The Cultural village of Menerbes

It is said that Menerbes comes from Minerva (Minerve in French), the Roman goddess of wisdom and a supporter of the arts. Fitting to it’s name, it is also village where Peter Mayle wrote his book “A Year in Provence” and its sequels and has attracted a number of artists and noblemen in the past giving it a cultural setting.

Menerbes is also another little town with the “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” label that has heaps of charm and sophisticated beauty. The Luberon region is filled with towns in close proximity and therefore you can easily combine visiting a few of them in one day. For example, visiting Oppede, Bonniuex, and Menerbes is a great combination. Keep in mind that market day is here on Thursday mornings, which we sadly missed.

Read more about cute provence towns here: Uzes, Lourmarin, Saint rémy de provence, Roussillon, Gordes

The hilltop town is scatted with blue shutter windows that is sleepy in the mornings and comes to life closer to noon. It is less crowded than Roussillon and Gordes for instance, which makes it peaceful to stroll around and take in the feeling of the town. Stores, galleries and a few cafes start to trickle open as we walk around the main street. The pink bougainvillea, chic little boutiques and stunning stone buildings give that feeling of traditional Provence. The town is surrounded with vines and orchards with a fortification on top with a tower (La Citadelle) and castle (castle Le Castellet) on each end.

We had pre-booked lunch reservations in the town of Ansouis, but if you are looking for a place to eat in Menerbes, Maison de la Truffe et du Vin is apparently a darling spot. It is dedicated to fresh truffles when in season and it holds tastings with local wines. It is located in a beautiful garden with views of the valley all focused on truffle themed dishes.

Another Beautiful village in France, Gordes

‘Gordes, another picturesque town in Provence’

You are welcomed to another sweet town with blue shutter windows, impressive cars, twisting cobbled pathways, iron chaired cafes and wicker basket holidayers taking a leisurely French-style stroll.

Gordes, a town in the Luberon region, which I’m sure most of you have heard about, as it is often referred as the crown jewel of Provence. If any of you have watched one of favourite movies, “A Good Year”, many of the scenes have been filmed in this cosy town. Being such a picturesque place, Gordes was home to many artists including Marc Chagall and Victor Vasarely and today it is listed as “one of the most beautiful villages of France“.

When driving to Gordes, where Route de Cavaillon (D15) and Chemin de Gaumaud meet, you are welcomed by the façade of the perched hilltop town and this is the first spot you are destined to take a photo of the spilling village. Here you can spot the luxurious Bastide de Gordes and see the roads climb up the town that are all surrounded with olive groves and lush fields of wine.

Wandering through the little streets, it is much like any other provincial town that feels like a step back in time where everything is beautiful and well preserved. The town is filled with museums, restaurants, little shops and wandering people who have all come to admire the location. Market day is on Tuesday, if you are in the midst of planning your Provence itinerary. It is very quintessential where you can shop for straw baskets, lavender infused products and all things linen. We stopped for an espresso in the restaurant by the fountain, the same spot where the movie had its restaurant.

From muted violets and mauve tones, this is the region where lavender fields come alive from June to August. Gordes is surrounded with blooming fields and if you are here in season, make sure to visit the Notre-Dame de Senanque that is a Cistercian abbey. Despite the fact that we missed the lavender season by a month as we visited in September, Gordes is a village worth exploring. During the day, we visited other little villages nearby such as Menerbes, Lourmarin and Cucuron as everything is in close region to each other.

Cozy Malaucéne

Malaucéne is a commune in the Vaucluse region in southern eastern France nestled at the foot of Mount Ventoux. The town has numerous horse riding and cycling trails to the mountain, which attracts many locals to spend leisurely weekends. When we entered the hotel, the first question from the manager was “ did we bring bicycles?”. Rich in natural heritage and history, the town has also a splendid gastronomic heritage. Ventoux wine, goat cheese, seasonal vegetables and fruits play a large role in the communes cooking.

My hubby and I stayed for two nights, we were actually drawn to the town because of the cute maison we stayed in, Le Pont de L’orme recommended to conde naste traveller. The maison was a few minutes walk from the old town that had a well-praised restaurant that we thoroughly enjoyed.

