Journey of Provence: The Villages, Part 1

First decision in planning our trip…where to stay? I was looking for a quintessential Provençal farmhouse in the country yet central to all the villages we wanted to cover, mostly in the Vaucluse region. La Bastide de Voulonne was the answer.  Penny and Julie Hemery run this picturesque 18th century farmhouse in the Luberon (part of Vaucluse) just outside the village of Gordes.

We arrived late Saturday night by rental car after flying into Marseille but were greeted in their charming dining room with a yummy Provençal dinner… aubergine quiche salad, rack of lamb with roasted vegetables and scalloped potatoes, and chocolate orange cake for dessert! With 13 quaint spacious rooms, a swimming pool, gorgeous grounds and views, and a wonderful kitchen that serves up breakfast and dinner daily, it was a great base for our 4 day Village journey.

Day 1

  • Fontaine-de-Vaucluse: At the base of the 750 feet cliffs sits Europe’s most powerful spring pumping out water to create the Sourge River. Visiting in October, we were there to see the smooth green lake vs the gushing river. We strolled the path to the swallow-hole (no one is sure the exact source of the water) and stopped at a working paper mill along the way. Downstream is a quaint village for lunch or a drink.
  • L’Isle-sur-la-Sourge: One of the ‘musts’ in Provence is visiting the markets and you can literally hit different villages every day of the week to shop them. Sunday is the day for I’Isle-sur-la-Sourge. Originally a fishing village there are canals and waterwheels that once powered the textile industry.  Over the past 30 years its become an antiques town with huge antique markets Easter and mid-August. We had a ball wandering the vendors and streets (got some great placemats and pillow covers) then stopping for lunch along the river.
  • Ménerbes: Ranked as one of the ‘Seven Most Beautiful Villages in France’, Menérbes was our first official ‘perched village’ stop. Perched for safety in the past, it now makes them treasures dotting the landscape. If you’ve read A Year in Provence, it was based here. We had dinner at a lovely little corner restaurant, Le Galoubet (104, rue Marcellin Poncet, 04.90.72.36.08).

Coming tomorrow: The Villages, Part 2. Visit the gallery for more great photos of our Journey in Provence.