Transcript for Episode 477: Favorite Villages in the Lubéron

Category: Provence

Discussed in this Episode

  • Gordes
  • Les Bories
  • Abbaye de Sénanque
  • Roussillon
  • Lacoste
  • Oppède le Vieux
  • Ménerbes

[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 477, quatre cent soixante dix sept.

[00:00:22] Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent, and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France, everyday life in France, great places to visit in France, French culture, history, gastronomy, and news related to travel to France.

Today on the podcast

[00:00:36] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a conversation with Elyse Rivin of Toulouse Guided Walks about fantastic, stunning villages in the Lubéron area of Provence. Okay, I don’t need to say anymore, this place is famous and for good reason, and we’re going to give you a step by step guide of how to organize your visit to this part of France.

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[00:01:00] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my Itinerary Consult Service, my GPS self-guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app, or take a day trip with me around the southwest of France in my amazing electric car. You can browse all of that at my boutique:

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The Magazine Segment

[00:01:42] Annie Sargent: For the magazine part of the podcast, after my chat with Elyse today, I’ll discuss country codes and why it’s extremely important when you travel, and my misadventure with country codes.

Annie and Elyse about the Luberon villages

[00:02:05] Annie Sargent: Bonjour, Elyse.

[00:02:06] Elyse Rivin: Bonjour, Annie.

[00:02:06] Annie Sargent: We are going to talk about beautiful villages in the Lubéron today, and there’s no lack of beautiful villages in the Lubéron, is there?

Luberon area

[00:02:15] Elyse Rivin: No, there is not. If there is such a thing as a concentration of pretty and gorgeous and old and stone in France, it is probably in the Lubéron.

[00:02:27] Annie Sargent: Yes, yes, absolutely gorgeous. So, really, you could have a wonderful time going to any of them, and there are hundreds of tiny villages, but we are going to concentrate on the ones we’ve seen personally, so we can talk about them. And we are going to give you some strategies for visiting this part of France because there are some things you need to know about how the roads are organized in particular.

[00:02:51] Elyse Rivin: Is there such a thing as organized and roads in this story?

[00:02:56] Annie Sargent: The Vaucluse does not get any prizes for wonderful roads.

[00:03:01] Elyse Rivin: No, no. And of course, most of these villages are on small départementales. So you really do have to, it’s good to have an idea of the location of the different villages in your mind.

[00:03:13] Really, aside from just relying on a GPS, because my experience when I was doing this with my family, which is just about a year ago, was that the GPS isn’t always right, it’s not always the most efficient, but also, if you have a basic idea of where one village is in relation to the other, it makes it a little bit easier to plan out where you’re going to go.

[00:03:34] Annie Sargent: Yes, you need to plan out your days. So these are very small roads where even going 10 kilometers will take you half an hour very often because if you get stuck behind an agricultural vehicle, of which there are many, then you can’t pass them like, or any slow vehicle for any reason, you cannot pass them because it’s lots of windy roads, you have no visibility.

You’ll need a car to visit the Lubéron

[00:03:57] Annie Sargent: So just plan on, you know, spending some time in the car, I have to tell you that unless you’re willing to pay for a private guide who’s going to take you around, you cannot do this without a car. You need a car.

[00:04:11] There are, I’m sure, buses, regional buses, but if you decide to go with the bus, well, you’re going to go see one village, one day.

[00:04:21] That’s it. You need a day per village, because you can’t hop from one to the other. And these villages, none of them have enough to spend a whole day, really.

[00:04:32] I mean, perhaps Roussillon, Gordes, uh, no, I’d be bored in Gordes for whole day.

[00:04:39] Elyse Rivin: I include in Gordes, I include the Bories and the, the Abbey.

[00:04:42] Annie Sargent: But you have a car to get to The Bories. Yeah. So, if you don’t have a car and you just want to spend a whole day somewhere, yeah, aside from Roussillon, I can’t think of one. Because Roussillon, you can take a nice long hike, and the town is bigger. You could spend two hours hiking, two hours in the restaurant, you know and look around the village.

[00:05:02] Elyse Rivin: That’s true, except that, I mean, Gordes and Roussillon are the two biggest of the ones we’re going to talk about in terms of size, but also in terms of what there is available, you know, because a couple of them are so small that they hardly have any surfaces anyway, aside from a cafe.

[00:05:16] But it is true that this is a region where you really do have to have a vehicle. The only one I know of that has direct bus service, and that is basically from either Cavaillon, or from L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is Gordes, because it has a much more frequent bus route that goes there. But once you are up in the village, unless you’re there to test your calf muscles, that’s where you’re going to stay.

Where do you stay that’s central when visitng the Lubéron?

[00:05:42] Annie Sargent: Yeah, so, the other question that people will ask, I’m sure, is where do you stay that’s central? Well, there is no central, you need to decide. All of these villages, even the smallest ones, well, perhaps not the smallest ones, but many of these villages will have accommodations of one sort or the other.

[00:06:03] And there are also a lot of B&Bs, rentals that are in between all of these villages. So for those you just need to look on or on Airbnb, and you will find places.

[00:06:18] Elyse Rivin: I think the one that actually, technically has the most hotel space is Gordes.