During the 14th century Pope Clement V enjoyed his summer residence in Malaucéne and today Saint Michel church remains as his imprint. The old town has an almost melancholic atmosphere with a blend of gothic and Romanesque style architecture with beautiful ancient fountains, religious markings and 16th century wash coloured houses to admire. On Wednesday it is market day in the town and many of the restaurants and shops exist on Cours Isnards. On our second night we enjoyed a Gorgonzola pizza before dinner as we saw so many people enjoying them from a little truck, smack centre in town.

During the summer the hotel front hangs with beautiful Wisteria, but we visited late September so we got to experience the first signs of fall with a few dropping leaves.

Annecy, the Venice of the Alps

They say it is the Venice of the Alps’

Welcome to the land of cheese… We drove up from Provence to Annecy that lays in the southern eastern French Alps for a few nights. It was change of scenery from pale Rosé, foie gras and escargot to mountain tips covered with snow, glistering lake views and comté cheese, the French version of Gruyére. Your eyes could see as far as Mont Blanc & I could see myself coming here during the cozy winter season.

The alpine medieval old town is surrounded with a picturesque lake complete with postcard houses and castles all tangled in between the canals. The canals give a slight Venice vibe, hence Annecy is often referred to as the Venice of the Alps. Our boutique hotel (Le Boutik Hotel) was right in the Vieille Ville, the old part of town. The thiou river spills out of the glacial lake into the canals of old town that are all lined with flowers along the bridges.

Driving from the vineyards of countryside Provence, this little chalet-style town seems almost like a piece of Switzerland. The gingerbread style houses, cobbled roads all lead up to little fondue and raclette restaurants, while the little turquoise canal runs through the centre of town. However, coming in from peaceful Provence, sadly, but understandably the old town was filled with tourists, that was a slight letdown. Nevertheless, you can avoid the crowds by frolicking bright and early in the morning and once you step away from the main streets, there is more calmness. Market day along the canals exists on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, which draws in the crowds from neighbouring towns. Evidently locals loved to stroll along the lake or visit it via boat and spend time close to the water.

Naturally, the weather is unsure when surrounded with mountains, as they tend to collect all the clouds, so keep that in mind when visiting the Alps. We beat to the rainstorms by filling our bellies with amazing cheese infused treats. Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me over dinner (as it was dark already) but we ate the most glorious ½ kg of raclette that warmed on a cast iron oozing all over potatoes, pickles and cured meats. Restaurant Le Freti was absolute heaven I must say. I love how Annecy was filled with little cheese shops, elegant boutiques, hat and basket stores and countless patisseries. Enjoy tea at Philippe Rigollot Patisserie, an ice cream at glacier des alps (notice the long queue) and enjoy raclette at restaurant chez Mamie Lise or Le Freti. Buy freshly ground coffee beans from a family owned roaster of three generations since 1959, called Brand cafés & Thés.

I would love this as a house, look at the darling old windows!

Legend says that if you kiss by this river, you will stay together forever

Steak with bearnaise sauce and an assortment of cheese

Aged cheese at Gigondas

‘The beauty of Provence countryside’

There is no better feeling than driving through the unknown, especially when the scenery is flawless. Lush grapes hung in perfect rows as we wiggled through the road to the horizon of green hills. We drove through the Vaucluse region, where we stopped through several tiny villages near by. We were surrounded with acres of vine yards and beautiful stone houses and stopped for lunch in the wine region of Gigondas at Les Florets. The hidden restaurant overlooks pure hills of dense forest, where we enjoyed a typical French lunch with rich foie gras, seabass and lots of aged cheese for dessert. With ours stomachs satisfied after a slow lunch we let the Provence relaxed way of life guide us through the day. This led us straight to a cute little rosé bar where all the locals spent another warm afternoon…

‘Cucuron market day & lunch in Ansouis’

‘Market day in cucuron & lunch in the town of Ansouis’

During our Provence road trip, we stayed in Lourmarin for three nights and we were recommended by our B&B owner to visit cucuron (only 4km away), because it was Tuesday, the town’s official market day.

Little did we know that cucuron is actually the same little village that was used in the movie “A good year” with Russell Crowe, during the date scene around the beautiful pool (called a bassin) when it starts to pour with rain. I absolutely love that movie especially because of the quintessential provincial beauty and it was quite surreal spending the morning in such a place. I remember admiring the perfectly manicured trees already in the movie, but in real life they were even more breathtaking reflecting against the water in the bassin. Cucuron is a member of the Most Beautiful Villages of France association and is easily explored in under an hour. If you are in Provence, make sure to find out what markets are going on in the different villages near you.

