Bonnieux France

The Perched Villages of Luberon: Bonnieux

“Not all those who wander are lost.”  –  J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

After visiting lovely Lourmarin, our next stop on our tour of the perched villages of Luberon was beautiful Bonnieux.  Perched high above the lush valley of Luberon affording a spectacular panoramic view of vineyards, orchards and medieval villages, sits the village of Bonnieux.  Dating back to before Roman times, this picturesque Provencal town is a wonderful place to explore for its simple beauty, tranquility and quintessential Frenchness.

Bonnieux France

Château de Lourmarin

Le Château de Lourmarin

The Provencal village of Lourmarin located in the South of France is known as one of the most beautiful perched villages in all of Luberon and was built at a strategic point between the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea.  This intersection called the “Combe” was a gateway for salt merchants who transported this invaluable product across the country during a time in which salt was the key ingredient to preserving food.

Village of Lourmarin

View of the Village of Lourmarin from the Chateau

Just outside the village of Lourmarin sits the spectacular Château de Lourmarin which was built during three different stages.  First a fortress was built between the 12th and 13th century by the Baux family. Second, the Château Vieux (Old Chateau) was built in the 15th century by another prosperous family, the Agoult family. Third, a new wing called the “Renaissance Wing” or “Château Neuf” (New Chateau) was built in the 16th century. The Château was deserted by the Agoult family and moved on to other famous families in the region until it was left to ruin in 1920. Thankfully the Château was saved by a wealthy industrialist and today remains open to the public on behalf of the Aix Academy of Art and Sciences. (Source: Office de Tourisme Municipal de Lourmarin).

Provencal Lavender Sachets

The Magical Markets of Provence

One of the best delights of a trip through the villages of Luberon is experiencing her magical local markets laden with Provençal products.  Local markets offer a glimpse into the true heart and soul of the countryside offering a wide variety of products such as lavender sachets, handwoven baskets and linens, flowers, wine, produce and other regional specialties that are renown to the region.

During our April road trip through the perched villages of Luberon, I was instantly drawn to the markets as an ideal place to buy the perfect gift for friends and capture the real essence of Provence.

Products of Provence

Beautiful handmade lotions and creams from Provence.


The Perched Villages of Luberon: Lourmarin

Our first stop on our tour of the perched villages of Luberon was the lovely hillside village of Lourmarin. About 70 kilometers south of Marseille in the heart of Provence, lies lovely Lourmarin, a quaint village known as the final resting spot of Albert Camus. Founded over a thousand years ago at the slopes of Luberon Massif, Lourmarin is a sleepy town most of the year until the herdes of tourists arrive mid-summer and wake the town up.

The hour and a half drive to Lourmarin from Marseille was full of laughter and gorgeous views of the lush countryside of Provence. We passed brilliant yellow fields of fennel, vineyards, orchards and olive groves. The only disappointment of the drive was that the famous lavender fields which symbolize Provence were not in bloom yet. Apparently that does not happen until summer time but it is a spectacular sight to see. So beautiful that I know I’ll have to someday see it for myself.

Lourmarin France

Approaching Lourmarin

Gordes, France

A tour through the perched villages of Luberon

Our last day in the south of France was spent on an eight hour tour visiting the perched villages of Luberon. Luberon is an area of Provence located south of Marseille and is known for its hilly, picturesque villages, lavender and fennel fields and vineyards. You could spend a couple of days cruising around and visiting all the different villages, each lovely and magical in its own right.

Luberon map

Map of Luberon (credit: Wikipedia)

I have always wanted to visit Luberon ever since I lived in Marseille back in 1994. But I never made it. The only thing I have from this beautiful part of Provence is a framed print sitting inside a spare closet with a beautiful picture depicting the countryside.

Marseille's Fish Market

Marseille’s Marché aux Poissons

Anyone who has even been to Marseille knows about its beloved Marché aux Poissons (fish market). The oldest and second largest city in France, Marseille was founded in 600 BC by the Greeks and became one of the most important port towns along the Mediterranean Sea. Given its prime location and wonderful harbor came a long-held tradition of fishing. The Marché aux Poissons has been around for centuries and is the best place around for fish lovers to buy the freshest seafood in France.

Marseille's Fish Market

Le Panier Marseille

Getting lost in the streets of Marseille’s Le Panier

Perhaps the most picturesque place in all of Marseille is the lovely “Le Panier” district.  One of the oldest parts of town founded by the Greeks over 2,600 years ago, Le Panier is known for her charming narrow, paved streets and steps that curve up and down the quaint hillside north of Marseille’s Vieux Port.

