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Return to the Luberon

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
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#1
By Doug Phillips from Ontario, Fall 2007
A 10-day return visit to the south of France, following 12 days in Italy and two days in Paris with our two sons.

This trip report was originally posted on SlowTrav.

Return to the Luberon

In September 2007, my Beautiful Wife (BW) and I did something that we had never done on our previous visits to the Algarve in 2002, Tuscany in 2004, Provence in 2005 or Paris in 2006.

We returned to the same location for the second time. We had spent two weeks at Mas de Brianconçeu, between Menerbes and Lacoste, in the Luberon part of Provence in September 2005 and enjoyed our experience tremendously (see my earlier trip report, Footloose in Provence and Paris). We had tentative plans to return the following year. However, most happily, one of our two daughters got married in May 2006 and our travel plans had been limited to a week in Paris in October (see my earlier trip report, A Traveler in Paris) – but 2007 for sure.

We had hoped to return to Mas de Brianconçeu for another two weeks, but by the time I was ready to do the booking, the owner, Josiane Deflaux, informed me that only the first week was available. So our return visit to the Luberon was limited to 10 days, with the last three at Auberge du Presbytere in Saignon, thanks to a recommendation from Kathy Wood.

The first part of September was spent in Rome Italy with Steve and Brad, our two sons (see my earlier trip report, Roman Holiday). After two days in Paris, the four of us took the RER train out to Charles de Gaulle airport and went our separate ways. Steve and Brad had to return home to Canada, while BW and I took the TGV to Avignon. I had booked and printed our train tickets a couple of months earlier at my computer back home in Canada. We got two return PREM tickets for €100 – a great bargain.

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Mas de Briançonceu
 
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Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
#2
Saturday September 15 – La Vendange; L’Arôme in Bonnieux

We arrived in the Luberon during the vendange, the annual grape harvest. What that meant for us initially, in practical terms, was that after we left the N100 on our way from the Avignon TGV station in our rental Audi A3 (an upgrade!) we had to stop a few times as grapes were being unloaded near a cave or moved along the narrow roads at a rather leisurely pace. And for the rest of the week, we sometimes had to navigate around a tractor and wagon or another vehicle or piece of machinery on the narrow laneway into our rural gîte. We looked forward to a one-week return visit to Mas de Brianconçeu after our time in Rome. The setting is peaceful and rustic; the accommodations spacious and well-equipped; and the views from our windows, porch and hilltop are great. After moving in and having a quick look around we drove about 15 minutes over to the Auchan supermarket in Cavillon to stock up for the week.

Valley of the Petit Luberon

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-KJ9LIJHIk

In the supermarket, I notice several Muslim families out doing their shopping and the meat department advertising several items as Halal. I wonder why there are so many Muslims in Cavaillon and how recent is the influx, forgetting many of the first person accounts I have read about the agricultural labour force in the south of France over the past few decades.

In the late afternoon Josiane Deflaux came over to explain a few things before she left for her nursing job. Josiane is part of the much-lauded health care system in France. She works every second week doing home visits to families in the area. I mentioned the progress I had noticed on the construction of their new cave, which was only in the discussion stage a couple of years ago. She explained the various stages of the project – and that it would include an apartment for their Moroccan workers. The same family has been coming from North Africa to the Luberon for the past 30 years to work for the Deflaux family during the growing season. Of course, I had read about how common this practice was – I just didn’t put it together with the Muslims in the Auchan supermarket. Sometimes I don’t think I’m very bright.

In the evening we drove over to Bonnieux and our dinner reservations at L’Arôme, a new restaurant recommended by Kathy Wood. After some difficulty finding the restaurant in the small perched village, we drove right past it at least once, but couldn’t read the vine-shrouded sign in the fading light, we enjoyed a very good meal at an outside table. Fortunately, I had made reservations a few weeks earlier before we left Canada. The restaurant was full, the staff was friendly and helpful and very busy. We chose from the Menu at €28. Our meal included Flan d’aubergine, Tomato de ton (Aspic with feta and tomato sherbet), Riable de Lapereau and Dorade, Fruite mousse and Sorbet. With two kir (vin blanc) a 50cl bottle of Chateau La Canorge and two cafés, l'addition was €95.