Cucuron, home to about 2000 villagers is a cute little village in the Vaucluse region on the south side of the Luberon mountains. We arrived at the market really early because we wanted to see other village as well. After some flaky croissants and a large frothy coffee in one of the little cafes around the basin, we walked the market and purchased a few goodies to take back home with us. My favourite purchase was the pistachio nougat that could cure anyone’s sweet tooth. This market would be the perfect place to shop for food if we were staying in a villa where we would be cooking ourselves. All the fresh baby vegetable and the smell of aged cheeses and little bars of soap that match the houses around the square. I love the Provence way of life, how all the locals carry a woven basket and shop for a lot of their weekly goods from places like these. These little towns do not support large supermarkets and cuisine in general, is held to a high standard.

Sleepy Cucuron is surrounded with vineyards and olive fields and is home to local farmers, artisans and shopkeepers that hold a strong sense of community for homemade produce. You will find a buzzing wine shop here (where we tried to import wine back home but the language barrier got the both of us) and a well-known Michelin star restaurant “La petit Maison de Cucuron”. The market area leads to the medieval style old town and the highest point leads to a castle, that dungeons only remain.

After our morning stroll in Cucuron we headed to the town of Ansouis, where we had lunch reservations at La Closerie (with 1 Michelin star), also highly recommended by our B&B owner. Buzzing with locals, we loved that the restaurant was a less obvious choice from tourists tucked away in the hidden hills of Ansouis.

Read more about the town of Lourmarin from here or the markets in Uzes from here & here.

More information on the town of Saint Remy de Provence from here and Roussillon from here.

Cucuron

Ansouis

‘The beauty of Provence is passing through fields of vineyards with spilling grapes when crossing from village to village’

Ansouis, also in the Luberon region is another town dotted with tiny streets with boutiques and artists’ workshops. With a 12th century medieval castle with a manicured garden, the little town is built on rocky uphill with little gardens around the village giving it a botanical touch. Le Closerie, an odd to Provence according to the Michelin guide is sophisticated and full of flavour in the words of lonely planet. It was a beautiful little terrace on the street overlooking the greenery, but because it was fully booked, we managed to get a seat inside with doors that were open to the street. We drank delicious local rosé and eat an amazing menu after exploring this little town. Afterwards, we walked through the town with fully satisfied stomachs and sat in a little café for an espresso.

Roussillon, Baumaniere & Village de Venasque

Roussillon, the red town of provence’

Perched on a hilltop, this saturated fairytale town is one of Luberon’s favourites. It differs from neighbouring towns due to its unusual awash of colouring, from faded pinks to rusty reds as it sits on a goldmine of ochre. (Ochre is a pigment used in painting) The surrounding is quite unbelievable (you can walk a trail through the quarries), the sand beneath your feet is orange and the land is rich in minerals. Roussillon boomed in the 18th century when the textile industry was hungry for ochre pigment and today you can still visit the factories and discover how the colour was made. Naturally, the houses are made from ochre that are all warm tones of orange, yellow or red that is a strong reminder of its past. Roussillon is perhaps a little bit more popular with tourists than many other towns due to its unusual ambiance and it’s worth the visit before crowds of people come in during mid day.

Galleries, ceramic shops and cafes stretch out into the pavements, cyprus trees and colourful window shutters add that provincial charm proving its camera friendliness as we walk along the darling roads. We stopped for morning coffee here before heading out to a countryside resort for our anniversary lunch, hence dressed in lacy white…

This is possible the nicest town hall I’ve come across. I literally can not get enough of these french windows and how they dress balconies with so many flowers.

Baumaniere & Village de Venasque

We ate lunch at the luxury hotel Baumaniere to celebrate our wedding anniversary that holds 2 Michelin stars. We ate fish roe amuse bush, escargot, tuna, pork, chocolate cake and an assortment of petit four. The estate was beautiful surrounded with cyprus trees and we had an amazing romantic culinary experience. We sipped on dry wine from the region enjoying each others company, taking in the beauty of it all after dish after dish.

With our stomachs satisfied with french delights, we then drove through the darling countryside to another picture perfect village de Venasque that is perched at the summit of a rocky outcrop. We stopped to great some horses and possibly the cutest mule along the drive and admired the lush green vineyards and amazing chateau’s. Venasque is listed as one of the ‘most beautiful villages (plus beaux village)’ of provence that is small with a few ruins, restaurants and shops and cute 18th century fountain right in the middle. We took a relaxing walk around the village, we spotted a few painters sketching the view and visited a 12th century church that was rather breathtaking inside. At this hour the town was empty as everything stops for two hours at lunchtime when the streets become isolated and calm. Nevertheless, it was the perfect post lunch stroll for us, witnessing colourful virginia creeper climb up walls and spotting petit earthy houses and colourful doors.

