Summer in Provence
At the end of August, I stayed in the Luberon region of Provence for just under three weeks in a beautiful village built of dry stone houses and walls. It was a wonderful place to relax in the late August sun and in a region I hadn’t visited for over 6 years. This area is well known for its many beautiful villages which are all perched high up into the hills overlooking the Luberon valley below. Some villages are up to 1000 years old, quite remarkable that they are still standing! I was taken aback by the stunning scenery and the history of the places.
Having child in tow meant I didn’t do as many activities; go to as many villages or visit as many wineries as perhaps I would have without. However I soon learnt that an hour or so in a village playground in the morning gave us the chance to visit a village immediately after as it seems exploring playgrounds as a one year old is rather tiring!
So having visited the playground first thing in the morning, over the weeks, I was able to explore a number of small historic villages; Lagnes, Ménerbes, Lacoste, Rousillon, Saint-Pantaléon and Oppède-le-Vieux. Ménerbes and Oppède-le-Vieux are located high above the general parking area so it required some effort to push the 9 kg pram plus 10 kg baby up the hill to the village centre. But very rewarding once at the top; such stunning historic villages overlooking the Luberon valley.
I loved exploring the villages; some only had the essentials; boulangerie (bakery), general store, butcher and maybe a café. Cobbled stones lined the street along with dry stoned walls and buildings throughout. It was sad on the many walks I took that I passed numerous abandoned vineyards, perhaps a sign of the times and the market.
The markets in some of the larger towns are wonderful and an opportunity to taste some of the fantastic local produce. Stalls of food not to mention wine and souvenirs lined the small roads in Coustellet. There is also a much larger market at Ilse sur La Sorgue which I’ve been to before, but perhaps not the best choice with buggy in tow in the August heat and tourists.
One of the days I biked the 30 kilometre round trip to the hill top and beautiful hill top village of Roussillon. It is such a picturesque village set high among the largest deposits of ochre, apparently the largest in the world. This red rock is throughout the village, on the buildings, walls and tiles on the roofs. Biking through the small villages was wonderful and so early in the morning, so quiet.
Another morning, I kayaked down the river Sorgue in a canoe for the 3 of us. Surprising it was rather relaxing! As you paddle downstream there’s not too much effort on your part, apart from avoiding the tree lined river banks plus crossing two dams. But you can take your time and enjoy the scenery and the amazingly clear crystal clean water. The river is very shallow so there’s little fear of falling in but you wouldn’t want to as the water is so cold, a constant 13C/55F all year round. We took our time so the 5 miles from the town of Fountaine de Vaucluse to Isle sur la Sorgueworked out at 2 hours where there was a shuttle bus to take us back to our destination. A fun way to spend a morning!
I visited one winery, Domaine de la Bastidonne located just on the outskirts of Cabrières d’Avignon village. The Marreau family has owned the 30 hectare estate for about 100 years and today it is run by the fourth generation, Gérard who has been at the helm since 1990. Gérard studied oenology at Dijon after school and then worked 10 years in Champagne including two years at Krug while studying. He returned to run the family vineyard and his two sons are now also involved in the business.
Here they make two appellations; Côte du Ventoux and Vin de Pays. For AOC Ventoux reds and rosés, they plant and use Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Marsellan. For the AOC Ventoux whites, they use Clairette, Roussanne and Grenache blanc, Viognier. For the vins de pays de Vaucluse reds; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Caladoc is used and Chardonnay for the whites. As I was leaving they were preparing to pick the whites, I look forward to tasting the 2016 vintage!
Over the weeks in the heat, Provençal rosé was the main drink of choice and I tasted those from Domaine de la Bastidonne. They make three types of rosés, two from bottle and one from a bag in box (great value at about 15 euros). Plus not to mention going to the French boulangerie and having it with some fantastic cheese, delightful!