Banon: The Prettiest of Them All?

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At the top of Banon, located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department, there is the prettiest group of houses all bedecked with flowers, whose colors change depending on the season. This is absolutely one of the most photogenic spots if you are looking for charm. Additionally, as you continue to walk up on the far left side of the village, there are more charming little homes with more colorful flowers on the road leading out of the village.

I like to walk up to the top the fun way. Right across from the parking lot is a steep set of narrow, broken steps that just beckon exploration. Where do they go? These are the kind of steps that make you wonder if you are really suppose to be on them. But the curiosity makes you continue on. At the top, you come out to the most charming group of houses.

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Banon has a rustic charm that reminds me of Bourgogne. There is no doubt, though, that you are in Provence with the gorgeous fields of wheat and lavender below.

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Banon is known for its AOC goat cheese matured in brown chestnut leaves. And the village has a few shops and cafés along with a charming little épicerie, where the charismatic “Uncle Henry” is still singing away carefree as ever, living the simple life.

I leave you with more of Banon.

À bientôt!

Evening Ambience at Its Best at la Terrasse in Joucas

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Exciting news! Bistrot la Terrasse, located in the peaceful, charming village of Joucas in the Luberon, is once again open in the evenings for dinner. This is truly an enchanting spot to watch the sun set over the Luberon valley with the red hue of Roussillon in the distance.

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La Terrasse now has a new owner. Though we are sad to see the prior owner go, as well as our little canine friend who was always faithfully at his spot every time, we are happy to be able to enjoy this place in the evening once again.

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The food is good, basic bistrot fare. Yet, the omelette complèt with the frites is a notch above good. It is one delicious omelette!

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You can’t go wrong going for a simple meal in order to enjoy the evening ambience. Even on a hot day, if you go for lunch, there is a huge plane tree to sit under and the Provençal breeze to keep you cool while you enjoy your meal. And of course, the village of Joucas itself is a charm to wander the cobbled streets after a good meal. Apparently, according to one local, during the filming of A Good Year, Russell Crowe rented a house in the lovely Joucas because he enjoyed the peaceful village. It’s funny how every time we visit Provence, we meet someone associated with this movie. Last year it was Peter Mayle’s assistant and then a relative of Russell Crowe’s assistant during the filming of the movie. Who knows? Maybe we’ll run into the beautiful Marion Cotillard herself next time.

Reservations recommended. (04 90 75 17 98)

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!

The Most Romantic Village of the Luberon

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Here’s a tip! When your husband asks if you would like to be dropped off in the village of Lourmarin for the day, you just say “Yes!” You don’t question it. You just go. You won’t be disappointed.

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Romantic is the best word to describe it. Classified as one of the most beautiful villages of France, Lourmarin is intoxicating. It’s a place that instills a need for one to return to again and again, each time discovering a little more. Surrounded by vineyards and olive groves along with shady plane trees and charming cobblestone streets filled with cafés, restaurants, and boutiques, it is pretty much every female’s dream.

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If you can break away from relaxing and people watching at one of the many enticing cafés spilling out onto the streets to walk up to the Château de Lourmarin, otherwise nicknamed the Villa Medicis de Provence, you will be rewarded with gorgeous views looking back on the village. This picturesque Renaissance château offers tours and has many art exhibitions and concerts in the summer months. Gorgeous olive groves are behind the château and country lanes to meander.

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On the way up to the château, why not stop off at les Caves du Château to taste the wonderful regional wines of the Luberon. The Château Fontvert is also located right nearby for tasting.

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An absolute must is to visit Lourmarin on Friday—market day! This is perhaps the best market in the Vaucluse department of Provence. Live music in the streets and adorable baby goats to pet all add to the excitement as well as gorgeous linen aprons and fabrics and stand after stand of deliciousness.

Visit the village of Lourmarin and experience the intoxication yourself.

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À bientôt!

Joucas Still Has My Heart

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I’m back in Provence and exploring a bunch of villages, all in the name of research, to confirm which one is my favorite. And Joucas still is the one!

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The Luberon is very quiet today at the end of August with all the tourists having returned home from their summer sojourns. We meandered the villages of Goult, Joucas, and Gordes today. Naturally, Gordes is still a little busy. But Goult and Joucas, which are normally not too touristy anyway, were silent. We sat on a bench in Joucas, and there was not a sound nor a person. Utter peace and quiet and gorgeous colors and architecture. Yes, Joucas still has the je ne sais quoi factor. It’s perfection!

