18 September, 2016
18 September, 2016
After all, I thought I knew all there was to know about Provence. France is one of my favourite countries and at the time I had already spent close to six weeks travelling from north to south on two separate occasions.
Firstly, as a 20-year-old backpacker ‘doing Europe’ with a girlfriend (ok I actually had a suitcase – don’t judge me – I promise it didn’t hinder my exploring abilities!), and then four years later as a solo traveller.
But what and where on earth was The Luberon? I had no idea. He enlightened me with a Google search and stories of his own two-week respite there with his family, a few years earlier.
As it turns out, the Luberon is actually a 600m2 region within the region of Provence itself. A sub region, let’s say, consisting of three mountain ranges with valleys north and south of these.
As I later discovered, within these valleys are some of the most picturesque towns and villages you’ll ever come across. Not to mention, plenty of vineyards and agricultural land providing as much of the regions’ famous rosé as you can drink.
According to Mr T, the way to experience the Luberon properly is to hire a house
(there are entire sites dedicated to just this), and live like a local. Well sort of – a local who explores their own neighbourhood and surrounding towns every day, anyway.
With the help of Google images and the excitement I could hear in Mr T’s voice as he described his own experience there, it took all of 120 seconds to convince me to visit the Luberon.
So it was decided. We would hire a gorgeous Provincial house with a pool located in the Golden Triangle and spend a week enjoying plenty of pool-side lounging and road-tripping to explore the picturesque towns scattered throughout the region.
To this day, it remains one of my favourite experiences in the entire seven months Mr T and I spent travelling the world (three of which were in Europe).
So, what better way to entice fellow travellers to this beautiful pocket of the south of France than with a few teaser images from my own experience, and a brief run-down of the best strategy for planning your stay in the Luberon.
For a more detailed look at the towns and villages of the Luberon, click here.
Avignon is the closest hub town in Provence, and a popular spot from which tourists and travellers base themselves when exploring the French countryside. The most popular way to get to Avignon is by train.
Mr T and I had been staying in Paris for six days and so it made sense to go for this option. If you ask me, it’s also the easiest, cheapest and most beautiful way to get to Avignon.
Hopping on the express French train – the TGV- will get you direct from Paris to Avignon in around three hours.
Alternatively, Avignon also has a small airport, so if you’re coming from another country in Europe you can fly into this airport and then get the train from the airport to the Avignon train station.
At Avignon station, you can hire a car and then drive to your accommodation, wherever it’s located. Because driving around the Luberon is really the only way to experience the region, you should expect long delays at the car hire spots at Avignon TGV.
The region is extremely popular in the summer for local and in-the-know English and American tourists, so be sure to pre-book your hire car if you’re planning on travelling in July – August, and expect long delays in line (in the sun!) at the dealer.
The best way to approach a holiday or vacation in the Luberon is by picking a town to base yourself nearby. This will help with those drives to the supermarket and markets to collect groceries and fresh produce.
So, which town to choose? The Luberon itself is divided into two smaller areas: Vaucluse and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, with dozens of towns scattered across both regions. All of the Luberon is stunning, but if you want my advice, there’s no looking past the Golden Triangle.
The Golden Triangle, as the name suggests, is the pinnacle of picturesque villages. It’s made up of seven gorgeous towns: Bonnieux, Gordes, Goult, Lacoste, Menerbes, Oppede and Roussillon. Basing yourself in or close to any of these towns is fail-safe.
Mr T and I decided on gorgeous house a short walk from the town of Gordes. Why Gordes? Mainly because the quaint little town built up the side of a hill stuck out in Mr T’s mind more than any other town he visited on his previous journey to Luberon.
And so, Gordes it was. We loved staying near this picturesque spot that is really more a village than a town – it’s incredibly small.
There isn’t an awful lot to do in Gordes, but really, that’s the idea. It’s beautiful and feels full of history, intrigue and mystery. There are cute little shops and art galleries, and a handful of restaurants to dine at.
One of its most attractive features is the view you can enjoy from its vantage point high up on the hill, overlooking the valley and vineyards below.
We stayed in the quintessentially French four-bedroom house I’ve featured above. The house itself was all well and good, but the real reason for our choice was the view. JUST LOOK AT THE VIEW.
It was so spectacular and just a glorious feeling enjoying that outlook every day. You can find it here. The whole of the Luberon is a luxurious experience – you won’t have a problem finding a high-end house to stay in in this area.
It’s a little tougher to find budget accommodation here in the high summer period, but in the other seasons you can find a gorgeous house for $200-$250 a night.
Your first option for dining is at Pèir – Pierre Gagnaire TT at five star hotel La Bastide de Gordes, which serves traditional French food by Michelin starred chef, Pierre Gagnaire. With views over the valley and Luberon mountain, dining here was simply magical! You can see a sample of the menu here.
The Dining Room and terrace at La Bastide de Marie in the stunning village of Menerbes is another safe bet for fine diners. This hotel is like something out of a fairy tale. The traditional bastide (manor) deserves every one of its five stars with its breathtaking vistas, picturesque vineyard and accommodation that is elegant and full of historical charm.
If you are planning your trip for the high summer period (June- August), you will need to pick a house that has a pool – trust us – this is a deal-breaker! When Mr T and I stayed in Luberon in 2015, we had nearly seven consecutive days of over 40 degrees celcius, with a few of those days creeping towards 45.
This was a particularly hot summer but even so, you can generally expect average temperatures in the 30s, and when you’ve been out exploring the towns of the Luberon for the day, one of the most blissful things to do is come back and cool off in a turquoise pool. It’s priceless – worth every penny extra you will pay for the luxury.
The Luberon is the French countryside in all its glory – authentic and beautiful, and worth every penny.