Category: Luberon

The Luberon is one of the most popular areas to visit in the south of France — known for its majestic hilltop towns and fields of lavender.

Les Plus Beaux Villages de France

There’s a new obsession running around in my head: “visit as many of France’s ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages‘ as I possibly can.”

So far, I’ve seen only 10 out of some 156 “authentic” Les Plus Beaux Villages. I have a lot of traveling to do.

Les Plus Beaux Villages

There are 156 communities in France with the distinction of being a beaux village. Most are in the Dordogne and Aveyron departments. Vancluse and Lot are next with seven and six beaux villages respectively.

Most Beautiful Villages in France

The designation “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” was borrowed from the Reader’s Digest book of the same name. Charles Ceyrac, mayor of Collonges-la-Rouge, one of the villages featured in the book, believed his village and others like it could be revitalized economically if they joined together and promoted themselves as the most beautiful villages in France.

The criteria for the title was based on (1) the character and population of a village: rural with no more than 2,000 inhabitants; (2) two national heritage sites; and (3) the local council of the municipality must have voted on the application.

In 1981 mayors from 66 villages joined Collonges to form the association.

So far, these are Les Plus Beaux Villages I’ve visited. Click on the name of each village to learn and see more. Enjoy!

Eguisheim

Riquewihr

Domme

La Roque-Gageac

Les Baux-de-Provence

Gordes

Lourmarin

Menerbes

Roussillon

Najac

Yes, I have a lot of traveling to do.

If you have thoughts on the Beaux Villages I shouldn’t miss, please leave a comment. Let’s all go!

 

Provence Holidays

Provence Holidays:The Magical Colors of the Luberon

With tourists heading on their Provence holidays to the Luberon to see lavender fields, Roussillon is along the way with its equally vibrant colors of red, orange and pink. These stories, fact and fiction about the multi-colored town, inform and amuse those who venture there.  

Provence Holidays

The French commune of Roussillon is located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, roughly midway between Avignon and Aix-en-Provence. It is in the heart of one of the biggest ochre deposits in the world — one that extends from Apt to Roussillon via Gargas and Rustrel.

Ochre deposits lend a natural reddish-brown hue to the village of Roussillon, giving the entire area the nickname “Colorodo Provençal”. In Roussillon the ochre facades of the houses vary from light yellow to dark red. Set off by the brightly painted shutters and doors, these houses form a striking contrast against lush green pine trees. To many, Roussillon is one the most beautiful villages in France.

The History of Ochre

Millions of years ago, Roussillon was covered by the sea. When the waters dried up, the area was left with ochre-bearing limestone hills. Like today, stone formations were stained with coloured clays in every conceivable iron oxide pigment from yellow to purple. Ochres, the colored clays found as a soft deposit, were intermingled with pockets of harder crystalline iron ore, in fairly even horizontal layers, of variable thicknesses.Provence Holidays

Fast-forward to 300,000 years ago. Man discovered ochre. The natural pigment with indelible color was used to embellish the caves that man inhabited. Since then ochre has been a coloration for everything from cave paintings, to pottery, to body paint, to tattoos. Proof lies in some French burial sites from 200,000 years ago. They have red ochre floors that are eight inches thick. Also, there are skeletons found at the sites, sprinkled with red powder, making researchers wonder if the powder was remnants of tattoos, applied as funeral rites, or if it was used to mask the odor of death. In any case, only skeletons and red ochre pigment are left in these burial sites.

Ochre quarries

Around the time of the French Revolution the demand for ochre was at an all-time high, due mostly to the textile industry. The industrial process for making ochre pigment was developed by the French scientist Jean-Étienne Astier from Roussillon. He invented a way to produce pigment on a large scale.

Mining ochre in Roussillon intensified. As many as seventeen different shades of dye were manufactured from the local rock. By the end of the 19th century ochre from Roussillon was exported all over the world. It was not only used for artists paints and house paints, it also became an important ingredient for the early rubber, linoleum, paper, and cardboard industries.

Ochre supported the economic base of Roussillon until shortly after World War II, even though mining stopped in the 1930’s to protect the sites from degradation or even complete destruction.The economic crisis of 1929 didn’t help business either. Foreign markets closed down one by one. The industry suffered another hit in the 1950’s. The introduction of synthetic pigments sent the industry into a downward spiral. Ochre production finally stopped mass production in the village in 1958. 

Provence HolidaysOchre is enjoying a much-deserved revival; although only one company in the area still operates. Fortunately for tourists In Roussillon, you can take a walk along the footpath of the Sentier des Ocres and appreciate the beauty of the ochre cliffs. The Conservatoire des Ocres et des Pigments Appliqués is located in one of the factories that fell into disuse over 50 years ago. Inside, tours and lectures are offered to help preserve the important history of ochre and the region. 

