After departing Vaison-la-Romaine, Rich, Dawn, Jill and Henry Warner arrived at Roussillon right about lunch time. While only a little over an hour, the route was a somewhat harrowing drive over tight, twisty roads that often seemed to be about 6″ narrower than the width of our car plus the width of the car speeding head-on past us.
Roussillon is mostly noted for the large ochre deposits that were once highly prized by painters. The demand for Rousillon’s ochre peaked around the time of the Second World War, yet it is still a popular place for artists to gather, due to the colorful nature of the area. The town itself is mostly presented in hues of pink and reddish tones.
We ambled about the town. mostly trying to stay in the shade. Many of the shops catered to artists, selling paints and artists supplies.
I searched online for information on the history of Roussillon, but found remarkably little of note. Evidently there has been human activity in the Roussillon area since prehistoric times and the first written record dates from 989. However, there is little today to interest a medieval history enthusiast. At least little that we could see.
This is not to say that the town is not picturesque and attractive, just don’t come here looking for old Roman bridges or medieval châteaux. In fact, I did not see any signs of traditional medieval defense systems, which made me wonder how the town fared throughout the tumultuous middle ages. I did learn that at one time a château stood at the very top of the hill, but nothing remains of it today. Maybe the inhabitants were just lucky and managed to escape the usual sieging and conquering that were so popular during the Middle Ages.
Roussillon is a pleasant, quaint and eye-pleasing town that has not been touched by modern building, as evidently the town has been a protected village since the mid-1940′s. There is a nice selection of restaurants and cafés to enjoy a meal or a cool drink on a hot day. The nearby countryside, with its red rocks and cliffs, is reminiscent of Sedona and other locations in the western US.
It’s funny, but after loving our little Villefranche-sur-Mer apartment next to the sparkling Mediterranean for the past three weeks, we all commented on how it now felt like “home” to us. The mapping software said it would be a three-hour drive, but after getting caught in the Nice area rush-hour traffic, it was closer to four hours by the time we made it back.