Some people have all the luck: Heather Long got to spend a slice of life in the Lubéron and comes on the show to share her experiences and some delightful cultural misunderstandings that she experienced along the way.
In this episode we chat about restaurants and places she particularly enjoyed and why she recommends them. She also explains why you should not let yourself be intimidated by difference and that French people are a real and eager to get to know you and share their culture with you. Life in the Lubéron is simple and satisfying in ways that will surprise you.
Places mentioned in this episode
Lubéron, Ansouis, Lourmarin, Mérindol, Pertuis, Gorges de Régalons, Gordes, Vacqueyras, Gigondas, Cassis, les Calenques de Cassis, Marseille soccer, Cucuron, Bonnieux, Roussillon, Abbey de Sénanque
Recommended in this episode
Pizzeria Nonni in Lourmarin, L’Art Glacier in Ansouis Château la Dorgonne in La Tour d’Aigues, Château Constantin now owned by William Chase in Lourmarin, La Perle de Jade Vietnamese restaurant in La Tour d’Aigues, La Cave à Aimé in Mérindol, Fontaine de Vaucluse. Book: Footsteps – The Luberon and Surrounds
Join Us in France Book Group on Goodreads
Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.
A Slice of Life in the Lubéron with Heather Long
What You Will Learn in this Episode with Timestamps
[3’18] The Inaugural Paris Tour is happening this week, if you’d like to follow our adventures, ask to join our Facebook Group. To learn about our most current tour offerings go to Addicted to France.
[4’47] This whole episode is going to be about making other people drool about what you did in the Lubéron.
[5’17] The village of Ansouis, do you say the “s” or not?
[6’17] Heather introduces herself and why she and her husband spent two months in the Lubéron. This village was a good place to experience full immersion.
[7’51] How did you pick this lovely place in particular?
[8’25] One criteria was a walk-able town.
[9’55] The difference between a “maison de village” and a “lottissement” .
[10’20] A long-long time ago in many “maison de village”, the ground floor is where the animals used to live and people setup their house above the barn.
[11’26] On a different trip they stayed in Mérindol where they farmed silkworms.
[12’26] Let’s locate Ansouis and the Lubéron on a map.
[14’25] Scenic drive between Lourmarain and Gordes
[15’46] Books by Peter MaillePeter Maille made the Lubéron famous in the English-speaking world. What makes this area so charming.
[17’58] Why is France so scenic? There is a reason for this!
[19’22] Great books and movies about the Lubéro: Manon des Sources, Jean de Florette, and other books by Marcel Pagnol. Another good one is Les lettres de mon moulin (a collection of short stories, including “le curé de cucugnan” that Annie mentions). Uncorked is the book we’ll be reviewing soon on the podcast. You join the Join Us in France Book Group on Goodreads if you’re a reader.
[21’57] Playing “pétanque”, the bacci-like game.
[24’54] The unspoken yet very rules rules pertaining to drinking wine in France (and alcohol in general).
[25’15] Cooking with local foods: duck, rabbit, oysters. Eating outside by candle-light. Buying Paella and Rotisserie chicken at the market.
[29’31] Getting to know local markets when you stay for a while, and finding the ones that are more to your liking.
[30’34] Pizzeria Nonni in Lourmarin.
[31′] Some of the funny things that happened to them in France. Grocery shopping in Pertuis and how French grocery carts are different in France. How you should weigh fruits and vegetables before you get to the checkout. Feeling like a dumb American tourist.
[36′] Don’t be intimidated by difference, try things even if it’s new and strange!
[36’38] Attending a celebration in the village and misunderstanding how village celebrations work. French guys trying to get the American visitors drunk.
[41’45] Spectacular fireworks display and getting to know people in the village because they weren’t afraid to attend this village celebration.
[42′] French people can come across as unfriendly because they don’t smile at you on the streets and they don’t talk to you on the streets.
[43’16] Bring your own bags at the grocery store! Using bio-degradable bags for loose produce.
[45’22] How did you find the house you were staying in?
[46’47] What are places you visited that you recommend?
- L’Art Glacier near Ansouis
- Château la Dorgonne in La Tour d’Aigues and the way they do the visit is original and delightful, they send their two dogs along and you can see the vines and the olive trees
- Château Constantin now owned by William Chase in Lourmarin
- Hiking in the Lubéron following path markers
- Gorges de Regalons near Mérindol (walk through a crevasse, many caves too, you can come up on the top of the mountain if you keep going long enough)
- The scenic town of Gordes with art galeries
- Vacqueyras and Gigondas, great places for wine, not as well-known as Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Vacqueyras has a great wine cooperative where you can buy the wine on tap
[50′] Americans may think that French people are fancy when it comes to wine, but we’re actually not for the most part. French people don’t drink wine at the wrong time of day, but it doesn’t matter if you drink it out of a plastic jug.