Why is Roussillon “Red”? Your Provence Holiday Fable

For those who want to know the real story …

...embellished by the Barefoot Blogger

MSMS6-119.53647Once upon a time there was a lovely young damsel named Sermonde. She was married to the Lord of Roussillon, Raymond d’Avignon. Like many Medieval lords, Raymond loved to hunt. He’d spend weeks on end with his men friends killing wild animals for sport and trophies. He was absent from the château so much, in fact, that Lady Sermonde grew sad and lonely.

She began going out to the local nightspots with her Lady friends. 

One night out on the town, Sermonde met a handsome young troubadour named Guillaume. They fell in love instantly. Soon the Lady and her Troubadour were involved in a torrid affair.Provence Holidays

Everyone in the village knew of the tryst between the Lady and the troubadour. They also knew that when Lord Raymond found out,  he would make the couple pay dearly.

Sooner than later Lord Raymond learned of his wife’s dastardly deception.

Rather than confront her, Lord Raymond suggested Sermonde invite her new friend, Guillaume, over for a drink. Pretending to enjoy Guillaume’s company, Lord Raymond asked the troubadour to join him on a hunt the next day.

Thinking the Lord knew nothing of his Lady’s affair, Guillaume graciously accepted the invitation. The two men left the next morning, guns in hand. 

In the early afternoon Lord Raymond returned to the Chateau. Alone.

“Where is Guillame, the troubadour?” Lady Sermonde said, greeting her husband at the door.

“Why … he’s been delayed a bit,” Lord Raymond replied. ” He’ll join us later,” he added. “… for dinner.”

With that, Lord Raymond turned around and headed for the kitchen. He often prepared meals that featured the spoils of his hunts.

When day turned to dusk, Lady Sermonde left her boudoir and walked downstairs to the dining room. Expecting to see her lover, Guillaume, waiting for her, she was surprised to see only her husband, Lord Raymond.

“You were expecting your friend, Guillame?” the Lord asked slyly? “He’ll be here any moment,” he said. “Let’s be seated. I’m certain he won’t be upset if we start.”

Politely, Lord Raymond led Sermonde to her place at the table. He returned to his seat opposite hers and began carving the main course.

With great pride, he presented his wife a plate filled with his day’s bounty. “Here,” he proclaimed. “Enjoy!”

Lady Sermonde took a bite of her dinner, then another. Realizing that the “meat” served to her had an unusual taste and texture, she remarked: “This, my dear Lord Raymond, is a most uncommon creature, is it not? Have you found a new type beast to bring to our table,” she asked.

“Yes, indeed,” said the Lord gleefully; “I hope you like it, my dear.”

“It is a pity our friend Guillame could not be here to enjoy this delightful meal with us,” stated Lady Sermonde.

“Au contraire,” Lord Raymond chirped. “He is here,, “he chimed. “Guillaume is the main attraction, the main course.”

Lady Sermonde dropped her fork.  Her mouth flew wide open. She screamed. Her screams filled the room, the château, and soon, the village. Before the Lord or servants could catch her, Sermonde ran to the top of the château’s highest tower; she threw open the window; and she jumped.

Down her blood flowed, onto the hills, into the valley below. Lady Sermonde’s blood colored the earth around Roussillon.  Forever and today.

Provence Holidays

 

 

Provence Holidays

Check out Shutters and Sunflowers for more information about the Luberon.

 

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Fall … In Love With Provence

The Barefoot Blogger’s mid-week drive into Provence inspired some stunning photos to share. This time of year brings out my very favorite colors in the crayon box.

Fall in Provence

Fall in Provence

Plane trees along the drive into Provence

 

Fall in Provence

 

 

Fall in Provence

Outside Lourmarin

 

 

Fall in Provence

Bonnieux

 

 

 

 

Fall in Provence

 

 

 

Fall in Provence

 

Fall in Provence

 

 

Fall in Provence

 

Fall in Provence

 

 

 

Fall in Provence

 

 

Roussillon

 

Fall in Provence

 

 

Fall in Provence

 

Thanks to the friends who help color my world. 

Fall in Provence

Rich and Paula in Roussillon along with new Barefoot Blogger friend, Aggie.

Note: Most photos picture Roussillon

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Lost in the Luberon: Gordes, Goult and Menerbes

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Anyone who knows me well recognizes that I’m “directionally challenged.” Compared to my recent visitor from the States, I’m  “Amelia Earhart” — and we know how that worked out.