[00:06:23] But that’s because Gordes is also a Commune de Gordes, which includes, because we spent a lot of time centered there, so driving around you see that there are lots of hotels that are not necessarily up in the village, so again, you have things that are lower down in the valley, you have a lot of B&Bs and chambres d’hôtes. It’s very touristy and very much attuned to tourist demands.

[00:06:49] Annie Sargent: Right. So you have to ask yourself, if you book a place anywhere in this area, how far is it to the nearest boulangerie or to the nearest city center, because some of these places, they are, you know, five, six kilometers away. And these are not places where you want to, this is what I had thought is that I would bring my electric bike and go into the town with my electric bike.

[00:07:13] I didn’t. I didn’t bring it and I’m glad I didn’t. I wouldn’t have used it because the one road had a lot of lunatics on it, that were trying to drive way too fast. I wouldn’t have wanted to be on a bike on that road.

How far from the nearst boulangerie? Example: L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

[00:07:27] Elyse Rivin: Which village did you stay?

[00:07:29] Annie Sargent: I was technically in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, but I was in the Commune de L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Communauté de L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.

[00:07:37] So I was five kilometers away from the center of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. And you have to be really careful of this in this part of the country, because a lot of these places will tell you: Oh, I’m in Gordes! Yeah, you’re in Gordes technically, but you are several kilometers away from the center of Gordes. And that means that you have to take your car into the city.

[00:07:58] Elyse Rivin: Yes.

[00:07:59] Annie Sargent: Which means that you have to think about the best time of year to visit, which we’ll get to in a second.

[00:08:06] But as far as where to stay, I picked L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue because I found an apartment I could rent and I’ll link to it, it was very nice. I really have no complaint, but you do need your own car. They even let me charge my electric car there, so that was nice. It was just a regular old plug. It wasn’t very fast, but it worked.

[00:08:24] Other people might want to stay in Gordes, or in Roussillon, or in Menerbes.

[00:08:30] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, we stayed in a gîte, in Gordes, we were in a house, I mean, we were a group of people, we were my whole family, we weren’t in the old part of the village.

[00:08:39] But again, since we did have a car, we actually had more than one car because we were a group of adults, what I discovered was that, that is what in fact most people do, unless, one night we did encounter a couple in a restaurant, and talk to them, a couple of Americans from New York, and they were in a hotel room in Gordes.

[00:09:01] And they did not have a car. It was very interesting. I actually asked them. They used Gordes as a base. They did a lot of hiking, but they were the ones who told me that there is a little bit of bus service, but you have to plan it out well ahead of time.

[00:09:15] But what I discovered was that most people have a car, as you say. And since we had rented a house, there was parking space for the cars without any problem. We just planned out our days, we just decided, today we’re going up to Gordes to visit the market and do Gordes. And then in the afternoon we’re going here, and then we just, the next day we’re going here. And basically, that’s really what you have to do.

[00:09:39] Annie Sargent: Yes, you have to plan your days out to see where you’re going to go, what day, and you can probably do one or two, possibly three of these villages that we’re going to mention in the same day, depending on how much you want to, you know, how much time you want to spend, if you want to visit every shop, if you want to spend a long time for lunch or not, etc.

[00:09:57] But yeah, you have to, so other people ask, well, should I stay in Avignon? And you could, Avignon is not that far, but you’re going to spend, to get between Avignon and any of these villages, you’re going to spend at least an hour.

[00:10:12] Elyse Rivin: At least an hour. And I would say, honestly, I mean, I’ve been in Provence before, but that was my first experience of spending two full weeks in the Lubéron.

[00:10:22] And we did go to Saint Rémy, we did go to Arles, we did not go to Avignon, but the traffic, once you decide that you’re going to go to one of these cities, because these are obviously real cities, Cavaillon is a bit smaller, and not necessarily very pretty, but it’s also a city.

[00:10:39] But all of these places, if you look on a map, technically they don’t look like they’re very far. Never mind, it took us an hour and a half.

[00:10:46] The traffic is terrible, and I personally think that if you want to spend time, a week, four days, five days, it doesn’t matter, three days in the Lubéron, stay in one of the villages in the Lubéron.

[00:11:00] Annie Sargent: Yes, I would agree with that, because there is no freeway that goes East from Avignon. So the big cities, all of these towns we’re going to talk about are between Avignon and Apt.

[00:11:12] Okay? But there is no freeway between Avignon and Apt. It’s all small roads and a lot of agriculture, a lot of tourists, a lot of very slow driving.

[00:11:25] So just be warned, that’s how it’s going to be.

[00:11:28] Elyse Rivin: And very, very beautiful landscape.

[00:11:30] Annie Sargent: Very nice, beautiful, but lots and lots of people and very small roads.

What time of year should you visit Lubéron?

[00:11:35] Annie Sargent: So, what time of year should you go? You have to understand that this is very, very, very, very touristy.

[00:11:44] Elyse Rivin: Did you hear how many ‘very’ did you put there?

[00:11:46] Annie Sargent: Yes. I know you’re not supposed to do that, but trust me, if somebody tells you that they went to the Lubéron because it’s so, you know, not touristy and just so real, so local, so genuine.

[00:12:02] Elyse Rivin: They were there in January.

[00:12:03] Annie Sargent: Exactly.

[00:12:05] If you go in January, February, perhaps you will only see locals. That’s the only time of the year where it’s not chock-full of tourists. And there is nothing wrong with being a tourist, but just don’t lie to me and tell me it’s like… for the locals.

