Sunshine and lavender fields all the way from Marseille
At the end of the 1980s, Peter Mayle and his wife left London to buy an old Provençal farmhouse, near Ménerbes in the Lubéron, less than an hour by car from Marseille. Through witty prose, the writer tells us how they settled in France in his book A Year in Provence, which has sold over six million copies and has been translated into some 40 languages. The international acclaim for this book encouraged thousands of Brits, but also Japanese and Australians, to travel around the South of France. And now it is your turn to spend a few days in the Lubéron and set off in the footsteps of Provence's favourite English author. It will not take long before you too fall under the spell of this region and its colourful landscapes.
The best Mediterranean produce in the heart of the Lubéron
Here in the Lubéron, you will find all the human warmth described in Peter Mayle's work. The undying passion the French have for good food and drink, with those never-ending lunches under a shady pergola. At the market in Coustellet, a little oasis of peace, fill your shopping basket with fruit and vegetables bursting with sunshine. Moving to the cooperative winery in Bonnieux, give in to temptation and try a glass of its sparkling rosé which could give a fair few Champagnes a run for their money.
From the ice creams of Ansouis with their unusual flavours, to the goats' cheeses of Banon or the candied fruit of Gargas… the incredible variety of local produce is sure to delight. For example, sample some of the icy creations at L'Art Glacier in Ansouis. On a beautiful terrace perched on top of a hill covered in pine trees, try their tasty sorbets flavoured with verbena, lavender and even… olive oil!
After sampling the delights of the region, a game of pétanque – a traditional form of boules played in the south of France and described by Peter Mayle – is a must. Play in the shadow of the Château de la Tour-d'Aigues, a remarkable Renaissance masterpiece whose architecture was inspired by France's greatest châteaux and especially by the Louvre.
La Cave de Bonnieux
Quartier de la Gare
+33 (0) 4 90 75 80 03
Les Hautes Terre
+33 (0) 4 90 77 75 72
Château de la Tour d'Aigues
Place Jean Jaurès
84240 La Tour d'Aigues
+33 (0) 4 90 07 50 29
Up close and personal with Provence's cultural heritage and artisans
This sunny landscape also boasts a rich architectural and craft heritage. In Lacoste, explore the château of the depraved Marquis de Sade, where there is a display of furniture from the private collection of Pierre Cardin, its current owner. When you get to Ménerbes, climb up to the citadel, overlooking the village where Peter Mayle found sanctuary. There is a myriad of stone buildings that will lure you with their charm. Treat yourself to a gourmet meal at the Maison de la Truffe et du Vin du Lubéron. With its panoramic views over the hills, its magnificent gardens set out in French style beckon you to stay a while and re-read passages from A Year in Provence describing the way of life in the south. Back on the road, continue to Lourmarin, nestled between vineyards, olive groves and almond trees. It was another famous writer, Albert Camus, who put this village on the map. The winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature spent his last days here and is buried in the village cemetery.
Whilst on your Provençal pilgrimage, remember to visit some of the area's craft workshops where artists and artisans display their skills. In Lumières, Édith Mézard makes delicate embroideries and linens near the Château de l'Ange, a former coaching inn from the 18th century. A bit further on, near to Gargas, Régis Mathieu restores and reproduces spectacular old chandeliers. Discover his resplendent collection of 200 lights displayed to perfection in a former ochre factory. A marvel to behold in pure Provençal style.
Maison de la Truffe et du Vin du Luberon
Place de l'horloge
+33 (0)4 90 72 38 37
Édith Mézard –Provençal embroidery
Route des Alpes, at the entrance to the village of Lumières
+33 (0)4 90 72 36 41
Chemin les Vieux Sauvans
+33 (0)4 90 74 92 40