Saturday village visit: Market day in Riez, stop over in Allemagne-en-Provence, lunch in Manosque

It was the first Saturday in January and the market in Riez was bustling! The sun was out and people were happily sipping their morning coffees or mingling with locals. There was a real buzz in the air and the stalls were still busy at 11:30am. This was my first visit to the village and I must say it was a nice surprise, not even that far from Cotignac (40 mins drive).

The village of Riez can be reached by going in the direction of Fox Amphoux on the D13 from Cotignac. Continue past Fox Amphoux (not the old village but the newer side, head West) and towards Montmeyan. At Montmeyan head in the direction of Quinson. Switch to the D11 here and head in the direction of Montagnac-Montpezat. You’ll then follow signs to Riez. You could easily opt to make this a stop over on the way to the much more touristy and famous Moustiers-Ste-Marie but I can tell that there is a good number of accommodation here in Riez that is likely cheaper if, for example, the lavender fields are the main attraction in mid June to early July.

We decided to head West after Riez and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the road, the D 952, touched the Plateau de Valensole where in mid to late June you’d see the massive lavender fields in full bloom. The advantage to doing this drive in January, however, is that there is literally no traffic and driving is a real pleasure. After about 5 kilometres on the D952 you’ll see the impressive fairly-tale castle of Allemagne-en-Provence. This stunning gothic style 15th century building is unfortunately not open to the public as it is privately owned. But it’s a pleasure to admire it from the gate and notice the real moat that surrounds it and must get full of water when it rains. I can imagine Shrek and his dragon friend landing in its gardens, stirring up trouble to save the princess Fiona at the top floor of one of its beautiful turrets.

We decided to continue on our drive Westward and started feeling hungry at around 1pm so we stopped by at a restaurant in one of my favourite towns called Manosque. The Villa M, with it’s varied menu, chic interior design and reasonable prices, was a real treat and I highly recommend this place. The “classic burger” (that came with mountain cheese slices on both sides, bacon, several chunks of pickles, tomato and tucked into brioche bun) did not dissappoint. It was perfectly cooked and juicy and made my hands all sticky but by golly was it good! My hubby enjoyed the pig entrail sausage (called Andouillette in French) which is not something I can stomach (excuse the pun) but he just loved it. My youngest daughter enjoyed her plate of smoked salmon. With two soft drink the lunch for three came to just over 50 euros.

Villa M: ITINÉRAIRE, 100 Avenue du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny, 04100 Manosque, phone: 04 92 74 83 90