We’ve had a bit of a shift around of the furniture on our terrace this summer and if I’m honest I wish we’d done it years ago.
Since buying the house we’ve had ‘Conversation-corner’ , which is made up of a couple of old iron cots, with old futon mattresses, throws and cushions, surrounded by strings of fairy lights wound around old bottle driers and other Brocante market finds. It’s the perfect place to sit and put the world to rights at the end of the day, but until now it has been tucked away behind a small wall on one side of the terrace, without any view at all, but this summer we have pulled it out to the opposite side, where we can now sit and simply enjoy the view of Caseneuve from dawn until dusk.
The main reason for not having it there before was that we didn’t have this view until earlier this year. We knew it was there, but it was blocked by an overgrown, straggly Cypress tree, that towered over the front of the terrace and ‘gave us kittens’ whenever the Mistral blew through the hamlet, as if it fell it could easily have crashed through the roof above our bedroom.
So in early February it was taken down and the true extent of the view up to Caseneuve became clear and I must admit to being very content now whiling away a hot afternoon, sitting in the shade, reading or just relaxing with my thoughts idling away as I watch the village above us.
Now we have the view ‘on-tap’ we have eaten our supper watching the shadows lengthen up the hill towards it, before the village turns pale pink in the evening light and the windows in the Chateau flash orange and red, reflecting the colours of the sunset that takes place behind us and which we rarely see.
So a few evenings ago we decided to drive Fifi up and watch the sunset from there instead, to see the colours for ourselves, rather than simply enjoy the reflections from a distance.
The drive up to Caseneuve is lovely, especially in the evening light, with the lengthening shadows seeming to deepen the heavy folds on the wooded flanks of The Grand Luberon opposite…
And the field of Sunflowers just below the village at the moment is glowing gold in the setting sun.
The road winds its way up the hillside, twisting and turning offering glimpses of the village sitting above….
And it is worth the drive as it’s a beautiful little place, set high on what must have been an incredible defensive position, with views that take in the whole of the Luberon valley and beyond towards Avignon and the distant Cevennes.
It also has the most wonderful skyline, with the towers of the Chateau and other buildings giving it the appearance of a tiny copy of San Gimignano in Tuscany. So we made sure we left early enough to take a walk up into the village as its a very peaceful little place to explore, even in the height of summer.
It’s easy to understand from its position why the village is there and archaeological finds show it has been inhabited since the earliest times, with Stone-Age flint and polished pebble tools being found there. It has seen the Romans, who established a city (now Apt) on the Via Domitia that ran through the valley below and then the development of the fortress there around 1000 AD which later became part of the large area controlled by the Agoult family, including Simiane La Rotonde, Gordes and Sault.
The village itself rambles upwards from the small road that overlooks the view where you’ll find the restaurant ‘Le Sanglier Parreseux’, where the terrace is always filled with diners….
And the wonderful local pottery La Poterie de Caseneuve and I am very happy to have a growing selection of Sophie’s pieces at home.
The Chateau towers above the rambling old stone houses at the front edge of the village, with its ancient stone walls still standing strong, despite the signs of age, with changes in stone and style evidencing the passage of time.
To the rear of the buildings is a little alley, that runs below its towering walls leading to a viewpoint with stunning views across towards the forest of Viens and beyond….
And to the side an incredible Fig Tree that when we visited was laden with beautifully ripe fruit, providing a little bit of evening cover for a cat and her 2 kittens
Up a little set of steps opposite the Chateau is an open terrace in front of the village church with its pretty wrought iron bell tower
These ‘campaniles de fer forgé’ are traditional in Provence, not only being rather beautiful, but also allowing the strong winds to blow straight through without causing damage and enabling the sound to be carried far into the distance
On the terrace here is a lovely old stone bassin and fontaine, which although it is empty at the moment is still rather beautiful and it’s a superb place to watch the view from too.
Just above the heart of the old village on the road towards Saint Martin De Castillon is the imposing Oratory, which is the largest in Provence. It was built in 1830 using an arch and other pieces salvaged from the nearby ancient Benedictine Priory of Notre dame Des Aumades, that was abandoned and left to ruin at the end of the 14th century.
With its beautiful architectural details it looks particularly lovely in the late evening’s golden light and leaves you to simply wonder about the original building that it came from as the size and scale of this one arch suggests it would have been a truly imposing place.
By the time we had explored for a while we noticed the distant hills were starting to turn to shades of purple as the sun sank lower in the sky, so we made our way round to the road in front of the bus stop at the front of the village and settled down to watch the end of the day.
From here the whole of the valley is laid at your feet, from the heights of Lagarde D’Apt and Saint Saturnin on one side to the distant rocky flank of The Petit Luberon, tailing off beyond Maubec on the other and in the far distance the smudges of colour that are the start of The Cevennes, way beyond Avignon.
Then nestled below is the town of Apt, held in a little hollow between the heights of Saint Michel and the Luberon. It really is a spectacular sight.
As we stood and watched, the swifts were darting above us, capitalising on the last few minutes of daylight to catch food, before heading off to roost for the night, whilst the final Cicadas were winding down for the day, changing the soundtrack as the evening insects started to chirrup in the grass.
The sky began to take on more vivid colours as the sun dropped lower, disappearing at first behind a finger of cloud, before seeming to fall below it and finally drop behind the distant hills, leaving a final few red and orange rays lighting the landscape before it all just became smudges of colour in the dusk.
As we had imagined, it was incredibly beautiful and the perfect place to watch nature paint the landscape with her ‘sunset palette’
Pottering back down the hill, we arrived home to the bats flitting around above us, starting their night-time search for food and as we sat on the terrace Caseneuve had already started to blend into the night sky with just the lights from the houses confirming its existence.
It really was a delightful way to spend an hour and I have no doubt that it won’t be long before we head back up to watch the sunset again as it really is a spectacular sight and at least we now know what we can see being reflected in the windows each evening as we sit on the terrace and watch the view.