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L'Arôme Restaurant in Bonnieux
 
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Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
#3
Sunday September 16 – Coustellet and Lourmarin

The weather is perfect! We enjoyed our breakfast on the porch in the warm, still and beautiful morning with only the sound of a few nearby chickens to break the silence. We even have a guest – the family cat likes to sun himself on our porch. He is usually there most days, both early in the morning and in the late afternoon.

While Sunday in the Luberon usually means a visit to the large and popular market at L’Isle Sur la Sorgue, we have found the nearby market at Coustellet to be a very practical alternative so that’s where we headed mid-morning. The market was bustling and yet people had time to stop and chat about their wares. We especially enjoyed our conversation with the gentleman selling woven reed bags. We had bought one two years earlier. It came in handy in France and I use it constantly back in Canada. It is still in very good condition, but I wanted to buy another one. When I mentioned our previous visit he took a couple of minutes to explain how he runs his business – the source of the raw materials (Morocco), his added value component, his work-schedule and the different features of some of his products. Our conversation was conducted entirely in French, which presented a real challenge to my very rusty and inadequate language skills.

Other purchases included a poulet fermier for our dinner, and several fruit and vegetable selections for the week, as well as fromages, olive oil and tapenades. While I got my straw bag early in our time at the market, BW was attracted to another type of bag, when we came upon a lady selling cork bags that she designs and makes. Again, she took time to show us all her products and explained how she gets the cork from Portugal and turns it into a finished product.

Over to the beautiful village of Lourmarin for lunch. We sat at an outside table at Café Gaby. We were looking over the menu when the couple next to us recommended one of the daily specials – daube. And that’s how we met Claude and Monique and their dog. We spent the next hour and a half in conversation with this retired insurance agent and his wife. Like most insurance people, Claude was very personable and chatty – and like many wives, Monique came to his aid several times. We learned a lot of their personal history, including their families’ difficulties during the war. My French-language skills were improving rapidly. Following lunch, we walked through the village and spent some time looking over the goods for sale at the brocante in the main square.

Leaving Lourmarin, we drove over to Lacoste, found the location of our get together (GTG) on Monday evening just outside the village, parked our car and walked around the tiny village, the site of many renovations and restorations by Pierre Cardin. On our way back to our gîte, we discovered a short-cut which made the GTG on Monday even closer. When we pulled out of the lane way of our gîte, I always had to check on the left for any vehicles. There never have been, and now I know why. The small road on the left joins up with the road over to Lacoste, just before Abbe St. Hillaire. But it is likely only used by a few locals who live along the road – and from now on we use it most days.

Dinner again on our porch with some of our Coustellet market purchases and a bottle of wine, Domaine des Cancélades, from the grapes surrounding our apartment.

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At the Coustellet market
 
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Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
#4
Monday, September 17 - Oppede-le-Vieux; GTG at Domaine de Layaude Basse

How difficult is it to fill a day in the Luberon?

The only correct answer is, “Not very.”

The evenings are a bit cool but the early morning sun in mid-September warms the air sufficiently to make breakfast on the porch a habit. Two years previously, we had driven past signs for the nearby Oppede-le-Vieux daily, but had never turned down that road. I thought it might make a brief stop in the late afternoon on our way back to our gîte. BW suggested we go there first – an excellent idea! Our visit to Oppede-le-Vieux took up most of the morning and included a long climb to the top of the ruins, which provided spectacular views of this part of the Luberon, including the barren top of Mont Ventoux in the distance.

The story of Oppede-le-Vieux is a microcosm of much of the history of the Luberon itself – including the destructive effects of the wars of religion a few centuries ago, a long decline and abandonment, then revival in the years around and after World War II – although in Oppede-le-Vieux the obvious question “What happened here?” reflects the much slower pace of recovery of the village compared to most of its neighbours. Well worth a visit. We paused for a café in a village restaurant before driving over to Roussillon. We had visited Roussillon two years previously, but spent most of our time walking through the remains of the ochre quarries. The economy of the village, like that of Gordes, appears to be almost totally dependent on tourism and, again similar to Gordes, it is a very attractive place to spend a few hours on a warm September afternoon.

