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James Martin

A Week in Provence

By November 2, 2009

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Bonnieux coffeeToday was our first full day in the rental apartment in Lourmarin and it was supposed to rain all day. If you're going to have a rainy day, you always hope it will come in the middle of your stay--after you've had a few days to explore. Then you don't mind staying home and catching up on email and downloading pictures. But, it's November, you take what you get.

Let me tell you, if the weather was a roller coaster, we'd have thrown up just after they sold us the ticket.

It was just sprinkling a bit at 9am when we walked to the little store in Lourmarin called Super TafII. It's one of those wonderful little stores that carries just about everything you'd put in your mouth voluntarily. We snagged some cheese (a creamy Banon, a goat cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves, and a chevre called la Gariotin), some onion, olive and anchovy fougasse, and some pate en croute--just in case we didn't want to cook. France is the place to be if you just want to nibble on deli stuff. Then we hit the road, thinking that if it rained we could still see some of the countryside.

It stopped raining by the time we hit the town of Bonnieux. Bonnieux has a bread museum and a street for penitants and tourists with stout legs that ramps steeply to the top of the hill offering great views as well as one of those handy orientation tables the French so kindly provide which labels everything you can see on the horizon so you can decide where you'd like to go next.

I wanted to go to Saignon. No, it's not a place in Viet Nam. It's one of those Provence towns you don't hear much about. In fact, the very reason I wanted to visit it was that someone left a comment on Provenceweb wondering why they didn't make mention of it. Well, he was right, it was a delightful town spread out on a ridge as if waiting to become a postcard--and it had some fine restaurants, too. You need to have a full memory card for that camera though, Saignon is eye candy deluxe.

fine weatherBy the time we'd walked through the ruins of the castle at Saignon we were hungry. The menu at the hotel/restaurant César in Bonnieux sounded good and it advertised a panoramic terrace, so we backtracked. The €17 lunch menu was indeed fabulous; I had the skate wing in a lemon caper sauce and Martha had the lamb shank flavored with thyme.

While we were sitting in the restaurant, a wind started blowing. Howling I should say. It cleared the gunk out of the air with a vengeance. Suddenly we could see across the valley with a clarity that was actually startling. There were the vineyards in fall colors and above them the town of Lacoste and just above Lacoste was...are you ready? The Chateau of the Marquis de Sade. Pinch me! Oh, well, maybe not...

The sky was now blue. Bluer than the shutters, a deep and rich blue that was totally unexpected on this reportedly rainy day. Later it would fill with gray, wooley clouds. We would go on to take more pictures, ending up at the cemetery of Lourmarin as the sun dipped below the clouds, peering at the grave of French literary giant Albert Camus, whose daughter Catherine still lives in Lourmarin village they tell us.

Provence Day by Day Index

  • Day 1 (This Post) - Lourmarin, Bonnieux, Saignon, Lacoste
  • Day 2 - Cucuron, Menerbes, Oppède Le Vieux
  • Day 3 - The Carmague (More on The Carmague)
  • Day 4 - Roussillon and the Ocre Trail, Lacoste
  • Day 5 - Loumarin, the Open-Air Market and Aioli
  • Day 6 - Aix-en-Provence and Incompetent Waiters
  • Day 7 - The Wrap: Seeing the Light

We stayed at an apartment on the edge of the old town of Lourmarin called Le Petit Reve, which we found through VRBO.

November 2, 2009 at 7:32 pm
(1) ES says:

I had to give an address to give a comment. Hmmmm, wonder what will become of that.

Anyway, where’s the pics? I wanted to see the castle of de Sade. Great article. I wanna go.

November 3, 2009 at 3:43 am
(2) James says:

Don’t worry about the address. They only come out to check if you have a comfortable enough desk chair to read my very long blog posts, and they’re pretty nice about it :-)

We are going to check out de Sade’s digs today close up. Under renovation, I’ve read. Then a picture gallery.


November 6, 2009 at 7:25 am
(3) Judy Whiteman says:

The daughter of Camus does indeed live in Lourmarin. I had the distinction of having had my pronunciation of the last name of writer Margaret Duras corrected by her. At the time, I didn’t know who that the lady behind the sunglasses was. I was told a bit later by someone (probably the proprietor) of the combination tea room/bookstore in town called Le The Dans L’Encrier. Ms. Camus is said to be very active in organizing the yearly conference held at our chateau on a topic related to Camus. (We are part-time residents of the town).

August 26, 2010 at 11:10 am

Several times in France, but do not know yet Provence, for sure next time I will know everything I read here in this fantastic article.

December 8, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Fantastic article !

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