Scenes From the Bonnieux Market

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It’s always exciting to wander into a French market with the hustle and bustle and the thrill of discovery awaiting. From the beautiful fruit and vegetable stands to the local honey to the fromage to the wine to the soaps and linens, market day is a must.

We arrived by bike at the Provençal market in Bonnieux greeted by live musicians playing a song from the French movie favorite Chocolat, which transported us back to scenes of Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche and the lively party on Roux’s boat.

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After wandering the market for some time, we reserved a table for lunch at un P’tit Coin de Cuisine on Place Gambetta, where we had a delicious Mediterranean plate with the local and in-season zucchini from Maubec. Much to our delight, the musicians relocated to a spot just below our table to entertain the crowds through lunch. This turned out to be an unexpected yet delightful day, and we were in no rush to leave.

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Here are more scenes as we wandered the market in Bonnieux just last week.

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À bientôt!

A Rental in Goult With a Million-Dollar View

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Nestled on the side of a hill with stunning views looking out over toward Bonnieux lies a small, secluded studio for two. This little rental is a dream. Though small, it is fitted to such a high standard.

But that view! I could stand there all day washing dishes at the kitchen sink with a view that makes you just want to pinch yourself. It could not be captured in photos. Many evenings, we just parked ourselves in the chairs facing the window and stared out at the view.

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The rental has three outdoor areas for relaxing as well. And with Café de la Poste just a two-minute stroll away, it is the perfect location.

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As mentioned before, the village of Goult itself is a secret little gem of the Luberon. With charm for days, it also has some excellent restaurants, two boulangeries, a cheese shop, and the most adorable grocery store.

For those looking for an economical yet high standard rental, the studio in Goult is fantastic. It can be viewed more closely here on the Luberon.com.

À bientôt!

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Crazy About Bonnieux

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I must admit, at first I wasn’t crazy about the village of Bonnieux. I thought it was a little too busy, a little rougher around the edges than some of my favorites in Provence. But after staying two weeks just below the village, I am now smitten.

Each day as I walked the steep street up into the village and took my time slowly exploring the narrow cobbled streets, I began to get this village. Now it is a part of me, a place I can’t wait to return to.

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With cascading houses clustered on the side of a hill, Bonnieux is filled with cafés, excellent dining, boulangeries, and views, views, and more views. The photogenic walk up the 86 steps to the top is a must with views over the Luberon valley to Lacoste, Gordes, and beyond.

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But the best is walking up the road behind the village against the Luberon mountain. Once you get close to the top, duck into the narrow alleys to explore and discover the charming doors, windows, and pots of flowers. You will have this all to yourself. This side of the village is even more stunning than the valley side.

There is no shortage of places to eat. As mentioned before, our new gold standard for the region is le Fournil. Also, la Bergerie is fantastic. And simple yet delicious Bretagne crêpes can be had at le Tinel crêperie.

Bonnieux is truly belle Provence. A place to return to again and again. A place that stays with you.

À bientôt!

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RESTAURANTS:

Le Fournil: Place Carnot; phone: +33 (0) 4 90 75 83 62; closed all day Monday and for lunch on Saturday.

La Bergerie: Chemin des Claparedes; phone: +33 (0) 4 90 75 89 78; closed Sunday evening and all day Monday.

Le Tinel:  Place Gambetta; phone: +33 (0) 4 90 75 61 28.

L’Arôme: I have not dined here yet, but it looks wonderful. The most charming setting with tables spilling out onto a narrow street.  2 rue Lucien Blanc; phone: +33 (0) 4 90 75 88 62; closed all day Wednesday and for lunch on Thursday.

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!

A Gîte That Comes With a Dog and Two Cats!

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On our last visit to Provence, we stayed at a little oasis of tranquility tucked away just below the village of Bonnieux. Each day began with a short yet very steep five-minute walk up to the boulangerie for fresh croissants. Lazy afternoons were spent lounging by a pool gazing up at the enchanting rooftops of Bonnieux.