[00:12:24] Annie, I was there in May, which is of course the beginning of the season, but not yet the high, high, high season. When were you there? I don’t remember.

[00:12:33] July, first half of July.

[00:12:35] So you hit it when it was the worst.

Lavender Fields: Not Like in the Pictures!

[00:12:37] Annie Sargent: Yes, yes, yes, because that’s also when the lavender is about to be harvested, right? And again, you will find lots and lots of pictures of beautiful, beautiful lavender fields that they’re used in all the brochures, on all the websites. You will find it very difficult to find a lavender field that looks like what you’ve seen in the photos, because most people in France don’t use any weed killers.

[00:13:11] Most French people want nothing to do with

[00:13:14] Glyphosate. What’s the name of that? Roundup. We can’t even buy Roundup in France anymore. I think they’re going to allow it again, because they’re realizing that it’s impossible to do modern agriculture without Roundup anymore. So, there’s no Roundup, so there’s a lot of weeds.

[00:13:31] Whoever takes these photos spends hours removing the weeds from the photos.

[00:13:37] Do you think so?

[00:13:38] They do, I drove, and drove, and drove, and drove, and stopped a hundred places to look for a field that had been thoroughly weeded, and there are very, very few.

[00:13:47] Elyse Rivin: But I did see, at the end of our stay, which was in June, we did see a few fields of lavender and it was, the lavender was just beginning to open up.

[00:13:57] Annie Sargent: Sure, sure, but at that point, you don’t have weeds the size of a person. But in July, by the time July comes around, they had time, yeah, the weeds are huge. There are some farmers that weed, and there are like Abbey de Sénanque, they weed all of it.

[00:14:14] Right? So there, it’s great, it’s picture perfect, but very, very few people do that.

[00:14:21] Just so you know, you know, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it. Just, you need to know that it doesn’t look like what you see in the photos and in the videos.

Many beautiful orchards

[00:14:30] Elyse Rivin: The fields have, there are lots of grapevines, there’s lots of orchards.

[00:14:34] I was very surprised by how many beautiful orchards there were, and since we were there at the end of May, there’s huge cherry orchards there. It was lovely, it was lovely.

[00:14:44] Annie Sargent: It’s very agricultural, I mean, it’s like the California of France. They grow a lot of vegetables. Fruits. Fruits, sorry, fruits.

[00:14:52] Elyse Rivin: They had apricots, they had cherries, grapevines, of course, because it’s a very big wine producing area as well. And yes, the lavender is, there is actually another region that produces a lot of lavender that’s further, a little further north and in the department called The Drôme, that’s where they actually produce the lavender that gets crushed and turned into lavender oil and stuff like that, but it’s less photogenic, most of the postcards are actually the fields of the Abbey of Senanque. That’s what you see on the postcards.

[00:15:18] Annie Sargent: Yeah. So a lot of lavender fields are towards Apt, and further north from Apt, okay? And there’s a lot of them. And there are somemuseums that are dedicated to the culture and the use of lavender and do natural extracts and just, you know, it’s very pleasant.

[00:15:39] I mean, we stopped at one such museum. I thought it was very interesting to see, but there is a dozen of them. You don’t need to see them all.

Markets in Gordes and area

[00:15:46] Annie Sargent: No. And one of the other things that of course is, that people go to this region for, aside from the very beautiful stone villages is the markets. I was with members of my family who were much into markets and going to different markets. And some of them are, big, and some of them are really small and it’s very surprising because they vary actually quite a lot from village to village. But the Gordes, which is, of course, one of the most well known of these villages has a big market twice a week, which brings in a lot of people. Tuesday and Saturday, if I remember correctly.

[00:16:24] Okay, perhaps, I know for sure Tuesday.

[00:16:27] In Gordes, it’s not that the number of vendors is that impressive, because they probably have, what, between 50 and 70 vendors.

[00:16:36] Elyse Rivin: Which is already pretty big.

[00:16:37] Annie Sargent: Which is pretty big, but if you go to Lisle sur la Sorgue, they have probably a couple hundred.

Apt has one of the biggest open-air markets in the area

[00:16:42] Elyse Rivin: Well, okay, let’s make, let’s make sure everybody understands the difference, because we went to Apt.

[00:16:47] In terms of food markets, and for strictly food, local produce, produce, we’re talking about cheeses, olives, all of those things, soaps, not “brocante”, not objects, and not clothing and everything. The biggest, absolutely huge, huge one is Apt, and that is on Saturdays.

[00:17:05] That is actually, Apt is actually a small city, it’s no longer a village, and it’s down below in the valley, on the eastern side. I had never been there before, and it was, I love markets, it was to use the ridiculous expression, it was mind blowing. Every single street in the whole city center was market, and there was absolutely everything imaginable. And I’m not even talking about the clothing, the photographs and all that stuff, which was another part of the city. It’s famous for being that kind of a huge, huge market.

[00:17:37] But of the villages that we’re talking about, that we have been to, because there are obviously others, the biggest one is Gordes.

[00:17:45] Annie Sargent: Mm. Okay. You think there’s more vendors in Gordes than in L’Isle sur la Sorgue?

[00:17:49] Elyse Rivin: But it’s not the same. It’s absolutely, it’s totally different. L’Isle sur la Sorgue it’s, you have the food part, and then you have the clothing and the furniture and all the objects part.

