It was a sweltering summer day and what was expected to be a quick trip, as based on information from my husband, to explore a new village with friends was anything but. Hidden beyond a path which is taken by foot, followed by a steep uphill climb to reach the ancient town ruins, Oppède le Vieux is a tiny village nestled in the forest sitting atop rocky hills of the Luberon. In 95-degree heat, our visit indeed was a journey!
There are two different sections to Oppède le Vieux, the old village consisting of a pottery shop, a couple of cafés but mostly residences and the ancient church, Notre Dame d'Alydon, with the château ruins, which are perched high above overlooking the village and the Luberon countryside with a view of Mont Ventoux in the distance.
Once almost a ghost town, mainly due to the impracticality of its high location, Oppède le Vieux began to be reestablished at the time of WW2 by a mix of artists, sculptors and writers who began to renovate its empty homes, although today it still maintains a sleepy ambiance. Narrow roads and cobblestone walls, lined with medieval and Renaissance houses, the village holds its antique demeanor well. Nuzzled against the rocky hills, it is quiet and serene, a journey back in time to ancient Provence.
Making your way from the village square up to the church and castle ruins takes a little maneuvering and a good ten to fifteen minutes. An uphill climb blanketed with cobblestone passages, crumbling steps and small paths weaving through the forest, I can imagine the treacherous footsteps paved by those who walked long before us. Passing an old chapel on the way, seemingly frozen in time, it is like walking further back in history. On arrival you are presented with the church, Notre Dame d'Alydon, situated on the edge of the hill and which looks to be in good repair. The ruins of the château sit a bit higher and mainly consists of walls which have begun to collapse but the remaining foundation still stands high with sheer drops to the gorge floor below. Both the church and the château are rewarded with a magnificent view of the Luberon and if you are lucky, a breeze to cool away the climb.
Despite the intense sun and heat, we meandered up to visit the church and château. Although the church was closed, we were able to walk about, resting on its weathered steps, soaking-up the stillness and history that live there. We were invited inside what remains of the castle, which is in the process of being restored, for a tour of the ruins and a brief history lesson, albeit in French. Completely in restoration, there currently stands more ruins than actual château, but once completed I look forward to revisiting and another day's fun adventure. Rich in history with beautiful panoramic views, the trek is well worth it.
We relaxed for a while under a shady tree, savoring the view, feeling like we were on top of the world. Slowly we made our way back down the hill, navigating the slippery, worn cobblestones, hoping not to fall. Thank you my darling husband for advising flip-flops would be OK... sneakers are highly recommended!