Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04380) Population: 564 Altitude: 765 m
Thoard is a treasure of a little village out in the hills northwest of Digne-les-Bains. Typical of little back-country villages, Thoard is quite in the winter, but in the summer it really hums. The village has all the necessary shops, including a couple of terrace café-restaurants and a pizzeria. Market day Sun.
Getting to Thoard is a treat, with a beautiful drive along the D3 road from Champtercier winding through the hills and valleys and over the Pas de Bonnet, and the first view of the village is very picturesque.
If you arrive on a Sunday you'll find an active market going on. Artisans and suppliers from nearby farms will be there with fresh produce, goat cheese, honey, saussages and fresh breads. There was even a basket weaver making lovely baskets all morning, sitting beside the Roman fountain - where you could imagine basket weavers sat and worked 2000 years ago.
This little village does have a few narrow streets to wander, with steps and cobblestones, but the main interest is the Sunday-market atmosphere and the beauty of the surrounding hills, farms, forests and lavender fields. The remains of the medieval chateau still has some arches, a doorway and a 17th-c baroque fireplace, and the St-Blaise church has a 12th-13th-c clock tower.
The lavender distillery of Roger ROUX is located at Barras, about 6 km (10-minute drive) away. Phone 04 92 34 69 14 for a visit.
- Tel: 33+ (0) 492 31 90 80
- Open, May-June: Sun 12h-19h
- - July-Aug: daily except Mon 12h-19h
- - Sept: Sat-Sun 12h-18h
- - Oct: Sat-Sun 12h-17h
- Auberge dining, Menu 100 F; 60 F kids
History of Thoard
First record, Toardum 11th century, from turris ardua for elevated tower.
Gallo-Roman: An enscribed bronze plaque, pottery and other objects were found here. The stone fountain in the main square is also supposed to be Roman.
Medieval: Thoard was an ancient establishment with 11 distinct lords, giving the town the label Thoard-le-Noble.
Market day: Sun.
Aug (Mid) - Grande Foire, agricole et artisanale, with sheep-dog trials and all-day demos of working sheep-dogs.
• GPS: 44.150376, 6.148893
IGN (1/25,000) #3340 ET "Digne-les-Bains, Sisteron, Les Mées"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #1 "Alpes de Provence"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #28 "Montagne de Lure, Val de Durance"
The GR6 Hiking Trail passes through Thoard. This trail here is also part of the GTPA (Grande Traversée des PreAlpes).
• To the north, the GR6 crosses the Duyes river on the road bridge and then goes northwest, over the hills of the Duyes forest. It joins other trails before going west to Sisteron.
• To the east, the GR6 follows the tiny road to Bannette, then continues into the hills and heads southeast to Digne-les-Bains.
There's also a small PR (Petite Randonnée) loop hike to the southeast of the village.
The local terrace café-restaurants provide basic, good food, with friendly service, and you sit almost in the middle of the market.
La Banette is a Ferme-Auberge, 2 km out a tiny dead-end road to the northeast. The site is beautiful, and we mean really beautiful, at a small hilltop farm with a great view. You must phone for a lunch reservation, either in the morning or, better, the night before.
Tel: 04 92 34 68 88; Fax: 04 92 34 89 69
Department 04, Alpes-de-Haute Provence Buses
- See Beyond's Alpes-de-Haute Provence (04) Bus Schedules for downloading Alpes-de-Haute Provence bus-lines map and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).