When I learned my hometown friend, whom I hadn’t seen in 40 years, was coming to visit me in Uzes, right away I started planning her trip. One that we’d both enjoy. For sure, I couldn’t go back to Nimes and Pont du Gard. Been there, done that, too many times. An over-night stay in a bastide in the Luberon sounded like a good idea. That, along with a few day trips from Uzes would give her an overview of this region of France and it would give us both a taste of Provence during a time of year when there are not so many tourists.

For our road trip to Provence,  my friend Pat brought along her Rick Steves’ guide book. I had an overview summary of the Luberon’s “golden triangle” that was given to me by a friend. We bought a map of Provence the day we started our journey. Basically the plan was to drive to L’isle Sur la Sorgue for the antique market on Sunday, then back to Uzes.  On Tuesday and Wednesday we’d “explore” Gordes, Goult, Lacoste, Menerbes, and Roussillon. If there was time, we’d drive into Aix en Provence.

The route from Uzes to Gordes is through Avignon, about 65 kilometers. Driving to the villages we’d pinpointed would be like riding in a circle: 30 kilometers around.. Towns are very close together.

 

Map of Luberon Route

Map of Luberon Route

Sounds easy enough, right? Not!

Even Rick Steves says “you’re going to get lost”. 

 

Uzes to Avignon

That was easy. I knew the way. I’ve traveled back and forth to the train station in Avignon several times.

Leaving Avignon was when the problems started.

Pat unfolded the map of Provence for the first time. We’d been too busy talking to think about it before now.

“Oh, look, a map!” said Pat, as if surprised to find it on her lap.  “Guess this is what we brought it for,” she declared.

Probably a good idea to take a look now,” says I.

With that, my small friend unfolded the huge map which quickly consumed her and her side of the car. (Did I mention Pat is 5’2″ compared to my 5’9″? We’re the real “Mutt and Jeff” duo.)

Pat,” I exclaimed. “I can’t see!”

Pulling over to the side of the road we folded the map together into a size that Pat could manage in one hand.

The road to  L’isle Sur la Sorgue was the best route on the map. However, we’d been there two days before. So, we decided to try another way.

Big mistake! Every road we took went back to Avignon.

After an hour and a half circling Avignon, I said: “Wonder if we can find the route on my iPad on Mapquest?”

If you’re thinking “why didn’t they have a GPS?” let me explain. Remember the saga of the lost iPhone?After I found that the iPhone was in the back seat of Lucy — not in the trash bin or stolen — I returned to SFR in Nimes several times to fix various problems. The last visit was Monday, the day before our trip to the Luberon. That’s when the nice SFR guy that speaks English discovered the iPhone is broken. He sent it off to be repaired and gave me a Google phone. It didn’t dawn on me to load Mapquest on the substitute phone. Making a phone call was hard enough. Besides, we were only going 100 kilometers away. 

Mapquest came up on the iPad. Even though there was limited reception, we had a map and a dot to follow. (I won’ tell you how long it took us to figure out which dot was “Lucy” and which dot was our “destination.”)

Gordes

Market day in Gordes, which was the first destination on our trip plan, was almost over by the time we reached the village.  

 

Market day in the village square in Gordes.

Market day in the village square in Gordes.

 

 

 

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Shopping was not so much on our minds as finding a place to eat lunch. Tourists filled up most of the spaces in the restaurants and cafes.

Cafe in Gordes

Cafe in Gordes

 

 

Crowded cafe in Gordes

Crowded cafe in Gordes

We ended up in an out-of-the-way cafe where we weren’t expecting much, but to our delight …

Roasted aubergine and peppers on fresh greens

Roasted aubergine and peppers on fresh greens

 

Caesar salad Provence style

Caesar salad Provence style

 

How can you miss having a great meal in Provence? 

Luberon Villages at a Glance

With the villages of the Luberon so close together, the look and feel of each begin to blend together — especially when you’re lost.  These photos will give you a view of the towns and the countryside as we saw it — wherever it is. 

Road leading to Gordes

Road leading to Gordes

 

 

 Village square in Gordes with WWII memorial

Village square in Gordes with WWII memorial commemorating the strength of the resistance army.

 

 

 

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Narrow streets with stone walls and houses

Narrow streets with stone walls and houses

 

 

 

Villages with churches as the main attraction

Villages with churches as the main attraction

 

 

 

Public gathering places with ancient shade trees and stone arches

Public gathering places with ancient shade trees and stone arches

 

 

 

Views that take your breath away

Views that take your breath away

 

 

 

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Hilltops and valleys

 

 

 

Chateaus and tall cedars in the distance

Chateaus and tall cedars in the distance

 

 

 

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Colorful villages paved with stone walkways and roads

 

 

 

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Architectural details from an ancient past

Architectural details from an ancient past

 

 

 

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Winding roads that go from village to village

Winding roads that go from village to village

 

 

 

Next stop: The Red Hills of Roussillon

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