Cooling Down in the Luberon

Cooling Down in the Luberon

July 2017
Provence, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Why not join us on our newest tour in September – Bordeaux and Dordogne

In search of a cool escape, we’ve booked a night at a B & B north of Aix, pre-requisites: a pool and air conditioning! Passing the iconic Provençal village of Gordes on the way, we look forward to returning for dinner – it’s the closest village of any size near Les Jardins d’Eleusis, the B & B we’ve found. We meet the friendly owners, spend an hour or so by the pool, join them and the other guests for an aperitif, then wind our way back on the narrow country roads to Gordes. One of the most well-known Luberon villages, Gordes is often a victim of its own popularity: wall-to-wall visitors, full parking lots and fully booked restaurants and hotels making it difficult to enjoy. But this evening in early July, just a few folks wander the lanes, and a table’s available in the most popular restaurant with views across the valley. La Trinquette, we learn, means to toast – as in “cheers”! And cheered we are, sipping a local rosé along with a delicious dinner, as the lights twinkle on below.Crowned with a massive chateau, hovering over the pale stone homes tumbling below, Gordes is deserving of its award as one of France’s Plus Beaux Villages. It’s a pleasure to leisurely walk through quiet squares and lanes on our way back to the car.
Today will be another scorcher, but it begins with a light sprinkle. We shelter under the broad overhang on our private terrace and get a good start to the day with an abundant breakfast, brought to us on a tray by Stephanie, our hostess, then walk to the nearest hamlet, Murs. From the top we look out over the surrounding fields, peer across the rooftops, take in the immaculate garden of a private chateau, and check out the ancient stone homes, some adorned with old farm implements. It’s lavender season, and that’s one of my must-sees on this jaunt. We’ve read that the nearby village of Lioux boasts a few fields, and a spectacular setting beside a towering cliff, and when we track down the field, we just stand there, letting the fragrance and the beauty flow over us. Walking through the village, we don’t see a soul…but DO spy a few photo-worthy corners. The door to this ivy-covered church is open and we pause in the quiet space before snapping the town hall…where IS everybody? Maybe it’s just a film set?
On the way to Joucas, our next stop, we find another purple expanse then move along to the village since it’s lunch time.
Sculptors have left their mark in Joucas…from the parvis of the church to the vineyards and orchards below. An atelier is tucked beside a lane – keep walking, what we will find next? The stone paths are almost as intriguing as the houses lining them.
Hostellerie des Commandeurs is the most popular place in town, with an inviting terrace – beside a VERY inviting pool. Can we dive in after lunch?  Snails starts us off, and we both choose the fish of the day for our main course. Of course I can’t resist a Café Gourmand for dessert! Our next stop may be the most touristed in Provence today – the crush of huge buses dwarfing a string of crawling cars makes it almost impossible to see. What a difference from the quiet villages we’ve paused at earlier!
It’s the lavender that we, and hundreds of others want to view….we had planned to walk the significant distance from the parking area to the Abbaye de Senanque and it’s signature purple fields, but I chicken out and stay by the car, parked up a hill heading out of the valley, and leave the photo op to Kirk. Yes, it’s gorgeous, but definitely spoiled by the out-of-control buses and crowds on a summer Sunday.
And our next stop is not much better… Fontaine de Vaucluse, home of the mysterious source of the rushing river flowing through town and into the region,proves to be another popular Sunday destination. You’d think that all that water would make it cooler, but I’m nearly fainting from the heat by the time we climb the hill leading to the source….and thinking that I’ll get closer to the chilly stream on our way back down. Aaaaah……I think we’ll stick to lesser-known villages on summer weekends from now on!



