Tag Archives: Aix-en-Provence

Bonnieux: Home Away From Home

A big part of my trip to Provence was a pilgrimage to Lourmarin, the town where my grandmother lived the last quarter of her life.  Lourmarin has changed significantly in the past 20 years though (my grandmother died in 90’s).  What was once nothing more than a small town surrounded by old farm houses is now a chic getaway, easily accessible from Paris by the TGV to Aix–and even closer than Peter Mayle’s famous Menerbes (although Mayle has purportedly relocated to Lourmarin).  Boutiques and restaurants abound where there used to be nothing.  As I told my mother this morning, Lourmarin in July isn’t the most relaxing place to sit back and relish an afternoon at a cafe–there are just too many people.  And the commerce is practically overstimulating.  Next time I go it’ll be in spring or fall.

But a twenty minute drive west and north along a beautiful narrow uphill road lies Bonnieux, which I considered our home away from home for our time in Provence.

bonnieux with lacoste in lights

This picture was taken at the end of the first night we spent in Bonnieux.  Those tiny yellow lights in the distance (middle horizon) are the town of Lacoste.  It looks much closer when you’re there.

the church at night

Here you can see Bonnieux’s 19th century church below us in the centre ville.

les terrasses

If Bonnieux was our home away from home, Les Terrasses was our living room.  Really lovely, kind people and a terrace (not pictured) on the opposite side of the street overlooking the village.  A great, very casual place for coffee, dessert, an afternoon snack, or even a complete dinner.


The rooftops of Bonnieux, seen from Les Terrasses

on the way down the hill

When you enter Bonnieux from the direction of Lourmarin, you enter the village at its highest point (the village itself runs along the side of a rather steep hill).  The main road leads you into the centre ville in a zig zag fashion.


The old, old wall alongside the road down into town

looking up to les terrasses

Looking up from the road to the awning of Les Terrasses

little street

Narrow little street


Early summer evening in Bonneiux

new evening

More early summer evening

Bonnieux is pretty sleepy, and everyone seems to like it that way.  There are a handful of restaurants, a gallery, a tabac, and an old antique store.  It’s certainly nowhere to go if you’re looking for action.  The antique store was full of very old treasures, the store itself little more than a musty stone cave.  It’s dark and cool in there, and the owners sit outside on chairs that are for sale.  My husband found a dead scorpion under an old kitchen weight.  I think it was the first time I’d ever seen one up close.  I told the owner and he came over, just in time for us to figure out the scorpion wasn’t dead after all.  We all had a good scream about that.

dramatic view

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So Much To Catch Up On…Nothing To Do But Start At The Beginning…

Can it be that I’ve only been in the south for three days?  It feels like a lifetime.  On Wednesday we woke up very, very early and took a taxi to Gare de Lyon, a very beautiful Paris train station in which zero of the automated kiosks work at printing e-tickets purchased with a U.S. credit card on the internet.  After using up our lengthy hour of leeway time for such an emergency that I never really believed would take place (but did), I managed to get our tickets re-printed and we boarded the TGV for Marseille.

We arrived in Marseille in one piece, and even found the shuttle at the Marseille train station that takes you to the Marseille airport, where our car had been reserved (not without having to wait in several lines…one in which the Frenchman behind us got so annoyed with waiting that he cut us and ran up to the window only to be shut down by his own countryman, whereupon he commenced to complain about the French to us in English–how horrible and stupid they are…then he rode the same shuttle bus as us and when we disembarked wished us good luck with the assholes).

Once at the Marseille airport, the rental car was no problem.  Aside from both having developed a full-blown flu, we were super excited to get on the road.  We didn’t want to go back to Marseille (even for Bouillabaisse) since the town is south of the airport, so we decided we would eat lunch in Aix; a/k/a our first error.  Aix was BESIEGED and an absolute nightmare.  We ended up being forced into a subterranean parking garage that my husband later described as a trip through his nightmarish subconscious, and in doing so stalled the manual transmission many times and scraped some paint off the side of the car (the jetlag, the jetlag).  My husband kept on saying, “it’s O.K. honey, neither of us is very good at driving stick,” [all the while never offering to drive and ignoring the fact that I learned to drive on a vintage 325i with the worst clutch in the history of man].  But I was so exhausted and flu-ish I didn’t even remember to get annoyed at this.  After the worst niçoise salad I’ve ever tasted, we managed not only to make it out of Marseille but onto the freeway and into the “petit Luberon,” not by using the Michelin directions I had printed off the internet, but by using simply “the force” as I. calls it.

We arrived in Lourmarin, the town in which my maternal grandmother inhabited for the last twenty or so years of her life.  There are so many new buildings that the town was virtually unrecognizable to me upon arrival, but the surroundings remain beautiful.  We found the road to Vaugines, and then our hotel, the Mas de Guilles, a beautiful and converted farm house.  The woman who greeted us was very hospitable and showed us to our room.  I scanned the perimeter and wondered…where is the climatiseur…the air conditioning that was the sole criteria of my hotel search?  I asked, “Excuse-moi, ou est le climatiseur…?” “Oh madame, vous reservez le chambre ‘charme’ et le climatiseur est seulement en le chambres ‘deluxes’…but…I emailed with the owner who confirmed that the room had air conditioning…

but hey, lest we forget the words of our wise friend– “good luck with the assholes, et bons vacances!”

to be continued…


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