[00:18:00] In Gordes, there’s none of that. It’s food. I mean…

[00:18:03] Annie Sargent: Oh, Gordes is only food.

[00:18:04] Elyse Rivin: It’s food, soaps and you know, lavender sachets and stuff like that.

[00:18:08] Annie Sargent: So, yeah, we tried to, we went to Gordes on market day but I couldn’t park.

[00:18:13] Elyse Rivin: Well, that is part of the problem.

[00:18:14] Annie Sargent: And I can park anywhere, but I could not park in Gordes. And I was not about to leave my car on the side of the road. Those tiny roads, lunatic drivers, no, no, no. So we just drove off and we went back on a different day.

[00:18:27] Elyse Rivin: Right, and since we were living in a house that was down below, we knew to get there early in the morning.

[00:18:33] Annie Sargent: So if you’re going to go to Gordes on market day, if it’s not January or February, you should get there by 8 am, otherwise you’re not going to park.

[00:18:42] Elyse Rivin: Well, let’s say certainly by 9-9:30, you know. But it is true that it is hard to park. There is some parking, but then people have to, you know, the people wind up parking down below on the streets and then walking up the hill. But yes, it is much bigger, because since I did do the markets in every one of these villages…

[00:19:01] Annie Sargent: Your sister dragged you around, didn’t she?

[00:19:03] Elyse Rivin: Every single one of them, you know.

[00:19:05] And in fact the only place that apparently has a bigger one than Gordes, that neither you nor I have been to, is Lourmarin.

[00:19:12] Annie Sargent: Aha.

[00:19:13] Elyse Rivin: Which is on the southern, extreme southern side of the Lubéron.

[00:19:16] Annie Sargent: Lourmarin is a really good place to stop if you’re going to Aix-en-Provence after the Lubéron, or before, you know, it’s in between the Lubéron and Aix-en-Provence.

[00:19:28] It’s a very good stop.

[00:19:29] Elyse Rivin: It’s a very good stop. But it is true that, I can say that I experienced the markets, so I can attest to what they were like. Now, it is possible that by the time you get to the end of July, beginning of August, some of these have gotten bigger, but it was surprising that some of these villages, because they all advertise, of course, that they have Market Day, and this is one of the attractions for a lot of tourists, but I was surprised at this difference in size between the markets, for instance, in Gordes and the one in Menerbes.

[00:20:00] Yeah. Which was very small. Menerbes was very small.

[00:20:02] Oh, very, very small. It was, it was about 10 stalls and that was the end of that. You know, I mean, the only thing there was we got some really nice fresh pressed juice.

[00:20:11] Annie Sargent: Right, so, and whereas in terms of population, year round population, Gordes and Menerbes are probably similar?

[00:20:20] Elyse Rivin: And so is Roussillon.

[00:20:21] Annie Sargent: Oh really? Rousillon looked bigger to me.

[00:20:24] Elyse Rivin: Well, Roussillon, the statistics I saw were as of 2020, which is relatively recent, it’s just about the same between Gordes and Roussillon, and a teeny little bit less in Menerbes.

[00:20:36] And then couple others that have fewer people, I mean, fewer people all year round, but all those three are just about 1200, which interestingly enough, it seems like a lot of people to me, but part of that is, is because they count, not just the houses up above on the perched up part of the village, but the houses down below in the valley as well.

[00:20:57] Annie Sargent: Right, so we alluded to this in the beginning, in France, a town is going to have it’s kind of city center stuff, but then it spreads out bigger than that, and so if they count all of the people who live in the area of the town, then it’s more people.

[00:21:17] But, it’s a lot of surface.

[00:21:18] Elyse Rivin: It’s a lot of surface. Yeah. Especially in these more rural areas, you know, you just, if you look at the village perched up and you see half of the buildings are in ruin, you go, where are all the people, you know, they’re hiding in the caves with the bats, you know.

[00:21:32] But it is fascinating.

[00:21:33] It’s also true that some of these villages, let’s, okay, they all are old. They are all beautiful. This is what’s so amazing about this region. They are all gorgeous. They’re all made of stone. And this is mostly this beautiful white limestone. This is the typical rock of the area. It’s like having a beauty contest between 5000 gorgeous cats.

A bit of Lubéron history

[00:21:57] Elyse Rivin: Sorry about the dogs, but it’s like, which one will you pick is the most beautiful? I haven’t got a clue. I mean, it’s really weird. You can’t. They’re all perched up on top of these hills because they are all from the Middle Ages when all of these were little reinforced, little places where a Lord lived and in his chateau and they had to protect themselves from the marauding, whatever was next door, you know.

[00:22:21] The Italians.

[00:22:23] The Italians, the English, you know… then a lot of these had really interesting histories because it turns out that this area, to my surprise, during the period of the War of Religions, a whole lot of these villages in the Lubéron became Protestant strongholds.

[00:22:41] Oh, I didn’t realize that.

[00:22:42] And they are that close to Avignon, which means that they were pretty nervy when you think about it, because the popes were in Avignon, and then Avignon was pretty much, you know, really Catholic.

