Le Petit Café Takes the Cake

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There’s no doubt that the food in Provence is amazing. So each year, we like to award a restaurant for the best food of the trip. We have our favorites—Le Fournil in Bonnieux, les Remparts in Venasque, la Bergerie in Maubec, and la Terrasse in Joucas. But this year, le Petit Café wins for most delicious meal of the trip!

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This restaurant has been one of our favorites for some time. For one thing, it is located in the enchanting village of Oppède-le-Vieux, where the evening ambience is captivating to say the least. Yet, the food is downright delicious! Here’s a sample of the menu, which changes weekly.

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We had the tagliatelle with artichokes, tomatoes, ham, and pesto, as well as the beef with tomato, arugula, and Parmesan, accompanied with potatoes.

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The biscuits with chocolat, caramel ice cream, and sea salt were a hit. And the tiramisu was perhaps the best ever!

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We were really looking forward to seeing our majestic canine friend sitting on his spool. But apparently, he was confined to his room, as we caught sight of him from his window above.

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Le Petit Café is a characterful little find that won’t disappoint, especially at night. Reservations recommended, as it books up fast.

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À bientôt!

La Bastide de Marie Nestled Among the Vines

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Just outside the village of Ménerbes lies an 18th-century residence nestled among 57 acres of vines, surrounded by cypress and olive trees, and scented with rosemary and lavender bushes all around. La Bastide de Marie is an intimate, luxury farmhouse—a Provençal oasis in the Luberon to be discovered.

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I had heard mention repeatedly that dining at the bastide was an experience not to be missed. So finally, we decided to splurge and experience this hidden retreat for ourselves. I must emphasis the word “splurge,” as this was not our usual bistro or café dining. So to justify, we decided we would celebrate our anniversary a few weeks early just to make ourselves feel better.

The evening menu consists of a prix-fixe selection. It starts with an open bar on the outside terrace overlooking the vineyard, offering wines of the Domaine de Marie, kir, pastis, or whatever you choose. Along with that a delicious buffet of appetizers is laid out in the inside dining room. As we sipped our apéritifs, a waiter came over to review the evening menu. We then moved inside to the gorgeous dining room to choose our table. In the summer months, tables are set up outside in view of the vineyard. But on the cooler evenings, the inside dining room offers beautiful views as well.

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The menu includes an entrée, a plat, cheese, dessert, and coffee. You also have your choice of limitless wine from the domaine. Your waiter returns again and again to refill throughout dinner. With the unlimited wine, we reasoned that we were actually saving money with our splurge. If only! The red wine of the domaine was outstanding and was our favorite of the trip. It is well worth stopping by the cellars for a tasting and to buy a bottle or two, since it is very reasonably priced.

Here is a little view of the food at the bastide. We thought it was quite good. It didn’t surpass our favorite restaurants of the region, but the atmosphere is enchanting indeed.

La Bastide de Marie is part of a small group of exclusive destinations of Maisons and Hôtels Sibuet. I would imagine the rooms are just as inviting as the grounds. I’m always nervous to stay at hotels, fearing that noise may be an issue. However, I asked an older gentleman who was staying at the bastide if the rooms were quiet. He looked up at me with tears in his eyes and said that he normally suffers with a sleep issue but had the best sleep of his life while staying there.

Dining at la Bastide de Marie is indeed a special treat. But as most would agree, all of the Luberon, all of Provence, and all of France is one big treat!

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IMG_3650À bientôt!

Tourrettes-sur-Loup: The City of Violets

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The thrill of discovering new villages with the expectation that the next one will surely be more charming than the last is why my early trips to France entailed a five-page list of villages in alphabetical order to see. The sight of this list would often make my husband’s face turn pale from exhaustion at the thought of it.

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So while he was heading to the nearest bench or rock to relax, I was rushing around in the pursuit of more villages yet to be discovered. All that has changed. I still have my list but have learned to appreciate the value of slow travel and to enjoy the moment. For that reason, it it hard to venture outside of the Vaucluse department of Provence, an area that just forces you to slow down and take two-hour lunches and leisurely strolls as the sound of the cicadas lulls you into a trancelike state of relaxation in the afternoon sun.

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Yet, the Côte d’Azur was calling. On our way over, we stopped off at the village of Tourrettes-sur-Loup. And what a dream this medieval village filled with old-world charm, ancient walkways, cobblestone steps, and colorful flowers dotting a landscape of mountain and sea was!

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Situated high up some 27 kilometers from Nice, this perched village is considered to be less touristy than the stunning Saint-Paul-de-Vence and Èze, which we are saving for another time. I don’t know what the summer months bring, but Tourrettes-sur-Loup was a quiet place in the month of September.

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Known as the City of Violets, Tourrettes holds an annual Fête des Violettes in March. The whole village is filled with flowers. The cultivation of violets is used for the perfume industry in Grasse as well as for making local products such as crystallized flowers, candied fruit, and ice cream. The village is also home to many artisans, whose workshops are filled with pottery, jewelry, paintings, and sculptures.

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We found ourselves at the most adorable café called L’Epicerie that just called to us. Now, I know we were in France, but let me just say, it was some of the best Italian food I have ever had! So simple and so good.

