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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)

by BB Kuett on January 22, 2014

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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)

by BB Kuett on January 21, 2014

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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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Avignon: Côté Square (au lieu d’un Gite)

by BB Kuett on January 20, 2014

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The calm. The chic calm of the bed and breakfast Côté Square in the old walled city of Avignon is ever present, in all seasons mind you.

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From spring through the fall, Avignon is a hectic place as there is always something happening to complement its tourist magnets (Palais des Papes, the Collection Lambert), the most extreme spike being the Avignon Theater Festival in July when the streets are hyper stuffed with pedestrians. And even then the Côté Square, tucked away on a side street, is quiet.

At Côté Square, there are three rooms on the second floor, which all have air conditioning (you need it in the summer) and WiFi with colorful modern décor.

 

One room (320 sq ft) holds up to three with a queen and single bed, whereas the other two smaller rooms (150 sq ft) have a queen and double bed. All baths have Italian fixtures with showers.

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All rooms have access to a terrace (220 sq ft) on the same floor.  There is a garage, which is essential if you are driving as finding a parking space in Avignon is maddening.  The continental breakfasts are ample.

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For a Provence-en-ville kind of experience, the Côté Square is a charming cool place to refresh your spirit. Your cheerful hosts Véronique and Frédéric assure it!

Getting there: If you are on foot, orient yourself near the Tourisme Office on rue de Republique where just north you take rue Henri Fabre (to the right) that turns into rue des Lices, a bit farther on at rue Portail Magnanen, take a left and a few yards on the right is rue du Crucifix. It’s a short walk, as is every walk within the walls of Avignon.

Basics

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Côté Square, 8 rue du Crucifix – 84000 Avignon, Contact: Véronique et Frédéric Rousset, Tel 04.90.85.52.42, Email: contact@cotesquare-avignon.com, Website

Avignon Collection Lambert

Avignon Restaurants

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It’s the height.

The entrancing bed and breakfast Le Mas Perréal sits at about 1,000 feet on the southern flank of the Provencal village of Saint Saturnin-lès-Apts, offering sweeping vistas of the countryside and the Luberon mountains across the Calavon valley. (BTW: The same view is shared by one of the most expensive resorts in the Luberon. See below.)

Saint Saturnin-lès-Apts is tucked up against a cliff in the foothills of the Vaucluse mountains, 9Km north of Apt, and the same distance northeast from the busy town of Roussillon. The village is Provence depressurized: authentic and quiet, it serves its local inhabitants rather than the tourist set that flocks to Roussillon and Gordes.

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Vineyards and cherry orchards surround Le Mas Perréal, making for a quintessential Provencal country experience.

Graceful elegance comes to mind when describing the individually decorated four double rooms and one suite at Le Mas Perréal with their period antiques and Provençal fabrics.

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All the beds are queens, and the en suite bathrooms have hair dryers and large walk-in Italian showers. WiFI is provided.

Back to elevation: the rooms have terraces and private sitting areas from which to take in the sweeping views of the Luberon countryside while enjoying an “apéro.”

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You can also take in the valley views from lounge chairs at the swimming pool.

In the renovated farm house, there is a sitting room, and a pantry with a refrigerator, plates and glasses for self-service snacks and meals. Guests revel in the delicious and  generous breakfasts, served by your hosts Elizabeth and Kevin.

 

Looking to stock up on a local AOC Luberon wine for the week, the Domaine de Séoule is down the road at Les Bassaquets.

Don’t miss the local farmers market in the village every Tuesday morning. The market in nearby Apt is on Saturday morning.

Basics

view_arche-461x339Le Mas Perréal, Quartier La Fortune 84490, St. Saturnin-lès-Apt, Tel 04 90 75 46 31, Email: masperreal@gmail.com, Website

Directions: Le Mas is off of highway D2 about a mile southwest of the village.

For haute cuisine dining, the posh Domaine des Andéols, one of the most stunning properties in the Luberon, is virtually next door to the Mas. Dinner menu is 45 euros.

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Ménerbes: Le Mas du Magnolia (au lieu d’un Gite)

by BB Kuett on January 18, 2014

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From the gardens of Le Mas du Magnolia, the perched village of Ménerbes appears as a large ocean liner floating in a sea of forest green vines, its bow elevated as if in a salute to the far-flung valley below.