[60′] In Vacqueyras you will see the street lined with big “platane”(plane) trees and the Café du cours (not “coeur” as I said on the show) where they have a great duck barbecue dish.
[61′] Pizza trucks are dangerous in France!
[62′] Vietnamese food in La Tour d’Aigues, La Perle de Jade, they make great Vietnamese hot pot or fondue
[64′] Les Calenques de Cassis which are more difficult that it seems they should be.
[65′] Soccer match in Marseille where the fans are extremely intense: the sing, they chant, they dance, you can’t hear the person next to you talking.
[66′] Camargue to see the flamingo, the horses, the salt bays.
[67′] Cucuron is a delightful little town with a great market—funny name, it sounds like “rounded behind” in little French kid parlance.
[68′] Little wine bar called in Mérindol La Cave à Aimé.
[72′] Fontaine de Vaucluse, natural pool that floods the area around in the Spring, but it’s a dreamy beautiful blue the rest of the year. There is also a nice market there and the town is lovely too.
[75′] Bonnieux, it’s along the Gordes drive and it’s worth a stop. You can drive almost all the way to the top and then walk, there are beautiful trees, it’s a lovely place to stop for a picnic or stop at a restaurant. It’s steep and it overlooks the valley, so it is picturesque.
[77′] Roussillon and the red rocks. It’s a pleasant town to walk through, it’s a lovely place for a hike because it’s so different from other places in France or even in the Lubéron. Don’t just go through the town, but do hike around. There is a place in the city where you can pay an entry fee, but you can see the same things on other hiking paths.
[79′] Abbey de Sénanque, the most photographed lavender fields in Provence, the products the monks make there are wonderful, truly potent lavender products. The right time of year to see the lavender fields in bloom is late June to mid-July.
[81′] The light and scents of the Lubéron are what make it special. The environment there is unlike the rest of France. You get the sequedas, the dry air, lavender, thyme, rosemary, that grow wild, and when you step on them as you hike you get wonderful sensations. That’s why Van Gogh and Cézanne painted there, the light is gorgeous there.
The Lubéron has so much to offer, it’s hard to put your finger on only a few reasons to go spend some time there. Heather tells wonderful tales of discovery and of making genuine connections with locals. She went through the obligatory confusion about how things work in France, which is always entertaining to Annie as a French person who expects all of those things. Most of us never get to live there, but we should at least visit, don’t you think?
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Life in the Lubéron with Heather Long
My husband and I were to spend two months in France. This was to be our second or third time visiting the country and we had recently taken an interest in learning the language.
We actually began our trip in Germany where we picked up our new BMW and would drive it around Europe before dropping it off in Nice to float on a boat home while we continued on in Nice. My husband was finishing up a large project in Germany for work and us being on the same time zone and also close to Germany for a couple of months would prove instrumental for his success.
We wanted to choose an area where English wouldn’t be as widely spoken in order for us to be saturated into the culture and language. We chose the Lubéron and wanted to stay in one central location for the entire duration of our trip so as to live as locals as much as possible.
We rented a Villa in the small town of Ansouis, a tiny little hilltop village. The villa is actually an old mill converted into a house. A very unique property with fruit and nut trees of all types on the property, and a few little black scorpions. It was perfectly located to walk into the village and also to gain access to France’s great trail system, which we did!
Ansouis has one café/bar, one small grocery, one boulangerie, a Michelin starred restaurant, a chateau, a wine coop, a cathedral, and a bocce area. There was a tiny open air market on Saturdays where we would always get a rotisserie bunny slathered in mustard sauce and potatoes cooked in the rotisserie drippings below. We would eat this by hand next to the pool with white wine. There is nothing more delicious.
Many mornings we would walk to the bakery, although none of the people in town thought he was very good and snubbed him.
We went to the bar several times a week for beers and to sit. Men in the town would gather there to play cards, and we had friends visit and also played our own card game. The owner’s dog Guiya was a favorite of ours.
We went to the starred restaurant, la closerie I believe twice, which is an event in itself. On nice evenings we would take our wine glasses full of wine and walk up the hill to a beautiful look-out near the church to watch the sunset. Note photo from this location.
There were many good times had at this lookout point. Another, just outside of town is the gourmet ice cream shop L’art Glacier has a wonderful courtyard with a fantastic view. Note one sunset photo from that location.