Back in the late afternoon before the short (5.5km) drive over to the Slow Travel GTG at Domaine de Layaude Basse. In April we had driven over 900 miles from our home in Eastern Ontario to the Slow Travel weekend GTG in Brevard North Carolina – and here we are in the south of France, just a few minutes from our next GTG. About half the group were taking part in Kathy Wood’s Luberon Experience. It was nice to talk to them and also meet fellow Slow Travelers Jerry, Mimi, Kathy and Ed for the first time. In addition to Kathy and Charley Wood, there was one more familiar face at the GTG – Kevin Widrow who runs Mas Perreal and is a frequent and valued contributor to the ST France forum.

We had to dine indoors as the evening featured lightning, strong winds and much-needed rain. Back to our gîte by 11:00pm.

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Kathy Wood and BW at the GTG
 
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Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
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#5
Tuesday, September 18 - Bonnieux to Aix and Back Again; Il Fait du Vent

Our GTG last night was turning out to be much more expensive than just the price of the meal. This morning BW wanted to visit two stores in Bonnieux that were the subject of some of her conversations last evening. First up was the ceramics shop of Christine Denniel and the search for a necklace she admired (coveted?) from across the table. She bought one, but inquired about a different colour in the same style. There were none in the store, but a quick phone call turned up one at a store in Roussillon. Instead of sending us over to buy it ourselves, Christine's husband offered to drive over and get it over lunch – so we agreed to return later in the day.

Over to Aix, again following the excellent directions in Bob & Sue Winn’s book which proved so useful two years previously. Lunch on the beautiful Cours Mirabeau, then taking care of some personal business while BW spent time in some of the stores. Before leaving Aix we walked up the hill past our parking garage and visited L’Atelier Cezanne, the last studio of the artist. In 2005 we had arrived at the studio just as it was closing and were determined to get there this time. However, we were quite disappointed as, aside from one room, there wasn’t much to see. Recommended only for highly enthusiastic fans of Cezanne.

Back to Bonnieux with a stop at the large retail cave of Chateau Beaulieu on the way. The weather had turned windy and very cool by the time we made it to the small Aux Doigts de Fées at 3 Rue République in Bonnieux, another shop that was part of the discussion at the previous evening’s GTG. “Il fait du vent,” I said on entering – the first time I’ve had an opportunity to use that sentence since Grade 9 French classes a bit more than a few years ago. After exchanging many euros for a couple of small packages, we returned to Christine Denniel’s to pick up our additional purchases from the morning.

Dinner at our gîte, with meat and vegetables from the Coustellet market and wine from Chateau Beaulieu. Make sure that all the windows are closed and latched to keep the howling winds outside at bay.

The next time I see Kathy Wood, I must thank her for directing BW to some of the nicer shops in Bonnieux.

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Bonnieux, with its distinctive two church spires
 
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Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
#6
Wednesday, September 19. A Fine Day in Nîmes

Cool weather early in the morning – “un petit mistral” according to Josiane.

Today, we ventured a short distance out of Provence over into Languedoc-Roussillon and the city of Nîmes, approximately 88 kms from our gîte. Good directions from one of our guidebooks took us into the centre of the city and an underground parking garage a short walk from the elliptical Roman amphitheatre. The amphitheatre, of the first or second century AD, is the best-preserved Roman arena in France and is one of the three main attractions of Nîmes. Our admission ticket to the amphitheatre included an excellent audio guide that, along with the gladiator and bull-fighting display rooms, extended our visit to over two hours. Then over to the Maison Carrée. The exterior views of structure are the main reason for a visit. Inside is a 22-minute 3D film about the history of Nîmes – OK, but you could easily skip it. We never made it to the third main site, the Tour Magne (Great Tower), the ruins of a Roman tower.

To the casual, first-time visitor, Nîmes is a lot like Aix and other small cities in the region – a beautiful southern city with a large, young, university-aged population, a vibrant economy, well-preserved historical features and an immaculate setting. For a Canadian visitor, accustomed to the ravages wreaked on small towns far from the main centres of commerce, it is hard to believe that such a beautiful city has survived in a provincial area.

Café across from the amphitheatre on arriving and a late lunch in the Place de Marche after walking through Vieux Nîmes.