[00:22:53] They reinforced a lot of these old feudal castles and walls in these tiny villages because of that, because a lot of them, it turns out, were destroyed and then rebuilt. This is not In terms of the history of France, not even that long ago, the war of religion is the 16th century, you know, so… And it turns out that Gordes, and one we haven’t mentioned yet, Lacoste, which is the tiniest of these that we’re going to talk about.

[00:23:18] These were both places that had Protestant, I don’t even know what the term is to be honest, the council, the Protestant council, they were set up in these two little villages and, so they were attacked a lot. And they had to rebuild the walls around them. And it’s very interesting, I wouldn’t have thought that this was an area that was a Protestant stronghold, so it’s part of the history.

[00:23:39] And it turns out that Lacoste, which is a strange, strange little village, it still has a Protestant temple, which is what the French call a Protestant church.

[00:23:50] It’s very interesting.

Lacoste: a village dedicated to Art, Design and Sculpture

[00:23:51] Annie Sargent: Why don’t we start with Lacoste? So Lacoste, as far as the geography is concerned, it’s very close to Bonnieux, so it’s on the southern end of the area we’re discussing.

[00:24:01] Elyse Rivin: Yes, there’s a whole string of villages that are basically on the southern rim, or edge, of the valley, you know. Alright, so let’s start with Lacoste. Lacoste is, as far as I understand, having been to most of them, not all of them, the tiniest of all.

[00:24:15] Annie Sargent: Yeah, there’s not much there.

[00:24:17] Elyse Rivin: It’s very small. It’s famous for two things. It’s famous for something from the past. It is famous now for something that’s an actuality, as they would say.

[00:24:26] It is the home of the Marquis de Sade.

[00:24:30] Yes, his family owned the place.

[00:24:31] His family was actually, I don’t know if they were given or inherited the chateau, the old feudal chateau in the early 1700s. And the Marquis de Sade, who was the third or fourth generation of the family, who is famous for his libertine writings, which put him in jail, I mean, he was considered to be absolutely scandalous in his ideas of sexuality and free thinking and things like that. He actually spent half of his life in prison for his writings.

[00:25:02] Half of his life? Yeah, half of his life. Half of his adult life.

[00:25:05] He was in prison and then left out of prison, but he kept doing his writing even when he was in prison. So I don’t know what difference it made putting him in prison. But of course, we have the term sadism that comes from the Marquis de Sade.

[00:25:17] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:25:19] Elyse Rivin: But he, in fact, lived in the chateau, which is now half in ruins, that is up on the top of this very small, relatively narrow village, Lacoste.

[00:25:31] And this is where he did a lot of his writing, and right now, the entire village is run by the Savannah School of Art and Design, which is from Savannah, Georgia, in the United States. The village was in ruin starting at the time of the revolution. And basically, it’s a small village, very steep.

[00:25:54] There’s one major path or street that goes all the way up. It’s quite steep if you do the walking, which takes you all the way up to the top, which is where the chateau is. That has this absolutely to die for view of the valley.

[00:26:06] Annie Sargent: The view is nice.

[00:26:07] Elyse Rivin: And you can see Mont Ventoux on the Northern side looking out. It’s really incredible.

[00:26:12] It was really one of those villages that was really left in abandon, and then it was bought by somebody, you know, the concept of buying a village is just beyond me, but it’s possible, I mean, people buy islands, I guess you can buy a village. And little by little, starting at the end of the 19th century, one person after another kind of bought the village and tried to fix it up a little bit and it was just onerous.

[00:26:39] So ironically, the final person who did it and brought the village back to life was Pierre Cardin.

[00:26:45] Annie Sargent: Mm hmm.

[00:26:46] Elyse Rivin: The fashion designer, who apparently was a huge fan of, not only design, but of art, and in 1980 he bought the village. He did a lot of work fixing up and restoring some of the old houses, the stone, beautiful houses that are on both sides of the street that goes all the way up to the top.

[00:27:06] And he turned it into a design center. He wanted to make it a center for people to come and see art and design. And then in the early 1990s, the Savannah School of Art and Design, which is called SCAD, that’s what most people call it, was given the opportunity to use the village.

[00:27:26] I don’t understand, I don’t know what the status is in relation to the ownership, I still think it’s The Pierre Cardin Foundation, but they actually run the village. Now I was there with a whole bunch of people from my family, we had lunch in one of the two restaurants that are in the village that are down below.

[00:27:44] And then we walked up and visited the various little places that were there and, what you see as you go up, because it is really very small, is almost every single one of these old stone houses, because they’re all connected as you go up this very steep, narrow road, are artist’s residence and boutiques that either sell or show. They’re either studios, so you can actually see the artists working, or they’re shops where they sell some of their work. But the entire village is devoted to art and design. And sculpture.

[00:28:21] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:28:21] Elyse Rivin: As of right now, I just saw this yesterday or the day before, there is a new sculpture show, usually these are very big outdoor pieces, so they install them for at least a year. And they’re placed in various places along the path and then all the way up on top.

[00:28:38] So this is not a village where you are easily going to find a lot of places to stay or a lot of things to do, it’s actually a place where you can have a nice little lunch, but it’s really a place to go if you’re interested in seeing what a village can do in terms of being an art and design center.

[00:28:56] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it’s really all about the current people who live there and make art and sell art. And, you know, it’s not a real village. I mean that and I don’t mean that. It is still a real village, it’s not Disneyland, but… regular French people don’t live there.