The wine coop right in town was handy for everyday drinking wine…I loved walking by every day and smelling the musty piles of spent grape pulp.
Just behind our house and all over the region are great hiking opportunities, which we made good use of once we got the hang of the markings. One of these hikes, Gorges de Regalon, took us through a tiny crevice through the center of the Luberon. It was tight quarters for a long stretch and noticeably cooler in the middle of the mountain. There were caves at several places looking as if we were going into middle earth. Note photos of this area.
We have traveled over Europe before, but never for this duration of time. So the very next day after our arrival my husband tasked me to go to the grocery store and stock up on things we needed. I found my way to the store by car on my own in Pertuis. I did not take into account that we would be going to an open air market nearly every day, and I piled my cart very high with things I thought we would be needing. When I got to the checkout, the girl was rolling her eyes. As anyone who has been to Europe knows, the systems at the grocery store check-out can be very different than in the U.S. I did not realize that all of my produce had to be weighed and labeled prior to coming to the check-out line and I did not have any of my own shopping bags, which seemed mandatory. The clerk was clearly irritated by my naivety, rolling her eyes and huffing and puffing, and I was very embarrassed to cause such a scene, but the next visit I nailed it.
One of the most amazing moments of our trip happened in the first week of our arrival. Prior to our departure I had visited the Town’s webpage and in French there was something written about some sort of heritage day celebration in the center of town and all in the community were invited and bring your own food to bbq. We unsure about the translation and accuracy of the information, but we packed up our lamb chops with rosemary and walked up to the local bar to have some beers and watch what unfolded if anything. The afternoon progressed and nothing seemed to be happening, but as evening began to fall the officials came to close off the main road of town and tables began to be set up in a long single row all the way down the center of the street. Candles were placed and a bbq was fired up.
We were shy about joining in, however, everyone was welcoming and tried to communicate as best we could. Soon, we were the talk of the town and everyone wanted to meet the American newcomers who wanted to learn French. The festivities went on into the night with a local wine producer providing the wine. Everyone had brought dishes to share, and we shared our lamb, which was very well received. We met several neighbors who gave us open invitations to their homes during our stay. It was a magical evening that ended in the most memorable display of fireworks I have ever seen. We were accepted into the community (well sort of…as best as one could hope to be without truly being French).
Much of our days were spent as living normal lives with my husband working and slipping into the pool when he could, shucking oysters, going to markets, cooking meals, eating by candlelight, harvesting fruit and nuts from the property. We visited wineries in the area that were delightful…two of our favorites were William Chase just outside of Lourmarin, and Château la Dorgonne which had a great self-guided tour through the vineyard accompanied by two lovely dogs to show you the way. They also had a great written guide which told you about which types of grapes you were passing by at different areas. It was very informative and I would highly recommend it.
We spent many evenings in Lourmarin where Pizzaria Nonni was a favorite and market there on Fridays was the best around. Note the photo of the cute chubby dog waiting for scraps. Cucuron was a favorite for lunching and afternoon sitting. The market there is also one of our favorites. We had located a gentleman via Vizeat which is app that connects you with local home cooks offering dinner in their houses for a fixed price, his offer was homemade Bouillabaisse, however, the timing just didn’t work out. As well we found a gentleman who was offering a guided forage for wild mushrooms. We did do this some on our own, but the weather was not cooperating with the mushroom flush. On more than one occasion we would travel to Vacqueyras with empty plastic jugs or soda bottles in hand to fill up gas-pump-style with Chateauneff’s cheaper little brother. Gigondas
For outings we went sightseeing to: Avignon, Nimes, Arle, Bonnieux, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Roussillon, and Aix of course. In Marseilles we went to a football game which was super fun. In Cassis we hiked the calanques and swam at the bottom of the gorges. We walked the sandy beach in the Camargue and sipped cocktails in St. Cyr Sur Mer. Gordes is just a beautiful sight and a great place for shopping, see photo. FONTAINE-DE-VAUCLUSE was interesting and the market there was pretty nice as well…see photo. Bonnieux is very picturesque with these sprawling trees at the top of the hill with massive spreading boughs. There are many nice choices for eating here as well. We hiked in Roussillon which is a gorgeous area of colored rock formations…see photo. It looks much like Colorado actually. We visited the Sénanque Abbey where the best lavender products in the region are produced. We had 3 sets of visitors while in the area, which enriched our experience to share it with friends. Finally, we ended our trip in Nice which was spectacular and I would absolutely love to go back.