Manosque - A journey into Giono country


 

With its unspoilt architecture, its pedestrian streets, its tree-lined squares, its fountains, its terraces and the wonderful landscapes of Alpes du Sud, Manosque is a popular destination in Haute-Provence. Its Mediterranean culture and the life in its pastoral mountains have been admirably described by Jean Giono. The Provençal city now celebrates its illustrious writer with the Les Correspondances Festival which earned it an award at the EDEN 2008 "Tourism and Intangible Heritage" competition.

A one thousand year old heritage

Full of charm, the old town of Manosque is marked out by the remains of the ramparts dating back to the Middle Ages. Its narrow streets lined with tall houses are an invitation to stroll. Nothing could be better than a walk to admire the numerous historical monuments:

  • The Saunerie and Soubeyran gates and the old ramparts, built in the Middle Ages to protect the town from the mercenary campaigns which struck the region,
  • Saint-Sauveur, a Roman church from the 12th century housing a remarkable 17th century organ,
  • Not forgetting the numerous traditional townhouses, the numerous squares and the very beautiful, typically Provençal fountains.

 

An extraordinary festival

Although Manosque was a laureate in the EDEN 2008 "Tourism and Intangible Heritage" competition, it is thanks to the literary festival, Les Correspondances, that the Provençal town organises a homage to the child of the land, Jean Giono. The world of Giono is that of the Provence mountain pastures, the harshness of the Haute-Provence life, villages and towns of the region: rarely has a writer placed his region of origin at the heart of his literature to such an extent.

"Les Correspondances" constantly invents new ways that the public and texts can meet via lectures, concerts and conferences (see the EDEN Competition tab). The festival promotes living literature and it celebrates recognised authors as much as young writers. A great success and a must every year in September.

Yet you can also discover Manosque and its famous writer in summer. In August, the Rencontres Giono is a literary event which focuses on the work of the author. Around a theme from his works, lectures, concerts, literary cafes and exhibitions are organised in the town and its surrounding area.

 

Splendid nature

Coming to Manosque is also about discovering the wonderful nature of Alpes du Sud, with illuminated summits of limestone, Mediterranean scrubland, mountain pastures and valleys full of vines, olive trees and lavender. The territory is sprinkled with hilltop villages and offers numerous opportunities for outdoor sports (see the Nature tab).

Head off on a trip in Lubéron or in the Gorges of Verdon, in the Monts du Vaucluse on the plateau of Monts du Vaucluse with the vast fields of lavender. Discover all the uses of this flower, the "blue gold" of the region, during the lavender festivals organised throughout the summer in the surrounding villages: perfumes, cosmetics, essential oils, honey, etc.

 

Manosque was recognised at the EDEN competition for the Festival Les Correspondances. This is dedicated to Jean Giono, the author of "Hussard sur le Toit" (The Horseman on the roof) whose Provençal roots are in the majority of his works. This festival deals with modern literature from varied angles, combining writing with music, theatre and even sculpture.

 

Les Correspondances, a French revolution in literature

By taking part in Les Correspondances, you will experience an exciting literary and touristic event. Lectures, literary cafes, concerts, writing workshops, events: in the land of Jean Giono, the Les Correspondances Festival is increasing the options and media to bring writing to life.

Over the editions, the event has constantly made use of innovations: inviting comedians, musicians and even artists to appropriate the texts and create around them, entrusting numerous events to visiting authors and even installing writing cases throughout the town to encourage everyone to participate. It catches the book fairs and exhibitions off guard: it does not have a fixed location but rather brings the places in the town, the squares and the cafes to life. Another way to discover Manosque.

During the day, you attend lectures, correspondences between texts and other literary events in the open air in old Manosque, in a very friendly atmosphere. When evening comes, the events instead take the form of a show, the texts being performed by comedians and musicians. On the programme: reading performance in the grand theatre, a "literary battle" in a square of old Manosque, an introduction to Esperanto in the Maison des associations, the creation of sound postcards open to all in the Jean Giono Centre, etc.

 

Les Rencontres Giono, a journey in the author's footsteps

In a different spirit, the Les Rencontres Giono Festival also contributes to the literary richness of Manosque. Thanks to this August event, based on the meeting between the work, the places and the landscapes, you will rediscover the texts of the author via the spaces which inspired him. You will have the chance to go on a route in Manosque and Haute-Provence, themed with intrigues, characters and descriptions from the work of Jean Giono.

