14 September 2017

Suitcase. Provence: Bonnieux, Lacoste, Oppede & Menerbes

Should you find yourself in Provence, then you simply must get a car. There is so much ground to cover, so many towns to visit, you'd be remiss not to take full advantage. The great thing about the region is that each of the towns are relatively close to each other but they all boast their own personality.

After an indulgent breakfast of one too many flaky croissants at Le Mas Des Etoiles I was off. First stop? Bonnieux. And indeed it is Bonnie! This town is truly charming and so pretty that surely it must have been used in a movie or two.

Venture all the way to the top of town for a view out across the fields, then meander back down stopping at a cafe for a pain au chocolat along the way.

Next, I hopped over to Lacoste which conveniently sits next door, as the neighbouring town. Today regarded as an artistic haven, it has its own colourful history involving a troublesome man who once lived in the chateau at the top of town. If you climb all the way up you'll be treated to more spectacular views. Down below in the town you'll find quaint doorways, undulating paths and hidden corners that are certain to tease your curiosity.

Onto Oppede Le Vieux where I had my work cut out for me. With no cars allowed in the village you face a bit of a hike from the carpark to the centre, and then another hike up to the top of town where you'll find the church. Both are totally, 100% worth the effort. You'll see why...

Oppede Le Vieux had me in raptures. It feels untouched, perhaps standing just as it would have 100 years ago. Visiting it for yourself is like stepping into the pages of a history book. The tiny lanes. The uneven steps. The dizzying heights. It's one not to be missed.

Rounding out the day I skipped back to Menerbes, the final in the quartet of villages. You may know the name from the book A Year In Provence, the author Peter Mayle often spoke of the town as he lived close by. I arrived just as the dusky light had begun to turn the village a soft shade of pink. 

Whilst it doesn't feel or appear as old as some of the other villages like Gordes, Menerbes has its own polished charm. Petite, like all the others, there is but one main street with a smattering of cafes, bars and local shops.

You're certain to see a kitten or two scurry up a wall and no doubt you'll see the locals enjoying an aperitif before dinner. Everything about their way of life here speaks of content - they don't rush, they enjoy lavish meals, they chatter and laugh and gesture wildly. It's hard not to fall in love with all of them.

By this time I was truly famished for dinner so I headed for Bistrot Le 5 perched at the top of Menerbes, overlooking the valley and the farm houses below.

With a glass of rose in one hand (the local wine is very good!) and a firm grasp on the bread basket with the other, I felt utterly content. My joy was only increased when I watched as the sky graduated through the most brilliant shades of pink for its sunset. If you do visit, try the beef carpaccio, it's served with artichokes and capers. Possibly the best I've had, so I highly recommend. The perfect finish to a magical day.

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Photos by Krissie.