There’s nothing like stumbling on a charming small town, and Jouques definitely fits the bill.
To be clear, there’s nothing particular to do in Jouques. There are no museums, the shops are entirely practical, there are two or three restaurants, and when I visited, every church door was closed. Nonetheless, it’s well worth the trip — Jouques is a great place to wander, go for a lovely hike, and see a tourist-free Provencal village.
I ended up in Jouques because I wanted to take a day trip out of Aix-en-Provence. My requirements were that the location had to be (1) accessible in a single bus ride, (2) under an hour from Aix, and (3) somewhere in a green space on Google Maps. An easy 50-minute bus trip, Jouques ticked every box.
The most prominent feature of the town is a chapel high up on the hill. Making my way up, I passed by the last remnant of the 13th century town gate:
At the top of the hill stands Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Roque, a church that has been around since at least 1135.
As with many old churches in France, this one has been rebuilt over time (for reasons that include fire, roof collapse, and a general interest in making things grander).
A visit to the chapel gives you a great view down over Jouques:
As you make your way down, you can look back up at the 1738 clock tower:
Meandering through the few streets of Jouques’ old town, you’ll be rewarded with a chance to see a lot of great doors (I like doors) …
… the Réal river …
… and public fountains:
Side note: fountains in this part of France often feature (1) tiny statues of people — see the itty-bitty Saint Peter that tops the fountain on the above right — and (2) lots of moss.
The central town church, Eglise Saint-Pierre, was built in sections; you’ll find construction from the 11th, 16th, and 18th centuries.
It’s interesting to wander around the graveyard, which seems largely to have monuments from the 20th century (it looks like this particular cemetery may have been started during World War I).
On the other side of the Grand Pre (an enormous, empty grass field), I found two gentlemen playing the age-old game of boule:
But my favorite part of Jouques was taking a hike behind the old town. If you walk down the road beyond the cemetery, you’ll make your way to a hiking trail that leads up into the mountains (there’s a good satellite map here if you want try — head up Val des Court). After ten minutes in the woods, the trail opens up onto a set of open country roads.
It doesn’t look like anyone uses these roads very often; in nearly two hours of countryside walking, I saw exactly zero people. The roads offer excellent views of rolling mountains — and a chance to pick wild rosemary and thyme.
Another option when visiting Jouques is to make your way to the Abbaye Notre Dame de Fidelite. This requires either a long walk on busier roads or a car (the third option, bushwhacking from the country roads and then inadvertently trespassing, is not recommended). The abbey is lovely in January, but it must be spectacular when the lavender is in bloom.
For lunch, I strongly recommend the salade bergère at Restaurant Aux Deux Saveurs. It’s a great meal after an exhausting hike!