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Le Mas du Magnolia, an elegant bed and breakfast, has two acres of enclosed lawns and gardens where its guests indulge themselves at a large swimming pool, on shaded lounge chairs in the garden, and at a pool house with a private kitchen where they take meals at their leisure.

Although it is one of the iconic perched villages in the Luberon, Ménerbes surprises you by its tranquil nature. Unlike Gordes or Roussillon, Ménerbes is bereft of activity in the summer months except for a monthly art opening or events at the Maison de la Truffe et du Vin. The café frequented by Peter Mayle when he lived on the outskirts of the village has been closed for several years.

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The streets themselves in Ménerbes astonish: they have been repaved in a patchwork of square and rectangular stones of gray and gray-blue tones which are as smooth as the desk of, yes, an ocean liner. The meticulous repaving of the streets came by the boundless generosity of philanthropist Ms. Nancy Negley, of Houston and Ménerbes, who purchased in 1997 and completely renovated the Dora Maar House whose stately edifice addresses the Luberon countryside to the north.

Among the perched villages, Ménerbes distinguishes itself by an air of civility – a place to live rather than be visited. And this feeling of graceful comfort in the privacy of your own home is manifest at Le Mas du Magnolia.

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Of the four colorfully-decorated rooms at Le Mas, two can accommodate three people. Three rooms have their own private terraces. All have double beds, bathrobes, pool towels, and hair dryers.

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Amenities include a sauna and the only putting green that PVB has ever run across at a bed and breakfast. A top flight golf course is nearby in Saumane.

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Minutes from Le Mas in Ménerbes, there is the excellent restaurant Le Cafe Veranda and the leading art gallery in the Luberon, Galérie Pascal Lainé.  The Maison de la Truffe et du Vin has a superb wine cellar and a shop with olive oil and Provencal delicacies.

The nearby Domaine de la Citadelle, whose owner in the mayor of the Ménerbes, produces excellent wines.

Basics

Le Mas du Magnolia, route 103, Ménerbes, Tél. 04 90 72 48 00, Email: contact@masmagnolia.com, Website

Directions: Going east on D900, exit at Beaumettes to Ménerbes on D29, which becomes D103. Le Mas in on your left as you approach the village, look for signage.

Ménerbes profile: here

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Domaine de la Citadelle, AOC Luberon wines. Close to Le Mas du Magnolia. Visit their Corkscrew Museum, Tél. 04 90 72 41 58, Email: contact@domaine-citadelle.com Website

Restaurant: Café Veranda, Ménerbes (BCB), Lunch from noon and from 7:00 p.m. for dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Avenue Marcellin Poncet (center of the village). Tel: 04 90 72 33 33. Website

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Galérie Pascal Lainé : Art gallery for the beau monde in the Luberon. Center of village opposite Café Veranda. Open from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.Tel: 04-90-72-48-30, Website

 

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Venasque: La Maison de Charme (au lieu d’un Gite)

by BB Kuett on January 17, 2014

Winter, Fall, Summer or Spring, for those who hold the conviction that life is better lived passionately, there are small treasures throughout Provence where one can nourish an amorous appetite in a refined and intimate atmosphere.

One particular jewel that comes to mind is La Maison de Charme, a large stone “bâtisse” in the center of Venasque, a village perched on an abrupt rocky spur from which compact stone houses offer a clear line of sight to the 6,000-plus feet Mont Ventoux with its bare limestone summit; the village seems to be in intimate conversation with the mythical mountain which never leaves the gaze of the villagers who speak as if it were sentient.

You marry this mythical feeling with intimacy and elegance by taking the first steps into La Maison de Charme, a Chambres D’Hotes of four toothsome suites with a tea salon and a boutique on its street floor.

Open in December and January, closed in February and March, La Maison de Charme reopens in April until November, offering the sweet enchantment of a village hideaway, along with the refined pleasures of shopping and an afternoon tea.

Looking for a tasteful gift or souvenir for the home, then step into the “Boutique Deco” where you can browse among exquisite decorative objects, lamps, candles, pottery, perfumes, cotton fabrics and Provencal bed covers.

As a respite, you can take an afternoon tea in an adjoining tea salon, an elegant, cozy and warm room with Provencal décor.

The spacious four suites, which accommodate from 2 to 4 guests, are smartly decorated in a Provencal style, and many of the items in the rooms may be found in the boutique.

Each suite has a salon with a hearth and two divans, a bedroom with a king size bed, bathroom, television, WiFi, and natural light.

