To be fair, if it’s a Sunday and the weather is nice in Southern France, you should probably stay in. If you are to tempt a journey of any length or destination, you will find one of the most insipid and painful types of tourists in France, the French themselves or more to the point, Parisians. Much like domingueros in Spain the city dwellers fancy nothing more than a little romp in the countryside. Given that places such as Provence are a scant 2.5 hours from Paris by train, it’s understandable. Of course as to why you’d want to be in the same place with all your neighbors you’re looking to flee is beyond me.
And thus we come to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. This small village sits at the mouth of the Sorgue River and it’s an impressive mouth to say the least given that the water surges forth from a shear cliff face to then disappear under the rocks again and emerge 100 meters or so at a further point downstream wherein the serious river business then gets underway. A lovely river of crystalline blues and greens, it passes a lovely village. Of course, when you first enter this lovely village you see that the literal meaning of Vaucluse which is “closed valley” is quite literal and you have to immediately exit, due to every square centimeter of flat land having a structure. You park in that parking lot about a kilometer before the village which seemed like it was waaaay too far away and thus starts your fountain pilgrimage.
This walk is not hard and gently rolls uphill like the way Disneyland has been constructed to allow the morbidly obese to visit without sweating, much. The catch is that the walk is like that bit in So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish wherein the main characters go to visit God’s last message to creation. All along the path are stall upon stall of people selling either “authentic” & “handmade” Provence soaps/lavender/bath salts/suppositories or then, ice cream. You may die of excessive ice cream ingestion long before you die of thirst upon this little trek. Again the morbidly obese have little to worry about.
Of course the ideal time to make this walk, especially if you’re as big an imbecile as the author of this article and are visiting it on a Sunday with nice weather, is between 12-13h. The reason for this being that all the French tourists are eating lunch at the 698 restaurants in the village and you will find all seven or so of non-French in Provence at that moment all making the walk.
You arrive, you look in the very large fountain hole and wait for people to take group photos with their mobile phones that they have to re-check before they get out of the way of your own personal shot of the hole and then you walk back. It’s one of those times where you realize that the journey is more important than the destination, at least if you arrive in Spring. In late Fall, the water is way down in the hole and it make for a more striking image apparently.
It used to be the case, maybe 30 years ago or so that you could just drive up to the fountain hole say your, “I thought it’d be bigger”, scratch your butt before getting back in the car and driving back. I happen to like it this way as while you have to pay 4€ to park in a dirt lot to then walk in, at least you’re contributing to the preservation of the site. Much more so than if you were to eat at one of the restaurants or feast on ice cream which at times I think is all some tourists must eat while on holiday given that it’s typically easier to find ice cream than a toilet anywhere in Europe these days, although some toilets are better left undiscovered.