Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04100) Population: 19,107 Altitude: 330 m
Manosque is a large, walled town in the Durance river plain, at the edge of the Luberon to the west and the Valensole plateau to the east. We generally find it busy, crowded and noisy after visiting the quiet little villages out in the hills, but quickly get caught up in the excitement of the place. Market day Sat.
We've done short visits to Manosque several times over the years, staying overnight a few times. We find the town most interesting for its shopping, lodging and dining, making it a good base for visiting a wide area, from the Luberon to the Verdon.
The buildings in the old town lack the quaintness of the smaller towns and villages, with some exceptions such as our [photo-6]. The buildings are old, though, and while you're wandering the town streets you'll discover interesting old places and ancient doorways.
It's a market town on Saturday mornings, with the large Place du Terreau taken over by the main market. Wandering through the narrow town streets you'll run across other markets as well, like the food market on the Place [de la Mairie]. Perhaps inspired by Giono, this is a reader's town, and we found several outdoor bookstalls as well.
Historical highlights of Manosque are the two 14th-century fortified portes.
• The town's main entrance at the south is the Porte de la Saunerie [photo-2], built in 1382. Also called the Porte de sel (salt entrance), because the salt tax gabelle was paid here. The gabelle was a law that obliged every subject of the King to purchase a certain amount of salt every year, with a tax to the state monopoly. Widely different methods of taxation caused a vast black market. This very unpopular tax was abolished in 1790.
• At the northern end of town, the entrance is through the Porte du Soubeyran [photo-1], the highest tower in town. The base and the arch of the Soubeyran date from the 13th century. The clock tower was built in the 18th, and the campanile in 1830.
Mont d'Or, the hill where the Counts of Forqualqier once lived, is just over 1km from the center, northeast. About an hour round-trip offers you a nice view of the town and the surrounding countryside.
Manosque has a few "Favorite Sons", including Elémir BOURGES (1852-1925), author of fiction and the play "La Nef. The most favorite, though, is Jean GIONO (1895-1970).
Much of Giono's work paints a very descriptive picture of early 20th-century life in Provence, that we highly recommend, including: Coline, 1929 and Regain, 1930. Another favorite is Le Hussard sur le toit, 1951.
Giono's birthplace is just a block in from the main entrance Porte de la Saunerie, on the left side of Rue Grande at number 14, marked by a plaque. The Centre Jean Giono is on the ring-road, just to the west of the main entrance, a block north of the Office de Tourisme.
There are two very nice campanilles (wrought-iron belfries) in the town of Manosque. One is on the Saint-Aaveur church and the other on top of the Porte Soubeyran.