Late last week a deal was cut: the sumptuous 18th– century Lourmarin residence of Peter Mayle was sold for around €6 million ($8.6M). The property of 14 acres has an olive grove, pool, ponds, gardens and shuttered privacy.
There has been talk in the cafes of Lourmarin that the asking price was steep in the current market conditions, certainly among non-English speaking Europeans who may only be familiar with Mayle ‘the brand’ and not with the writer’s ouevre. No surprise then that the new owners are anglophones — Brits.
Rarely does a journalist pen a piece on Provence without saluting Mayle’s 1990 tome “A Year in Provence,” although this gesture often comes off as flashing a decorative badge to assure the reader that the writer knows his stuff. “A Year in Provence,” which if geographically-correct would have been titled “A Year in the Luberon,” is a month-by-month recounting of a smart Brit’s goings on with the locals as he renovates a house; a portraiture of Provencal life and its vivid characters by a foreigner with a rudimentary knowledge of French (it is just this inelegant situation that bestows upon the narrative its charm).
The new home of the Mayles and their adorable dogs is near the slumberous village of Vaugines off of the route from Lourmarin.
Now when guide books – renown for their glib hyperventilated prose — tab a village “simple,” you can brace yourself for a tranquil experience. Vaugines is located seven miles northeast of Lourmarin and many of its residences are owned by absent Parisians. Head count is 569. In the annals of French cinema, Vaugines achieved notoriety for scenes shot there by the director Claude Berri in his films “Jean de Florette” and “Manon des Sources.” The 12th-century church and its courtyard were depicted in a closing sequence with Yves Montand.
Vaugines is three miles from Cucuron, a dull biscuit-colored village illuminated by one star, the Michelin kind mind you, bestowed on La Petite Maison and its ebullient chef Eric Sapet. The gourmet Peter Mayle, who cherishes “la bonne table,’ will relish a booking in the restaurant’s enclosed courtyard or in its entrancing second-floor dining room. Reservations recommended.