Moreover, the whole region is a part of the literary innovation.  25km from Manosque, the town of Forcalquier created a publishing and writing rural excellence centre including a business hotel dedicated to the publishing trades, organised the rehabilitation of a Provençal house to welcome visiting writers and even the creation of a media library. Another cultural stakeholder of the département, the Département media library of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence promotes the culture of storytelling in Provence with the Rencontres de la Parole Festival every August in Digne-les-Bains.

 

The land of Manosque, to the south west of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, extends over lower Durance, a luminous valley surrounded by pre-alpine massifs where Mediterranean forests and stony mountain pastures flourish.  A land of sheep and hilltop villages, it is a formidable terrain for hiking, simple walks and cycling tourism.  The Verdon Regional Nature Park, with its gorges and the Sainte-Croix Lake is a paradise for canyoning, rafting, canoeing-kayaking, sailing and other water sports, but also climbing.

 

The pre-alpine massifs: a hiker's paradise

Departing straight from Manosque, you will have the joy of discovering all the beauties of Haute-Provence: its Mediterranean vegetation, its light, its plants, including the unmissable lavender and its rural heritage. The town's tourist office offers various routes on foot from the town. For example, the Bellevue trail, short and accessible to all, offers wonderful views of all the surrounding massifs. In the town centre, a signed route ensures you do not miss the main monuments.

Right next to Luberon Natural Regional Park, the Valensole plateau, the Monts du Vaucluse and the Verdon Natural Regional Park are astonishing natural areas in the lower and medium mountains. You can cross the lavender fields between Valensole and Gréoux-les-Bains by foot or bike (bike rental in Valensole or Gréoux). Unless you would like to go for a horse ride in the vineyards of Lubéron (horse riding centres in Cucuron or Mérindol). You route will be interspersed by hilltop villages with Provençal architecture: Banon, Dauphin, Mane, Cruis, Riez, Simiane-la-Rotonde, Forcalquier, Moustier-Sainte-Marie, etc.

 

Water and cliff sports in Verdon or Durance

Durance and Verdon have formed river valleys with splendid landscapes, sometimes forcing their way through the limestone massifs. The River Verdon, in particular, has forged wonderful gorges, the largest and one of the most beautiful canyons in France. These waterways are a paradise for water and adventure sports, from canyoning to rafting, including descents in a canoe.

The lake of Sainte-Croix, created from a dam on the River Verdon, is a wonderful base for open air leisure activities for all fans of swimming and water sports.  Its beaches invite you to relax and you can practice sailing and kite surfing and enjoy boat trips there. For families, the villages of Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon, Bauduen and Les Salles-sur-Verdon are perfect for a stay combining beaches and discovery of the region.

Verdon, with its dizzying cliffs, is one of rock climbers’ favourite spots in Provence. From novice to experienced climbers in search of great routes, it is a real climbing paradise which stretches from Castellane to Gréoux-les-Bains, passing through Moustier-Sainte-Marie. Don't hesitate to call on a specialist guide to discover, as best as possible, the routes adapted to your level!

 

With its medieval centre and its literary tradition, Manosque is a town where culture is lived in practice. Outside of the festivals, the site shows you its soul through its streets and monuments. Its literary dimension can be experienced by visiting the Jean Giono house or its Literary Centre, or by taking part in the Promenades Littéraires (Literary Walks) around the town. Over the course of your wanderings, you will experience a completely Provençal culture, that of the produce of the land, including olives, wine, honey, almonds, lavender and livestock products.

 

Manosque, town of culture

The town of Jean Giono, author of "Hussard sur le toit" (The Horseman on the roof), provides all its visitors with a dose of culture. Although, in August and September, the highlight is the literary festivals (see the EDEN Competition tab), you will not be lacking throughout the rest of the year, by visiting the house of Jean Giono, which opens up the intimate world of the Manosque writer to you.  Another visit is essential: that of the Jean Giono Centre.  This cultural literary space offers staged routes, temporary exhibitions and workshops on the work of Giono and literature in general.

Another way of investing in the link between literature and the land: the literary walks  around Manosque, organised by the Jean Giono Centre. Their interest is twofold: better understanding the work of Giono by discovering the sites which inspired him, and discovering Haute-Provence by understanding the literary dimension of its sites. They vary each year, and mainly take place in summer.

