Ménerbes: Beauty Manifest – Hans Silvester Photographs of Southern Ethiopia Tribal Houses at the Galerie Pascal Lainé Until May 14

“Another important difference between tourist and traveler is that the former accepts his own civilization without question; not so the traveler, who compares it with the others, and rejects those elements he finds not to his liking.”

― Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

 

Hans Silvester has been at it now for over fifty years: an intrepid traveler and fervent environmentalist who is ever contrasting other cultures with his own through his camera lens. His wide-ranging oeuvre of photography takes in studies of various regions around the world, including chronicles of France, Central America, Japan, Portugal, Egypt, Tunisia, Hungary, Peru, Italy and Spain.

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Opening at the Galerie Pascal Laine this week, Silvester reveals his recent anthropological etude in southern Ethiopia in a series of hauntingly beautiful images of the colorfully decorated houses of the Bench. He envisions his immersion into the lives and tradition of the Ethiopian tribes as an effort to “save…as much as possible of a truly living art, which is subject to infinite variation, and whose constituent elements form a link between man and nature.”

Silvester’s work has been exhibited at Marlborough Gallery, New York (2010, 2009); Marlborough Gallery, Monaco (2010, 2009); and Polka Galerie, Paris, France (2009). His work is the subject of almost 50 books, including a photo essay on Camargue in 1960, a well-regarded documentation of Europe’s nature preserves in 1982 and a series of books on Provence published throughout the 1990s. His most recent book is Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2008).

The Bench

The Bench is an ethnic group of farmers living 350 miles south of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, in a mountainous terrain at altitudes ranging from 4000 to 9,000 feet. In a tropical climate, the Bench cultivates bananas, mangoes, and coffee, with a diet based on corn and sorghum.

They live in grass-covered huts built with wood and earth mixed with cow dung.  A number of the houses are painted on the outside and inside with natural colors are nearby. There are very few villages – the Bench reside in isolated houses or in small hamlets. The interior of the simple huts is divided into two parts: half for the family and one for the livestock: cows, sheep, goats, chickens.

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The farmers produce their own food. With very little surplus to sell, the lack of income and their isolation engenders an impoverished existence where the family income is around $100 a year.

As the largest ethnic group in the zone, the Bench have their own language with very few speaking Amaric, the official language of Ethiopia.  Communication is hindered by the lack of roads, the only one runs from Addis Ababa to the regional capital Mizan, which is the only city in the territory. Only about 7% of inhabitants have electricity. Of Christian faith, the Bench does not practice contraception and the number of children per women is ten, or more.

Women and daughters decorate some of the huts in colorful patterns, retouching the décor twice a year. As the huts are dispersed throughout the rugged terrain and miles from roads, it takes an effort to reach them.

Basics:

Exhibit: Hans Silvester, Photographs – “Les maisons des Benchs en Ethiopie”; April 12 to May 14, Vernissage Saturday, April 12 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

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Galerie Pascal Lainé, Rue Sainte Barbe in the center of Ménerbes. Tel: 04-90-72-48-30, Website

Hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

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Olive Oil Wars: A Sunny Business with Shady Practices. Read the Label, Carefully.

The urge to indulge oneself in the delights of everything Provence is symptomatic of the impoverished assumption that everything in the region is authentic, e.g. made in Provence. Not so.

Market day somewhere in Provence. You approach a stand displaying a sunburst of colors: the many hues of locally-grown olives, the warm beige of honey, the black night of tapenade, the deep ruby red of cherry or strawberry preserves.  You grab that bottle of olive oil with a pretty provencale design.

Now, read the label.

NPR ran an interview  with Tom Mueller, an Italy-based contributor to the New Yorker and the author of  Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, which documents a sunny business with shady practices.

PVB’s survey of olive oils sold in the Vaucluse resonates with Mueller’s what’s-in-that-olive-bottle warning.

A French TV Channel 5 documentary ripped into the olive oil biz and the slights-of-hand and dodgy product labeling that infantalize consumers.

The FR5 video with sub-titles would be riveting entertainment on Air France’s inbound flights rather than those dull movies that you never dared place in your Netflix queue.

French regulations demand that the origin of the olive oil must appear on the bottle. Look closely. At times, such info appears in mouse type. The FR5 sleuths embarrassed one shady vendor at a market in Aix-en-Provence who was selling olive oil from Spain.