Back to our gîte by 6:30pm after stopping at the Auchan supermarket in Cavaillon to fill up the gas tank and buy some salmon for supper. It may sound a bit odd and very unimportant, but I am most comfortable getting fuel, gasolio, at the Auchan supermarket in Cavaillon. It is self-service, which keeps the price down a bit and you pay an attendant on the way out without having to get out of the car. Light plastic gloves are provided to keep the fuel off your hands. At other self-serve stations, I sometimes have difficulty following the written instructions, and when the pump starts talking to me, I give up and drive on.

In addition to the salmon, our dinner meal included fresh bread, basilic tapenade, olive oil, freshly-picked grapes, old cheese, the last of the vegetables from the Coustellet market, and a 2006 white wine from Domaine des Cancélades. Delicious.

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Maison Carrée in Nîmes
 
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Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
#7
Thursday September 20 - Cassis and the Calanques

Another day trip, this time over to Cassis, but not until we inadvertently end up driving around Marseille Centre Ville. As we drove into Cassis, we decided to park the car partway down the hill - a five-minute walk to the water (10 minutes going back up we discovered later). We arrived within a few minutes of the departure of a calanques tour, so we bought our tickets and stepped aboard for the 65-minute excursion of five of the inlets near Cassis. There are many options available. Next time I think I would like to be dropped off in one of the calanques for a few hours and enjoy the beautiful setting and scenery as well as an opportunity to go swimming in the Mediterranean.

Calanque

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pju40oynwOg

Following the tour we had an inexpensive lunch at a quayside snack bar, then walked along the beach to the edge of the breakwater where we were rewarded with an entertaining and amazing sight. A class of very young schoolchildren was getting ready to go sailing. The children eagerly dragged their small crafts into the water where they were tied together. Zodiacs towed the group out into the open water off Cassis in two lines of sailboats. How cute I thought - like a pony ride at a fair - giving the children the illusion of sailing without any of the risks of actually doing it . . . wrong again. About a mile offshore the boats stopped, but instead of turning around and heading back to the harbour, the small sailboats were all untied. The children were set loose to sail in a large oval out in the open sea. How about trying to get that in the Grade 4 Phys Ed curriculum at your local school?

For dinner we drove back over to Bonnieux and a return visit to L’Arôme. In contrast to our first visit, the restaurant was less than half full and we sat at an inside table. Most happily, our second meal was just as enjoyable as our first one and included a bottle of Chateau de Mille 2003, which BW sampled enthusiastically and often. The time we chose mainly from the à la carte side of the menu. L'addition was €108.50.

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Quayside in Cassis
 
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Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
#8
Friday September 21 - Menerbes, Gordes & GTG with BCBrenda

Early in the morning I walked all the way up to the top of the terraced hillside behind our gîte and was rewarded with a beautiful view of the valley of the Petit Luberon mountain in the distance with Menerbes part-way up the slopes on the far right. I love looking out of our window in the morning. BW suggests that I take a photo, blow it up, frame it and hang it on a wall at home. Hmmm - not a bad idea, but for now I just use the view as the background on my mobile phone.

We haven't spent much time in Menerbes in our two visits to the Luberon, even though we look at it every day. So today we made the short drive down into the valley and back up to Menberbes. We parked near a restaurant and walked around the very quiet streets for almost an hour without finding any reason to stay longer before heading over to the Gordes for a brief shopping excursion and an outrageously-priced café - extortion in the words of British tourists at the next table. The restaurant was the one featured in the scenic, but mostly disappointing, Russell Crowe movie "A Good Year."

Fortunately, the shopping excursion in Gordes had to be cut short as we had another much-anticipated GTG to attend. BCBrenda and I had arranged to meet for lunch at Maison Gouin in Coustellet. There were six of us at an all-Canadian GTG. Brenda & Bill and Ken & Irene (Happy Camper on ST) and BW & I enjoyed a long lunch, good food, great conversation, a very reasonable l'addition (€13.50 per person), and we took time to tour the wine cellar. A recommended restaurant and the GTG was a highlight of our time in the Luberon.

After lunch we drove over to Chateau La Canorgue for some wine purchases, with a stop in Bonnieux for bread, meat and vegetables for dinner. Back to our gîte where we read and relaxed on our porch in the warm sun of this most beautiful day.

