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Provence Villas and Hotels

July 2005
by Glenn Ormiston

Market at Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

Les marchés are literally a way of life in France and we were determined to be a part of the scene. Some are eclectic—we encountered one in Avignon selling used shoes and hubcaps—but others, and the vast majority, are delectable. On a side trip to the precious village of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue we found a marché with the world's most perfect strawberries alongside reams of colorful handmade tablecloths and shelves of traditional Provençal pottery. Oh, to be able to carry it all home! We were embraced by local shopkeepers keen to see empathetic visitors in the early off-season.

From our comfortable base in Fontvielle we filled our days with local road trips and visits to hotels and villas. We drove east into the Luberon and passed through Ménerbes, Lacoste and Bonnieux on our way down to Aix-en-Provence. The Luberon—specifically the Petit Luberon which features the Parc Naturel Régional—includes about 50 small communities and they share the rugged terrain that is part and parcel of this limestone mountain range stretching west to east. It is a marvelous region if you like to hike in the wild, to be alone, and to hang out with resident wildlife which includes boar, beaver and eagle owls.

View of Bonnieux from Lacoste

As for moi, the Luberon has what I would consider a very different feel about it once you sit down and compare it to les Alpilles. I must confess to being extremely fond of the latter, the area around Maussane les Alpilles, Paradou and les Baux de Provence. The western part of the region has held onto that ageless Provençal charm that people really come here to experience and be a part of. We spent a lot of time around Fontvielle and we fell especially in love with St-Rémy on a number of sojourns there. Every little enclave is within an easy drive of everywhere else, and the treatment you get at the marchés and small local restaurants is heartwarming.

We visited a number of hotels scattered about the area and three in particular stand out: La Bastide de Marie is tucked into a hillside near Ménerbes between Gordes and Bonnieux in the Petit Luberon, an authentic 18th century country house with an unbelievable cuisine. Oustau de Baumaniere is located in les Beaux-de-Provence at the foot of a limestone precipice beneath the looming shadow of a ruined chateau. Abbaye de Sainte-Croix is a meticulously restored 12th century monastery with four-star accommodations located above the medieval city of Salon-de-Provence in les Alpilles. Each of these three places has its own unique personality and what they share in common is the flavor of Provence and first-class service.

Artichokes heart flowers at the market

As our trip came to an end we bade farewell to this wonderful corner of France and boarded the TGV in Avignon for thoroughly convenient transportation directly to the airport terminal—as in, do not pass GO. We could not help but reflect, as the beautiful French countryside whooshed by out the window, how great a destination Provence is, no matter how long you stay (preferably, in the words of Peter Mayle, a year or more). The spring and fall, occurring as they do at either end of the high season, make total sense as far as timing goes. The heat is off, the crowds are thin, and the place is yours. Everyone should come here at some point or another to see the poppy fields, the olive groves and the long vistas of lavender. The smells, tastes and visuals in Provence are among the best in the world.

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Villa YNF OLI, France, Provence - Luberon Area, 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, WiFi, WIMCO Villas

YNF OLI

Located in a sought-after protected area, views of the Luberon countryside, impressive swimming pool

Provence - Luberon Area, France
4 br / 4 ba

Villa YNF SOL, France, Provence - Les Alpilles Area, 6 bedrooms, 6.5 bathrooms, WiFi, WIMCO Villas

YNF SOL

Very stylish villa, contemporary Provençal style, spacious rooms with large windows, heated pool

Provence - Les Alpilles Area, France
6 br / 6.5 ba

Villa YNF RSS, France, Provence - Les Alpilles Area, 3 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, WiFi, WIMCO Villas

YNF RSS

Lovely villa with spacious grounds, wonderful views of les Alpilles, perfect for large groups

Provence - Les Alpilles Area, France
3 br / 3.5 ba

Villa YNF CIE, France, Provence - Luberon Area, 12 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, WiFi, WIMCO Villas

YNF CIE

Close to a pretty village, ample living space, large landscaped grounds, imaginatively decorated

Provence - Luberon Area, France
12 br / 12 ba

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WIMCO Villas, FR1 LPC, France, Provence - Les Alpilles Area, 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms

FR1 LPC

Quiet and secluded, a short walk from the village, mix of Provençal, oriental, and modern design

Provence - Les Alpilles Area, France
4 br / 4 ba

WIMCO Villas, YNF PAN, France, Provence - Luberon Area, 3 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms

YNF PAN

Breathtaking views, open and spacious living areas, large swimming pool overlooking countryside

Provence - Luberon Area, France
3 br / 3.5 ba

WIMCO Villas, YNF TOU, France, Provence - Les Alpilles Area, 6 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms

YNF TOU

Luxurious chateau with heated pool and tennis court, contemporary style, perfect for large groups

Provence - Les Alpilles Area, France
6 br / 6 ba

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