Lourmarin is one of those medieval villages tucked into the Luberon, the beating heart of Provence. It’s about 50 km from Avignon. It’s not an “A” town in the Luberon Lexicon.
Menerbes, made famous by Peter Mayle, is an “A” town in the Luberon.
After living in the town his book was written about a while, the author of A year in Provence moves to Lourmarin to take his place besides fellow writer Camus, who is buried artistically there. (Having once found an Italian couple frolicking in the pool while taking pictures with his house behind them, it was time for Mayle to move on.)
So, the thing is, shouldn’t you consider a “B” town like Lourmarin when the smart money heads away from the now-touristy “A” towns?
Yes you should. I will lead you astray by showing you a little introductory itinerary of Lourmarin, one of the 200 most beautiful villages in France.
Go to Lourmarin on Thursday, Stay for Friday
Friday is the famous market day in Lourmarin. You’ve come on Thursday so you could pop out of bed on Friday morning, head for a cafe for coffee and pastry, and start to see the market take shape. Soon the streets behind the tourist office will be loaded with all manner of things you don’t need and things good to eat: fancy soap, hats, cured hams and other edibles of high quality. If you have accommodations in town with a kitchen, knock yourself out. If you don’t, just buy a slice of this:
When you’ve had enough of the market and it’s getting around lunch time, go to Gaby’s and have the “Aioli”.
What better than to sit in front of a square glass plate with a healthy meal cooked in a single, gigantic pot. It’s unadorned boiled salt cod, snails, potatoes and vegetables. But then there’s the garlicky aïoli to make it all so delicious.
On Fridays, in predominantly Catholic France, a plat du jour called simply “Aïoli” is served in cafés so that customers may practice penance as imposed by the Catholic Church many years ago (and later lifted). In Lourmarin, the small village in Provence where our family hangs our hats, Café Gaby has long served “Aïoli” on Fridays; it’s a lovely plate of par-boiled vegetables, cod, and aïoli. — GARLIC IS IN THE AIR…IT MUST BE AÏOLI TIME!
By now you’ve seen much of the center of Lourmarin and you know why it’s been honored as “one of the most beautiful villages in France”. It you were to get up to drone height, you’d see that the town is configured as a pair of concentric circles.
It is terminally cute, and that French style you immediately recognize.
That’s one of Lourmarin’s famed fountains behind. There are odder ones around town.
But if you’ve arranged to stay for a prolonged visit, you are in for a treat. Lourarin is a castle town, olive oil town and a wine town.
Château de Lourmarin
Château de Lourmarin can be seen for miles around. The castle started out as a 12th-century fortress. After undergoing several transformations and additions, it fell into ruins after the French revolution. In the 1920s architect Henri Pacon was brought in to restore it.
By the Revolution the village counted 1.600 inhabitants, but the Great War (no fewer than 40 young Lourmarinois were killed) caused the village to decline again.
However, thanks to Robert Laurent Vibert, who restored the château, and Raoul Dautry, who modernised the village, Lourmarin rose from its ashes, yet again. Albert Camus and Henri Bosco chose to live here (both are buried in the cemetery) and this contributes to the cultural heritage of this unique village. —
The interior is quite something to see, and the staircase will astound you.
There is a reflecting pool and in the background the reason that Lourmarin is called “the village of the three belfries.” The town screams “sustainable hedonism” from every corner.
The periphery of Lourmarin
If you escape the endless circles of Lourmarin’s romantic center and head to the castle, you’ll also discover that there’s a lot going on outside the village. Casual walks give an idea of the rural work and agriculture. Idyllic olive groves provide shade for the wanderer.
You’ll discover Lourmarin as a wine village. The reds are fashioned from Syrah and Grenache noir, supplemented by Mourvèdre and Cinsault. White wines might draw from Grenache blanc, Clairette blanche, Vermentino, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Ugni blanc and Viognier. The elevation and climate are good for these wines, and the lack of soil makes them struggle just enough. Here are a few vines I photographed in fall:
We stayed a week and never lacked for things to do. There are many compelling Luberon towns and villages around Lourmarin.
A good choice of a hotel with restaurant is Le Moulin de Lourmarin.
If you’d like to try something different in a highly-rated hotel immersed in nature just outside Lourmarin, Hostellerie Le Paradou might be for you.
Decorated in a contemporary Thai style, this hotel set in an old French bastide welcomes you to a wide park with tall trees, river and natural pool with decks and sunbeds.
Enjoy exploring Lourmarin. We certainly did.