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Brenda, Bill, BW, Ken & Irene - the all-Canadian GTG in Coustellet
 
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Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
#9
Saturday September 22 - Fontaine-de-Vaucluse; Auberge du Presbytere in Saignon

Today was moving day. We left Mas de Brianconçeu around 10:30am. I will miss the great views, and the fresh figs and grapes available a few steps from our porch. We knew there was an excellent market in Apt on Saturdays and a very popular one in L'Isle sur la Sorgue on Sundays, but we decided to visit L'Isle sur la Sorgue on a non-market day. We found plenty of parking, ample seating in all the cafés and restaurants, and plenty of room to stroll around the quiet streets and visit all the open shops at leisure - quite a contrast from our previous visits to the town on market days. We arrived in Apt mid-afternoon, just as the last of the market vendors were packing their vans and the street cleaners were going about their business of tidying up after the bustle of the earlier part of the day.

In between, we visited the medieval village of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, situated in an attractive setting at the headwaters of the Sorgue river. The fading charms of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse were evident in the sparse number of visitors. Unfortunately, the long warm summer had dried up the main attraction - the unique sight of a river gushing up out of the ground. We walked along a pathway to the river's source, then retraced our steps back through the village, pausing in a few tourist shops and walking by several restaurants. There was nothing of interest to keep us there.

When we arrived in Apt in the afternoon, our first stop was at the retail outlet of Chateau de Mille where we bought a few bottles of the excellent wine we had enjoyed at L’Arôme in Bonnieux.

After a stroll through the almost deserted streets of Apt on a Saturday afternoon, we drove through the town and over and up to the small village of Saignon. This village is perched at the top of a hill behind a large rock (Rocher de Bellevue) which dominates the valley. There are two ways to approach Saignon from Apt. One is along a long sloping road (think of a slalom ski course) at the edge of Apt; the other is up a steep and twisting series of hairpin curves (think of a downhill course) a couple of kilometres farther on. For the first and last time, we chose the second option.

I had booked a room at the auberge several months previously with an email request followed by a telephone conversation with the new owner, Gerhard Rose, a couple of days later. There was only one room available, the rest were already booked by a tour group. Gerhard offered me the opportunity of choosing any of the 16 rooms described on the website. I selected Bleue mainly because of the views from the private terrace, an excellent choice, which provided a spectacular view of the valley and distant hills, even if it was on the thirrd floor (deuxième étage) of the auberge. The photo on this page shows BW enjoying a glass of wine on our terrace.

Gerhard and the rest of the staff at the auberge provided excellent, friendly service. Our room was very nice, highlighted by the terrace. The common area included free Internet service. You also don't need a clock to know the time. The bells of the very nearby 12th century church start ringing, on the hour and half-hour, at 8:00am.

We had two meals at Auberge du Presbytere - dinner on our first evening and breakfast the next morning. While the dinner was OK, we made other choices for our next two evenings. Breakfast was excellent, but the second morning we were there we didn't want to indulge in such a large meal and walked a few steps to the small café run by Christine Thomas.

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Terrace of the chambre Bleue at L'Auberge du Presbytere
 
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Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
#10
Sunday, September 23 - Rocher de Bellevue; Saignon wedding; L'Isle sur la Sorgue

Only two days left. Early in the morning we walked up to the top of Rocher de Bellevue and were rewarded with panoramic 360 degree views of the valley all around us. Well worth the effort if you're in Saignon.

For the second day in a row we drove over to L'Isle sur la Sorgue, but this time the village was packed and bustling as the very popular Sunday market was underway. By a happy coincidence I ran into Kathy Wood and another group of her Luberon Experience travelers.

Back to Saignon in the afternoon where we enjoyed watching a very festive wedding crowd outside the church that dominates the village.

Wedding in Saignon

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZszCgiOUp8

Dinner for the third time at L’Arôme in Bonnieux. We drove over to Bonnieux along the top of a ridge without having to descend into a valley and climb back up again - a rather unusual experience among so many perched villages in the Luberon. At L’Arôme we shared a room with Kathy's Luberon Experience group and a group of 13 Irish golfers who arrived around 9:00pm and slowed up service for the rest of the evening.

