A Travellerspoint blog

Last thoughts on the Luberon and France

The oldest part of the chateau, built in Italian style circa 1000

The oldest part of the chateau, built in Italian style circa 1000

Chateaux Loumarin garden entrance

Chateaux Loumarin garden entrance

Market day at Loumarin, hundreds meters away, we are almost alone in the chateaux!

Market day at Loumarin, hundreds meters away, we are almost alone in the chateaux!

Today we visited three local towns and their chateaux, first Loumarin, then a bit of a let down at La Tour D'Aigues which turned out to be little more than a ruin facade, and then Ansouis, near where we are staying. The highlight was Loumarin where we were able to wander through almost alone as we timed our visit to the opening of the local market and even though there were tour busses and perhaps thousands in town they were all distracted!

The music room in the chateaux Lourmarin

The music room in the chateaux Lourmarin

Examples of art from WW2 trenches, made from brass shell casings.

Examples of art from WW2 trenches, made from brass shell casings.

Trench art

Trench art

Tomorrow we leave the Luberon and make our way to just inside the Italian border. Each of the villages we visited here had it's own charm, and we cannot really pick a most beautiful from among them. Loumarin is superb but probably the most exploited by tourism, market day is just crazy even now, and it isn't summer yet. Ironically the real estate agent there said there is little for sale, expensive and not negotiable, where as the nearby town of Cucuron (5k) is less commercial, has a fair bit for sale at around E 100,000 (for a 50 m 2, 1 bedder) and is in a quieter spot that is no less pretty.

lovely little town Cucuron, a few minutes away.

lovely little town Cucuron, a few minutes away.

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We want that one!

We want that one!

We have been impressed with the French attitude in many ways, parents have to be more responsible for their kids when from the wall of a house to the narrow roadway is less than a meter; you cannot repair without ruining a 1000 year old, steep, narrow stairway with only a 400mm rampart leading up to a church spire yet they allow the public up it, and the idea of having a long, boozy break for lunch and finishing later does have some appeal! We are however (Marg particularly) thankful for some of the safety laws at home like having roads with verges where possible! We have seen semi's going down narrow village roads with Plane trees either side whose branches demand they travel the centre and everyone else must make do.
Their fierce patriotism is seen in the places we have stayed where all appliances like washers, dryers and coffee machines are French made, often to accommodate the limited size of the homes, and you see very few Japanese cars here, Citroen and Renault rule! They seem to think about employment differently too, maybe not mechanising as much to keep people employed and fed. Not like Gina Rhinehart at all!

The only photo we have of inside chateaux Ansouis, the new owners won't allow photos, and it was a guided tour

The only photo we have of inside chateaux Ansouis, the new owners won't allow photos, and it was a guided tour

The central well in the chateaux.

The central well in the chateaux.

Rooftop garden at the chateaux Ansoius

Rooftop garden at the chateaux Ansoius

Every village is sprinkled with artisans of every type, hidden away in the narrow back streets, and they must compete with the market sellers, it can be bedlam in the market but meters away in a side street you are lonely, it is hard to imagine how they are all making a crust. Like home the summer holiday must contribute substantially to their annual income and perhaps we have not seen that. The other side of that is the sometimes evident attitude from merchants that they will never set eyes on you again so get what they can now. We saw people get up and leave a restaurant because they could not share a pizza, they had to order one each.
Our lasting impression is of a country fighting to maintain its identity, Margaret observed today it is nothing like the Asian counties we have visited, so keen to emulate the American style of fast food and long, stressful working life. We saw a sign for Macdonalds yesterday but have not seen a store, and work life balance seems important here, the way is seems it has always been. They are unwilling to compromise just to make a visitor comfortable, you must have the full French experience, and we applauded that.

View from the chateaux Ansouis

View from the chateaux Ansouis

Posted by A M Chaffey 15:13 Comments (0)

Exploring the villages of The Luberon

Hilltop villages, cyclists, climbers, narrow mountain roads and RV's!

overcast 18 °C

So far we have had better weather than Paris and England and although it rained yesterday ( Tuesday) and was cold with it we pressed on to some of the surrounding villages, Buoux, Gordes and Lacoste, wandering the streets in the rain and occasionally contributing to the local economy. We are convinced now that we have come at the right time, after leaving the city the tourist crowds have thinned to a very comfortable level here, and the shops are gearing up with their stock for the summer and the major onslaught so there is plenty to see in that department. Our trouble is the limited space in our luggage!

Buoux

Buoux

Buoux

Buoux


Ken the Aussie GPS said turn left

Ken the Aussie GPS said turn left

Happy hour in Provence

Happy hour in Provence

Driving to get here was a bit of a challenge but once we were out of the greater Paris area and on the motorway it was fairly simple. We had a downloaded free maps of England and France that used the iPad GPS and that got us through England but the Renault came with a factory fitted Tom Tom, (which we didn't pay extra for) and once we had mastered that, finding our way around was easy. It will lead us through the Riviera and on to La Spezia too. (Marg found a Viamichilen website that plots your course, tells you toll cost at each point and total, fuel estimate for the whole trip, estimated time and even the number and length of each tunnel we will go through. Takes the worry and mystery out of it a bit, clever girl!)

large_90_427E33212219AC68173217742C5F5B00.jpgWalking up to the Chateau in Lacoste, cobbled, slope up & down!

Walking up to the Chateau in Lacoste, cobbled, slope up & down!