And in the evenings, it was hard to break away with a view like this from our rental terrace. Vineyards and the village of Lacoste illuminated on one side and the sun setting over the rooftops of Bonnieux on the other.

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But the best part of all was the lovable Bambou and her two companions who came to visit us each day. From the moment we got up in the morning, Bambou was anxiously waiting outside our door to come in. And each day when we returned, we were visited by Bambou and a cat or two. This all added to our French village experience. Warm memories that will stay with us along with our newfound attachment to the village of Bonnieux.

For those looking to find a nice gîte rental in Provence, we have had much success finding good ones on HomeAway, or VRBO, where you can search by village and see many reviews. It is also helpful that you can pay by credit card instead of by bank transfer. Additionally, the Luberon.com offers a very, very nice selection of rentals specifically in the Luberon area.

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À bientôt!

The Charismatic Provençal Village of Bédoin

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Bédoin is a village that grows on you. At first it may not appear to be as polished or refined as some of the other popular villages in the area. But give it a chance. Wander the streets and enjoy the atmosphere, the frenzy of excitement as cyclists come and go as they bike the iconic stage of the Tour de France—Mont Ventoux.

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The main street is lined with some very nice shops and casual cafés. For some of the best olive bread in the region, stop in at Boulangerie Olivero Ravel.

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On my last visit, I stumbled by chance on a marché artisanal taking place in the village that day. The stands were filled with everything from pottery to children’s books to gorgeous rings made of clay to the beautiful works of Christine Juillan, who makes interesting jewelry from recycled wine bottles and perfume bottles.

For complete solitude and outstanding views, venture off the main street and walk up to the top of the village, where the golden and ochre-colored houses lie clustered basking under the Provençal sky. Ancient fountains and lavoirs add to the character and charm as you meander the narrow streets.

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For an authentic French village experience, visit Bédoin. Take some time to sit at one of the café terraces to get the flavor of this village. And if cycling to the top of Mont Ventoux is not for you, why not drive to the top to be rewarded with some stunning scenery. You might even spot a wild goat on your way.

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À bientôt!

“I’m Never Doing This Again!”

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As I waited with anticipation at an ancient fountain in the village of Bédoin for my husband to complete his third ride of Mont Ventoux, I spotted him. Anxiously, I asked, “How did it go?”  Grinning but determined, he said, “I’m never doing this again!” Famous last words!

After unwinding for a few minutes in the bliss of a cyclists’ mecca, the next words uttered were, “Well, maybe I’ll do it again next week.” Yes. The love-hate relationship with the mighty Giant.

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In the Vaucluse department of Provence, the Giant does not go unnoticed as it looms, making itself visible as you make your way from village to village and from café to café. And so with each croissant, every scoop of nougat glacé, and every bit of bread and cheese, it’s as if Ventoux is taunting you saying, “Go ahead and eat that croissant, that pain au chocolat, those steak frites, that scrumptious piece of moelleux au chocolat because I’ll be waiting here to destroy you!”

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Thus, my husband decided that perhaps his diet of croissants, pain au chocolat, steak frites, and desserts was not working so well for him the week before a ride. Perhaps a better plan would be to conquer Ventoux as soon as we arrive before the gluttony begins.

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But what a thrill to finish such a challenging ride! As you get close to the finish, photographers cheer you on as they take your picture and tuck their business card into your jersey so that you can contact them later to purchase your victory photo. A bit of a tourist trap? So be it! It’s genius. And besides, how many tourists actually arrive at the top of Mont Ventoux by bicycle?

Later, I got a description of what each stage of the ride felt like as we drove to the top. What an amazing place! Such barren and different scenery than the land below. And naturally there were food and wine at the top.

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Looking for a place to rent a bike in the Luberon? La Coquillade resort has a BMC Cycling Centre. The only sad part is having to return the bike at the end of your trip.

À 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!

Sometimes It’s All About the Frites!