Take the generic phrase “a product of the European Union” that appears on the back-of-the-bottle label of the popular French supermarket brand Puget. Origin of this olive oil: Spain. The French company refused an interview and visit from the truculent FR5 reporters at their bottling facility in the south of France.

No different in Italy as Mueller surmises that “4 out of 10 bottles that say Italian olive oil are not actually Italian olive oil.” The gimmick: import olive oil from another country and have it packed in Italy, or ship it via Italy. These are not illegal practices mind you, but the consumer is being defrauded.

A quick primer. Virgin olive oil is harvested by hand or machine to preserve the integrity of the fruit, and undergoes no chemical treatment.

In the bottle, virgin olive oil possesses an acidity of not more than two grams per 100 grams; extra virgin olive oil has not more than .8 grams per 100 grams of acidity. Spain produces about a third of world production. Boutique olive oils in Provence can run from 15 to 40 euros a liter.

Pictured above is an authentic Olive Oil  “etiquette”: Huile d’Olive Vierge, Recolté et Mis en Bouteille par le Producteur Catherine et Serge Constant, Earl La Rambaude, 339, Chemin de Saint-Roch 84210 Saint-Didier, Origine France. This olive oil is on sale at the Monday Morning Market in the village of Saint-Didier.

Repeat: Inspect the label, carefully at a market or a shop / supermarket to verify the producer and the origin of the olive oil before purchasing.

So if you have come all this way, why not splurge for the real Provencal stuff and buy direct from a producer like Catherine and Serge Constant.

For buying direct from local producers, here are some “Moulin à huile” (Producers) in the Vaucluse:

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Moulin Saint-Augustin, Oppède. 04.90.72.43.66, Website

Moulin Mathieu, Oppède. 04.90.76.90.66, Website

Moulin Dauphin, Cucuron. 04.90.77.26.17, Website

Moulin du Clos-des-Jeannons, Gordes. 04.90.72.68.35, Website

Moulin à huile de la Chartreuse, Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. 04.90.25.45.59, Website

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Your Own Private Provence: Finding A Gite in the Vaucluse

Gîtes are the ultimate visitor experience in Provence. A gîte is where you can indulge in the Provencal lifestyle, taking your leisure in the shade of olive trees or at poolside, and grazing on a fresh vegetable-garlic-olive oil-based cuisine. Neither an unstructured peripatetic tourist nor an agoraphobe, you are a transitory participant in a sensual mode of living. And you’re lov’n it.

A gîte is a generic term for any kind of self-catering weekly or monthly rental, usually a standalone structure or an apartment in a Bastide.  Gîtes are fully furnished and most have sheets and bedding. Most have a pool or access to a shared pool.

As you are renting space on a private property, your experience may be colored by the personality and tastes of your landlord-landowner.  Some are gregarious and helpful, even generous with their time, while others hand you the key on Saturday and disappear for a week.

Luxury apartments and rooms can be found in a Bastide, a Provencal manor house. Here in the ambiance of a country hotel you are pampered, yet you may pay more for a week than the rental of a gîte where the bond to the countryside is palpable.

The amount of space (square footage) that owners can rent on their properties is established by each village / commune, thus there is usually only one gite per landowner.

Rental Periods

The gites are booked from Saturday to Saturday. Travelers from the U.S. prefer to arrive on a Friday with a booking at a local hotel to allow for a day to adjust to jet lag and to assure a timely arrival at their accommodations.

Reservations / Financials

Reserve early – January and February. Upon making a reservation, a deposit (called an “arrhes”) is required. As most gîtes are the only rental on the owner’s property you may be requested to pay the full amount within a month or two of arrival date. Additional charges may include a commune tax (taxe de séjour) of about 80 cents to 1 euro per day per person, and a cleaning fee.

Think Local in Your Search and Look at Exterior

In addition to the websites referenced below, the sites of some city halls (google “Mairie” + village) or of the tourist bureau (google ‘bureau de tourisme + village) contain vacation rentals of gites, houses and apartments. The village of Gordes has numerous rural gites and numerous houses listed on its website.

If you connect with an owner by phone and wish to exchange emails for pictures and information, the term in french for @ is not ‘at’ but ‘aerobase’ (air-ro-bas).

