We have spent the past couple of days following in the footsteps of Peter Mayle who wrote the famed books, ‘A Year in Provence’ and ‘Toujours Provence’ that described his efforts of renovating a farmhouse outside the village of Menerbes in the late 1980s.
We started our tour in Roussillon the hilltop village that is distinct by colour as it is a requirement that villagers tint the outsides of their homes with ochre, of which there are 40 different shades from beige to purple.
After a walk around the village we paid €2.50 each to enter the Sentier des Ocres, two walking paths that take you through the beautiful coloured ochre formations. A 30 minute to 1 hour long walk winds its way through stunning mini-desert landscapes. You feel as if you have been transported to the deserts of southwest America.
Well worth the entrance fee to see the beautiful coloured formations.
Our next stop was to visit Bonnieux a tiered village spanning several levels with the 12th Century Eglise Vielle du Haut at the top. Narrow lanes and archways to be found in abundance!
Moving on to Lacoste, unrelated to the brand however Pierre Cardin purchased the 9th-Century Chateau de Lacoste, where the disreputable Marquis de Sade retreated in 1771, when his writings became too scandalous for Paris. The chateau, where de Sade hosted notorious orgies, was looted by revolutionaries in 1789 and the 45 room palace remained a ruin until it was bought by Pierre Cardin. He created a 1000 seat theatre and opera stage next to the Chateau, only open during July’s month long Festival de Lacoste. There are various sculptures outside the theatre, namely a huge pair of arms outstretched, a tree of life and a bust of the Marquis or it could be Cardin, I am not sure as I didn’t read the plaque!
The walk up to the chateau is steep and cobbled as are many of its narrow streets and what’s left of the village not owned by Pierre Cardin belongs to the US-based Savannah College of Art & Design. A charming village to walk around.
Next stop, the Village of Menerbes and this is one village that we both particularly liked, it felt very authentic, some cobbled streets, lovely old buildings but also some lovely renovated buildings too. The village has fabulous views over the hills and plains on one side and the Luberon Mountains on the other side.
Our final hilltop village is Gordes that sits spectacularly on the white rock face of the Vaucluse plateau. There is an 11th Century chateau and here you will find the tourist office where you can pick up a map and follow the recommended walk. There is not a lot to see in Gordes but what there is quaint and there are stunning views from the terraces. The best view of the village is to be found from the viewing point on the main road leading up to the car parks and the village. Best to get there before the tourist buses arrive!
We stayed the night in the Aire at Roussillon, just a car park really, very quiet, very level, within walking distance of the town and there are public toilets in the car park next door. The car park is a bit tricky to get in and out of as you need to take a wide swing and or various manoeuvres. You take a ticket at the entrance and pay at the machine before you leave. We were charged for 2 days and one overnight as we arrived at 2pm and left at 10.00am the next day, a total of €9.
The second night we stayed at the Aire closest to the village of Gordes at a cost of €8 for 24 hours. Use of the services was €3 extra payable at the service point. We arrived late afternoon and walked into the village in the morning. The Aire is on a slope so can be difficult to get level but does have water and a waste water & WC disposal point.
All the four villages mentioned above are all within easy reach of each other and in our opinion, worth a visit.