For the first time since starting the A to Z this month, we’re hopping across to the other side of the Luberon to the pretty little village of Lourmarin, set at the foot of the southern flank, at the bottom of the Combe, the little pass that cuts between the Petit & Grand Luberon hills.
It’s a beautiful village and is a wonderful little place to explore, with its narrow cobbled streets, pretty houses and beautifully restored chateau. It has always been one of my favourite places to pass a morning, especially on a Friday, when the plane-tree shaded streets are closed to traffic, and the market sets up, filling the central square and roadways with a wonderful collection of stalls.
Visiting the market is always a very lovely way to pass a morning, browsing the stalls, which here, include a great selection of handmade crafts too, as well as the usual produce, clothing and homewares.
I always tend to arrive early, as I love being able to wander around before it gets too busy, taking my time to potter past the stalls, finding the bits that I need…. and a few bits I don’t need as well.
Even early in the morning, there are some stalls that always have queues here, long-term firm favourites for people, who always arrive early to make sure they get what they have come for… This is especially the case with the bread stall, that is set up near the flowers, with huge handmade loaves that are sold by the kilo weight, rather than per loaf, as each one is cut to order, as requested by the customer. They always seem to be nearly sold out by mid-morning and it’s understandable as the bread is superb.
The benefit of getting there at this time too, is that by mid-morning, I am ready to sit at one of the tables in front of Cafe Gaby, in the heart of the old village, simply enjoying a coffee, and watching the bustle start to build around me. It’s such a simple pleasure, and more often than not, one coffee turns into two, as I just enjoy the atmosphere and listening to the babble of voices I can’t explain how much I am missing this aspect of life at the moment.
There is something about watching a place fill with people that I love, I was one of those people always keen to arrive at a concert, or rugby match, hours before the start, just to sit and watch the stadium, or arena fill, listening to the noise build, and taking in the details that I would otherwise miss.
It’s at this time of day that you can see the little things that happen, which just make you smile, like the time the street was blocked with a broken-down car. This would normally result in a cacophony of horns and more than a few frustrated arm gestures, but this is Lourmarin & surprisingly everyone just accepted they were likely to be there for a while, got out of their cars to get a coffee & have a chat. This lasted quite a while, until the local Policeman arrived to deal with the problem, with the help of the Postman – Clearly the officer wasn’t expecting such an early call as he arrived wearing jeans with his official uniform jacket. All I can say is that it was an incredibly relaxed response to a situation, that I would normally have imagined would have seen tempers frayed!
After a good hour, just sitting and watching (it’s amazing how quickly time goes), it’s always lovely to explore the village a little further, popping into the galleries and dreaming about being able to own some of the incredible artwork that is on offer, from an array of artists.
There are also memories of the businesses of times gone by, with the ghost-markings of old, painted shop signs and adverts still visible on some of the buildings
And some superb architectural features, like this incredible fountain, which somehow manages to be beautiful, and rather gruesome at the same time
The village is filled with a wonderful selection of shops too that always tempt me in, especially the lovely L’Apothicaire, with its superb selection of pieces and always a very friendly welcome, although sadly Max, the gentle Retriever is no longer there for us to stroke…. I can just imagine Millie here, and nothing would be left intact!
The little brocante shop, near the post office is always worth a little visit too, and over the years I have picked up a few beautiful bits that have worked their way into my jewellery. It’s taken a while, but I’m finally set up and starting to stock my Etsy shop https://www.etsy.com/shop/VintageSilverWkshop anew from France, although it will take me a while to get it fully back up and running after the move, as unfortunately it just couldn’t be transferred across
It is just such a beautiful little village to amble around, with its honey-coloured stone buildings and the stunning Chateau, which is certainly the jewel in its crown. The beautiful building started as a 12th century fortress, and changed hands over the centuries, being transformed (in the 16th century) into the Renaissance building, we see today, by the Agoult family, who owned so many of the Chateaux in the area.
It later fell into a state of disrepair, and was at a point of ruin, when in 1920 a French historian and businessman, Robert Laurent-Vibert, fell in love with it and bought it on sight, to save it from being lost forever and becoming the site of a planned stone quarry. He initiated a total restoration of the beautiful old building, but sadly died in a car accident just 5 years later.
The work though continued and the Chateau was donated to the Academy of Arts and Science at Aix, with the condition that they set up a foundation to welcome young artists, sculptors and musicians each summer, which they have done since 1929.
It is a beautiful chateau to visit and the calendar of events during the summer is always (in normal times) packed with excellent events, from exhibitions to music festivals. It is so hard to imagine that if Laurent-Vibert hadn’t visited and decided to save it from destruction, that there would have been a quarry, rather than a chateau on the edge of this beautiful little place
To be honest, it is one of my favourite villages, cosy, sociable and there is always lots going on. If you have the chance to go it’s well worth a visit …..