Provence Travels: Lourmarin, One of the Most Beautiful Villages in France
Located in the Vaucluse department in Provence, pretty Lourmarin has a lot going for it. One of les plus beaux villages de France, its worthy of the title. With a population of around 1,200 and a circular layout, it’s easy to stroll around on flat terrain and enjoy the village offerings. There are no hills to climb, unless you decide to climb up to the perched church. Most streets are pedestrian only and make for easy navigation as they meander through the village where numerous restaurants, cafés, boutiques and art galleries tempt you. There is a boulangerie and a small market offering fresh local products. An outdoor farmer’s market occurs weekly throughout the village. On the newer Place, steps above the old village, you will find more shops, cafés, wine tasting and a tourist office bureau. Surrounded by countryside, yet close enough to visit perched villages and larger cities in the Provençal region, this location can’t be beat.
We stayed at the 3-star Hotel le Moulin de Lourmarin, conveniently situated at the entrance to the village. Housed in an ancient mill from the 18th century, the hotel showcases arched stone pillars in the lobby with the date 1739 etched into the stone. A contemporary chic complements the ancient moulin artifacts, with lots of light coming into the public spaces. The outdoor patio and garden is a romantic setting for dinner on a warm evening. Service is professional, yet friendly. Our meal was excellent and deserves high marks.
On our second night, we discovered Numéro 9, the restaurant next door. Wow! I declared this dinner one of the best ever. Every taste was ambrosia. Every plate, a work of art. The outdoor dining space is small and wedged behind the hotel, creating a bit of a closed-in feeling. There is indoor dining, but on warm evenings, who can resist dining al fresco? We experienced excellent service and pacing of the plates.
From our hotel window we had a captivating view of Château de Lourmarin. A short walk from the hotel towards the meadow, and we were at the imposing château. From the outside terrace garden we could see the three towers, or steeples, of Lourmarin, which include the 17th century belfry clock tower (on top of a fortress dating back to 1004); the tower of Saint Andrew’s Catholic Church; and the Protestant temple tower in the foreground. On the self-guided tour of the castle’s elaborate interior, we heard a heavenly voice singing opera. We followed it to the performance hall where we found the voice belonged to an incredibly talented young woman, practicing for a concert to be performed the following day. The château hosts artists in residence during the summer and features concerts, conferences and exhibitions throughout the year. Artists exhibit paintings and sculpture in the lower part of the château, where they are on hand to answer questions about their work. We learned that writers Albert Camus and Henri Bosco were Lourmarin natives and are buried in the local cemetery.
We enjoyed the pace and ambiance of Lourmarin with its cobbled, tree-lined streets and unique, well-cared for buildings and were able to take a few walks in the accessible countryside. With everything readily available within walking distance, it was truly a relaxing stay.
Hotel le Moulin de Lourmarin is a member of the Châteaux and Hotels Collection. Rates from 100 euros/night.
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