Small dogs are welcome with supplement of 10€ (Dogs are favored in most Venasque hotels and restaurants.) The suites begin at 135 € for two including a petit déjeuner.

No doubt that all the fine points mentioned herein will entitle you to a certain heightened holiday experience the moment that you arrive to La Maison de Charme and put yourself in the hands of your cheerful smart hosts where “l’hôtellerie, c’est une entreprise de charme.”

Friday Evening Market

Venasque takes on a festive air every Friday evening in the summer with an open air market launched two years ago by the Mayor.

Two pop-up street cafés, which serve wine, drinks and amuse bouches on the Place de la Fontaine, are run by the Café La Fontaine and the Maison de Charme, which serves wines of the nearby Chateau Unang.

Stalls along the upper part of the Grand Rue offer vegetables, cheese, charcuterie, wine, honey, jams, soaps, crafts and art.

Running every Friday from July to mid-Sept. from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m., the Friday market has the feel of a gathering of friends. Smaller and more social than the other farmers markets, the Venasque market has been a huge success in drawing visitors in the region as well as animating the village with a festival-like cheer.

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Basics:

Maison de Charme La Fontaine, Place de la Fontaine, Venasque, Tél. 04 90 60 64 05, Four suites with petit déjeuner, small dogs accepted.

Open all year except November, February, and March, Tea Room and “Boutique déco” (photo r) on ground floor Website

Venasque: Website,

Friday Market July until September 16, 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., Fêtes Votives Aug. 12 – 15

Access Venasque by Route D4 from Carpentras or route D28 from Saint-Didier. TGV Avignon 40 minutes by car.

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Lourmarin: Les Olivettes (au lieu d’un Gite)

by BB Kuett on January 16, 2014

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One might call it a B&B-extra special, more than a bed and more than a breakfast. The uniqueness of Les Olivettes, a luxuriously renovated Bastide on the fringe of Lourmarin, is that its six spacious apartments all have fully-equipped kitchens, freeing guests from the daily captivity of restaurants, although in Lourmarin, a culinary hotspot, the temptations for fine dining abound. A Provencal breakfast and other repasts are taken in your room or on your terrace on your leisurely schedule.

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At Les Olivettes, one revels in the decor: walls painted with Provencal ochre washes, floors of hand-made terracotta parefeuilles, and the melange of antique and bright contemporary furnishings.  Each apartment offers bucolic views from a shaded terrace. There is a high-ceiling 600 sq. ft. common room, private gardens and a pool.

 

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The roomy apartments, each with a queen-size bed, accommodate 2 adults, most with one child, and one holds 4 guests. Amenities include a stereo CD, internet access and satellite TV.

The website (below) provides great descriptions of each room; it is a mini-guide to local restaurants, wineries, sights and tours. Your hosts are longtime residents of Lourmarin, Joseph and Elizabeth DeLiso, a perfectly bilingual couple, an American and a Brit respectively.

 

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There is no village center in the Luberon more pedestrian friendly than the one in Lourmarin where three cafes – of which the Gaby was a favorite of Peter Mayle when he was living withing walking distance -  huddle around a small y-shaped square bordered by shops and galleries. Strolling though the narrow streets, one soaks up the atmospherics of pleasure and leisure.

As an entry point to the eastern Luberon, Lourmarin is accessed via a winding road through a ravine from Bonnieux, or a 35-minute trip from Aix-en-Provence. Its scenic countryside and many fine restaurants make Lourmarin a favorite getaway for the BOBO’s of Aix.

 

There is a dreamlike quality to Les Olivettes; it’s the kind of place that you would summon up in your imagination as the ideal tranquil Provencal holiday, and then the moment you arrive to its door, everything is in its place just as you imagined it.

Basics:

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Les Olivettes, avenue Henri Bosco, 84160 Lourmarin, Email: lourmarin@olivettes.com, Website

The property is south of the village; the road is also marked D27.

A neighbor is the Château Constantin-Chevalier, producer of fine Côtes du Luberon wines of which Peter Mayle (The Marseille Caper) is a huge fan.

Finding A Gite in the Vaucluse: Here

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If you are among those who share the conviction that, as far as country living is concerned, the passage of time is enriched by the beauty of horses, then the Mas Pichony is your Provencal bed and breakfast destination of choice.

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A vocation of Laetitia and Laurent Desbordes, the owners of the Mas Pichony in Pernes les Fontaines, is the raising and training of show jumpers.