When you are inspecting gîtes online, make sure to consider the exterior amenities such as a terrace or veranda, tables for dining, grill, lounge chairs, and a parasol.

Geography Matters

“Provence” has more efficacy as a brand than a place these days and you will rarely if ever hear any locals say that they live in “provence.’ The word is heard frequently in its adjectival form: provencale.

As geography, the term “Provence” suffers abuse. The French consider contemporary ‘Provence’ to take in three administrative department: the Vaucluse, the Bouches-du-Rhône, and the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.

Within the Vaucluse, there are three regions to conduct your search for a gîte:

– The Comtat Venaissin, referred to as the “Comtat,” which is the western part of the Vaucluse stretching from the Durance river in the south to Mont Ventoux in the north, a wine-dominated region encompassing the AOC’s of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Côtes du Rhône-Villages and Ventoux.  The name derives from when the Comtat was an enclave under Papal control within the Kingdom of France. The towns of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Pernes-les-Fontaines, Saint-Didier and Venasque are in close proximity to the Luberon either via L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue or from Venasque through a mountain gorge to Gordes.

The Luberon/ Calavon Valley: the ‘heart of Provence,” a farmland-park cradled by rugged low lying mountains and sprinkled with the perched villages of Gordes, Menerbes, Lacoste, Roussillon and Bonnieux.

Lourmarin and eastern Vaucluse: part of the Luberon region without the renowned perched villages

Mind The Routes

The heart of the Luberon is accessed primarily by a two-lane highway D900, which has a center line unlike most roads in the Luberon that have lines on their edges, running from Coustellet to Apt, and connecting to roads to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Avignon and Cavaillon. The Avignon TGV or Marseille airport serve for arrivals and rental car pickups.

In the Comtat and the northern Vaucluse all roads lead to Avignon, with efficient access to the Avignon TGV station, or to the Marseille airport ranging in time from 50 to 90 minutes depending upon location. In addition to reaching the Luberon via L’Isle-sur-La-Sorgue, there is a road through a mountain gorge from Venasque to Gordes used mainly by visitors in the summer as people living in the Luberon seem to be psychologically blocked from using this route frequently, preferring to travel via D900.

Lourmarin and its environs are accessed from Aix-en-Provence and the 35-minute trip has made Lourmarin a favorite of the BOBO’s of Aix. Avignon is 55 minutes in smooth traffic. Yet the AIX TGV station has no rental cars, therefore someone has to fetch you or you have to take the dedicated express bus service to Aix to rent a car, a time-burning excursion. There are rental facilities at the Avignon TGV and the Marseille airport. From Lourmarin, passage to the heart of the Luberon is through a mountain ravine to Bonnieux.

Restaurants / Wine

Inquire with your hosts about restaurants in the area. If you are planning on dining at a Michelin star establishment, book your table weeks in advance of your arrival. The local wine cooperatives offer good bargains on rose. Patronize the cellar of a winery near your gîte for dinner wines. At restaurants, try labels that you can not find at your wine shops or supermarkets in the U.K. or the U.S. such as those from the Ventoux and the Luberon.

Farmers Markets

The Vaucluse is a plentiful land, the soi-disant garden of France, and the most crowded space you will ever encounter there is in the aisle of a Farmers Market. Avoid visits to towns on market days unless you are going for the market. Local producers sell at “marchés paysans,” whereas other “marchés” such as those at Carpentras and L’Ilse-sur-la-Sorge have diverse products as well as produce. The Velleron market (pictured above) is open six evenings a week, closed Sunday.

Basics

 

For luxury rentals, try Just Provence.

Websites mentioned in an informal survey of gîte owners in the Vaucluse:

www.gite.com/holiday-homes/index.php

www.holiday-rentals.co.uk/France/r31.htm

 www.provence.guideweb.com/

www.holidayfrancedirect.co.uk

This website focuses on the Comtat:

 www.avignon-et-provence.com/location-gites-vaucluse.htm

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Cucuron: Le Pavillon de Galon (au lieu d’un Gite)

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“You must know it’s right
The spore is on the wind tonight…”

Steely Dan, Rose Darling

Is it a bed and breakfast? Or is it a painting, an art work à la provençale? Both, when you find yourself amidst the lavender-washed grounds and gardens of Le Pavillon de Galon. The astonishing palette of colors seem prearranged to invoke in you a covetous and joyful envy.