Goult market

Goult market

Even travelling in England didn't prepare us for the narrow mountain roads with no verges we have encountered here though. The area is frequented by cyclists, walkers and ageing idiots in mobile homes bigger than the average winabago. One guy we witnessed trying to negotiate a rue in Buoux, just complete gridlock, a 5 point turn to go round one corner.

Rock tent!

Rock tent!

Roadside flora, at 900 m on the way to Roussillon

Roadside flora, at 900 m on the way to Roussillon

Ochre coloured render, and more bloody poppies! Below the town.

Ochre coloured render, and more bloody poppies! Below the town.

Lacoste was a highlight among many. Although we didn't get inside finding and climbing up through the town to the chateaux now owned by Pierre Cardin, (who is buying up most of the village to the chagrin of the locals) was fun. It was once owned by the Maquis de Sade, famous for his deviate nature, for which he spent about 30 years of his life confined. He is the route of the words sadist and sadism!

Stopped on the way home to get s shot of the rugged cliffs of the Luberon...

Stopped on the way home to get s shot of the rugged cliffs of the Luberon...

Then we noticed this guy! The area is frequented by climbers and cyclists.

Then we noticed this guy! The area is frequented by climbers and cyclists.

Today we explored more of the villages and were keen to see the ochres of Roussillon and a bories, a permanent shelter made of small limestone slabs used on a seasonal basis by shepherds and farmers in the hills. On the way to Roussillon we stopped for a view and wandered into the stunted oak forest stumbling across a small borie with an excavation into the limestone that held water. The area was littered with stone walls in varying condition and a short distance away was a ti-pee shaped construction complete with table and chimney.

Roussillon is different from the other hilltop villages in that it is sited on deposits of ochre, a novelty that has attracted attention from ancient times. The buildings here are constructed of stone in a variety of tones and rendered in colourful hues from red to yellow unavailable elsewhere. Just fabulous!

Roussillon as we approached

Roussillon as we approached

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Roussillon

Roussillon

Variety of colour in the stone and render

Variety of colour in the stone and render


Looking down from the tower to the ochre mine, Roussillon.

Looking down from the tower to the ochre mine, Roussillon.

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Posted by A M Chaffey 14:59 Archived in France Tagged villages luberon Comments (0)

Farewell to Paris

The journey to Provence

We've said au revoiur to Paris, but not on the full stomach we had planned. The fab breakfast cafe/bakery we had discovered was not ready at 8.45 am to serve us the full deal! It's a late start in Paris with most shops not open until 10 am. Paris is where we spend the most time on this trip and we feel we have only scratched the surface, many attractions need far more time to do justice.


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Margaret thought she'd booked a taxi, but her schoolgirl French did not result in a cab at the appointed hour! We made it nonetheless to Orly Airport to collect the Renault Meganne and with some trepidation (mostly on Margaret's side) took off down the motorway south, stopping overnight in Beaune. This is a burgundy wine country and the town is absolutely gorgeous. Small winding cobblestone streets with a stone walled outer barrier, then vineyards and rolling green countryside.

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Beaune, near Dijon

Beaune, near Dijon

On to Ansouis the next day, Sunday, and we arrived at Ferme De la Platane in the Luberon, very different from the Burgundy region, harder looking country surrounded by rugged hills, but no less beautiful.
We were welcomed by Rosemary our host with a supply of essentials such as wine, beer, fresh milk, baguettes and cheese and the accommodation is perfect, making it 4 out of 4 so far!

the view from the bedroom window

the view from the bedroom window

The further this trip progresses, the more beautiful the villages seem to be, we have arrived only 6 hours ago but as we left the restaurant La Recre in Lourmarin after arguably the best meal so far, Margaret does not want to leave and is checking out the Real Estate windows! Perhaps it is the excellent local wine talking.

rated one of Frances most beautiful villages

rated one of Frances most beautiful villages

Lourmarin.

Lourmarin.

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Red Poppies emerge through a field of near harvest wheat

Red Poppies emerge through a field of near harvest wheat

Posted by A M Chaffey 12:42 Comments (0)

Musee de Louvre

overcast 7 °C

Apollo gallery

Apollo gallery

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Finally made it to the Louvre, like the rest of Paris just mind boggling in its size and complexity.

Marg's shot of the day, the new CBD in the distance fron a window in the Louve

Marg's shot of the day, the new CBD in the distance fron a window in the Louve

Posted by A M Chaffey 13:56 Archived in France Tagged paris gallery louvre apollo Comments (0)

The tower, The Garden and the Palace

Eiffel by Day and night, Monets garden, too early for the lilies but no disappointment and Versailles, true French style!

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The air was still heavy on Tuesday as we headed to the tower to buy a ticket, hopeful of booking a night visit to the top level but as we stood in the queue we decided that as it had been the pattern for the last few days that the rain increased toward evening and we were here we may as well go up now. Marg had climbed the Harbour bridge where you just about have to check your shoes for pebbles stuck in the sole so we were amazed that you could go up the tower with all your belongings!

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We also visited the Musee de Orsay where the impressionists were the highlight.

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An almost fine day for our trip to Giverny and Versailles. The gardens of Monet are just fabulous as we hope the photos show, they are tended to preserve the pallet and grouped colour tones that Monet used so effectively in his work and we only wish we could visit every week over the next month to watch the colours change in all the budding blooms that we were just too early for.

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Versailles raised the bar on Blenheim for sheer style, as no one seems to out do the French in that department, but the gardens less impressive from the short time we had to view them. Paris is not like London where a real effort is made in the garden.

Posted by A M Chaffey 12:53 Archived in France Tagged rain tower the on but for fine garden. Comments (0)

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