L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is known as the Venice of Provence or the Venice of Comtadine. With its cobbled streets and vaulted passages, it is a real invitation to dream

From the paddle wheels of the Middle Ages to the antique dealers of today, a rich history

Originally a fishermen's town on a real island (Insula in the Middle Ages, Isla in the 12th century), in the middle of marshes, drained over time by the digging of canals. It has a long tradition as a stopover town and a place to stay, it was for a long time the Relais des Hostelleries on the road to Fontaine de Vaucluse. But its identity is anchored in the waters of the Sorgue, which for centuries have provided the driving force necessary for industry and crafts. The paddle wheels, five of which are still in operation today, facilitated the installation of wheat mills as early as the 12th century and the creation of workshops for wool and silk. In the 19th century, there were 62 waterwheels in the town, which shows the intense activity that prevailed at the time. Today, L'Isle has become one of the world's major hubs for the antiques and second-hand market. The first antiques village was created in 1978 and since then, the attendance and reputation have continued to grow. This year, the International Antiques Fair Antiques & You, the 111th of its name, will be held in the Provencal city on All Saints' Day weekend, from Friday 29 October to Monday1 November. Notice to amateurs!

Unmissable visits..

During a visit to L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, you should take a look at the Hôtel Donadei de Campredon. This beautiful 18th century residence, partly protected as a historical monument, hosts 3 contemporary art exhibitions per year. And they are always of high quality. Doisneau and Cartier-Bresson, among others, have been seen there. The programme can be found on the town's website.

Another unmissable visit is theMuseum of the School of the past. It is of course installed in an old school, the one in the Saint-Antoine district. Those nostalgic for the fifties will find a reconstructed classroom but also an exhibition area with all those objects which, for some, marked their childhood like the inkwells with the feathers which made the blue fingers. There is also a strange machine to learn to read made by a teacher of Thor during the Second World War. It is unique in France. The museum keeps an eye on today's school and offers temporary exhibitions. This year and until June, it is the schools of the world that are in the spotlight.

Otherwise, theMuseum of Toys and Old Dolls comes from a private collection belonging to Mrs Huguette Jeanselme (Auntie). We discover hundreds of pieces, the oldest of which date from 1880. Some are quite surprising and all are beautifully preserved. The magic that they work in the eyes of children and adults alike. The doll and creators fair takes place every year in April. New toys and dolls arrive regularly and sometimes you can also see temporary exhibitions thanks to loans from collectors.

Finally, an original way to discover the Provençal city is to go on board the little tourist train, with your family, your friends or your lover. Pulled by an old-fashioned locomotive, it takes you to the quays and tells you the history of this very special island. You will discover the old town, the antique dealers' district and the fishermen's district. This walk gives you an overview of the points of interest on the island.

... and an international Antiques Fair with a worldwide reputation

Organized every year around Easter and August 15th, the International Antiques Fair Art & You of L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue welcomes hundreds of professionals of second-hand goods, antiques and decoration. Thieves come from all over the world. The first antique fair was held on August 15, 1966. It was such a success that the initiators René Légier, Albert Gassier and their small team decided to hold it again. It has become a great meeting place for bargain hunters, with more than 200 exhibitors from France and Europe, associated with some 250 shops and professionals in the antiques, second-hand goods and decoration sectors. The exhibitors welcome the public in the Gautier Park, on the Robert Vasse esplanade, the Avenue de la Libération and the Avenue des Quatre Otages.

Faithful to its vocation as the regional capital of the antiques trade, L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is the third European platform for the antiques trade, behind Paris (Saint-Ouen) and London, and continues its "Quality" approach, controlled by certified experts who check the authenticity of the goods on display. It is an opportunity to appreciate a certain art of living in Provence, to take the time to stroll along the banks of the Sorgue, to the rhythm of the mythical paddle wheels. Like 100,000 curious people who will still make the trip in search of good deals. This year again, for this 111th edition, there will be a real cultural stroll punctuated by artistic events and festive activities. A perfect opportunity to (re)discover the city and the region.

Smart info

When can you come? Of course, you can come to L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue all year round, even if the arrival of fine weather or the Indian summer are the most pleasant periods. To attend the 2021 edition of the International Antiques Fair Art & You, the 111th of its name, go to the weekend of All Saints' Day, from Friday 29 October to Monday1 November.

How to get there. By car (motorways A7 direction Avignon, exit n° 24 - Avignon Sud - or n° 25 - Cavaillon - or A9 direction Lyon, exit n° 23 - Remoulins , by train (station L'Isle-Fontaine, Avignon centre or Avignon TGV or by plane (airports of Avignon and Marseille-Provence).

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