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An Ineligible Voter’s Holiday in the Luberon

In the LuberonIn the Luberon

Lavendar growing in the LuberonLavendar growing in the Luberon

Isle sur la SorgueIsle sur la Sorgue

Isle sur la SorgueThe market in Isle sur la Sorgue

The Chateau de Sade in Lacoste, VaucluseThe Chateau de Sade in Lacoste, Vaucluse

A sculpture of hands on the grounds at Pierre Cardin's Marquis de Sade castleA sculpture of hands on the grounds at Pierre Cardin’s Marquis de Sade castle

The Long Pond in CucuronThe Long Pond in Cucuron

The restaurant La Cordiere in LourmarinThe B&B La Cordiere in Lourmarin

Outside a shop in LourmarinOutside a shop in Lourmarin

Jean Francois Savornin & Virginie Zurfluh's silk garmentsJean-François Savornin & Virginie Zurfluh’s silk garments

A Lourmarin artist studioA Lourmarin artist studio

The magical tree off the Chemin des Bastides (by Patty Sadauskas)The “magical tree” off the Chemin des Bastides (by Patty Sadauskas)

It was raining when we got off the train at Aix-en-Provence. But by the time we arrived in the Provençal village of Ansouis, the clouds had lifted and the sun had came out in full force. This is where my friend, Barb Westfield, has her beautiful five-bedroom village home that she rents when she’s not hosting her buddies (visit her listing, or contact Barb to rent it at [email protected]).

The next two days in the Luberon were gloriously beautiful, even if windy. The more time I spend in the region, the more attached and appreciative I become. It’s beautiful, elegant, seductive and luxurious in an earthy sort of way.

The weekend was punctuated Sunday evening by the results of the French presidential elections. It was a huge sigh of relief to see that centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron took more than 65% of the vote, but there’s also the stark realization that the political far right in France has gained so much power to have gotten as much vote as it did. It’s an historic election and a very exciting time for France. We watched with interest the French national news channel, France 24, and waited till Macron came to speak before the crowd at Le Louvre in Paris.

Most of Sunday we spent at the open air market at the village of Isle sur la Sorgue, which had its origins as a center of commerce dating back to 1596. The town is “charme extraordinaire” and is famous for this market, its many antique shops and annual fairs. Our goal was primarily to buy the fixin’s for dinner and to have lunch in one of the many good Provençal restaurants in town. We accomplished both among massive crowds — everyone out to vote and take advantage of the beautiful weather.

On the way home, we took a few detours to visit some of the other towns in the region of the Vaucluse, one of which was Lacoste, famous for its notorious resident, the Marquis de Sade (Donatien Alphonse Francois comte de Sade). His castle at the top of the village, was partially destroyed during an uprising by the locals in 1779, and is now owned by fashion designer Pierre Cardin who restored it partially. He occasionally uses it for cultural events. It is adorned by a few very interesting and large sculptures and overlooks the magnificent countryside of the Vaucluse with the village of Bonnieux not far away and clearly visible, wedged into the mountainside.

As we tooled along in my friend’s Mini Cooper we passed multitudes of what Patty Sadauskas called “wine plants” when she couldn’t think of the correct term: “vineyards.” She’s such a fan of French wine, that she immediately thought about what the vines produce — not grapes — but wine as if it goes directly from the plant to the bottle. We laughed at this all weekend long.

A town at the top of our hit list was Cucuron, having been featured in two films: A Good Year and Le Hussard sur le Toit (The Horseman on the Roof). The village dates back to the earlier than the 11th-century and suffered a plague epidemic in 1720 and during the late middle ages, Cucuron hosted a Jewish community which was officially expelled in 1501. The long pond that occupies the main square is particularly beautiful.

Lourmarin, one of my very favorite Luberon towns having stayed at a B&B there almost 20 years ago: La Cordière, run by Françoise Herry, who runs it to this day. Lourmarin was the home of Nobel prize-winner Albert Camus, who is buried in its cemetery.

Lourmarin is lined in fine boutiques, one of which is Virginie Zurfluh’s “Namaste” where she sells her collection “Héliquadrisme” — silk garments printed with the canvases of the artist and her husband, Jean-François Savornin. Savornin is an old Provençal family and his studio is just down the street. The boutique is so tiny, that the only fitting room is a minuscule corner of the garment-filled boutique, the first of many all over the world, including….

I didn’t know any of this when I first saw the dresses, tops and scarves and fell in love with the silk and the artist prints. After trying on several things with M. Savornin trying to convince me it would be okay to undress right there in the boutique (that he wouldn’t look — ha!), I settled on a long shift and matching scarf that I will wear at a June wedding here in France, feeling very accomplished to have made a very special purchase.

At the edge of Lourmarin off the Chemin des Bastides is a large “gite” that has in its front yard one of the most amazing trees we’ve ever seen. It’s been cut back and growth is just starting to sprout. Patty took a photo of it that is absolutely sculptural. For some reason, this monumental arbor symbolized for me the power and beauty of the region.

Vive la France!

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds -  at the market in Isle sur la Sorgue

Adrian Leeds
Adrian Leeds Group

(at the market in Isle sur la Sorgue)

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P.S. Don’t miss TOMORROW’s Après Midi! Writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature Janet Hulstrand, joins us. Don’t miss it!!

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