Le Panier Marseille

The enchanting Le Panier, Marseille’s Old Town

Les Calanques de Cassis

Touring the Calanques of Cassis

One of the highlights of any trip to Cassis is a must-see tour of the spectacular Calanques. Like Norway’s steep-cliff fjords, the jagged creamy-white calanques dotting the Mediterranean coast of Provence are a sight to see.

Following our delicious lunch of Salade au Chèvre Chaud paired with tart, fruity Vin de Cassis (one of the best wines in all of Provence) at an outdoor cafe along the lovely harbor of Cassis, it was on to our tour of the world-famous Calanques. The Calanques are steep-walled inlets that have developed through time along the Mediterranean coast. The largest, most popular stretch of calanques lies between the coast of Marseille and Cassis. This range stretches for 20 kilometers long and a narrow four kilometers wide. Arguably the most beautiful stretch as well, the wide, rugged and gorgeous “Massif des Calanques” is made primarily of creamy white limestone.

It is very easy to get a tour of one of Provencal France’s most spectacular sites. Alongside the harbor is a variety of tour boats that will take you out to anywhere from three to nine or more calanques. We chose the “Circuit Exploration: 5 Calanques” which was a 65-minute tour of the five top calanques (Port Miou, Port Pin, En Vau, l”Oule and Devenson).

Cassis is a jumping off point to the calanques. Many boats offer tours from the harbor to the calanques.

Cassis is a jumping off point to the calanques. Many boats offer tours from the harbor to the calanques.

Notre Dame de la Garde Marseille

Marseille’s Notre Dame de la Garde: The Best View in Town

Perched high above the city of Marseille lies the crowned jewel The Notre Dame de la Garde which affords the most spectacular 360 degree view that can be found in all of Provence. Founded on the site of a small chapel built in 1214 overlooking Le Vieux Port of Marseille, the Notre Dame de la Garde is the most majestic basilica in the region and can be seen standing prominently from nearly every street in the city. Literally translated as “Our Lady of the Guard“, “La Bonne Mère” or “Good mother” as she is lovely called, is as symbolic to Marseille as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris.  Locals have believed for centuries that she watches over the city and protects its inhabitants.

Marseille Vieux Port

Dramatic view of the Notre Dame de la Garde which dominates over the city of Marseille.

Vieux Port at Sunset.

Room with a view: Marseille’s Magnificent Vieux Port

At the end of April, we traveled via TGV south from Paris to the Mediterranean town,  Marseille. The second largest and oldest city in France, Marseille has experienced a dramatic rebirth from a rather banal port city to a vibrant, cultural mecca in line with any of Europe’s major cosmopolitan cities.

View of Vieux Port

Room with a view of Vieux Port and Notre Dame de la Garde

I was curious to see Marseille again as it had been a very long time. Twenty years ago I wanted to faire un stage thus spent the summer as an intern at a French business after graduating from university. I honestly do not have many fond memories of my time there. I loved the region of Provence surrounding Marseille yet found the city to be dirty, uninspiring and relatively bland. After hearing so much fanfare about Marseille and what a magnificent city it has become, I decided to give it another whirl and I was not the slightest bit disappointed in what I found.

In Marseille, I found a pell mell of culture and electricity that other cities would die to have just a sliver of. In a nutshell, Marseille had come to life with a pizzazz and heartbeat that pulsates the city like a radiant shower of gold.

Sailboats at Vieux Port

The lovely sailboats of the Vieux Port.

Notre Dame Gargoyles Paris, France

Protectors of the City of Light: The Gargoyles of Notre Dame

No trip to Paris would ever be complete without a visit to the beloved Cathédrale de Notre-Dame.  Built between 1163 and 1345 the Notre Dame has withstood centuries of history and is one of the most iconic cathedrals in the world. Not only is the Notre Dame a pure masterpiece of French Gothic architecture, it has also remained the city’s heart and soul for centuries of dynamic struggle and change.


The Romance of Paris: The Hôtel de Ville

April in Paris is one of those quintessential travel experiences that any travel lover should experience. As springtime hits Paris, this sensationally romantic and beautiful city comes to life. The chairs at the street cafes are full with people, the flowers are blooming leaving a fragrance in the air, and the world of Paris comes to life with an unmatched energy that can’t be found anywhere in the world. In a nutshell, April in Paris is utterly fantastic.

An added bonus of going in April or even early May is that the hordes of tourists haven’t yet arrived. They wait until summer. That means fewer lines, more free seats at the outdoor cafes, and prime people-watching of mostly Parisians.  It also allows for great access to many of Paris’ amazing sites with less hassle and more chance at getting some great photos without having to elbow someone for the shot.