A small country populated by die-hards that captivates the greatest... Artists, writers, famous chefs, philosophers and wealthy people have all fallen in love with the Luberon. For its luminous palette, from lavender blue to the coppery hues of the ochre cliffs; for the soft stone heart of the high-perched villages; for the sometimes raw, always abrupt nature of the mountains, or for its soil and climate suspended between two, a high and a water. But you don't need to be a great man to succumb to the beauty of the five listed villages, to agree on the preciousness of the natural park, classified as a biosphere reserve, and to enjoy this art of living, a praise of simplicity
An exceptional raw and wild nature
The Luberon is truly the jewel of Haute-Provence, with its astonishing diversity. Sometimes you just have to take a bend in the road to see a radically different landscape, even though the perimeter is not very large with its small 60 km by 30 km! The vegetation is made up of a jumble of oak groves, rosemary-scented scrubland, white and holm oak forests, lavender fields and lawns covered with grasses and orchids in spring. The rocky formation also allows itself a few antics: caves, arid peaks, canyons, gorges and cliffs that bring to the forefront its cabinets of curiosity like this forest of cedars from the Altlas at the top of the Petit Luberon. There is no doubt that this is a Remarkable region; a term that does not flatter the literature since it refers to territories labeled by the State, of which the Luberon Regional Natural Park is part. This natural area preserves a biodiversity of 1,500 plant species and 500 bird species, a record that has earned it the rank of Unesco Biosphere Reserve since 1997. The Maison du Parc, in Apt, has all the information you need for walking or cycling. There are 450 km of signposted paths in the region, including a magnificent loop in the Ochre region. The old ochre quarries of Roussillon, or more confidential those of Rustrel, compose the same decor as the American West
The light makes the rock glow with blond reflections to burgundy tints revealing colours that one would not have thought natural. A radiant palette of natural heritage, just like the gardens of Château Val Joanis, which are also classified as remarkable. The 400-hectare estate is home to an astonishing French-style garden, arranged in terraces that are set off by an arbour of flamboyant roses and a carpet of vines. The nature of the Luberon is revealed in its raw and wild beauty.
The most beautiful villages of France to discover
One has the impression that the villages were built as terraces to appreciate all the beauty of nature... Maybe, maybe not, but one thing is certain: beautiful ladies have always been offered stones, and to this one, bories were offered. As early as the 15th century, these small dry stone huts were built for agro-pastoral purposes. They were used in turn as threshing floors, beehives and ovens; some housed shepherds, others were used as water tanks. These "bad huts" - a Provençal translation - have a good heart and today form two exceptional sites: the Enclos des Bories in Bonnieux and the village of the Bories in Gordes, classified as a national monument.
From classification to classification, let's come to the villages: five are considered among the most beautiful in France. Gordes, for the best known, impresses from afar, when you see its blond houses clinging to the side of the rock, when they are not completely engulfed. From the castle and the opulent church, the calades run down the cliffs and rush towards the breathtaking views of the valley. You won't leave here without a quick Alexion - that's monastic speak for an energy drink - at the Abbey of Sénanque, a valiant example of 12th century Cistercian architecture. Not far away is Roussillon, the village of the Ochre trees that give it such a unique patina, and continuing south, you reach Ménerbes. Rougher and less pleasant, it is nicknamed "the Ghost Ship" in foggy weather, a ship with a few curiosities such as the Pitchoune dolmen which, at 1.50 m high, has become a historical monument. The imposing silhouette of the castle does not crush the village of Lourmarin which, for once, stands up to its majesty. It would have been the first Renaissance castle in Provence and knew some unfortunate epics, like its village which was a martyr of the Wars of Religion. An ordeal hardly believable when we wander today between its temple, its fountains, its belfry or that we laze on the terrace toasting to Camus who had elected residence. Finally, the village of Ansouis has its medieval castle at the end of its streets. These are the headliners, but you don't need to be a star in Luberon; behind the scenes, you'll discover some absolutely charming villages. So take a trip to Cucuron, Bonnieux, Oppède-le-Vieux, Saignon or even Lacoste, which no longer has to be ashamed of the Marquis de Sade's antics...
A land for discerning gastronomes
A land of character and yet... The dryness of the limestone soils nourishes an abundant vegetation benefiting from the climatic heat and the oceanic humidity. Thyme, rosemary, truffle oaks, olives, almonds, orchards, lavender and a host of other plants have flourished with the help of man. And, plunging the hand in the ground, we discover what the Luberon has of more expensive: the truffle. Although it is associated with the Périgord, two thirds of the truffles "cavées" come from the Vaucluse. You can participate in truffle hunting courses, learn how to cook them, choose them on the markets, participate in their ban, taste all the flavours derived from them and finally visit a museum dedicated to truffles and wine.
The wine of Luberon has long been neglected, for lack of appellation obtained only recently, in 1988. Affiliated with the large and happy family of Rhone wines, the AOC Luberon relies on the grape variety of its ancestors, the Syrah, which it personalizes with the Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan for the reds representing 70% of production. To make matters worse, many of the winegrowers work the vines in a "natural" way.
When you say red, you say goat's cheese, which we were advised to get at the market. And they share their stalls with everything that perfumes Provence: olives to crunch, in oil, in tapenade; honey of all kinds, candied fruits and bread from Apt, herbs and aromatic plants, melon from Cavaillon, asparagus from Villelaure, lamb from Sault and bunches of lavender that even perfume the farmers' markets, on Saturday morning in Apt and on Sunday in Coustellet. Enjoy your meal!
When is the season? Each season is interesting, but to enjoy the region's gentle way of life, it is best to go between May and October.
How to get there. By car, you can get there via the A7, exit Avignon-Nord or Sud depending on where you are coming from, and via the A9, exit Remoulins. By train, Avignon has two stations, count 2 hours 40 minutes from Paris, 1 hour from Lyon and 30 minutes from Marseille
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