Day six of our staycation found us exploring Fontaine de Vaucluse, one of the wonders of the world. Okay, it’s not in the top seven, wonder-wise, but it’s still pretty amazing. Fontaine de Vaucluse (the name meaning “fountain of the closed valley”) is home to one of the world’s largest natural springs. The underground basin holds water from the Vaucluse Mountains, Mount Ventoux and the Lure Mountain and supplies the water for the Sorgue river.
The mouth of the spring is an enormous cave popular with spelunkers. Well, at this time of year, anyway. In the spring, when the snow melts, the water level rises and deposits 22 square meters of water per second into the river. Scientists tried for years to reach the bottom of the basin, eventually resulting in Jacques Cousteau himself visiting the site to try to hit bottom. He went down 300 meters (985 feet) but never found it. It remained a mystery for years, until 1985, when scientists successfully measured it at 308 meters (so close, Jacques!) at its shallowest point.
The area has been inhabited by humans since the Neolithic era, according to artifacts found by archaeologists over the years. And just a quick glance at the natural beauty of the site explains why, once found, people would be reluctant to leave it. Majestic mountains surround the spring and its river, which are filled with fat trout and freshwater plants that give the river an emerald glow. And unlike Neolithic people, today’s humans can enjoy the sights at one of the many riverside restaurants and cafés bordering the Sorgue and serving said trout for lunch. Yum.
And almost typically for a Provençal village, Fontaine de Vaucluse has the requisite charming town squares, a hilltop castle (though now in ruins, and in this case, more of a mountaintop castle) an exquisite church and countless bustling shops with enough regional fare to separate tourists from all their cash.
Please check out the rest of our pictures, at right under “Photos.” and please zoom in on the one at left. You can only really appreciate the enormity of this cave if you can see the man in the white shirt toward the bottom of the photo for scale. Enjoy!