A La Prochaine…à Provence!
Last week I wrote about life in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, asking the question “is it a better choice to rent or purchase property in one of the hearts of the hubs of the region, Nice or Marseille, or in any one of the thousands of enclaves outside of these city centers, either along the coast or inland in the countryside?”
I’m going to focus again on this region today with more insightful information because next week we will bring you two very desirable properties in the Luberon’s illustrious village of Lourmarin — one a large multi-level village house with a lot of potential; the other a magnificent villa set among a grove of olive trees that is comprised of six fully functioning apartments and a swimming pool, both of which would generate a revenue as well as a tranquil lifestyle.
Last week’s Nouvellettre® provided some basic information about the region so I urge you to go back for a refresher…the Provence–Alpes–Côte d’Azur bordered by the regions of Occitanie (formerly the Languedoc-Roussillon) to the west, the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes to the north, Italy to the east and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It’s a large region with six “départements” and a lot of diversity among them: Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Hautes-Alpes, Alpes-Maritimes, Bouches-du-Rhône, Var and Vaucluse.
While the majority of the population of the region speaks French, there are many minority languages. According to the a census of 20 years ago, about 5 percent spoke English, but my bet is that this has drastically changed in those 20 years. In the cities, that percentage is largely disproportionate to the countryside, but Provence is one of the country’s regions that attracts a lot of British, Irish and American visitors and residents, and therefore easier to find native English speakers among the natives.
The hilltop towns and villages of Provence offer the tranquility that the cities do not. Vegetable gardens, fields of lavender and vineyards might be just what your psyche needs for a healthy, happy natural life. Maybe living in a centuries-old stone farmhouse is just the charm and history you dream of. Another positive aspect to this is the cost of the life in the countryside which is much lower than in the cities.
If you’re a single woman, then I wouldn’t recommend living alone in a small community or villa surrounded by land, but couples and families will find this style of living downright enjoyable. Those
living in the countryside fared well during the Covid-19 pandemic because they were less exposed to the virus and had the freedom of living outdoors at their own homes, hence the newly renewed interest in settling in the countryside. The cost of housing in rural areas is shockingly little and that adds to the attractiveness, particularly for families. Those who love village life also love the close bond they have with their neighbors, something harder to achieve in the larger cities. Even with small populations, village residents can make you feel as if you’re surrounded by family.
Interior Designer, Laura Poirier, took me Wednesday to one of her favorite towns just outside Nice, Saint-Paul de Vence, where she lived for many years with her family. It’s one of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera, and famous for its art galleries, quaint boutiques and the adjacent Fondation Maeght just a short walk down the road. It’s long been a haven for the rich and/or famous — the likes of Jean-Paul Sartre, Pablo Picasso, Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Jacques Prévert, Marc Chagall, Bernard-Henri Lévy,
James Baldwin, and American actors Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner who were married there by its mayor on September 18, 1984.
The village is what dreams are made of as are the views from it’s ramparts. Life in this little village would be completely different from life in bustling Nice, just 30 minutes south of it by car. One must be prepared to live daily life on its narrow steep pathways, keep a car at its outskirts and to venture out to the big stores in neighboring enclaves for major amenities. Tourists invade the village daily, but the locals are a family and that might be just what your soul needs.
From the edges of the town looking down over the hills, we could see luxury villas with their shimmering blue swimming pools dotting the hillside, many with beautifully landscaped gardens and no doubt, multiple guest suites, which take advantage of the all of their surroundings. These properties, while costing a small fortune, are a lot less expensive than apartments in Paris when comparing their costs per square meter. Here, one can live like a king on a knight’s budget.
Saint-Paul de Vence is just one of hundreds of medieval hilltop villages to experience in the area around Nice. Some of the others
include Gréolières, Gourdon, Le Bar sur Loup, Biot, Mougins, Eze and Peillon. Peillon is one of the villages I visited last summer with my daughter and wrote about our “kismet encounter there (see the story and photos).
Peillon sits isolated, but surrounded by forest-covered mountains, and deep valleys, but only 12 kilometers from Nice. It is small, peaceful and completely pedestrianized. There is no influence from tourists, which is surprising to see at a place so close to the hustle and bustle of Nice. Our American friends who live there take advantage of the nearby peaks and walking trails, something they
can’t do living most of the year in New York City. Their home in this tiny enclave is spectacular and it’s understandable why they love it so much.
This past week, Patty Sadauskas took a driving tour from her Nîmes home to the Luberon part of Provence, one of my favorite areas of the region. She provided some of the photos here of her findings. With its abundance of olive trees, vineyards, fruit trees, lavender
fields, and surrounding hills, the region serves as an ideal base for visiting Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Arles and the villages of the Luberon and beyond. The famous port city of Marseille is less than an hour’s drive away.
Marseille (international airport), Aix-en-Provence and Avignon provide fast and easy access to Paris (3 hours) by way of the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) rail lines. The drive she took is similar to those I’ve taken many times, to visit the hilltop towns of Vaucluse: Ansouis, Bonnieux, Buoux, Cabrieres d’Avignon, Cadenet, Caseneuve, Coustellet, Cucuron, Fontaine de Vaucluse, Gordes,
Goult, Isle sur Sorgue, Joucas, Lacoste, Lagnes, Lourmarin, Maubec, Menerbes, Methamis, Murs, Oppede le Vieux, Robion, Roussillon, Saignon, St-Saturnin-les-Apt and Viens…to name just a few!
Lourmarin is just one among them, but is star quality and is as close to paradise in Provence (or just about anywhere) as you will ever get. Located between two valleys, the Durance and the Calavon not far from the town of Apt, the village is located at the entrance of a passage dug by the river Aiguebrun in the limestone mountains of the Luberon. Famous international figures have been drawn to Lourmarin, such as French authors Albert Camus and Henri Bosco (who are buried in the village cemetery), as well as English author Peter Mayle (“A Year in Provence”), who helped bring world-wide attention to the area.
The village can also boast of gastronomic delight with Reine
Sammut’s Michelin Star restaurant, Auberge La Fenière, and there are no less than four other Michelin-starred restaurants within a 15-minute drive. Punctuating the village’s landscape is the 15th-century Château de Lourmarin, reminding us all of its aristocratic heritage.
Next week, we’ll be presenting two properties for sale in this magnificent part of Provence…so if you’re dreaming of a life in this region, perhaps one of these delightful properties will suit you perfectly.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
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