A Day in the Luberon

A Day in the Luberon

Easter Week 2017
The South of France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Why not join us on our newest tour in September – Bordeaux and Dordogne

We’re sharing some favorite villages of the lush Luberon region north of Aix with our Aix Easter Festival tour guest today. And as she collects artisanal pottery, we’re seeking out more than just fabulous vistas. At the top of the russet-hued village of Roussillon is a tiny boutique specializing in local ceramics – and now Janice has a few choice pieces that will wing their way to her US home! From atop the Castrum we take in the views – the shocks of red clay amidst the dark green of the pines, a lone poppy in the grass,a chateau nestled far below. It’s a perfect day to take in all the colors of Roussillon. In the parking lot below, market stalls cluster among the surrounding colors. Beside the cliffs, scraped in decades past for their ochre pigments, we pause for lunch, then we’re off to our next village, Lourmarin. On the way we pass Bonnieux, tumbling picturesquely down a hillside – it always demands a photo stop!
After zigagging through the Luberon range, we coast down to Lourmarin, with its elegant chateau, and wander through the peaceful lanes for a bit before returning to Aix.
This evening’s concert is in the historic Jeu de Paume, a restored handball court originally constructed for the entertainment of the nobility in the 1700s. Beneath this elegant ceiling we listen to tenor Mauro Peter sing Schumann, Strauss and Liszt, ably accompanied by Helmut Deutsch on the piano, before completing our day with a Moroccan feast at Le Riad – the best tagines in town!  Our waiter effortlessly pours tea from yards above the cups – that takes some practice, I believe!

One Plus Beaux Village after Another!

One Plus Beaux Village after Another!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Dordogne Villages, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on our newest tour, a Fall Musical Houseparty in France! 

What do you find at a Dordogne market? Foie gras and duck in every imagineable preparation, walnuts – whether liqueur, chocolate covered, candied, local wines…table after table of delicacies, even on a rainy day. Yes, Wednesday is market day in Sarlat, rain or shine. The massive iron doors of the ancient market hall are open – come on in and look around!

The day began with rain, but by the time we arrive at our first Plus Beaux Village of the day, Beynac, the sun’s out.

This special designation of villages began not too far from here in 1982, when the mayor of Collanges-la-Rouge (truly a beauty with its rosy cluster of buildings) was inspired by a Reader’s Digest book about the 100 most beautiful villages in France. He noted the many charming old villages that were falling into decay, many nearly uninhabited, and did not want to lose this valuable and beautiful patrimony of France. So Les Plus Beaux Villages de France was founded, beginning as an association of 66 rural villages, and has since become a hallmark by which visitors can discover some of the most beautiful and off-the-beaten-path sites in France.
In addition to stopping by some of these lovelies, we’re on the hunt for just the right hotel and village for our newest tour.

Isn’t this a pretty one?

But there’s a railroad track just across the parking lot from the hotel, and the village is so sleepy we can’t find an open restaurant or even a bakery!
Outside of town we finally find a restaurant serving lunch – and a delicious one it is! No doubt we’re in duck country….my salad’s loaded with foie gras, duck breast, and duck gizzards – yum!

Following the curves of the river, we pause time and again for a photo – such lush countryside!

Next stop, the historic Château des Milandes, built in the 1400s, and purchased in 1947 by the legendary entertainer Josephine Baker, who provided shelter for Resistance fighters during the war, then used the property as a home for a “Rainbow Tribe”of orphans of various races.

Towering on a nearby hill is the fortress-chateau of Castelnaud, the English strongold of the 100 year war glowering across the river to the French-held chateau of Beynac.

Tucked beside the river, our next Plus Beaux Village is La Roque Gageac,

with church, houses, and even a fort built right into the cliff.

From the riverside, we zigzag up, up and around to Domme, another of the listed beauties of the Dordogne – the region’s FILLED with them! With its ancient market hall in the center,

it’s a short walk to views off every side.

Still in search of just the right hotel, we head south west, and pass a little no-name village that we think would make a good candidate for yet another Plus Beaux Village.

Dozing in the warm afternoon, the lanes are quiet, not a peep or a sight of a soul.

No hotels for us around here…so it’s time to return to our home for the next few days.

We’ve got so much running around to do that we’ve scarcely had time to appreciate this lovely apartment! Such an inviting living room…let’s just sit and enjoy!