L’Isle sur la Sorgue, France

L’Isle sur la Sorgue, France

An Island City in Provence

L’Isle sur la Sorgue is exactly what the name suggests: an island in the middle of the Sorgue River.

Map of France
Map of France – arrow shows Avignon
map shows location of L'isle de la Sorgue
Map of Vaucluse district of Provence – arrow shows location of L’Isle de la Sorgue

Venice of Provence

It is also known as the Venice of Provence.

Popular Destination

There are many excellent reasons why this is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Provence.

Historic section

The historic section of the city is located on the island between branches of the Sorgue River. The city does extend to the mainland where most of the population of 20,000 resides.

L'Isle sur la Sorgue on the left.
L’Isle sur la Sorgue – island on the left, mainland on the right. Right branch of the Sorgue River flowing by.

Local crafts and industry

Since ancient times, the waters of the Sorgue, both abundant and dependable, have provided the driving force for local crafts and industry.

Flour mills, spinners, weavers

The watercourses have allowed the installation of flour mills since the twelfth century. Spinners and weavers in those times brought their fabric for final treatment to mills powered by water wheels, powered by the river.

Blankets and Paper

In the 13th century the mills produced sheets known as ‘blanquets’ which were used to cover beds. Today we know them as blankets.

A paper-making industry developed in the late 14th century.

Water Wheels

Water wheels have existed since the 13th century. The city had up to 66 water wheels at one time. Today, seventeen water wheels remain. They are spread over the many branches of the Sorgue waterways.

A remaining active waterwheel.
One of the few active waterwheels on L’Isle de la Sorgue

Most Wheels are Decorative

These wheels are little more than decorative now. The oldest among those remaining dates back to the 1800s.

It is fascinating to see them in action.

One Factory, One Family

Only one factory—Brun de Vian-Tiran—remains on the island. Owned by the same family since 1808. This factory carries out the complete chain of production — spinning, weaving and finishing of blankets, throws, quilts, stoles and shawls.

High Quality fibers

All products from this factory are produced from high quality fibers sourced worldwide: Merino wool, Mohair, Alpaca, Llama, Camel, Cashmere, Silk, Yak… and especially Merinos d’Arles Antique. The latter is a local wool considered the finest in Europe. This wool is an exclusive product of Brun de Vian-Tiran.

Antiques

This city has become a paradise for antique dealers and shoppers. Since 1978 its Sunday antique market has been famous in the region. There are more than 300 dealers and many permanent stores selling antiques.

Internationally Renowned for Antiques and Art

Today L’Isle sur la Sorgue is internationally renowned for the large number of antique dealers spread over the city (open especially on weekends) and its numerous art and painting galleries.

Twice a year, at Easter and August 15, more than 500 antique and second-hand dealers meet here to present their treasures to customers from all over the world.  (check COVID update at end of article)

Sunday Market

Sunday markets on the island are well-known. Fresh produce, deli items, wines, crafts, used clothing, objets d’arts, attract hordes of people and tourists. They browse through the narrow streets.

Sunday food market
The Sunday food market

Famous photographer

Willy Ronis (1910-2009) was one of the greatest and well-known figures of the so-called “humanist” photograph movement in France. He captured people’s daily lives in photographs.

Famous photo

One of Willy Ronis’ famous photos is of the Café de France on L’Isle sur la Sorgue. Ronis spent much of World War II living discreetly in the South of France to avoid the roundups of Jews in Occupied Paris. He returned to Paris after the city’s liberation in the summer of 1944. He died in 2009 at the age of 99.

Ronis’ famous Café de France photo Then

Café de France then - by Willy Ronis
The original photo of Café de France by Willy Ronis.

and Now

Café de France today
This photo shows the same scene today of the Café de France.

COVID update

Unfortunately, there are many temporary closures on the island due to COVID. For the current status of the virus in L’Isle sur la Sorgue, check out this website.

Sights and Sounds of Provence

see another blog from France

More info on the area

Travelled: Fall, 2018

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