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Le Pavillon de Galon is a a restored 18th century hunting pavilion siting on the edge of Cucuron, a worn biscuit-colored village, known among the culinary cognoscenti by a single star, the Michelin kind mind you, which illuminates the appetite: La Petite Maison and its ebullient chef Eric Sapet.

Before your eyes, a glorious skyscape to the east of Cucuron stretches out to the feral rugged part of the Luberon.

The décor is high tone, an exercise in studied elegance, with an accent on warm golden tones. Vivid Provencal colors accent ancient and modern furnishing.

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The two delightfully decorated high ceiling guest rooms, accessed by a private entrance, are on the second floor with southern exposure and terraces with views of the splendid gardens. Guests may choose a king size bed or twin beds. Each room has a spacious daylight shower, television, and WiFi.

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Water is omnipresent: small Roman pools grace the gardens, a 30-ft swimming pool, heated when necessary, is framed with wooden chaise lounges, and an immense natural pool runs for 90 feet.

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Amenities include cooking classes, massage and manicure, and the domaine’s limited production AOC Luberon wine Hocus Pocus. The entire wing at Le Pavillon, the bedrooms and a furnished kitchen, may be rented for up to five people on a weekly basis.

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The landscaped gardens with small sculptures at the Pavillon are designated a “Jardin Remarquable” (a remarkable garden) by the French Culture and Environment Ministry.

Basics

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Le Pavillon de Galon, 84160 Cucuron, Email: bibi@pavillondegalon.com, Tel 04 90 77 24 15, Website

Directions: Cucuron is 8km east from Lourmarin on D27.  From Cucuron, head east on D189 towards Cabrières d’Aigues, just out of town, watch for signage, turn right on Chemin de Galon, continue 700M to Le Pavillon de Galon.

La Petite Maison: Place Etang, 84160 Cucuron, Tel 04 90 68 21 99, Email: info@lapetitemaisondecucuron.com, Website

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Carpentras: Château du Martinet (au lieu d’un Gite)

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“Let’s get lost, lost in each other’s arms
Let’s get lost, let them send out alarms
And though they’ll think us rather rude
Let’s tell the world we’re in that crazy mood.”

Chet Baker

If you are in a romantic crazy mood and want to get lost, there is no better place than on the 70 acres of the magnificent Château du Martinet, a veritable Château first built in 1712 and then rebuilt in 1846 after a fire during the revolution with stones from the ramparts of Carpentras.

The Château was the residence of the Marquis des Isnards. The Isnards are one of the most distinguished families in the Comtat Venaissin dating back to the end of the 12th century.

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When the French employ the phase “une vie de Château” they mean a life of luxury and comfort, and these are appropriate adjectives for the opulent décor and regal ambiance of the Château du Martinet.

Once within the gates of the Château, you experience a delightful sensation of living in a luxurious manner within a self-enclosed envelope of privacy.

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The atmospherics are soothing. The setting is lush. Columns of rose marble, sculpted ceilings and high walls, precious ceramics, antiques and period paintings. The large salon opens to a spacious terrace with a majestic view of a meadow.

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The delicately fashioned rooms (5) are bathed in a rich and refined décor, with two rooms having twin beds and the others doubles. All of the rooms have television, high bandwidth internet, and air conditioning. Bathrooms have Italian fixtures with baths and showers. Continental breakfast is included in the room price.

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On the spacious grounds, there is a large swimming pool, a tennis court, a jogging trail, billiards, a ping-pong table and the traditional Provencal games of boules.

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Dinner (Table d’hôtes) is available on Tuesday and Friday evenings with a reservation, which is served in the majestic dining room (photo above). Gourmet platter may be ordered for lunch.

For private self-catering accommodations, there are two pavilions (gites) for weekly rentals (see website below).

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For planning a visit to the nearby wine appellations in the Southern Rhone, a good place to orient your palate is Chez Serge, a wine bar restaurant in Carpentras. At Chez Serge you will find a rich wine list with all local appellations represented as well as some keen advice from Serge and his staff on vintages and particular wineries to visit.

Basics:

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Château du Martinet, 2807 Route de Mazan, 84200 Carpentras, Contact: Françoise and Ronald Devries, Tél 04 90 63 03 03, Website

Directions: From the center of Carpentras, take highway D942 to the west in the direction of Mazan. Look for signage a few kms out of town, turn left on an access road to the Château.