Finally, Manosque recounts centuries of culture via its monuments. Its historic centre, dating back to the Middle Ages, is perfectly preserved. It is a real festival of the art of the stone and town planning, with its plots, its streets and its numerous buildings from the previous centuries: medieval gates, Romanesque churches, Renaissance hotels, townhouses from the 17th century, Provençal fountains, etc. There are several discovery routes, for example for families (accompanied by a booklet for children) or around the fountains so characteristic of Provençal town planning.

 

The Provençal expertise

The Manosque region also consists of renowned agricultural and pastoral traditions.

The plateau of Valensole offers the largest concentration of lavender fields in France. A route taking a day by car allows you to explore the region. In the majority of villages passed through, like Valensole or Gréoux-les-Bains, stores offer numerous products coming from this prodigious plant, from perfumes to essential oils. Beekeeping is also celebrated in the region and you can try delicious honeys there, naturally including lots of lavender honey.

The valley of Durance and Lubéron produce succulent olives, almonds and good red and rose wines. The highlands above Manosque are the preserve of herds and their dairy products. Banon is a delicious goat's cheese produced in the hills dear to Giono, in the decor which so often served as the backdrop to his intrigues. There are so many products that you will find directly from the producers or local shops  like with the Groupement des Oléiculteurs de Haute-Provence et du Lubéron (209 boulevard du Temps Perdu in Manosque), Les Vergers de Saint Roustagne (Le Clos de Portales in Manosque) and even the Cave de la Madeleine (in Volx).

 

Manosque is full of charming places to stay: hotels, gites or guesthouses. And to whet your appetite, the Provençal produce is the basis of a delicious Mediterranean cuisine, to be enjoyed in numerous restaurants in the town. Here, the Provençal tradition based on olive oil and sun-kissed vegetables meets the creativity of chefs, which makes Manosque a wonderful gourmet stop during a trip in Haute-Provence.

 

Where to sleep

 

  • Hôtel du Pré Saint-Michel, in Manosque: a charming hotel on the heights of Manosque, in the calm, with a verdant garden and a large heated pool. From €67 per night - www.presaintmichel.com - 435 montée de la Mort d’Imbert, 04100 Manosque - +33(0)4 92 72 14 27

 

  • Hôtel du Terreau, in Manosque: this establishment is in the heart of the old town, at the foot of the hill of Mont d’Or. In this former coaching inn, you will find charming, air conditioned and comfortable rooms. From €43 per night - www.hotelmanosque.fr - 21 place du Terreau, 04100 Manosque - +33(0)4 92 72 15 50

 

  • La bastide de l’Adrech, in Manosque: on the outskirts of Lubéron, this wonderful traditional country house with its shaded grounds was renovated with care to be developed into charming guestrooms and gites for 2 to 7 people. From €78 per night - www.bastide-adrech.com - Avenue des Serrets, 04100 Manosque - +33(0)4 92 71 14 18

 

  • Un jardin en ville, in Manosque: in a grand pretty villa in a calm neighbourhood, 800m from the old town, tastefully decorated rooms give onto a very beautiful flower-lined garden, ideal for relaxation. From €55 per night - www.chambresprovence.com - 8 avenue de la Libération, 04100 Manosque - +33(0)4 92 71 17 40

 

Where to eat

 

  • Restaurant Dominique Bucaille, in Manosque: In a charming country house on the heights of Manosque, the chef devotes himself to Provençal gourmet cuisine. A Michelin star for a creative cuisine which can count on excellent local regional produce. www.dominique-bucaille.com - 715 avenue des Savels, 04100 Manosque - +33(0)4 92 77 59 37

 

  • Le Cassandra, in Manosque: in the heart of the old town in the Place du Terreau, this establishment serves a bright Provençal cuisine. A calm and flavourful stopover.  www.restaurantlecassandra.sitew.com - 23 place du Terreau, 04100 Manosque - +33(0)4 92 87 65 09

 

  • L’Antre Deux, in Manosque: traditional food, based on fresh and local produce, created with full Provençal finesse. The dishes are as beautiful as they are tasty and the revisited small town bistro setting is as simple as it is pleasant. 3, place du Terreau, 04100 Manosque - +33(0)4 92 75 61 83

 

  • Le café du coin, in Manosque: A small and very warm brasserie cafe, with a pleasant setting, which serves very good bistro dishes at lunchtime and offers all the charm of a lunchtime cafe. http://lecafeducoin.blogspot.fr - 20 rue du Soubeyran, 04100 Manosque - +33(0)4 92 72 10 13

 

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