After a few days in St Tropez we wanted to get away from the bustling coastline and up into the quieter countryside of Provence.
If you are in Provence or making the journey from the Côte d’Azur an absolute must visit is Château La Coste. This beautiful property, only 20 minutes from Aix-en-Provence, has a number of exceptional restaurants, a vineyard and an amazing collection of modern art and particularly sculptures. You can actually also stay at Villa La Coste which features 28 sun-drenched villas amidst the 600 acre property – they look insane!
So after a lovely lunch at Château La Coste we headed further north to the Luberon region. The Luberon is widely regarded as being one of the most beautiful areas of France, with rolling hills streaked with lavender and medieval villages built into hillsides.
Whilst in the Luberon, we stayed at a charming bed and breakfast called Maison Valvert, just outside the quaint little town of Bonnieux. Actually who am I kidding, every little town around there was quaint! The Belgian couple who bought the property and now run it as a bed and breakfast are really lovely and helpful, especially Cathy. They have 4 rooms, 2 cottages, a little house and a wonderful treehouse available to stay in. Everything is thoughtfully considered, and chic in that earthy-hued South of France way.
Maison Valvert has achieved the happy medium between overly intimate bed and breakfast vibes and a hotel where you are completely anonymous – you feel looked after but not overly so. They have a lovely pool which I spent quite a few afternoons lazing by, but what I especially enjoyed was their breakfasts which were very French and really lovely.
We spent our time in the Luberon reading by the pool at Maison Valvert, driving to lavender fields and exploring the nearby towns (a particular favourite of mine is pictured below – L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue).
There wasn’t a town we visited that I didn’t like, but here are the highlights:
- Bonnieux – the nearest town to Maison Valvert. Bonnieux is built into the hillside and is small but has some spectacular views. I loved eating at Casa Bonilis for dinner which served delicious pasta, there is also a beautiful antique place here.
- Gordes – very famous in the Luberon region, largely because it is built dramatically into a cliff and is very close to the famous Sénanque Abbey. If you go to visit the Abbey, go early before 9am, or later after 7pm! It gets VERY busy.
- Saint-Saturnin-d’Apt – very small but pretty
- L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue – one of my favourites, it was incredibly pretty with a moat around the city. We had the loveliest lunch in the garden at L’atelier du Jardin. Le Vivier is also meant to be a lovely spot to eat. This is also an antique hot spot.
- Apt – a much bigger town with more infrastructure. Apt also has a farmer’s market every Tuesday evening, from April to December.
- Roussillon – another one my favourite towns, also very famous with the ochre-hued architecture. There is a wonderful ice cream shop here!
- Lourmarin – go for lunch or dinner, this is a lovely little central town area with no cars and cobblestone streets. The film ‘A Good Year’ was filmed around there. Lots of lovely French cafes and restaurants, like la Fenière and La Louche à Beurre.
- Ménerbes – Ménerbes has a lovely antique shop and some nice other shops to meander in, have lunch at Le Cinq or the little sop further up on the right that sells wine and olive oil
- Lacoste – another great cobblestone town built into a hill that is lovely to visit or stay in.
In terms of where to eat, Cathy at Maison Valvert gave us a wonderful book of recommendations for all the surrounding towns. Something else I’d highly recommend is the local markets, check to see when these are on in each town as they are pretty regular in in the summer months and a really lovely thing to do. I bought truffle oil, cheese and some beautiful linen.
Another great activity is to visit one of the traditional lavender distilleries like Distillerie Vallon in Sault. That was, after all, one of the reasons we chose Provence at the start of July – it is prime lavender season.