[00:29:14] No, no. I think because it is so small and because some of it, so much of it was in ruin, it was only famous and known as the village of the Marquis de Sade, until Pierre Cardin bought it and turned it into a design center. And that is actually the reason I wanted to go, because I had read about it being an art and design center, and so I curious to see what it was like, and you’re right, it’s really small.

[00:29:44] Yeah, it’s very, very, I mean, we didn’t spend more than perhaps half an hour there.

[00:29:48] Elyse Rivin: Did you go up to the top?

[00:29:49] Annie Sargent: Yeah, we did. We did.

[00:29:50] By foot?

[00:29:51] No, we parked on the top. I’m not sure how we got to park there, but walked down the hill a ways and I was like, okay, done. Bye.

[00:30:01] Elyse Rivin: If you go from the bottom, it’s actually rather fascinating, we had parked all the way down on the bottom, and so we walked up, it’s a good walk, it’s really rather steep, the path or street that’s in between the two houses, the houses on both sides is not that wide.

[00:30:19] One thing that happened was, aside from the fact that I was curious to see if there were lots of artists, and at the time we were there, there weren’t that many that were working, but it made me think, this is maybe what it was really like in the ancient times when these little, there were so many of these tiny little villages, all the houses are connected one to the other, they’re very close together. I think it was both for protection from the outside but also for the heat that, you know, one next to the other gives amount heat. So it really made me think this must be what it was like a long, long time ago, you know, that kind of feeling as opposed to a place where you can spread out and, you know, there are lots of cafes and things like that.

[00:31:01] So it was special. We can say that this is unique in relation to the other villages.

[00:31:06] Annie Sargent: Yes, definitely.

Gordes: picture-perfect

[00:31:08] Annie Sargent: All right. We mentioned Gordes a little bit already. What can you do in Gordes?

[00:31:14] Elyse Rivin: Well, Gordes, first of all, has been officially named this year the most beautiful village in France.

[00:31:22] Annie Sargent: Yeah, I’m not surprised,

[00:31:23] It’s stupid pretty.

[00:31:26] Elyse Rivin: Everybody has their own idea of what a village is as compared to a town, and it’s a big village, it’s a village that has every service you can imagine. It has a few doctors, dentists and nurses.

[00:31:37] Yeah. Yeah. Pharmacies.

[00:31:38] This is not a Lacoste. I mean, this is not a place where there’s one cafe and nevermind. But, it’s arguable if there is such a thing as the most beautiful village in France, because there are so many, but it is spectacular. It is perched on the top of this enormous rock.

[00:31:54] It’s overlooking, it’s a very steep cliff that goes down with this view down into the valley below because it’s on the northern side of the Lubéron. It is a big village and it has the old feudal castle that is now an art center, with various different shows of artists. It was used by a bunch of artists at the beginning of the 20th century and has stayed, part of the castle has been turned into an art center on a permanent basis with rotating shows, so you have different people who show there.

[00:32:23] It also has a very, very famous wine cellar that is in the underground part of the chateau that has these gorgeous, you know, gothic ribbed arches down below, because this was apparently one of the places where the wine was stored all through the Middle Ages, you know.

[00:32:41] We didn’t go to that. How did you get in?

[00:32:43] Is it from the chateau?

[00:32:44] No, it’s from one of the little narrow streets that go in and out the areas, yeah. You know, there are lots of little narrow streets. There’s a point of view out to see beyond. Other than that, honestly, Gordes is beautiful.

[00:32:57] It’s now filled with restaurants and with hotels. And since we were staying down below a few, you know, about just two miles down below, we ate there a lot. We would go up, because we did do the markets and then we just visited and things like that, so we tried out three or four different restaurants in Gordes.

[00:33:17] There are a whole bunch of them.

[00:33:18] The market is great. It’s really famous, I think, more for its physical impressiveness, than anything else.

[00:33:26] Annie Sargent: It’s not like you go to Gordes to go to a museum, or to visit a chateau, or to…, you just go to visit the town and enjoy the view. It’s gorgeous. I mean, bring your camera, obviously. It’s just beautiful and you can easily spend, if you’re not staying in Gordes, you can easily spend half a day.

[00:33:46] Elyse Rivin: It’s a half day deal, especially if you do try to venture there on a day with a market. My advice is to either get there very early or get there at the end of the market time because a lot of people leave by noon.

[00:34:02] And what we discovered was that, if you show up at noon, number one, have a better chance of getting some parking, but then you usually get, you can buy a bunch of foodstuffs if you really want to just go back to wherever you were, or you can just do the market and then go and have a very nice lunch.

[00:34:17] There are a whole lot of places to have a very nice lunch.

[00:34:20] Annie Sargent: The town also has some art galleries and things like that and things where you can buy crafts and things, but you said that the market has a lot of food, right?

[00:34:29] Elyse Rivin: Yes, the market has a lot of food, a lot of food. They even have, you know, it’s one of those markets where you even have, what we call “traiteur”

[00:34:37] I never remember how to say English anymore. You know, it’s ready prepared foods that you can take out.

[00:34:41] Annie Sargent: You just warm up at home.

[00:34:43] Elyse Rivin: The irony of that is that the only thing we had a hard time finding, strangely enough, was the bakery.

[00:34:50] There were two bakeries, but the bakeries don’t have stands in the market, you know.