Read more about other cute Provence town: Saint Rémy de Provence, Lourmarin, Uzes

The Artsy Saint Rémy de Provence

‘Saint Rémy de Provence, a town filled with culture and art dating back to the ancient Romans yearns to be discovered with its provencial charm’

The drive to this quintessential provincial town is filled with sunflower fields, perfumed olive groves and tree-lined roads and the Alpilles mountain range. Home to Van Gogh, Saint Rémy is a tiny picturesque village located in the northern edge of the Alpilles, about 20km from Avignon. It’s small enough to maintain the cozy feeling but large enough to stay interesting and find things to do. The town is famous for Van Gogh’s The Starry night painting, that he made during his stay there. Today, when walking through the historic little streets, you can see why impressionist painters used Saint Remy as their muse. It is simply beautiful.

Take in the lilac window shutters and faded doors, while taking a stroll through the old town that is tucked between walls of one of Europe’s oldest archeological sites. Shop for local goods like woven baskets, antiques, delicacies and scented candles or walk the Van Gogh circuit through town that follows its 21 paintings from his time at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole. Gogh painted over 150 paintings of the countryside that surrounds Saint Rémy.

You can easily spend a long weekend here exploring, eating and enjoying the artsy vibe basking in the last sunrays of the evening. Wander through the square of Place Favier where locals gather for a glass of wine and coldcuts. It’s also wonderful as other little towns are close, we visited from Uzes and Chateau Des Alpilles is a 20 minutes car ride away if you wish to book a dinner or lunch here. (Keep in mind however, on some days lunch is served  by the pool, which made us cancel our reservations). Have an amazing lunch at Mas Valentine’s garden that is right next to town that turned out to be one of our favourite meals of the trip. I ate some tuna tartar and rustic slow cooked pork cheek that was simple heavenly. Be greeted by the estates german Shepard that loves to play, sit under the shaded trees sipping on some wine and be spoiled by mouth-watering dishes that ends with a rich cheese plate. The house specialized in boeuf tartare that is made in front of you in a big wooden bowl, which we only discovered after our food. Next time we are there, I will for sure order some.

Stop for a glass of pale rosé and cheese platter at charcuterie at cave aux fromage where the owner will choose cheeses for you that she has recently made. All I can is that the truffle infused camembert was divine.

Wednesday market is not to be missed (although not biggest in Provence) it is charming that spreads across parking lots and squares around the old part of the town. Be aware that you will not find parking unless you come very early! It’s lively and full of buzz, cafes are full of people and you can make great little finds on a day like this. From these markets I found old tea cups, antique ring boxes, pottery and all kinds of amazing accessories for the house. On Saturdays there is a smaller food market that is great as well.

Looking for a place to stay, try: Le Petit Bijou, an amazing Provencial house in the centre of town.

Discover the towns of Uzes & Lourmarin

Charming Uzes, the foodie town

‘Charming cozy town of Uzes is a gastronomic dream’

In all of Provence, I had my favourite escargot in La Parenthése that were soaked in a vibrant green parsley jus and the best morning market experience. I love the ambiance in Uzes, it is cozy and untainted by tourism that much divert to famous places like Gordes or bigger cities like Avignon. You can listen to the beautiful french language as local tourists enjoy their pale rosé, much whom have gathered to Place aux Herbes, the town square. The town revolves around the main square that spills with restaurants and little boutiques all beautifully surrounded by oversized 100 year-old trees. The fountain in the centre not only is tranquil for the eye and a pigeons bathing spot, but also restaurant owners golden retriever, likes to take an occasional dip there.

The streets are calm in the morning, pastel coloured shutters begin to thrust open after a night of being fastened and the smell of coffee invites us to a cafe. Despite it being warm and hot during the day, we see a few leaves making their way down to the ground embracing the first signs of fall. Just having arrived from Southern Italy that showed no autumnal signs, Provence is slowly bringing out down jackets and knitwear and harvest is nearby. Pumpkins are out and porcini is much used on the menu and figs are at their best. Gingerbread-like doors open up to darling boutiques, locals carry baguette in hand and Uzes begins another beautiful day for us to explore. These photographs allow me to look back and soak up the ambiance of the town, remember the smells of regional food, see the architecture & history and all too quickly the faded experience becomes a warm memory of our Provence road trip.

