“There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.
Perhaps my favorite perched village in Luberon is the gorgeous, red-hued Roussillon. Known mostly for her abundant natural ochre that covers the steep hillside and paints the town red, Roussillon is quite a spectacular place. Medieval serpentine streets lined with red-hued buildings and terracotta roofs, meander all the way up to the top. A leisurely afternoon in Roussillon is bound to capture your imagination and soul.
“Stuff your eyes with wonder; live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Ray Bradbury
Out of all four perched villages of Luberon that we visited during our day trip through Provence, the most spectacular and majestic one of all was Gordes. Built high atop the rocky slopes of the Monts de Vaucluse, the village of Gordes is the crown jewel of Luberon and is a magnificent site to see.
“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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Qu’a vist Paris e noun Cassis a ren vist.”
“He who has seen Paris and who has not seen Cassis can say … I have seen nothing.” Frédéric Mistral (1830 – 1914)
I had taken the short train ride from Marseille to Cassis, a small seaside fishing village, over twenty years ago. It was a sunny morning when we boarded the train and hopped off at the St. Charles train station, a 2-3 kilometer walk to town. If I close my eyes, I can picture the lush verdant greenery of the rugged countryside of Provence, the brilliant blue seaside and the reddish-orange terra cotta tiles of the rooftops. I also remember the beautifully colored buildings and boats of Cassis and how magical a place I had found. Would her colorful, playful buildings still dance atop the turquoise sea?
Like many places in the world, I never believed it would take me twenty years to get back. But sometimes life gets in the way and keeps you busy. As I road the bus from Marseille to Cassis, over twenty years later with my sister and mother, I wondered and desperately hoped, “Would it be the same”?
So often memories are nostalgic for a reason. Things change. Places get discovered and sadly get spoiled. Would Cassis have the same fate as so many other beautiful places in Europe? Would it be lined with tacky t-shirt and souvenir shops taking all of her beloved charm away? Would it be overcome with tourists pushing and shoving for a table at an outdoor cafe? I would have to wait and see.
This week’s photo challenge happens to be a favorite of mine: Pattern. I adore the patterns of the brilliant rusty orange-colored tiled rooftop found in homes throughout the world. Two places in particular have my favorite styles: Southern France and Antigua, Guatemala. Here is a sample of some of the dynamic patterned rooftops I’ve captured throughout my travels.
“Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find them.” – Roald Dahl
Today I’m leaving for France and I’ll be honest, I can hardly contain my excitement, anticipation and joy. France holds a special place in my heart. I lived there twenty years ago twice, once in Paris as a student at the Sorbonne and the next year in Marseille doing a business internship at the age of 22.
I blossomed in France. I became a woman. The world was at my footsteps and I will always look back at my time in France as one of excitement, discovery, growth and joy. It was one of the best times of my lives, yet thankfully I have many other times that have also qualified for equally as great.
This trip will also be extremely special because not only am I going to revisit all of my most favorite, memory-ladden places, I will also be taking this trip with two extremely special people in my life: My mother and my sister. Looking back now, although we have traveled a lot as a family I don’t believe we have ever taken a trip just the three of us.
Meanwhile, my wonderful dad is coming (in the place of my mother who has graciously watched my children for the last eight years while I’ve traveled with my dad) to help “babysit” the kids while my husband works. Should be an interesting time. I’ve already typed up five pages of detailed instructions. Looking over at the list, it is no wonder I’m always tired!
While I’m away, I am going to try my hardest not to blog. Instead, I’m going to focus on soaking everything in…the beauty, the architecture, the food, the people, and lovely fantastic Spring in Paris and Provence. I am convinced I will beat my record of 800 photos in a week. What do you think? I’m thinking it will be over a thousand.
So in the meantime, while I’m away, if you are missing my blog you can keep abreast of my pictures and trip via two other sites that I will be updating. You can follow me along on facebook and Instagram where I’ll be posting some of my favorite pics….
Here is a sample of my site…I’ve become a little addicted to Instagram lately as I love looking at photos so if you know any good ones to follow or you have an account, please let me know.
I will also try to post one photo a day from my trip on my other photoblog, thethirdeyeworld. Thethirdeyeworld is the sometimes ignored and overlooked little sister of thirdeyemom. If you haven’t checked it out before, please feel free to do so and subscribe!
Sadly, this blog will be left alone with no posts until I get back! I promised myself I wouldn’t waste anytime inside my hotel room writing a blog post when I could be out enjoying France. So stay tuned! 🙂