Sisteron is an attractive town ('commune') in France, in the département of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. Its population in (1999) was 6,964 and in the région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. The inhabitants are called the 'Sisteronnais'.
It is situated on the banks of the River Durance just after the confluences of the rivers Buech and Sasse. It is sometimes called the 'Porte de la Provence' (The Gateway to Provence) because it is in a narrow gap between two long mountain ridges (Baume/Gache and The Lure/Moulard).
Latitude = 44° 11' 28" North, longitude=05° 56' 50" East
Altitude = 485 metres
Sisteron is served by the A51 autoroute, which now by-passes the town, eliminating it as a notorious 'bottle-neck' for traffic. However the A51 autoroute from Grenoble has not been completed and so on Saturdays in July there are very severe traffic jams from Grenoble to Monestier until 2007. There is also a railway station on the line from Marseille to Briançon and to Grenoble.
Parking is generally easy and cheap. After that, just walk about. There is a tractor which tows a train of carriages up to the Citadelle for those who prefer not to walk up. It starts in the square by the mairie (Hotel de Ville).
The town has several important buildings including the mediaeval citadelle and the small 12th century cathedral. Many tourists also visit the town because of its climate (300 days of sunshine each year), its quaint narrow streets and the beautiful surrounding countryside. There is an annual festival with many events throughout the summer months and a market every Wednesday.
The beautiful surrounding countryside have many opportunities for walking. A long distance walk, the GR 6 (Grande Randonnée) passes east-west through Sisteron. There is a large artificial lake near the river slightly south-east of the town centre with a free, spacious lido which has many pleasant facilities. The river at the Gorge de Meouge (about 10km north west of the town) is another good place to swim and sun-bathe on the rocks.
The airfields at Vaumeilh, Motte du Caire and Château-Arnoux-Saint-Auban are major centres for the sport of gliding. Climbers, rafters, canoeists and canyoners also use the local mountains and streams extensively. The Tourism Office in the marie can provide information about other local activities such as riding. In winter there are skiing resorts within easy range (less than an hour).
'Pieds and paquets' (sheep's feet and tripe) follows the French policy of eating the entire animal. However the 'fougasse' (like an anchovey flavoured pizza) is highly recommended. The Hirondelle Patisserie near the top of Rue Droite is another must, including probably the best tartes aux framboises (raspberry tarts) in France.
The best restaurants in the town are: Les Becs Fins and the Hotel de Cours, but there are many other reasonable places such as Hotel de la Citadelle, Ratelier, Hotel du Tivoli and Lou Pebre. Hotel des Chenes to the north of town is also good. The nearest starred Michelin restaurant is the Bonne Etape at Château-Arnoux-Saint-Auban but its offshoot next door called Au Gout de Jours is much better value.
You might just wish to give the restaurants a miss, however, and stop at the wood-oven pizza cart in the parking lot in the center of town to partake of the best 4-cheese pizza known to mankind. The secret is the amazing local cheeses used on the pie.
Bars are not a major feature; most drinking is done while eating. The local wines: Cotes de Luberon & Pierre Vert are highly drinkable. Rosé wines are excellent from the South of France and deservedly do not suffer from the 'Mateus' image prevalent in Britain.
The Hotel du Rocher provides good basic accommodation and there is an inevitable Ibis just to the north of the town. Hotel du Cours is probably the best hotel in the town, though the Bonne Etape also has accommodation. Hotel des Chenes to the north of town is medium priced.
Rue Sauniere contains a selection of shops selling local souvenirs such as pottery, art, lavender honey, nougat and other local produce.
The outlying region is on the edge of the Alps and has magnificent scenery. Places such as Manosque, Dignes les Bains and Gap are interesting enough for brief visits. The Grand Canyon de Verdon is a large gorge which can be driven round or pedaloed through. The Lac de Serre Poncon is a large artificial lake with many watersports. Not far to the south are the famous towns of Provence such as Aix and Avignon.
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Malangali, Tim Sandell, Evan Prodromou and Tom Holland, Episteme
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