the Luberon, located in the southern part of Provence, France, is filled with small villages that define the charm and beauty of the beloved region. Most are of medieval origin with ancient stone buildings and monuments still intact – and some date back to Roman times in the 3rd and 4th centuries. Town squares where food and flea markets reign; plane trees, olive trees and fig trees line the streets; clusters of ivy climbing the walls of sunny buildings; and the outdoor cafes where you can enjoy espresso and pastis are just some of the features that make these villages so irresistible.
We visited several villages during a weeklong stay in the Luberon last summer and here are four of our favorites.
Lourmarin Castle, originally a 14th century fortress, is the entry point to Lourmarin. The beautiful castle belonged for the last time to the historian and cosmetics magnate Robert Laurent Vibert, who bought it in 1920, luckily saving it from demolition. He then restores the castle in depth, filling it with a treasure of furniture, paintings, engravings, works of art and musical instruments from the 16th to the 19th century. Today it is a museum that exhibits many objects from the owner’s collection. In addition to temporary exhibitions of art and photography, the castle sponsors in summer a festival of classical music for young musicians, which takes place on the open-air grounds.
The famous Friday food and flea market attracts people from all over the region and the large market covers much of the village. Local vendors sell the freshest produce and regional artisan foods, such as local olives and olive tapenade, jams and jellies, and Provence herbs in burlap bags; in summer, bouquets and sachets of the mythical lavender of Provence, honey, wine, bread and pastries, dry sausage. If you want to take home some authentic souvenirs from Provence, choose from stalls that feature plant and flower scented soaps, colorful hand-woven baskets and tote bags, tablecloths, placemats and table cloths. cloth napkins with classic Provencal patterns, pottery and ceramics. The Lourmarin market is open every Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Restaurants and hotels
The Butter Rouche is a rustic restaurant that specializes in roasting meats on a fire pit.
For the best pizza in the village, Pizza Nonni bakes their pizzas in the authentic. wood-fired ovens for maximum flavor.
Bastide de Lourmarin hotel is a four-star hotel in an old Provencal house with 17 rooms and two suites. Room amenities include air conditioning, in-room coffeemakers, private terraces and, in some rooms, a whirlpool tub. There is also a heated outdoor pool and spa services by appointment.
High cliffs of a rich ocher color, contrasting with emerald green forests, are the main attraction of Roussillon. The village has a well marked and easy to walk path which has an old ocher quarry inside a forest. Local stores sell pots of brightly colored pigments for painting.
Stroll through the city to discover the 17th and 18th century buildings painted in ocher, and also visit the art galleries and craft shops that display works of artists and craftsmen who live in the area.
Roussillon has a small, well-stocked food and flea market with 30 stalls and is open every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
In a side of historical anecdotes, playwright and author Samuel Beckett takes refuge in Roussillon for The Second World War when he was in the Resistance. He also referred to Roussillon in his famous play, “Waiting for Godot. “
Restaurants and hotels
The Grape Cluster serves excellent Provencal-style cuisine and has an outdoor terrace with stunning views of the ocher cliffs.
For more casual cuisine with French pastries and dishes like quiches, goat cheese salads and croque monsieur, Café la Poste is on the main street.
The Mas de Roussillon is an old farm building restored as a four bedroom bed and breakfast with comfortably appointed bedrooms and contemporary bathrooms. There is a lovely garden with loungers and chairs and an outdoor swimming pool.
Located at the top of a formidable mountain, Lauris offers a breathtaking view of the Luberon mountain range and Durance valley. As you stroll through the hilly village, you will discover charming houses with shutters painted in red, purple and periwinkle and festooned with ivy and vines and seasonal plants and flowers.
A French garden of an ancient chateau with rows of evenly planted plane trees and a pond is a serene place to relax and also to enjoy the view.
Just outside of Lauris is Silvacane Abbey, a 12th century Cistercian monastery open to the public with remarkable architecture in Gothic and Romanesque style. The abbey also serves as a cultural center which sponsors art exhibitions and concerts.
Restaurants and hotels
Margot’s Table is a smart combination of a home accessories store and a stylish restaurant. The restaurant serves traditional French and international cuisine with seasonal ingredients, such as duck confit, osso bucco, Moroccan lamb tagine with almonds and apricots and tarte Tatin.
The Domaine de Fontenille is a private complex on a wine estate comprising a five-star hotel, a spa and wellness center, two restaurants, a cellar and a vegetable patch and an herb garden which supplies the restaurants. Former noble manor of the 18th century, with only 19 rooms and two suites, Le Domaine de Fontenille pampers its guests in true French luxury. The Field of the Moon is haute cuisine, Michelin-starred restaurant, and the most informal The kitchen has an outdoor terrace shaded by rows of plane trees. The hotel also has an outdoor swimming pool and sauna.
A large basin fed by a spring bordered by imposing 200-year-old plane trees forms the town square, Place de l’Étang, is the culmination of Cucuron. Every Tuesday, the local food market brings together city dwellers and the last weekend of July, flea market at antique shops. The square is also home to many of the city’s best restaurants, cafes and grocery stores, including the best ice cream in the area, The Cooler.
Opposite the square is an ancient stone arch, which was originally the entry point to the village. If you keep going through the gate you will come across a myriad of medieval houses and structures, including the Notre-Dame de Beaulieu Church, the original town hall and the 13th century church. If you continue to climb the hills to the top, you will discover a superb aerial view of the village and the surrounding area.
Restaurants and hotels
The picturesque Hotel de l’Étang, painted on the outside in daffodil yellow with mint green shutters on the town square, has six rooms, some with terraces overlooking the basin and the square.
The hotel also has The little house, a Michelin-starred restaurant with a renowned chef Eric Sapet. The restaurant was popularized by Peter Mayle in his bestseller, “One year in Provence“, which also appeared in the film version, with Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard.
The main stations closest to the above villages are either Avignon or Aix en Provence, both of which are about a 50 to 60 minute drive away. Avignon is three hours from TGV train of Paris and Aix en Provence is three hours and twenty minutes. Both stations have extensive on-site car rental services.
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