Rue des Papes. Just to the left of the church steps lead up the the wide, stone step-street leading up to the chateau. If you're not up to handling the steps, you can drive to the chateau: go north out of town on the D68 to the first traffic circle (under 1 km), turn left the then left again on the next road south to the parking area of the chateau.
The village was once circled by two concentric walls. The outer wall enclosed the chateau and the entire village, as far as the main road at the bottom of the village (now in front of the Office de Tourisme). The inner wall enclosed the chateau and only the highest part of the village.
A literal translation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, "the Pope's new house", is actually true. The Popes of Avignon built a summertime château (their summer palace) here to get away from the hustle-bustle of the Palais. Apart from the foundations, only two walls (towers?) remain of the chateau, but they're the ones facing the village, and they're still high and imposing, giving a good feeling of what it was like here centuries ago.