The graceful and beautiful horses graze in pastures on the expansive property, which is bordered by vineyards. The intelligent and playful creatures endow the property with an aristocratic air.

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The Mas (farm house) is distinguished by a huge plane tree, which provides shade for an open courtyard and dining area.

There are five charming rooms decorated in colorful Provencal style with bathroom and shower. Three of the rooms have double beds, and the other two have two single beds.

 

 

A Provencal breakfast is served on a terrase under the shade of the 300 year old plane tree between 8:30 and 10:00 a.m. A Table d’hote is available for a minimum of six on Fri., Sat., Monday and Tuesday evenings.

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The architecture of the pool area is both aesthetically and functionally pleasing.

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Set back from the main house on the grounds, the large swimming pool is framed by an enclosed lounge with comfortable couches, and a pool house with a frig and cooler with an area for snacking and lunching at a large table.

There is a nearby shaded area for reading and relaxing. Bordered by vineyards, trees and a spacious lawn, this small complex is a calm oasis.

A culinary note: Silvain Freres in Saint Didier produces the best nougat in Provence, and its sealed packets make great gifts.

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Basics

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Mas Pichony, 1454, route de St Didier, 84210 Pernes-Les-Fontaines, Contact Laetitia and Laurent Desbordes, Tél: 04.90.61.56.11 email: mas-pichony@wanadoo.fr, Website

Directions: The Mas Pichony is on the road D28 between Pernes le Fontaines and Saint-Didier, near Carpentras. The location is convenient for visiting Avignon, the wine areas of the Vaucluse, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, and the Luberon and its perched villages.

 

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The backstory of L’Aube Safran (“dawn of saffron” alludes to the time of the day when saffron is harvested): A Parisian couple – Marie an interior designer and Francois an architect – check out of the claustrophobic mash of urban life in search of a tranquil locale for a bit of farming in the Pyrenees, then they ditch the farm for another rural palette upon which to display their heightened sensitivity for elegance by renovating, decorating and encircling with saffron a large mas in Le Barroux, a bed and breakfast spread out among trees and pines on a patch of land offering mystical views of the small jagged mountain chain, the Dentelles de Montmirail.

It’s the kind of place where if you were led to it blindfolded you would not know where you were at first sight, but you would find its isolated tranquil prettiness so downright reassuring that you would want to stay on.

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Wandering from room to room, you feel a covetous and almost prurient envy of L’Aube Safran, as you can not imagine your own interior to be more detailed, color-coordinated, spatially-arranged or more elegantly appointed.  Marie and Francois create small private open spots — a single couch here, a small table there — enveloped by open space, in a way superior to overdoing it with clutter — even with expensive clutter — on terraces, in courtyards and in the rooms.

The pool has an overflowing border; the soothing patter of falling water muffles poolside conversations.  Good taste need not be lavish. There is nothing aggressive about L’Aube Safran’s design, rather its essence lies in its a priori simplicity.

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There are five rooms / suites — bed and breakfasts in France are by law limited to five — that range in price from 120€ a night for a single to 185€ for the largest room for a double, with accommodations for three or four in other suites. Check the website for room descriptions.

The place is a lot more about breakfast, included in the room price. There are lunch servings along with a common kitchen, and twice a week there is a table d’hote in the evening for guests. Yet, it’s really about what Marie does in her kitchen in bonding ingredients with the magical spice saffron that transports you on an extraordinary culinary voyage.

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Francois cultivates saffron in parcels of land surrounding the mas. Realize that it takes 75,000 blossoms or 225,000 hand-picked stigmas (three per flower) to make a single pound of Saffron. He produces between a kilo and three kilos each year. In a small shop, you can grab a one gram pot of saffron for 27€, 5 grams for 98€, or select from numerous pots of saffron-scented concoctions of apricots, olives, onions, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, and fennel for 9€ each.

The general atmospherics of L’Aube Safran are zen master meets gentleman farmer meets saffron chef. The best advice is to get yourself ‘en place’ and let Marie and Francois kick your palate up a notch in a spot mercifully free of any mind-cluttering disturbances.

Basics

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 L’Aube Safran is located north of the village of Le Barroux in northwest part of the Vaucluse at 450 Chemin du patifiage, Le Barroux, Tél. 04 90 62 66 91, website

For a visit to the shop to purchase Saffron products, call in advance to confirm an appointment.

Finding A Gite in the Vaucluse: Here

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