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More villages to be meandered tomorrow.

À bientôt!

Banon—A Land of Goat Cheese, Lavender, and Wheat

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The small perched village of Banon, located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department, is authentic Provence at its best. Banon wasn’t at the top of my list to see but was a spur-of-the-moment stop. What a surprise! I had no idea that it would prove to be the most photogenic village of the region. The walk up to the top is simply gorgeous!

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A cobblestone path takes you up past ancient houses with colorful shutters, intricate doorways, and bountiful flowers to a bell tower and buildings dating back to the 17th century. Banon may now just be bumped to the top of my list as the prettiest village of the region.

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In the center of the village, there are a few shops, a boulangerie, and an épicerie. You can purchase the famous goat cheese of Banon wrapped in chestnut leaves, which has received an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) classification. We enjoyed sitting in the center of the village in front of a fountain while savoring the most delicious sandwiches to hold us over until dinner. In France, even the sandwiches are worth writing about. And while picking out a bottle of  wine from the épicerie, it was as if I was transported back into a scene from the movie “A Good Year” and was charmed by the charismatic Uncle Henry who was running the shop. Softly singing, “Uncle Henry” pointed me toward the softer, more feminine wines. When I told him that I love the Ventoux, he gave me a hearty chuckle of approval and did a little dance in the aisle.

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The countryside surrounding Banon is simpy beautiful with fields of lavender, poppies, and wheat along with restored farmhouses nestled in the hills.

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Looking for authentic, peaceful, charming, and stunning? Banon is a village where not a single tour bus will be found.

À bientôt!

Venasque—A Village With a View

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Overlooking the towering Mont Ventoux is the sleepy plus beau village of Venasque with its fountains, charming walkways, artisan shops, ancient ruins and ramparts, cherry orchards, and stunning views of the Vaucluse as well as of the Giant itself.

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We return to this character-filled village every time not only for the atmosphere but mostly for the food. By fluke, we discovered an amazing restaurant with the most outstanding food and a view to die for that keeps us returning time and again. This is our favorite restaurant of the region thus far. Others are discovering it too, but hopefully not too many. But, I’ll share it with you!

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Les Remparts is a hotel restaurant with an outstanding panorama from its terrace. I can’t even begin to write about the food without gnawing hunger pangs striking. So I’ll just show you.

Absolute favorites are the tomato pie, tomato and pesto tiramisu, and vegetable crumble with mozzarella and pine nuts. Throw in a good Ventoux wine, and you have perfection! Everything here is delicious.

And here is your view.

Before dinner make sure to take a stroll around the ramparts to the ancient towers for gorgeous views of the valley.

À bientôt!

Saignon—Unspoiled and Stunning Hilltop Village

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The tranquil village of Saignon, perched high on a hill above the village of Apt, is a quintessential, sleepy French village. From the narrow, winding streets making their way past colorful shutters, intricate doorways, gorgeous fountains, an ancient lavoir (washhouse) to the rock of Saignon high above, this beautiful village is definitely worth a visit. We stayed here on our first visit to Provence and now must return every time to stroll these picture-perfect streets and to relax in the tranquility that this village has to offer.

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The scenery surrounding Saignon is stunning, especially if one is so fortunate to be here when the lavender is in bloom. Toward the end of June, lavender is in bloom. But I can only imagine what July brings at its peak. Lavender or not, the surroundings are beautiful.

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One of the interesting things to do here is walk up the steep stone steps to le Rocher de Bellevue (the rock of Saignon) to take in the outstanding panorama of the Luberon Valley.

Chez Christine, a café near the upper parking lot, is a great spot to relax under the shade of a plane tree with a glass of rosé or to enjoy a simple lunch of quiche and salad while getting a taste of village life.

On Thursday morning, there is a small organic fruit and vegetable market held in the village. And on Saturday morning, one of the best of the best is held in Apt, just a few minutes below the village.

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When picking a vacation rental in Provence, there are so many wonderful villages to choose from. Saignon is quite high on the list as a perfect French village when it comes to peace, quiet, outstanding views, charm, and location.

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!

Saint-Saturnin-lès-Apt—Unspoiled, Quintessential Provence

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Saint-Saturnin-lès-Apt is a perfect Provençal village. Located in the Vaucluse department of Provence, it is a quiet, unspoiled village with spectacular views from the top. Walk the charming stone pathway to the ancient ruins above for a rewarding sight. It’s a … Continue reading