My Scots son-in-law would suggest that "loud" and "boisterous" are redundant adjectives to describe a group of Irish in the presence of strong drink and wine. But they were also a very friendly group. One of their members came over to our table to apologize for the volume they were creating. He also explained that this was an annual golf outing for the group. They own a property in Florida, but also travel to other parts of the world to chase a small round ball. Next year they are coming to Canada - all the way over to Banff, Alberta. Some of the group also took our advice and ordered "magret de canard" which we both enjoyed on our last evening in Bonnieux.

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Saignon, with le Rocher de Bellevue on the left
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
#11
Monday September 24 - Avignon and Apt

Saignon is a very picturesque village, but it is very small with only a boulangerie, a café and a small store very near the Auberge. We had thought about driving over to visit the two villages we could see at either end of the distant ridge from our terrace, but somebody told us they were even smaller than Saignon with less to do or see. Many of the towns in the Luberon are very quiet on Mondays - so we decided to drive over to Avignon. We parked just outside the walls of the city beside the Rhone and spent a few pleasant hours walking along some of the busy streets and enjoy a lunch with the rest of the tourists at a restaurant on La Place de l'Horlogie. We also checked out the location of the TGV station to ease our return journey tomorrow. Good thing we did as the signs to the TGV station are very easy to miss approaching the city.

We had tried to get in touch with Kevin Widrow a couple of times since the GTG a week earlier - but without success until today. We finally met up with him for a brief visit in the late afternoon, while Kevin was in Apt on personal business.

For our final dinner in Provence, we visited Le Plantane (13 Place Jules Ferry, 84400 Apt), a restaurant in the centre of Apt recommended by Kevin. It proved to be charming restaurant with a nice terrace and very reasonable prices. We had made reservations a few days earlier.

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Auberge du Presbytere in Saignon and its much-photographed fountain
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
#12
Tuesday, September 25 - Back to Canada / Comments

Up at 5:30am. We had settled our account with Gerhard the previous evening. When we told him when we would be leaving, he showed us how to unlock the front door of the hotel and let ourselves out. Another first for us.

Arrived at Avignon TGV station with an hour to spare - back to CDG by 12:30, appreciating the changing scenery of the French countryside along the way. Our ZOOM flight arrived back in Canada at 4:20pm at the Montreal airport officially named after Pierre Trudeau, but still known as Dorval to most of us. Our return was the smoothest we've experienced - more than 20 customs officers were on duty to process our plane. Our daughter and son-in-law were there to meet us. John took charge of the luggage and we were back in our home less than three hours later. It's Dorval from now on for us.

Comments

As mentioned earlier, this was the first time we've returned to the same area in our travels. Would we recommend it? We enjoyed the comfort level of driving over familiar territory, revisiting some favourite sites combined with the opportunity of visiting new places. The two GTGs were and added bonus and something I will try to arrange on all our future trips.

We are returning to Provence in June 2008 for an additional two weeks, but we will be based in a different area - in a three-bedroom house in Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc in Drôme Provence. We are joining one of my brothers and his wife and we are traveling for a week with another local couple. We are looking forward to a third visit to Provence and have begun to make plans for a fourth trip in 2009. The south of France is a beautiful part of the world.

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Luberon Experience dinner at L'Arôme in Bonnieux
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
#13
Top 11 Reasons to Visit Provence
  1. Bonnieux, Roussillon, Gordes, Ansouis, Lacoste, Menerbes, Saignon and other villages perchés
  2. Apt, Aix, Vaison La Romaine, Coustellet, L'Isle Sur La Sorgue, among other communities feature excellent markets. And they're not all alike. Many more than one are worth a visit
  3. Small cities like Aix, Arles, Avignon, Nîmes. OK, I know Nîmes isn't in Provence, but it's close enough
  4. The landscape inspired Van Gogh and Cezanne. It should be good enough for most of us
  5. The warm sun, bright blue skies, gentle breezes and moderating effect of the Mediterranean all help to create a most pleasant climate. And when you get tired of so much nice weather, the cold, strong northwesterly wind of the mistral blows through the region.
  6. Food, from the warm, fresh fruits of vines and trees - to olive oil, tapenade and fromages in the markets - canard, lapereau, daube and other menu selections in the restaurants
  7. Rosé, blanc, rouge wine. In James Joyce's Ulysses, Milo Bloom considers the possibility of walking across Dublin without passing a pub - but soon realizes that is an impossibility. It's a bit like that in Provence with vineyards and caves where you can purchase wine. And while generally lightly regarded by wine experts, wines of the region are quite enjoyable and are very good value especially when purchased at the source.
  8. The people. There must be some unpleasant individuals somewhere in Provence, but we've never met any
  9. Sites like Les Baux, Oppede-le-Vieux, the Roman arch and amphitheatre in Orange, the arena in Arles, Pont du Gard make the history of the region accessible and engaging - no museums or dry-as-dust texts needed here
  10. Cassis and the calanques
  11. And don't forget, Provence is in France, a most appealing and attractive country. To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, the French are different from you and me. They know how to live better.
Print Resources

