Among the various places one visits when traveling to France, you often hear that certain municipalities are part of the “most beautiful villages of France.” This designation is backed by a 1901 law association that emerged forty years ago, aimed at bringing together small communities throughout France that possess a certain charm and are just waiting to be discovered.
Today, we’re heading to the Drôme department to explore the village of Le Poët-Laval.
Cobbled streets from another era…
In the region of Montélimar lies Le Poët-Laval. This small locality, home to about a thousand inhabitants, has existed since the Middle Ages, back when it was owned by the Templars, specifically the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. They turned it into a strategic location, surrounded by fortified walls, which actually gives the village its name, meaning “the little hill in the valley.”
While Le Poët experienced relative prosperity at certain times, that wasn’t always the case. It faced challenges due to religious wars and the sieges it had to endure. This period marked the beginning of a gradual decline that spanned several centuries, lasting until the early 20th century. The upper part of the village became depopulated in favor of neighboring communities. It wasn’t until the 1960s and 70s that a group of individuals decided to genuinely restore and revitalize the community, culminating in a successful endeavor with the classification of Le Poët-Laval as one of the “most beautiful villages of France.”
Today, the old town is still dominated by the imposing medieval keep of the Commanders’ Castle, which stands out amidst the greenery of the surrounding hills. This very keep is what draws every visitor as they wander through the cobbled streets from another era in this village, which unquestionably merits a stop along the vacation route.