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.

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.

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…

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Slowlife Guide to Lourmarin

‘Provence’s peaceful gem, Lourmarin’

We pass through dozens of vineyards and countless blue shutter provincial houses as we drive through the winding country roads of the Lubéron region, that is a picture-esq corner in the southern foothills of the Alps. Most of the beautiful towns are in close proximity, making it easy to visit breathtaking places ( Menerbes, Senanque Abbey, Saint-Remy de Provence) in a short amount of time. Continuing our holiday from southern Italy to the south of France, our first two-day stop was in the idyllic town of Lourmarin, that turned out to be one of my favourites of our holiday.

Tucked away between hills of orchards and limestone cliffs, Lourmarin is the southernmost village of the Lubéron. We arrived to the little town from Nice feeling parched and hungry eager to go exploring the nooks of the town. After checking into our  charming little B&B kept by a lovely english women Rose Robson, her partner and dog, we headed to town hoping to find a bistro open. Typically, all the restaurants were in siesta at this hour so our only choice was to buy treats from a gourmet deli and sit on a park bench where we watched locals compete over a game of pétanque. Our accidental romantic picnic was lovely and charming; we bought a little bottle of rosé, a great slice of rustic paté and some quiche that we nibbled on as we watched the French through their boules. We even spoke to a man born and raised in the region, so friendly, who explained the rules of the game to us.

Strolling around the cadales (cobbled) pathways, you are tucked between pale limestone houses dating back to the Renaissance era that elevate to a 11th century Saint André church. The streets spill with boutiques, ateliers and restaurants, where the main square gathers everyone for a chilled afternoon rosé. Its beautiful, relaxing and everything you want it to be. This little town is what I envision Provence to be all about; people are dressed well wearing loafers and straw hats, many carry baguette in their paper bags (which almost sounds too cliché, but we spotted many people with them), buildings drapped with vines and fig trees blooming with the most ripe fruit waiting to be eaten. According to our B&B host, Lourmarin has always acted as a hideaway home to a number of artisans and writers due to its peaceful inspirational nature. Lourmarin is a lived-in destination and it attracts enough tourists, many that are local making the place the ‘right mount of full’, if you know what I mean. A charming contrast, in comparison to the overcrowded “most visited towns of Lubéron“, such as Gordes or Roussillon that get much more visitors and therefore have less of that authentic charm, we all seek for.

Exploring the most photogenic corners…

Dressed in a blue and white cotton dress with a comfortable slingback nude flat, we glided through the inviting streets, peeked into resident gardens, stopped for traditional tartar on the square and tasted the most perfect figs for dessert, that didn’t have a change to touch the ground. The most gorgeous pale rosé lingered in our mouths and we joined in on the relaxing lifestyle, provincials always talk about. Lourmarin is filled with cute restaurants, simple pure ingredients that speak for themselves. For a great itinerary, visit a new town during the morning, preferably one that has a morning market, such as cucuron, have lunch in the town of Ansouis at ‘le closerie’, make sure to book a table outside as it is very full. Explore Lourmarin for the remaining evening. Stop for a glass or two of rosé & tartar at Cafe Gaby and later in the evening indulge in Le recreations lamb shank and a full-bodied red wine on their cozy terrace.

restaurant Tips

  • Le recreation
  • Le Numero 9
  • Le Moulin
  • Cafe Gaby
  • Pizzeria Nonni

Make sure to find out what markets are going on what day, our B&B host Rose Robson was very helpful and suggested wonderful tips on exploring the region.

Location Lourmarin is ideally located in the heart of Provence, the coastal drive from Nice airport is about 2 hours and 30 minutes by car. Make sure to carry change with you, for the toll highways.

stay  L’Ancienne Maison des Gardes, Impasse des Gardes, 84160, Lourmarin, France. Contact: email roserobson@gmail.com. Tel: +33 (0) 4 90 07 53 16.

Nestled right on the edge of the main square, you are in perfect distance to everything of Lourmarin. We stayed in the room with a balcony and were greeted in the mornings with the smell of coffee and flakey croissants on our window sill. The country bedroom is above the ancient stone stairway looking into the blooming courtyard. This little room has an old-fashion Provencal charm and a private balcony where breakfast is served.

Wander The village has a buzzing market every Friday morning, which spreads across the centre of the village attracting visitors from neighbouring towns. The small farmers market happens on Tuesday evenings. The Chateau is open all year around that consists of a number of art exhibits and concerts.

Love Explore the town by walking around the narrow lanes, visiting all the tiny shops and stopping for a glass of vino on the main square.

 

 

 

A scenic Travel route from Italy to France

‘The scenic travel route from Southern Italy to Provence’

Travelling by car is the best way to get everything out your holiday as this gives you the freedom to travel to se many different destinations. My husband and I have been exploring this way for the last nine years and it makes the holiday feel extra special as you are constantly greeted with new exciting places making the holiday feel much longer. We stayed almost three weeks and decided to fly from Italy to Provence for a change of scenery and even stayed a few nights in the French alps, just an hour away from Mount Blanc. Below you can see the travel route, we stayed in 8 destinations as a base, but visited many idyllic towns during our stay. In Provence most of the “beautiful villages” are very close to each other (20 minutes away) so visiting them makes it really easy and in Puglia the towns are a bit further, but for sure very manageable via car. If you are planning a trip to Puglia, there are so many beautiful places to stay in, but our locations were strategic this time as I had a photoshoot with Masseria Palombara hence we planned our stay around that. We wanted to visit Vieste and Lecce as it has been four years since it was the last time we were there and Tivoli as it’s relatively close to the airport as our flight left really early, but werent eager to locate in Rome. So here goes, a little introduction of each town through my lens.