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Beaumes-de-Venise: Le Clos Saint Saourde (au lieu d’un Gite)

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“A fragrance that blows cool and warm, dry and sweet. A landscape in Provence, dry earth, fragrant purple fields, the wind of the mistral… draped in a luxurious coat of mouthwatering licorice.” Jean-Claude Ellena, creator of “Brin de Réglisse”

 

The dreamy fragrance of Hermes “Brin de Réglisse” is a distinctive spicy lavender that once you smell it, the scent becomes burnished in your memory, and much the same phenomena hits you after a sejour at the magical provençal Le Clos Saint Saourde.

Note: Réglisse means licorice, and the adjective is often attached to descriptions of spicy Rhone blends, such as the “Cerise et Réglisse” vintage produced by the Clos des Patris in nearby Caromb.

Unforgettable at Le Clos Saint Saourde are its dry stone walls whose impassive earthy tones warm the two suites and two rooms of an L-shaped 18th century farmhouse (a mas), lying under the gaze of the jagging silhouette of the Dentelles de Montmirail, hugged on all sides by vines of the appellation Beaumes-de-Venise. Saourde is Provencal for the natural spring at Le Clos.

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The images of the accommodations: imperishable. There are two elegant suites which occupy a former hayloft: The Suite Castillon has a ground floor living room with a stone staircase leading to the bedroom (pictured above). From the courtyard, a stone staircase leads to the Suite Roche d’Espail (pictured below) with adjoining living room. Both suites have fireplaces and sweeping views of the vineyards and countryside.

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The divinely-appointed two rooms are spacious, with couches and tables. All suites and rooms have queen size beds, WiFi, and include continental breakfast. The two suites and one of the rooms have both bath and shower. The décor of the bathrooms is immaculate: stones, Italian showers and wrought iron lamps.

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Le Clos Saint Saourde offers a fully-furnished tree house on stilts, and a two-floor gite / cottage that can accommodate up to ten with four sleeping rooms and a private pool. (See website below for details).

For wine buffs, it is a short hop to Vacqueryas, Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. For stocking your room with rosé and Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, try the Balma Venetia wine cooperative in Beaumes-de-Venise, a few kms from Le Clos.

A mild irony comes calling when you find yourself within Le Clos Saint Saourde: there is so much to explore and experience in the Vaucluse, yet the comfort and luxury of Le Clos is so reassuring and felicitous that your impulse is to hang at the pool with a verre de Muscat, gaze fondly at the scenery, and let your mind wander. La vie oisive…Ça va sans dire.

Basics:

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Le Clos Saint Saourde, 1769, route de St Véran, 84190 Beaumes-de-Venise, Tel 04 90 37 35 20, Contact: Géraldine and Jérôme Thuillier

Email: contact@leclossaintsaourde.com Website, Youtube

Directions: Leave Beaumes-de-Venice on D21 east toward Caromb, outside the town, take D222 Route de Saint Véran to Le Clos.

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L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue: Le Mas des Busclats (au lieu d’un Gite)

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“It is something to do with the light, I suppose, and the airiness and bareness and frugality of life in the Midi, which induces a simplicity of thought, and a kind of whittling to the bone whatever may be the matter in hand. Sunlight reflected from red-tiled floors on to whitewashed walls, closed shutters and open windows and an air so soft that you live equally in and out of doors, suggest an experience so sweetly simple that you wonder that life ever appeared the tangled, hustling and distracting piece of nonsense you once thought it.”

Stella Bowen, Drawn from Life

L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is renown for its bustling Sunday morning market: part flea market, part antiques fair and part farmers market with the atmosphere of a Moroccan souk. Business is brisk. Dress is casual, rarely sexy.

A sobriquet for the town is “Venise Comtadine” (it is part of the Comtat Venaissin in the Vaucluse) as the Sorgue river divides into several canals which offer picturesque waterside strolling and dining.

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For visitors to the Vaucluse, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue has a strategic location: it offers easy access directly west to Avignon and a quick gateway to the Luberon down D901 to D900 which runs to Apt. The town has several haute cuisine restaurants as well as wine bars.

