When in Provence ..... hilltop villages in the Petit Luberon

Today is a bit of a monster blog. Either that, or our 1 week in Provence will turn into 4 weeks of blogs! So, today I am taking you on a tour of the hilltop villages in the Petit Luberon. I’ve already showed you Oppède-le-Vieux (click here).

Driving east from Oppède, the next town on the winding road was Ménerbes, a beautiful, quiet medieval village made famous (in fact, more famous than it really wanted to be!) when English writer Peter Mayle settled just outside of town and wrote his best-sellers about life in Provence (see here). Our first stop in town was for supper at one of the local restaurants, Café Veranda (but more about that later). Walking around town, it is (again!) the beautiful views (this time both to the south and to the north) that amazed us. On another occasion we also visited a wine farm just outside Ménerbes, Domaine de la Citadelle with an interesting corkscrew museum. It is a private collection with over one thousand pieces from all over the world.



About 7km’s east is Lacoste, a town with a bit of an infamous history. The Marque of Sade, who gave us the word “sadism” was a the owner of the Lacoste castle and his lifestyle probably made the town slightly livelier then than it is today . We found the town to be extremely sleepy and we were a bit surprised to see that the town is totally devoid of all the touristy shops you find in the other towns. Their Café de France must surely have one of the best views in all of France, so maybe we were just lucky and saw something amazing off the beaten track. (On the photos below – Just look at the house with its own boules court and table outside – what a view!!)

Travel only another 7km’s and you will reach Bonnieux, a fortified village from 972 AD. This town has much more village life going on than in the other towns, with many restaurants and cafes. We had an amazing supper at the beautiful Le Fournil. If you ever find yourself in the Luberon, this restaurants’ charming courtyard, or rather little village square with the old stone fountain in the middle, is the perfect location for a long lazy lunch. Just remember to book in advance and ask to be seated outside.

As you drive around the Luberon, you come across many wineries with a tasting room where you can try out the wine, chat to their sommelier or wine maker and buy to bring home (or for immediate consumption!). We visited Château la Canorgue on the Route du Pont Julien, just outside Bonnieux. With views of both Bonnieux and Lacoste in the distance, one can see why this farm was chosen as the location for the movie, A Good Year. 

And talking about the movie, we also drove through the beautiful Combe de Lourmarin that cuts across the mountains from Bonnieux and Lourmarin and ended up in Cucuron. The town is famous for its beautiful pond in the main square (called a bassin). Towering above, are 200 year old plane trees, putting the bassin and square in shade, perfect for a lunch in the summer time at one of the restaurants next to the water. 


Reading Peter Mayle’s first book, my husband summed it up rather sarcastically as “drive 5km, have lazy liquid filled lunch, siesta, drive 5km in another direction, have dinner, sleep, repeat the next day.” Well, you can make the Luberon into one big gastro-tour if you want, but what happened once we were there is that we now get it: within 40km across of French countryside lies a world that is way too beautiful to be appreciated at anything less than a slow pace.

Image credits: All photography by me

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