[00:34:54] So there were the bakeries of the town. But it really is a town that has every kind of service and honestly, since we were staying within the commune of Gordes, we also were able to use a car and go to a supermarket and buy basic essentials like, you know, the paper goods and all those kinds of things. You’re not in a world that’s isolated, you can easily get to other places.

[00:35:16] Annie Sargent: Yeah, the owner of our apartment where we stayed, had spent 20 years in Gordes and he said he was, you know, he loved it because it’s so beautiful, but he was really glad not to be in Gordes anymore.

[00:35:30] He’s overrun by all sorts of different people every day, hordes of visitors is really what it is, especially in, you know, June, July, August, even September.

[00:35:43] Elyse Rivin: I’m not sure about September, but Gordes has, and Lourmarin, which is, of course, on the other side of the valley, that both have decided that they’re going to try to limit the number of people per day that come up to the top of the village.

[00:35:57] Annie Sargent: That’s probably a good idea. How are they going to do that, do you know?

[00:36:00] Elyse Rivin: I don’t know. My guess is that the only way to do that is that you ask people to pay to come into the old city center, my guess, I don’t know, because the parking, you didn’t have to pay, you just had to find a spot.

[00:36:14] Annie Sargent: No, it was a paid parking lot.

[00:36:16] Elyse Rivin: We didn’t have to, so I don’t know.

[00:36:19] Annie Sargent: We paid. Because I remember sending David to go find the thing to pay.

[00:36:25] But I don’t know how they’re going to do it. I mean, I just don’t know if you put a gate up, I honestly don’t know. But they are worried that there are just far too many tourists. And of course, there’s the pollution of the cars and all the rest of it.

Les Bories hamlet

[00:36:38] Annie Sargent: But included in the commune of Gordes is this wonderful site that both of us went to called the Les Bories.

[00:36:44] Yes, and that is one that I think you shouldn’t miss because it’s very different, and very pleasant to do. Now, when you drive to the Bories, the road is surrounded by these stone walls and you think, oh oh, if a car comes in the other direction, what am I going to do? Where am I going to go? It wasn’t a problem.

[00:37:05] It was fine, but it made me a little nervous that it was so narrow and nowhere to pull over. So the Bories, you’re going to tell us what the bories are, right?

[00:37:14] Elyse Rivin: This particular site is a national site. It is a village of these little structures, or actually medium sized structures, called bories, which are actually beehive shaped, dry stone walled houses that were both for humans and for animals and that have been used since, according to what they say in the documentation inside the village when you go in and there’s this video that you can see, they think that they have been used since really probably prehistoric times. But these are really shaped like beehives, upside down beehives with come to a point, you know, and they are drywall which means there’s no mortar, it’s just stone, dry field stone that’s been used.

[00:38:00] And some of them are tiny, and some of them actually have the equivalent of almost two rooms, one for the animals and one for the humans. And they have been used through the centuries, both as homes, as refuge, as shelters, even up through into World War II, where there were people who actually hid out in them, hiding away from the Germans. It’s rather amazing.

[00:38:24] This site is a whole collection of them that have been restored a little bit, with a lot of documentation, available in different languages, that gives you a history of them. And I have a whole bunch of pictures I took at home of the inside of them and what they look like. It’s rather impressive.

[00:38:42] Annie Sargent: Yes, it was very, very fun to visit. And this is one where you really must go if you have, if you’re visiting with kids because they can go inside and hide and, you know,

[00:38:52] And again, it’s something visiting the whole village will take you probably two hours max, you know, but it’s a fun visit.

[00:39:00] You have to pay a few euros to get in. Now, you have to know that there are bories all around Provence, but they are standalone things. Because long ago when people would go work the fields, they only went to work the fields for a few months out of the year.

[00:39:19] And so they would all move into this village and work the fields for the season and then go back to their town.

[00:39:26] So they weren’t occupied year round. It was just a place to stay temporarily while you were working this area, keeping your herd or whatever it is that they were doing. So it’s a very interesting construction, and you see them scattered all over the Lubéron, but in this place, there was a big concentration of them, which makes it more interesting because you don’t have to stop everywhere.

[00:39:51] Exactly.

[00:39:52] Elyse Rivin: It is interesting to know that it’s connected to, in recent past to the history of Gordes, because I was doing some more research on Gordes and discovered something that neither you nor I knew ahead of time.

Gordes abd the French Resistance

[00:40:03] Elyse Rivin: But Gordes was actually, is considered to be a village martyre from World War II because it had a huge group of Resistance that was well known in the area. Some of them probably hid out, in fact, at certain times in the Bories. And so there were two times when the Germans who were ocuping the area of course the last part of the WWII, actually executed a whole bunch of people in the village of Gordes because it had become a major center of Resistance. And so it is actually officially on the list of what we call the martyred villages of France from WWII.

[00:40:40] Annie Sargent: See, they don’t make a big deal of that in the village.

[00:40:43] Elyse Rivin: No, they really don’t. Interesting.

[00:40:45] But it certainly is, certainly Gordes is worth visiting.

[00:40:49] You don’t necessarily have to stay there. And it is true that if you are allergic to crowds, don’t go on market day, go on a different day, because you can certainly find little things in the boutiques if you’re interested in that.

[00:41:01] You can get wonderful wines there because this is still in the heart of wine growing area, and you will not have to deal with the masses of people that come for the market day.