Love Start your morning in one of the many side walk cafes, such as La Fougasse or chez cerise sipping coffee from antique cups and breakfasting over flaky croissants or french pastries. The salon-like pastry bars, much like you will find in Paris are buzzing with locals conversing over marmalade pastries and black coffee. And don’t worry, you are able to find some savory options too, if you are like us and can’t handle all the sweetness in the morning! Uzes is great for people watching and just enjoying the quintessential Provence moment, that can easily keep your eyes wandering for hours. Wicker basket at hand and panama hat on, love all the tiny pathways of the town that lead you to the cutest shops.

Enjoy the food. The town has plenty of Michelin star restaurants despite being small as the town, so this place will feed your taste buds to its full potential. I guess Uzes (although a bit bigger) reminds me a little bit of Montefalco, in Umbria as both are full of restaurants and have a certain respect for food.

If you have had lunch in another town, make sure to grab antipasti before dinner in Les Terroirs (town square) to make most of the local food. Share a rustic paté and a glass of red wine to work up your appetite. It you are staying for lunch, stop for a vitello tonatto in A coté over an afternoon rosé and make reservations for dinner on the top floor terrace of La Parenthése, a Michelin star restaurant overlooking the sunset. We stayed in Uzes for 3 days and another spectacular restaurant is Le Bec a vin. We were seated in their cozy courtyard and make sure to try either the boeuf or tuna tartar.

Other restaurant options: La Table d´Uzés, L´Artemise &Ten

Wander Explore Uzes by foot and get lost in the limestone streets. Stay during the weekend because of the markets on saturday and sunday. Shop for lavender soaps, home scents other than Fragonard and try some lavender ice cream as you walk down the winding streets. On market day, by spices and sample on the cheese and cold cuts and refresh the palette with the sweetest oranges. Uzes makes a great base to explore other cute towns like Saint Remy de Provence.

Stay Spend your nights in La Bella la Vie, the white luxurious provincial home overlooking the Place aux Herbes. Parking is free in the large parking lot that is just on the outskirts of the town, all in walking distance.

Read more about the morning markets here.

We craved for oranges and all things lavender and linen, so we had to shop them all!

perfect lunch spot and fountain view of the entire square

Above: rustic paté and rosé before dinner at Les Terroirs

Don’t be fooled by the entrance of La Parenthése the restaurant, the cozy and small roof terrace is a magical hideaway for a fantastic dinner and you’ll quickly understand why they have a star!

Amazing little sweet shops

Gone soap shopping in Uzes.

 

‘Shopping for all things lavender’

We sit in the corner of place Dampmartin and rue pélisserie in a cozy quintessential cafe ( chez cerise) fulfilling our morning caffeine dose taking in the hassle of the buzy weekend morning. Lured in by the antique pottery, cast iron chairs and darling owner, we started our day bright and early sipping on cappuccino and breakfasting over the flakey fresh croissants. I wish I could have bought the tiny espresso cups that differed in style, but unfortunately they were not for sale. Believe me, I asked.

It was Saturday morning and venders were setting their stalls to this weekly event that sees producers and artisans filling place aux Herbes, the town square. I’m quite sure any little Provence town has worthy morning markets especially over the weekends, however, Uzes is famous for its market. It spreads to numerous streets where stalls line against the trees selling all things from local foods to soaps, honey, linen, books & local treats. You find sections for cheese, seafood, meat, vegetables and baked goods that locals come to shop all day long. On Sunday the town parking lot holds an antique market while the town square turns into a flower market. I was on a mission to hunt down all things lavender and find the cutest little Provence basket. We ended up finding great souvenirs to take back home with us that included; wicker basket, soap, lavender home spray, linen, an antique ring box, traditional french salad bowl and a fossil stone paper weight.

We strolled down the people filled stalls, admired the pastel coloured windows adorned with spilling wines, fascinated with the smells, colours and beautiful people. We watched locals stand against corners eating dozen oysters of paper plates, sampled on some divine strong cheese and made our way through the town eyeing at all the little goodies. We walked around for a few hours, stopped for another espresso and went back to our hotel to drop off our treats and change as we had lunch reservations in a château in Saint Remy de provence.