A bohemian getaway
or the art of strolling through the Luberon
Lourmarin, the heart of Provence
Numbering amongst the most beautiful villages in all of France, Lourmarin is an ode to the gentle beauty of Provence in the heart of the Luberon. Its château is known as the “Medici Villa” of Provence. Located on the Vaudois route, it is one of the unmissable stop-offs so loved by Albert Camus and Henri Bosco.
Welcome to this little bohemian village.
de 15€ to 50€
A FLOWING ROUTE THROUGH A BACKDROP OF GREENERY
A sense of freedom from the first few kilometres
The winding road from Bonnieux towards Lourmarin takes me along the bends of a valley lined with oak trees, between Little Luberon and Greater Luberon. This route, historically followed by the Vaudois people, clears a passage through the dense vegetation and limestone slopes of the mountain range. The effect is one of total immersion.
This route reminds me a little of the one between Gap and Grenoble. A little word of advice to motorcycling enthusiasts – this is the perfect spot for a stunning ride!
Did you know?
The Luberon mountain range is a natural border between the remarkable villages of Lacoste, Ménerbes and Bonnieux on one side, and Lourmarin, Cadenet and Vaugines on the other.
The perfect spot to take a photo…
Strolling in Lourmarin
THE VILLAGE IS IN SIGHT
As I approach the village, I drive along fields of green, olive groves and vineyards. There’s no doubt about it – this is Provence! It’s a perfect scene, overlooked by the clocktower which marks the centre of the village, its narrow streets spiralling outwards. The village is shaped like a snail, perfectly round with its interlacing streets, like something out of a dream.
I’m almost there…
Did you know?
The belfry dates back to the 17th century and is built on former fortifications from the medieval era. As it resembles the boxes that used to hang in kitchens, it is known as the “salt box”.
Where to park?
Why not right by the château!
There are free parking spaces in the carpark of Bastides, a small hamlet. This is not to be missed – located at the foot of the village château, it faces a large green space which donkeys have made their home.
Well accustomed to visitors, the more curious amongst them might come in search of apples or other treats.
On the path up to the Château of Lourmarin
One of the jewels of Lourmarin is its château, and the path leading up to it.
And there’s a curious discovery to be made along the way: the Fountain of Three Masks (“La Fontaine aux 3 masques”).
This fountain creates an optical illusion with its three grimacing faces carved into the stone, which over time have grown beards of green moss and fern. The pediment is simple but pretty, and I carefully observe the details of the sculptures and the pebble paving, whilst listening to the gentle sound of running water.
For local writer Henri Bosco, these three different masks represented the Rhone River, the Luberon and the Durance River. Another interpretation suggests the three gods: Neptune, Apollo, and Pan.
The Château of Lourmarin, “Medici Villa of Provence”
So here I am, opposite the château whose entrance is covered with climbing vines and window boxes brimming with flowers. The first thing that strikes me are the straight lines, the square tower, and the light colour of the stone.
This building has stood the test of time, with a medieval section dating back to the 12th century, and another section in Renaissance style spreading over 3 levels. Very unusual!
In spite of this, the ensemble has a proud appearance and conceals some treasures, such as its majestic, double-spiral stone staircase (one of the finest in France).
And that’s not all – the large rooms, one of which is devoted to various musical instruments, are filled with period furniture, flooring and exposed beams from China, Japan and Vietnam.
Henri Bosco nicknamed the Château of Lourmarin the “Golden Cube (le Cube d’Or)” because of the warm colour of its stone, turned golden by the setting sun.
IN THE HEART OF THE CHATEAU
Built largely by the Vaudois, who found refuge here, the château is a Lourmarin institution.
Nowadays, the former fortress hosts an artists’ residence within its walls, who find inspiration in the brightness and atmosphere of the place, which have earned it the name of “the Medici Villa of Provence”.
Thanks to informative leaflets, I learn a great deal about a collection of engravings by Piranèse.
The Italian-style loggias in the medieval part of the chateau are a cool oasis, and standing on the terrace you can admire the view over the villa and the pond adorned with water lilies, rose bushes and bulrushes.
Tours of the château can be self-led or led by a guide, who will reveal the history of the family and of the village of Lourmarin.
Set aside a good two hours.
FALL IN LOVE WITH THIS TYPICAL PROVENCE VILLAGE
Lourmarin looks like a postcard!
With its porches, light facades with blue shutters and covered with climbing plants and its eight fountains, the village has captured the heart of many an artist, some of whom have gone on to open a gallery there.
And now for a little tour of the market! It’s the perfect chance to taste local produce and specialities.
The colourful stalls take me by turn from the appetizing red of freshly picked cherries and tomatoes, to green salads, peppers and olives, to the sunny gold of melon, saffron and navette biscuits.
Speaking of navettes – their scent has already whetted my appetite! Should I go for aniseed, chocolate, or the traditional orange blossom flavour?
In Lourmarin, Friday is market day.
At last, I can taste some gibassié, the village’s sugary speciality made from olive oil. Delicious!
The grave of Albert Camus, touching in its simplicity.
For lovers of literature, a stop-off at Lourmarin cemetery is not to be missed.
It lies just outside the village. As I make my way there, I enjoy another pretty view of the château.
Over here is Camus’ resting place, beside his friend and neighbour Henri Bosco. Both men fell in love with this village and made it their home. For Camus, it reminded him of his homeland of Algeria.
I am touched to see that only a single oleander marks the author’s grave.
The writer’s final resting place is unassuming; the epitaph, carved directly into the stone, reads, “Albert CAMUS 1913-1960”. Freedom and simplicity – these two values, so dear to Camus, can even be found at his final resting place.
Worth a taste!
“LES DÉJEUNERS SUR L’HERBE” (Lunches on the grass) by Anne-Laure and Cyril
These prettily presented, colourful and varied bowls can be delivered to a destination of your choice within a 20km radius of Lourmarin.
Have a picnic and stroll beneath the shade of tall trees
SENSORY EXPERIENCE IN THE CEDAR FOREST
The cedar forest in Bonnieux, 8km away from Lourmarin, exudes the scent of these majestic conifers.
Fresh air + a change of scene + shady paths = wellness guaranteed.
Take to the skies
A MEDIEVAL MILITARY WORK OF ART UNLIKE ANY OTHER IN PROVENCE
12km away from Lourmarin, Buoux Fort perches on a rocky outcrop in the heart of the Luberon Regional Nature Park.
By the water, in the water
A COOL OASIS AT LA BONDE LAKE
An 18-minute drive from Lourmarin heading towards Cadenet, La Bonde Lake offers swimming, fishing and walks beneath tall pines in a wooded setting.