We are a family of three: Towny (short for Townsend), Susan, and our 20 year old daughter. We live along the coast in New England with a beagle and a Glen of Imaal Terrier. We all enjoy traveling and have a particular affinity for Lourmarin.
Having inherited a deep love for France from our respective families--Towny being the product of Foreign Service parents who lived in Paris in the 50’s, and Susan being the eldest grandchild of a man who, with his beloved wife, traveled frequently to Paris and spent the last half of his long life studying everything French -- we have traveled widely and often in that country.
It should have been a short leap of faith that Provence would be included among our travels and that we would be passionate about this region, arguably France's most popular.
But, we must confess that we were reluctant travelers to Provence. We had prided ourselves on seeking out rather off-beat places -- not necessarily exotic locations, but those more likely to be found along roads "less traveled by," those that were "grassy and wanted wear." That was not the road to Provence.
For well over a decade before we arrived, tourists, particularly after reading Peter Mayle’s widely acclaimed A Year in Provence, had been flocking to the area like a stampede of sanglier.
We did not want to be counted be among the trendy travelers who base their itineraries around the Travel section of The New York Times. But, clearly, articles about the region were popping up everywhere.
It was certainly not that Provence was undiscovered. Artists and writers have been drawn to the slow pace of life, rugged beauty, and stunning light for well over a hundred years: Van Gogh, Cézanne, Matisse, Chagall, Zola, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald, to name a few. The Papacy chose to take up residency in Avignon during the 14th century.
And even earlier, the Romans extended their empire to this area (which they called Provincia), building several of the most important Roman settlements outside of Italy and leaving behind what has become some of the best preserved Roman architecture in the world. This was indeed a popular destination long before Mr. Mayle penned his warm-hearted and humorous novel about his sojourn in Provence.
So, by the time an opportunity for a trip to Provence surfaced in 1998, we had shed our reluctance and in fact seized the opportunity. We were enchanted immediately by everything our predecessors found so infinitely appealing: The incredible, incomparable, and truly glorious lighting highlights a natural beauty that is unique and as diverse as anything we have ever had the good fortune to see; architecture spanning over two thousand years, carvings, paintings, and other remains from prehistoric settlements as old as a million years; and a pace of life that is all about how life should be lived.
We discovered Lourmarin on that first visit. The village, dominated by its Renaissance Château and 17th century clock tower, lies in the midst of groves of olive trees, fields of sunflowers, wild lavender and rosemary, and vineyards galore, many of which make up the increasingly impressive Côtes du Lubéron appellation.
The people who inhabit the village - amiable and yet not above some of the most colorful conflicts we have ever been privy to - immediately captured our hearts. Against this exquisite bucolic backdrop, Lourmarin has a cultural-arts community that rivals any in the area; it has been called the cultural capital of the Lubéron. There are several nationally acclaimed restaurants, among other fine eating establishments, many galleries, and charming shops. Peter Mayle and his wife made Lourmarin their home when they returned to Provence from Long Island. What more could one want?
We have returned every year (and more) since then, including a six month stay in 2002 and have made wonderful friends, some of whom have come to visit us in New England. We have owned two apartments, a courtyard, a parking spot, and a bergerie.
We kept wondering when our passion for Lourmarin and Provence would wane and we have finally given up anticipating it. The allure is magical.
Our love affair with this area of the world began late, well over twelve years ago, and we have been making up for it ever since--we were reluctant travelers, yes, but not reluctant lovers.
Please visit our Blog for more of our thoughts about Provence.