Beauty and tranquility in the Luberon Valley, Provence

I am hardly the first to wax poetic about the beauty of Provence, but with a region as spectacular as this one, it certainly bears repeating. My husband, young children and I took a wonderful holiday in Provence’s Luberon Valley. We based ourselves in a little mas provençal (traditional regional homes of stone) just outside the charming hillside town of Gordes and used this as our base to explore the region. Gordes, like many of the picturesque hilltowns in the region, bears the classification as “un des plus beaux villages de France” (one of the most beautiful villages of France). You’ll be sure to agree before you even reach the town, because the approach to this idyllic village, perched high on a hilltop is so breathtaking. Our house had beautiful views up to the town. The location is perfect for a relaxing holiday and there are enough charming hilltowns and places of interest in the vicinity to ensure that you’ll never grow bored. Considering the almost guaranteed sunshine in southern France for much of the year and the wonderful food and wine, you certainly have the makings of a  perfect holiday.

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Close to Gordes is the “ochre” town of Roussillon . This former ochre mining town once provided 17 different hues of ochre and you will find them all of those shades displayed on the colourful homes in the old town. It makes a beautiful impression in the bright summer sunlight. Visit the old ochre quarries and enjoy a pleasant walk through the paths to admire the stunning ochre colours set off beautifully by the green trees.

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Oppède-le-Vieux has only a few cafés and restaurants in the restored homes at the bottom of the hill, but as you work your way up to the medieval town, it is mostly in ruins. You’ll love wandering around this spectacular remains of the town with lovely views over the valley below. The medieval castle ruins are perched on top. The drops can be quite steep, so be careful while admiring those stunning views. Take along good walking shoes and enjoy the beauty and tranquility of this special slice of  Provence.

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Just slightly further afield, although technically not part of the Luberon Valley, is the jagged landscape of the Dentelles interspersed with lush vineyards and charming wine-producing villages. Not to be missed is the wonderful town of Vaison-la-Romaine . This was originally a settlement of the Ancient Romans and the Pont romain (Roman bridge) is still used to cross the town. Incidentally, the ancient Roman engineering has fared better than that of nearby modern bridges in recent floods. The cobblestoned roads are steep, winding and lovely. The ruins of the 12th Century castle are at the top of a steep climb and this panoramic point offers spectacular views below. Reward your efforts at one of the numerous town restaurants and be sure to accompany your meal with one of the excellent local wines.

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Other towns of interest in the Luberon are Lacoste, Ménerbes, Bonnieux, Isle-la-Sorgue. If you are there in June, you will be lucky enough to see the fields full of lavender. And be sure to dedicate some time to visiting the colourful local markets – towns each have their own market days – come prepared to stock up on all the wonderful, local delicacies. The  only unpleasant moment of this vacation is when it’s time to leave.