On the northern outskirts of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is Le Mas Des Busclats, a lovely 18th-century farmhouse wearing lavender colored shutters, framed by a well-manicured courtyard, a large swimming pool a verdant garden of more than an acre.

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This tasteful bed and breakfast offers guests a choice of four colorfully-decorated rooms: two rooms have double beds, one has two single beds and a fourth three singles. Two of the rooms have a shower; two have a bath. The decor at Le Mas Des Busclats is obligatory Provencal, very smart mind you, and the bathrooms are likewise with modern fixtures.

In addition to tables in the pebble-covered courtyard, poolside and in the garden, there is a spacious salon for your petit déjeuner or dining.

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For quality dining, the one-star Michelin restaurant Le Vivier is down the road towards L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.

Basics:

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Le Mas des Busclats, 1356, Route de Saumane 84800 L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Tél: 04 90 38 67 61, Website

Directions: Leaving L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue via the Cour Fernande Peyre towards D938 to Carpentras, after roundabout, take Route D25 towards Fontaine de Vaucluse, and then immediately veer left on Route D178 to Saumane and follow to the Mas.

Restaurant Le Vivier is located at the roundabout noted above.

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Saint Hippolyte le Graveyron: Château Juvenal (au lieu d’un Gite)

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Peel me a grape, crush me some ice,
Skin me a peach, save the fuzz for my pillow.
Talk to me nice, talk to me nice,
You’ve got to wine me and dine me!

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Fabulous in so many aspects, and plenty of grapes to peel.

First the setting: The masterly Château Juvenal is a vineyard and bed and breakfast with regal rooms from whose large windows guests gaze upon an expansive wooded park.

The Château Juvenal and its tranquil setting lies in the commune of Saint Hippolyte le Graveyron, 7km north of Carpentras, bordering Beaumes-de-Venise.

Second the rooms: The four room have a distinguished royal decor, with twelve foot ceilings, marble chimneys, Provencal terracotta tiles and restored period furniture.

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Choose between a king size bed or two single beds, along with stylish bathrooms with a bath or a shower.

Three the grounds: Swimming pool, hamman & massage room, billiards room, ping-pong table, and another pool of sorts – a small lily pond within a lovely woodland,  a retreat for quiet contemplation.

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Four the wine: The Château Juvenal produces two red vintages, a white and a rosé, and extra virgin olive oil. The Southern Rhone’s wine guru Philippe Cambie spares no praise in his tasting notes of the Château’s 2011 red “Les ribes du vallat”:

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“This wine has a superb deep red color with violet and poppy glimmers; a bouquet that explodes with cherries, dragon fruit and wild raspberries, and lingering tonka beans. In the mouth, it is smooth and velvety with dense fruit of plum and nectarine, with black licorice notes.”

Five, the amenities: WiFi on the property and in the rooms, outside jacuzzi, Reiki Massage available upon request. Cheese and wine tastings. Courses in wine appreciation and cooking, and tango lessons (during spring and autumn for groups of 8 to 10 people).  Dinner on Tuesday and Friday evenings only with a two-day in advance reservation.

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The Château Juvenal also has a farmhouse gîte and a large apartment for weekly rental. See website below for details.

Basics:

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Château Juvenal, Chemin du Long Serre, 84330 Saint Hippolyte le Graveyron, Contact: Ann-Marie and Bernard Forestier, Tel 04.90.62.31.76, Email: chateau.juvenal@free.fr, Website

Directions: North from Carpentras on Hwy D938, arriving to Saint Hippolyte le Graveyron, go east on Hwy D21, the Chemin du Long Serre will be on your right, look for signage.

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Bonnieux: Clos d’Estallan (au lieu d’un Gite)

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Is there any terrestrial paradise where, amidst the whispering of the olive-leaves, people can be with whom they like and have what they like and take their ease in shadows and in coolness?

– Ford Maddox Ford, The Good Soldier

In the Luberon, “sauvage” (wild) is posh. A place out of sight from the masses, hidden away in the wilds of nature is posh.  In cases where free standing flora and garrigue (shrubland) do not exist, one compensates with high walls and landscaped barriers.

By this standard, the bed and breakfast Le Clos d’Estallan is very posh. Only a few miles from the center of Bonnieux, the elegant property is on the southern outskirts of Bonnieux, on the opposite side from the busy towns in the Luberon, in a sparsely inhabited swath of parkland leading up to the Claparèdes plateau.

