East of the A7 between Avignon and Aix-en-Provence you can find an unique piece of Provence. The uniqueness lies in the degree of perfection. Rarely do you see a region where ancient villages with their fortified towns and manor houses are being renovated and restored as carefully as in the area of Bonnieux, Lourmarin and Gordes. It almost seems as if every stone is picked up, cleaned and put back. As if each piece of green is cut by hand into the desired shape.
Vaucluse and Luberon
This part of Provence is called Vaucluse and the Luberon. The sun shines long and hard on the fossilized mountain villages. The height of this beautiful region offers a pleasant cooling and the restaurants offer good 'repas'. There is a list called Top 10 most beautiful villages in France and a remarkable number of villages in this top 10 are located in this region. The most famous and charming villages on this list are Lourmarin and Gordes.
Gordes is a mountain village dominated by a Renaissance castle. Steep atmospheric cobbled streets linking lovely squares. Gordes breathes stone and ypu will rarely see a town with so little green. Gordes is very chic and in in the summer just as busy as Saint Tropez. So go or early in the morning or later in the day when the day trippers are gone.
Lourmarin and Bonnieux
The small village of Lourmarin is located at the foot of the Luberon and is protected from the mistral by the rocks of Combe de Lourmarin. A truly beautiful village filled with shops, art galleries, nicel terraces and attractive restaurants. The Provencal market is a real experience. Another highlight (and this you have to take literally) is the perched village of Bonnieux. The route to it, through the Combe de Lourmarin, the only passage that divides the Luberon in two, is impressive. The rocks are so high that your cell phone might have no range now and then. Just so you know. Once at the top of the village you have a magnificent view over the small Luberon and the high plains. The 12th century church with Romanesque and Gothic elements is worth a visit. Tired of walking around the small boulders, you can rest in one of the fine restaurants in the village. We had the pleasure to have diner in Fournil, the risotto with rabbit was truly exquisite.
And then there is the village of Lacoste dominated by the former castle of the Marquis de Sade, who lived there in the 18th century, after he had fled from Paris. Today it's the private property of Pierre Cardin. The giant metal artworks directly next to the castle create a special atmosphere in this both literally and figuratively highlight of the Luberon.
This story may not be lacking a short sentence about Avignon. The famous Bridge of Avignon is not to be missed if you drive into the city and also the Papal palace rises high above the ramparts of this UNESCO World Heritage city. We recommend to visit Avignon at night when the city is deserted by day trippers and regains a little of its own character.