Market and Citadel – Sisteron, Alpes de Haute Provence, France

This morning we were out before breakfast to make the most of the (slightly) cooler morning. Two expresso in the café with the other locals contemplating their shop at the Saturday market. The Sisteron market is arrange around the clock tower (l’Horlage). Along with the abundant local fruit and vegetables piled high on the market stalls there was also a number of stalls which were cooking large vats of food for lunch, enormous paella’s piled high with seafood and chicken, the obligatory rotisserie chickens but also large mobile ovens cooking lamb and ribs. A little too much for breakfast, we tried the local Provençal ravioli like squares on varying fillings – potato, goats cheese, spinach, blackcurrant, apple, Saint Jacques (cheese and ham).

Next onwards to the Citadel towering above the town. It straddles the ridge of a hill and is built cleverly onto the bedrock. We walked up to the motorhome parking we would have taken at the top of the town under the walls of the citadel. There were a few vans entrenched there for the weekend however the roads to access had been closed just before we arrived due to the fair. iIt is a great spot there in the cool breeze and up above the town. If we visited again we would definitely go there.

The citadel seen from the town

We paid and entered the Citadel, dogs also welcome on a lead. We mounted the stairs to the first terrace and already we were rewarded with fabulous views across the town and the river Durance. The citadel dates from the 13th century, though updates and additions were made as late as 1860, including by Vauban of French citadel fame whose works we have seen across France. The structure includes a chapel, bakery, sentry boxes, armaments stores, staircases chiselled out of the bedrock and even a theatre which was added later. The tour in the form of arrows to follow takes you right to the chapel at the highest point with a narrow rampart wall along the ridge giving views north and south and a lovely breeze after several flights of stairs. Reputedly, the view from north to south from here is over 150km, helped by the presence of some very large Alpine mountains in the distance. It is a very impressive bit of civil engineering, how they have used the bedrock foundations and the geography of the natural ridge to form the structure.

It has had some interesting history. Following our Napoleon journey, on his approach to Sisteron, the royalist Mayor was not pleased to hear of his approach and spent the day mustering the council and the locals to defend the town from the usurper and his 1200 troops. He had ordered that they fire at them from the citadel at the bridge under the ramparts, the only crossing point of the swollen springtime river for many miles. It could have been the end of his campaign right here. However, it appears that the officer in charge of the garrison had that morning ordered all of the armaments be removed from the citadel. Message was conveyed to Napoleon and he marched into the town to a hero’s welcome.

The French resistance also freed political prisoners from the garrison in July 1944, just before the citadel is seriously damaged by allied bombing in August 1944. It took until 1956 for an association to take charge of the renovations which have now been completed using the proceeds from entrance fees.

It was a very pleasant morning’s tour but by now it was getting seriously warm. It took visits to 3 boulangeries to find a baguette for lunch as the Saturday market shoppers had stripped the town nearly bare of bread.

We retreated to the van to sit out the peak of the heat this afternoon. We will venture out again this evening for dinner. Last night it was quite entertaining with the fair taking over the town, streets were closed off and there was a traditional band complete with accordion and trumpet playing some local music. A local man was obviously a keen dancer and was leading the way, working through at least 3 dance partners in the time we sat there. A local builder still in his working gear pulled an older lady from the group beside us and performed a very passable I think foxtrot, but I am not a regular Strictly watcher, so I am not sure. We will see what entertainment there is tonight. Though hopefully those signing La Marseillaise on the way past the van in the early hours will not be part of the schedule for tonight. 🙄😴

Entertainment in Sisteron last night

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