Step back in time in Provencal villages
My summer writer’s retreat in France takes me from Burgundy 450 kilometers south into the heart of Provence. Continued from “In Provence” https://emmapalova.com/2016/08/31/in-provence-aug-26-aug-29-2/
By Emma Palova
Provence, FR- Our trip to Provence took us 450 kilometers south of the home base in the wine village of Fixin in Burgundy. After lodging at the Provençal bastide no. 23 on Chemin de la Font du Pin located between Cheval-Blanc and Merindol, we were ready to explore the most beautiful villages of France.
They are: Ansouis, Gordes, Lourmarin, Menerbes, Roussillon, Seguret and Venesque.
Hugging the slopes of the Luberon mountain range or its foothills, these charmers share common elements of more than a century of history & arts, cafes, connecting trails, fortifications and majestic châteaux.
At the bastide, our international “ladies squad” loaded up into one car to make the trip up treacherous narrow roads framed by the Luberon easier.
“I hear that you need a Mexican to drive you,” joked versatile Selene who changed her hat from a chef to a skilled driver.
Driving on the narrow roads through the villages of the Luberon is a true art that I have never mastered.
“Do you know who Marques de Sade was?” Emma asked me.
“They didn’t teach us that in Czech,” I laughed.
“The word sadism is derived from his name,” Emma said. “You haven’t seen the Federico Fellini movie “120 Years of Sodomy?”
Now, that grabbed my attention. I love Federico Fellini and until now, I only knew about sadistic dentists and their scary assistants in not so sterile, white offices.
Well, I was just about to find out the story of this exiled aristocrat from Paris.
“An exile in Provence, must be nice,” I thought.
“Yes, he had all these servants and poets on the chateau with him, what an exile,” said sarcastically Claude.
“He spent 30 years being locked up,” Emma said.
Our roadside attractions were olive groves, vineyards, old farm and wine growers homesteads and vegetable plots. Further on in the villages of Les Beaumettes, Goult, Bonnieux, I admired the boulangeries, patisseries and endless restaurants such as the Fuming Cow Café.
The medieval village of Lacoste, pop 450, was built into a steep hill in several levels, a typical fortified structure from the 11th century.
At the peak sits the ruin of the castle of the notorious Marquis de Sade. I took in the surreal view breathlessly.
The beauty of Provence with its fields and “Climats” or vineyards, broken by an occasional road or a village, laid at our feet. The 11th century castle is now home to stylist designer M. Pierre Cardin.
It is not unusual in France, that the castles are privately owned.
From the top we headed through the ruins down the “calade” cobblestone path to the base of the village. The path was busy with tourists. We passed abandoned boulangeries, open terraces with belfries, and old stone houses, some of which are being restored.
You closed your eyes and you could imagine the life in this village in the time of Marquis de Sade, live with horses, coaches and escorts that he abused.
The sunset cast soft light on the ruins and sculptures by Greco and other artists. The amazing black“Arms” sculpture embraced the visitors on foot, bikes or on horseback from all over the world.
The café de Sade offered colorful smoothies, regional wines and Provençal cuisine.
Among the activities held in most of these Provençal villages are markets, concerts and festivals.
We prepared our own Provençal dinner at the bastide that featured apero from the olive vendor in Merindol with cheese and olivenade, olives, local bread, beef and turkey brochettes and wine rose from a cave in St. Tropez.
The dry heat persisted into the evening lit by colorful lanterns and other “lumiere” creations. The conversation carried both in French and English languages. The topic: the beauty of Provence still waiting to be explored tomorrow.
For more information on villages of the Luberon go to: www.provenceweb.fr
To be continued…………… Lourmarin, Ansouis and St. Remy-de-Provence
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