CuriousProvence day out with the Luberon Tourism Office
Last month I was invited to attend a day out that was held by the LuberonCoeurduProvence Tourism office. The day was a discovery of well known as well as lesser-known gems of the Luberon. Although the schedule was a secret (I’m not keen on surprises!) I accepted and so glad that I did. If you’re curious, scroll on to see the places we explored.
Merindol – Gateway to the Luberon
Our first stop was in Mérindol, a village right on the eastern edge of the Luberon. It’s a village that I have to admit I’ve often passed but never stopped. Although, I had read about it’s history…
The Vaudois in Mérindol
As in many places in Provence, people have lived here since neolithic times. However, something that stands out in the history of Mérindol is a terrible event that occurred in 1545; Francis I of France ordered the Waldensians of the village of Mérindol to be “punished” for heresy.
These people had previously been welcomed into the village from the Italian Alps for purposes of repopulation and farming the land after a population shortage due to wars and plague. They were part of a very early protestant ascetic movement, and named Waldensians, or the Vaudois.
Mérindol was one of the forty villages in the Luberon that were brought back to life by the Vaudois. However, to condense it immensely, throughout time politics changed. In 1545, Provençal and papal soldiers massacred 2700 Vaudois villagers. If you climb to the very top of the ruins, just in front of the view of the distant Alpilles and Luberon mountains, you can see the memorial. If you’re interested in this history see Les Buoux Ruins.
La Bastide du Grand Tilleul
Forgive me for the sobering start to the day! We then were treated to breakfast at La Bastide du Grand Tilleul in Mérindol. This is a restaurant in a bohemian setting of a courtyard strung with twinkle lights and dominated by a traditional farmhouse. The parental home of the current owners, a local told us that this charming restaurant often has live music and is the heart of the village nightlife!
One of the local products featured at breakfast were juices by Kookabarra. We are absolutely spoiled here in Provence for excellent juices (I will NEVER drink Tropincana again!!) but this one I have to say is really excellent. They are generally a supplier to restaurants, bakeries and hotels so when you see it take advantage!
Next Surprise- our transport showed up as two Citroen Méharis offered by YesProvence. If you’re unfamiliar, this is a car first sold in 1968 until 1987. This plastic (yes, plastic) car is as much a lifestyle car in the south of France as is the 2CV or deux chevau Citroen. Let’s get that wind blowing through our hair!
We took the back roads past olive groves and vineyards to the little village of Vaugines where we had lunch with the mayor at Le P’tite Resto. This restaurant is an absolute gem. It’s located in the small central square of the village that overlooks a mossy fountain and is surrounded by stone buildings with colourful shutters.
This was our menu :
Lavender popcorn with red pepper gazpacho.
Agathes de crabe, fenouil, pamplemousse et orange.
Gambas poêlées, risotto de fregola, légumes et bisque.
Clafoutis d’abricots, glace calisson et crème citronnée.
The menu changes every week here. In order to reserve a table you’ll have to call in advance as many locals make standing reservations to eat here once a week.
A Famous Church
Opposite the entrance to the village you’ll see this charming chapel. Eglise Saint Barthélémy is framed by twelve stunning plane trees (meant to symbolise the apostles). The original church dates from 1004 in the Roman Provencal style. Not only is it beautiful, but this church is also famous. It featured in the wedding scene of Marcel Pagnol‘s Manon des Sources.
The next stop was charming Lourmarin village. Well known, but always worth a visit for the boutiques, galleries, people watching in cafés, and winding medieval streets decorated with tumbling grapevines and roses from the shutters above. Lourmarin is considered one of the official “Plus Beaux Villages de France” (most beautiful villages of France) and with good reason. It’s believed that the name of the village comes from Laurus, a name often given to Roman soldiers that were stationed in the area. The village is located about 45 minutes north of Aix en Provence.
Château de Lourmarin
The renaissance castle of Lourmarin is a visit that I often recommend to my clients when I create personalised itineraries. The castle has a few salons that are decorated in the style of it’s occupancy and a view over the village. There are also many classical music events that happen here during the warmer months. In the summer, you’ll often see sunflowers in the field adjacent to the castle. In winter, grazing donkeys!
Château la Verrerie
Our final stop for our day out in the Luberon was at elegant Château la Verrerie. We first were given a tour of the winery and then tasted their delicious wines in a food and wine pairing (accord mets et vins en Français). Throughout the summer, Sunsets Vignerons en Luberon has been holding events at twenty-eight different vineyards in the Luberon. Each evening has a different gastronomic theme where the wines of the vineyard are paired with different foods in a tasting. Our evening was all about the truffles! The last of these evenings will be on September 8th at both Domaine de la Citadelle in Menerbes and Domaine de la Garelle in Oppede. The theme is spice! You can book online at Luberon Coeur de Provence.
Thank you so much to the Luberon Coeur du Provence Tourism office for inviting me on this day out in the Luberon !