We took two books and one map. There may be plenty more, but we can recommend the following:
  • Provence Byways : Guidebook to the Luberon Region of Provence by Bob and Sue Winn. Includes daytrips with road maps, restaurant and wine guide, maps of Aix and Arles
  • Provence and the Côte d'Azur by Andrew Sanger. Thomas Cook, 2003
  • Provence Insight Fleximap, 2003. Includes city maps of Aix, Avignon and Arles
While we left our copy at home this time, we can also highly recommend: Markets of Provence : A Culinary Tour of Southern France, Text by Dixon Long, Recipes by Ruthanne Long. New York : Collins, 1996.

I also enjoyed reading the following vintage titles before we left. All were purchased from online sellers.
  • Things Seen in Provence by Captain Leslie Richardson. London : Seeley, 1929. Part of the "Things Seen in ..." series
  • Provence by Marcel Brion. London : Nicholas Kaye, 1956. Includes many great photos and a map. This is the English edition
  • Old Provence by Theodora Andrea Cook. New York : Charles Scribner's, 1911. Two volumes, originally published in 1905, small format. These volumes provide an insight into Provence's history and architecture, and also its literary and cultural significance, including Petrarch and Mistral. Vol. 1 is particularly recommended
  • The Joyous Adventures of Aristide Pujol by William J. Locke. New York : John Lane, 1912. A companion piece to Cook's Old Provence, this is a light-hearted fictional account of life in several Provençal towns and villages. Fun. Highly recommended
  • Play in Provence by Elizabeth Robins Pennell, drawings by Joseph Pennell. New York : Century, 1892. Set mainly in Arles, Nîmes and Tarascon and along the banks of the Rhone, this lively account of "play" in Provence is complimented by many sketches
Resources
1417-13-IMG_2339.jpg

A narrow street in Saignon
 

Kathy

100+ Posts
#14
@Doug, I really enjoyed reading your report of your second trip to the Luberon all those years ago now... to see the area through your eyes, and especially to find myself passing through your story in several places! That GTG involved our 5th Luberon Experience group... and now we've had more than 50 groups. And our Bonnieux apartment (which became part of our story in December 2012) is just a few steps across the little street from the L'Arome restaurant that you enjoyed so much.

Perhaps you'll come to the Luberon again one of the years... it would be fun to meet up again.

Kathy
 

Parigi

100+ Posts
#15
Doug: I love your report. I love your writing. I think I'll love your report on a parking lot.

On a more serious note, the distance in time reminds me of some of the ups and downs and ups of this corner of France where we return nearly every year.

Saignon
The enchanting Auberge du Presbytère is no more. I was lucky to have been staying in a house down the street from it in Saignon. The entire village used to gather in the Auberge bar quite naturally every night for a night cap before turning in. The patron was welcoming and gracious. Little could we have guessed that in less than a year he would close the place for good.
(Gone too is that lovely ivy-clad 3-sstorey house we rented in Saignon, which the landlord has decided to rent out long term. All dreapy memories)

Coustellet
We used to love the Coustellet market, so much more authentic that Isle sur la Sorghe.
But last summer when we were staying in Bonnieux, we found Bonnieux's long-time faithful general store has improved greatly in itsi produce and other fresh products. We went on a strict cherry diet, with cherry from the general store, plus the pre-seasoned lamb grillade and herb-stuffed sausage from the village butcher. -- We could have stayed in Bonnieux and not left it the entire week.