Le Clos d’Estallan, enveloped by olive groves, vineyards, and garrigue, is where you can connect with your own inner-Provence.

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The three rooms are tastefully decorated in rich Provencal tones with traditional terracotta tiles. Two rooms have queen beds, and the other one has two singles.

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All of the rooms have lamps, dressers, and sitting area, and the bathrooms have modern fixtures and tiled showers.

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In addition to the three rooms, there are three gites on the property (for details, consult website below). From poolside (below), an expansive view of the Luberon landscape stretches out before you.

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For fine dining in Bonnieux, book a table at Le Fournil is the center of the village where in a natural troglodytic cave with modern décor, Chef Guy Malebec prepares sumptuous dishes elegantly presented.

For stocking your room with an excellent AOC Luberon, Serge Seignon produces superb red, white and rosé wines at the Château les Eydins in Bonnieux (see info below).

Basics:

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Le Clos d’Estallan, Les Claparedes 84480 Bonnieux, Tel 04 90 75 61 84, Email h.estallan@wanadoo.fr, Website

Directions: Leave Bonnieux south on D36, and turn left towards Saignon and Sivergue on D232, after 1.4km take right at signage to Le Clos

Le Fournil, 5 Place Carnot, Bonnieux, Tél. 04 90 75 83 62, Website

Château les Eydins, Serge Seignon, Route du Pont Julien, 84480 Bonnieux, Tél. 04.90.75.61.58 Email: serge.seignon@club-internet.fr, Website, The wine cellar is open everyday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and from 2:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

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Oppède: Domaine Les Roullets (au lieu d’un Gite)

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Yes secrets black with wine, and gold with honey, landscapes of an almost brutal serenity piled one upon another with quixotic profusion, as if to provoke the historic confrontations which have made them significant, muddling up the sacred and the profane, the trivial and the grandiose with operatic richness, mesmerizing one!

—Lawrence Durrell, Caesar’s Vast Ghost

In the Luberon, there are towns, town-and-country, and country. Oppède is the essence of Provencal countryside.

Oppède wears the smile of light under long blue skies, a peaceful expanse of  vineyards and farmland in the western end of the Luberon, cherished by its inhabitants for its idyllic Provencal scenery.

The commune of Oppède stretches southward from the main highway D900 that bisects the Calavon Valley near Coustellet up the slopes of the Petit Luberon. Attribute the tranquil aura of Oppede to this: it is a place people come to not travel through, yet one is minutes away from bustling towns and farmers markets.

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The Domaine Les Roullets in Oppède goes one better: wine-and-country. Les Roullets is a vineyard cum luxurious “wired” bed-and-breakfast where guests revel in privacy along with the spatial sense of freedom of an estate.

From a small throne on which its main building once housed a small garrison (oppidum) in Roman times, the Domaine Les Roullets affords guests a panoramic view of the pastoral landscape, and the old semi-restored village of Oppède-le-Vieux built on the hillside of the Petit Luberon.

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Guests can wander amidst a fruit orchard, olive orchards and wooded areas, or linger in a tree-lined courtyard, or take in Roman relics – a medieval washing area and a flight of stairs to an ancient irrigation system, and then indulge in contemporary comforts at a large heated pool or in an ‘orangerie’ (a guest lounge) has a frig with refreshments, Wifi and a CD player with an iPod docking-station.

 

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The white-accented rooms also wear a smile of light; All have a smart contemporary décor, Ipod, double beds, satellite TV, bath and/or shower, bathrobes, slippers and AC.

The spaciousness of the rooms is expanded by a terrace or balcony, and a sitting area.

Associate a gem with Domaine Les Roullets and sapphire immediately comes to mind.

 

Basics:

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Domaine Les Roullets, 305 A, Chemin de Fontdrèche 84580 Oppède, Tel 04 90 71 21 88, Website

All rooms are a maximum of two people, non-smoking, no pets nor children under 16.

The Domaine produces a “vin bio” AOC Côte de Luberon Rouge.

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The multilingial owners of the Domaine are Dutch.

Directions: From Coustellet, take D2,  then go east on D188, to a roundabout, to the opposite side in the direction of Ménerbes on D188, continue on Le Four Neuf, after a sharp right hand curve, turn right on Chemin de Fondrèche.

 

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