Carpentras is a small town in the heart of Provence in the South of France. It offers visitors a great combination of history, food and wine. The town can provide visitors a taste of the real rural France. It’s frequented by wine tourists and sits on the course of the Tour de France, but remains far enough off the main tourist path to allow some semi-private exploration. Here is some basic information on visiting Carpentras, France:
Start at the tourist office The city’s tourist office, located in the center of town at 97 Place du 25 Aout has a lot of information and some interesting exhibits featuring local products. Their website is also a very helpful resource for trip planning.
Sobirats Museum This decorative arts museum is housed in a 18th century mansion and is filled with all the beautiful things a wealthy person would have owned at the time. Furniture, artwork, porcelain, glassware, silver and gold is all displayed as it would have been at the time the house was lived in by one of the area’s wealthiest families. The Musee Sobirats is located in the center of Carpentras. It’s closed on Tuesdays and from March through April it’s only open by appointment. Adult admission is $3.50.
France’s oldest synagogue First opened in 1367, the building is clad in a church-like exterior to almost completely hide its real purpose. The area has a long Jewish history, dating back to a unique relationship with the Pope in the 14th century. Nearby Avignon was the home of the Popes and the capital city of the Catholic Church for almost 100 years. It was also a papal territory and not part of the then Kingdom of France, which surrounded it. After Jews were banished from France they were granted the right to live and work in certain areas of the territory, a unique situation for the time. The area continued to be a papal territory until 1791. The current synagogue building, intact since it’s late 18th century construction, is beautiful and open for visits. Still used for worship, a museum is planned.
Getting to Carpentras The city is easily reached by road and car rental in France is easy with all the major brands represented. Book online, in advance from the U.S. for the best rates. The city is also accessible by train, the high-speed TGV train stops in Avignon, about 30 minutes away. This puts Paris about two and half hours away in one direction and the South of France also about two and a half hours away in the other direction. A TGV stop in the city is planned for the next year or two.
Hotels The ultra-luxury Crillon le Brave is about 40 minutes away and offers a taste of country chateau life with basic rooms starting around $400 per night. The hotel’s gastronomic Restaurant Jerome Blanchet is run by the young chef it’s named for and is considered one of the best in the area. The Chateau de Mazan, in nearby Mazan has mid-week specials from $160 per night offering upgrades to best room or suite available at check-in. The chateau was also once the home of the interesting Marquis de Sade.