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The truth is it doesn’t cost much to eat like a king in France. Though there are many Michelin-starred restaurants and fantastic dining experiences to be had, often it’s the simple café and bistro food that’s the best. The scrumptious buttery omelettes, the quiche, the crêpes, the freshest of salads—of which the lettuce was no doubt just picked from a garden within the village—and let’s not forget the frites! After we first tried the frites in France, we understood why they are called “French” fries. Amazing! Although the Belgians might beg to differ.

Many cafés and restaurants also offer a plat du jour for just 10 to 12 euros. This could perhaps be a steak, pork, chicken, or rabbit dish with potatoes and vegetables. Throw in a carafe of local table wine, often for just six to eight euros, and you will have yourself the most delicious yet affordable meal. These simple, slow cooked meals of the freshest ingredients—exploding with flavor—are why I can barely go out to eat anymore back home.

Here are some favorite cafés in the Vaucluse (Luberon) department of Provence based on the quality of food and the view.

Bistrot la Terrasse in Joucas. Fantastic food and view. Only open for lunch. If it’s ever open again in the evenings, this is the number one enchanting spot for ambiance at sunset. (phone: +33 4 90 75 17 98)

Café de France in Lacoste. Great food. Quiche is excellent! View to die for. (phone: +33 4 90 75 82 25)

Chez Christine in Saignon. Very good food, and the most authentic, charming village to sit out in under the shade of a tree. (rue Saint-Louis; phone: +33 4 90 04 50 10)

Chez Auzet Biscuits du Luberon in Menerbes. Excellent omelettes for five euros! All kinds of tartes and pastries. Great view. (52 rue du Portail Neuf; phone: +33 4 90 72 37 53)

Café du Progrès in Menerbes. I have not tried the food, but there is a small terrace that has the most amazing view overlooking the valley on which to enjoy an apéritif. (rue Raoul et Raymond Sylvestre; phone: +33 4 90 72 22 09)

Le Tinel Crêperie in Bonnieux. Very good crêpes as the cook is from Brittany. Great view. (place Gambetta; phone: +33 6 12 27 23 85)

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Chez Auzet in Menerbes

Bon appétit!

A Discovery at the Top of Bonnieux

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One day while taking a walk up the very steep road behind Bonnieux, I saw signs for la Bastide de Capelongue and Édouard Loubet, Relais and Châteaux. Curious, I kept walking. I continued up past the village and onto a side road. I soon came to the grounds of a gorgeous resort. As I discreetly explored the grounds, I saw across from the bastide a sign for la Bergerie.

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The electronic gates were open, so I made my way in. What I found was a cozy, intimate restaurant set on the beautiful grounds of la Ferme de Capelongue, which is a more informal part of the bastide. La Bergerie restaurant looked outstanding! I excitedly made my way back down the hill below the village of Bonnieux to share my discovery. I made a reservation and back we went.

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Not only are the grounds beautiful but the inside of the restaurant is gorgeous, rustic, and inviting. Arriving at 7:00 p.m., naturally we were the only ones there. This is France of course! The waiter was hysterical as he told us that he still needed to get dressed but to go ahead and have a seat on one of the cozy couches and he would bring us an apéritif shortly.

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While we enjoyed our apéritifs with delicious tapenade and bread, we were brought two chalkboards showing both the menu of the day and suggestions of the day.

At 7:30 we chose a table and ordered a bottle of wine from the domaine of Édouard Loubet, which we thought was wonderful! For our first course, we chose le melon de Bonnieux et jambon and sardinillas de Galice à l’huile. Now, I don’t normally like melon, but this salad was delicious! Provençal melons of course!

I guess I got distracted and forgot to photograph properly our main courses and will spare you the photos of half-eaten plates, but we chose la belle entrecôte Charolaise and pavé de saumon. The salmon rated highly with the dish I had at le Petit Café. Along with our courses, we were served a side of ratatouille and gratin de pommes de terre. While the chefs cooked right in front of us, baskets of freshly baked bread were being brought out from a separate kitchen.

We certainly didn’t need dessert. But with an ambience like this, we were in no rush to leave. So we ended the night with la tarte du jour and tiramisu.

La Bergerie was a highlight of our recent trip, and we hope to return again.

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À bientôt!