Itenary from Puglia to Provence

Flight Helsinki-Rome

  • Vieste
  • Oria- Masseria Palombara (Cisternino, Gallipolli)
  • Lecce
  • Tivoli

Flight: Rome-Nice

  • Lourmarin (Cucuron, Ansouis)
  • Annecy
  • Uzes (Saint Remy de Provence, Gordes, Menerbes)
  • Malaucene- Le Pont de Lórme (Roussillon, Les Baux-de-Provence, Gigondas)

Flight Nice-Helsinki

 

‘ White washed Vieste’

This cozy beach town has a stunning old town that fills with limestone walls, lots of cute restaurants & the best fish soup of our entire trip. The calming narrow streets, the smell of hanging laundry & the majestic turquoise waters is what makes the south so charming.

 

‘Slow living in Masseria Palombara with visual stimulation ‘

This chic masseria made the perfect resting point with its all around photogenic corners, dreamy breakfast & poolside relaxation. We were fortunate enough to pick fresh vegetables from the garden at sunrise, eat amazing foods and soak up the slow lifestyle under the hot sun.

We also visited Cisternino & Gallipolli during our stay.

 

 

‘Lecce that is often refered to as the Florence of the South’

We haven’t visited Lecce in four years and it still remains the same as before. Stay at Mantatelure & enjoy the numerous wine bars in the old city and soak up the rich baroque architecture.

 

‘Charming Historic Tivoli’

If you are looking for the real life secret gardens, Ville d’Este it is. The hilltop Tivoli is home to 2 Unesco heritage sites filled with lavish fountains, manicured gardens & a cute medieval old town. Stay in cozy Al Palazzetto for the most relaxing sleep!

 

The chic little Lourmarin’

I felt this to be the quintessential Provence & possibly my favourite town of the region. The elegant little town has a small square where everyone gathers for day time pale rosé, boeuf tartare after a leisurely stroll around the little boutique-filled town. Watch locals compete over pe´tanque and find the little winding streets to be the most beautiful. We stayed in a cute B&B, run by the cutest elderly couple, where we woke up to the smell of fresh coffee and warm flaking croissants that were placed on our window sill.

We also visited the morning markets of Cucuron and had lunch in the town of Ansouis.

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morning market

 

Annecy, the Venice of France’

Ready to indulge in cheese and then a little bit more of it? The typical alp-style chalet village fills with pubs, fondue and raclette restaurants along with stunning canals and views of the mountains. If you are skiing in Chamonix in the winter, I would definitely visit Annecy as a day trip as it is only an hour away from there. This little gingerbread town serves the best raclette for sure.

 

The market-filled dreamy Uzes’

The town of dreamy markets, decadent Michelin star restaurants with the best escargot of the trip. I loved the feeling in Uzes, place aux Herbes, the square were everyone gathered for an early-evening drink. I found great linen, lavender soaps and home sprays from the morning market along with a handmade porcelain bowl, a fossil stone paperweight and jewelry box from the antique market.

We also visited Saint Remy de Provence, Gordes &  Menerbes from Uzes

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The view of Gordes when driving to the town

 

 

Malaucene- Le Pont de Lórme

We stayed in chateau Le Pont de Lorme that was right on the edge of Malaucene’s old town. To be honest, we didn’t discover that much of the town as we visited many other little ones like Roussillon from here. We loved the design hotel that revolved entirely around the kitchen.

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Roussillon

 

 

Aromatic Grasse

Grasse, Côte d’Azur

A place for the sweet scent seeker with a touch of romance… To the north of Nice inland from the Mediterranean lies a little cute town called Grasse that is dedicated to perfume dating from the 16th century. It is known as the perfume capital of the world since the microclimate is ideal for growing flowers, such as jasmine, roses and lavender. Nothing less expected, of course the flowers used for making the Chanel N°5 perfume are grown and harvested in Grasse. If you are around for May, it is the season of roses where pickers go every morning to harvest the open blossoms from the amazing fields.

As Grasse is so popular, the town fills with many tourists, so the earlier you arrive there, the more enjoyable it is to walk around and admire the beautiful historic buildings and explore little boutiques. This way, you can enjoy the beauty it deserves. I was in the hunt for the perfect antique glass perfume bottle, but ended up finding it in Nice actually. I loved the little lavender shops as the smell in them was just divine and I found some amazing souvenirs to bring back home. Grasse is home to the factories of Fragonard, Galimard (oldest perfumery in Grasse since 1747) and Molinard, which Mr. N uses the rosemary cologne as his signature scent. The hand crafted bottles of home fragrances, soaps and perfumes are amazing to look at and I ended up purchasing a lemon verveine infused diffuser hand-made by Le parfumoir. It smells of pure lemon I think I need to visit Grasse in the spring time, when all the flowers come alive and burst into lingering delights. There is something romantic and peaceful about this place, the soft colours around the old town and the magic of the old perfumes just does it for me.

 

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A walk around Saint Paul de Vence

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‘South of France’

As we walked around this tiny medieval village, I lost myself in the maze of the charming streets, the cute picturesque squares, ancient fountains and gateways to beautiful views of the rocky outcrop. Still undisturbed by many tourists, there seems to be a quality of life here and much of it reminds me of northern italy, in terms of architecture and the all around setting. There is a feeling of history here, it is poetic where some of the stone facades date all the way from the XVIth and XVIIIth century. It does not surprise me that this charming place used to be a muse for many famous artists and writers because of its amazing beauty.

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