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The gorgeous village of Tourrettes-sur-Loup is well worth a visit, especially outside of July and August when you can enjoy wandering the ancient streets and narrow passageways while the sight of the Mediterranean off in the distance just beckons you to come explore.

Looking for  a special little place to stay? Look no further. Histoires de Bastide is the perfect place to spend a night or two.

À bientôt!

Le Petit Café in the Majestic Oppède-le-Vieux

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Some things just don’t change. Don’t you love it when you return to a place and it feels like nothing has skipped a beat while you were gone? Like le Petit Café located in the breathtaking Oppède-le-Vieux. The same white dog sitting on a spool in the center of it all.

We had another amazing meal at this restaurant. It really is an extremely enchanting place in the evening, located in the very ancient village square. This time we parked our car a good 15 minutes away so as to enjoy a surreal walk before dinner with a backdrop of vineyards, the Luberon mountain, and the ruins of Oppède. This made for a romantic yet scary walk back later in the dark, all the time wondering if a wild boar would present itself.

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Being that le Petit Café is a Mediterranan-inspired restaurant, what better way to start our meal than with the most delicious olives and bread! For our main course, we chose the côte de veau with lemon and vegetables and the pavé de saumon à la plancha with risotto and ratatouille. The food was so fresh and delicious that this restaurant is now number three on our list of Provençal favorites.

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And for dessert, crème citronnée sur lit de fruits and tiramisu maison. Voilà!

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Happy and content, we must now venture in the dark back to our car through the enchanting Oppède-le-Vieux. Can’t wait to return to le Petit Café.

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À bientôt!

Oppède-le-Vieux—Breathtaking Enchantment

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Every visitor to the Vaucluse department of Provence must make time to visit this raw, rugged, breathtaking jewel of the Luberon. Frozen in time, Oppède-le-Vieux enchants its visitors with its majestic position clinging to the side of the Luberon. Even the walk up from the parking lot into the village is like walking through a botanical garden, with the flora and cypress trees beckoning one to come discover this enchanting place.

IMG_0907Dating back to the 12th century, Oppède-le-Vieux charms its visitors with its architecture. From the center of the village, it is just a short, steep hike up a cobblestone path to reach the ruins on top, where there is a spectacular panorama of the Luberon Valley.

Afterward, visitors can enjoy lunch or a refreshing beverage in the center square at le Petit Café, which is a Mediterranean restaurant serving quite tasty fare. This is a lively little spot to watch the comings and goings of the village, while the owner’s dog mingles with the guests or lounges on a spool in the midst of all the shenanigans.

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For a truly enchanting experience, though, go in the evening for dinner when the village of Oppède is all lit up against the cliff. This is the time when the tourists have moved on and the locals have arrived for a delicious meal in a dreamy environment. Finish the evening with an after dinner stroll through the illuminated streets for a memorable evening under the Provençal sky.

À bientôt!

Joucas—My Favorite Village of the Luberon

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Just the name Joucas alone is pretty. There is something about this village, some je ne sais quoi, that just makes it mine. I could imagine myself living here. It’s quiet, peaceful, scenic, charming, pretty. Yet, it’s not far from the shops and restaurants in Gordes, Goult, and Roussillon.

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Joucas is a little perched village with just a small épicerie and a fantastic bistrot. The cobblestone walkways winding through the village along with the blue shutters against the ancient stone walls just ooze charm. Joucas is an artists’ retreat.

Bistrot la Terrasse is spectacular at night with enchanting views of the Luberon, cypress trees, vineyards, the gentle Provençal breeze, and the village of Roussillon all lit up from afar. The food at the bistrot is very good and reasonably priced, from the omelettes and frites to the plat du jour. Yet, it’s the intoxicating view at sunset that beckons one to return.

A visit to la Terrasse could be combined with a stop at the nearby village of Lioux for a hike either before or after lunch. We had no problem at the very end of August getting a table for lunch or in the evening without a reservation, but I think people are catching on to this place. So reservations are highly recommended.

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À bientôt!

Maubec—Pure Enchantment

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While I love the popular Luberon villages as much as the next person, I’m always on the hunt for the authentic, remote, captivating places that one just dreams about for years to come. I kept hearing mention of Maubec as a small, authentic French village and had it on my list of villages to visit one day. I was not disappointed. It made our top memorable evening experience of the trip! In fact, we returned two more times in a two-week period.

Old Maubec, sitting at the foot of the Luberon, is quiet, mysterious, peaceful; yet it is just minutes away from the bigger villages. It’s the type of place one would love to return to at the end of a day of sightseeing for peace and serenity.

For an unforgettable experience in ambiance, it is an absolute must to arrive in the evening for a simple, delicious meal at la Bergerie, which is a pizzeria with an outside terrace overlooking the vineyard and the picturesque baroque edifice illuminated at night. It is pure enchantment!

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La Bergerie might not be a Michelin-starred restaurant, but the food is very good. Serving delicious, creative pizzas and hearty regional dishes, it’s the kind of place where locals go. In fact, we recognized the cook from a café in Gordes who was there eating with his family. But again, it’s the enchanting ambiance that is memorable.

Make sure to arrive before dinner to walk the mysterious cobblestone streets around the belfry. You will feel like you have gone back in time.

Pure enchantment indeed. À bientôt!