Nîmes
We love Nîmes. In our annual trip to Collioure, we always stop there - and Pèzenas - for a weekend each.
We will be meeting Freda in Nîmes for a weekend this September.

Your report also reminds me of the friends I have made through Slowtrav. There is Kevin Widrow who, if he reads this, will be furious with me because he has forbade me from eating cherries down there other than cherries from his garden.
I have even gone on wonderful trips with some fellow slowtravellers, including a great Basque country trip with Freda. And Shannon and I have celebrated our birthdays - one day apart - 4 times (!), in Paris, in Brittany, in Collioure, and most recently,, in Barcelona.

The Slowtrav bunch is a Moveable Feast.
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
#16
@Doug, I really enjoyed reading your report of your second trip to the Luberon all those years ago now... to see the area through your eyes, and especially to find myself passing through your story in several places! That GTG involved our 5th Luberon Experience group... and now we've had more than 50 groups. And our Bonnieux apartment (which became part of our story in December 2012) is just a few steps across the little street from the L'Arome restaurant that you enjoyed so much.

Perhaps you'll come to the Luberon again one of the years... it would be fun to meet up again.

Kathy
The south of France is still my favourite part of the world. I tell myself that I should go back soon (I'll be 73 this August). We are taking our grandson to Paris for a week in May - he's in Grade 5 French immersion at school, but that's likely it for this year. I have a sister who has recently relocated to Sydney, Australia. I never thought I would get there, but of course now it's very tempting. Perhaps the south of France in the fall of 2020 - or sometime in 2021 at the latest. When picking a time I'll check with you. I've enjoyed our interactions with your family - hope we can meet again.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
#17
Doug: I love your report. I love your writing. I think I'll love your report on a parking lot.

On a more serious note, the distance in time reminds me of some of the ups and downs and ups of this corner of France where we return nearly every year.

Saignon
The enchanting Auberge du Presbytère is no more. I was lucky to have been staying in a house down the street from it in Saignon. The entire village used to gather in the Auberge bar quite naturally every night for a night cap before turning in. The patron was welcoming and gracious. Little could we have guessed that in less than a year he would close the place for good.
(Gone too is that lovely ivy-clad 3-sstorey house we rented in Saignon, which the landlord has decided to rent out long term. All dreapy memories)

Coustellet
We used to love the Coustellet market, so much more authentic that Isle sur la Sorghe.
But last summer when we were staying in Bonnieux, we found Bonnieux's long-time faithful general store has improved greatly in itsi produce and other fresh products. We went on a strict cherry diet, with cherry from the general store, plus the pre-seasoned lamb grillade and herb-stuffed sausage from the village butcher. -- We could have stayed in Bonnieux and not left it the entire week.

Nîmes
We love Nîmes. In our annual trip to Collioure, we always stop there - and Pèzenas - for a weekend each.
We will be meeting Freda in Nîmes for a weekend this September.

Your report also reminds me of the friends I have made through Slowtrav. There is Kevin Widrow who, if he reads this, will be furious with me because he has forbade me from eating cherries down there other than cherries from his garden.
I have even gone on wonderful trips with some fellow slowtravellers, including a great Basque country trip with Freda. And Shannon and I have celebrated our birthdays - one day apart - 4 times (!), in Paris, in Brittany, in Collioure, and most recently,, in Barcelona.

The Slowtrav bunch is a Moveable Feast.
Thank you for your kind comments. We all owe Pauline a lot for making our Slow Travel world. I still remember when I first came upon the site by accident in 2005. I read some of the discussions & thought that these people sound a lot like me.
 

Kathy

100+ Posts
#19
@Parigi , we fell in love with the Luberon in Saignon... we rented a cottage there back in 2003 and lost our hearts to the area.

We always take our groups to Saignon for a stroll, and it's been sad to see the auberge locked up and that beautiful square so quiet. The year before last, though, Charley talked to someone there who said they were new owners and that they would be re-opening the hotel. And last September, they were re-paving the square.

And look what I just found: https://www.laubergedupresbytere.com/en/

P.S. So glad you enjoy Bonnieux...one of these days hope we can meet up there.

Kathy
 

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