[00:41:11] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Definitely. And that day you should also do the Bories, because it’s really right there. It’s really fast. Yeah.

[00:41:17] Elyse Rivin: It really right there.

Roussillon: The city of color

[00:41:19] Elyse Rivin: Now, the next village I think we should talk about is Roussillon.

[00:41:23] Annie Sargent: Yes.

[00:41:24] Elyse Rivin: Which is one of my favorites.

[00:41:26] Annie Sargent: Yeah. It’s very nice. It’s very nice.

[00:41:27] Elyse Rivin: It’s very nice. Now, Roussillon is east of Gordes. I think it’s about 10 kilometers, 11, something like that. It’s again, it doesn’t feel like it’s that distance because these narrow kind of windy roads, but Roussillon is also relatively big village, perched up, of course, up on top of a, not only a hill, but on a plateau.

[00:41:50] But Roussillon is famous for something else. It is the home of what is called the Small Grand Canyon.

[00:41:58] Annie Sargent: Right.

[00:41:59] So they call it Le Sentier des Ocres.

[00:42:01] Elyse Rivin: Le Sentier des Ocres. Le Sentier des Ocres.

[00:42:04] The ochre, yeah, the ochre path. The region where the village of Roussillon is, that particular plateau, is surrounded by huge sandstone cliffs. And these sandstone cliffs are filled with color. The ochre is, it’s interesting because in English, I think we consider ochre to just be a color.

[00:42:27] It’s a kind of rich, kind of deep yellow with a little bit of orange in it. But ocre is actually the material that is made out of the grounding up of these cliffs. And these cliffs, just like the big Grand Canyon in the United States, are famous for the colors in them. And the colors go from yellow to orange, to red, to purple, and it is absolutely gorgeous.

[00:42:52] Annie Sargent: It looks very red to me. And you know, if you go, don’t put on your brand new white tennis shoes because you’ll walk away with red tennis shoes.

[00:43:01] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, unless you want them to be red. I actually knew, I’ve been there several times in my life. And I once went with somebody who purposely wore white shorts so that she could get different colors onto her behind.

[00:43:14] But now, unlike what it was like before, there is a path that you really are supposed to stay on. The first time I went, you could really go up and touch the cliffs and you could actually run your hands up and down and pick up the pigment.

[00:43:28] This is the rock which in Sandstone is very, very “friable”, I’m losing my words in English.

[00:43:34] You know, it easily turns into sand, it goes to dust, you know, sandstone, a sandstone, right?

[00:43:39] But it is filled with minerals and there were parts of it that were genuinely purple. I have photos I’ll show you that I took. Parts of it are purple, parts of it are red, parts of it are this deep kind of yellow orange, and of course it changes with the light.

[00:43:52] So people, it is true if you go early in the morning when the sun is rising, or if you go at the end of the day, you will have this panorama of color that goes across the whole thing. It’s just fabulous.

[00:44:03] Annie Sargent: Yes, and this is another place where you, you pay a few euros, both to park and to go into the sentier, the path. There are quite a few steps, so if you have bum knees, just be warned, but it is well worth it. It’s very, very nice. And then the village of Roussillon nearby has a bunch of restaurants and little shops and things like that.

[00:44:25] Elyse Rivin: Yes, yes. The interesting thing is that there are two paths, because my husband was not able to do the longer path, so actually, he took the shorter one and we did the longer one.

[00:44:36] I didn’t think it was that long, and I honestly didn’t think it was that difficult, but then it’s hard to judge when you don’t have bad knee problems.

[00:44:44] But it is very beautiful, and there are lots of places where you can stop, where there are even little wooden seats, so you can take, it’s designed now so that you can really appreciate it.

[00:44:53] Stop, take beautiful photos. Now, but what made it famous is that starting in the beginning of the 1700s, these powders were turned into pigment to be used for textiles. And this is what made the riches of the village of Roussillon. And of course, this lasted probably until the beginning of the 1930s when apparently, the use of artificial colors basically put them out of business as being a real source of riches for the village.

[00:45:25] So now, you can still buy little pots of the different colors if you are a painter or if you want to try and mix your own things and just play with it. It’s really kind of magical to see, but it’s really not used in industry anymore. Yeah.

[00:45:39] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah. Definitely worth a stop, again with children, they would love it.

[00:45:44] Elyse Rivin: They would love it, yeah. Because, you know, you can get dirty. It’s really, it’s really, really, really beautiful. And Roussillon, like Gordes, maybe even more so, they have about the same number of people, but it’s filled with restaurants, with cafes, it’s a place you can stop.

[00:46:02] Annie Sargent: If you go first thing in the morning at sunrise, or sunset, you will have even prettier colors. But that’s not always easy to do when you’re traveling with a group. But if you can time it that way that’s ideal.

[00:46:17] Elyse Rivin: Really beautiful.

Oppède le Vieux, a village for artists.

[00:46:18] Annie Sargent: Yeah, definitely. All right, let’s move on move on to the next village, which is going to be, which one do you want to do next? Oh, let’s talk about Oppède le Vieux. That was the coup de coeur. Yeah, oh, we both really liked Oppède le Vieux. So this, Oppède le Vieux is, now we’re talking south of this area. It’s not far from Menerbes, which we’ll talk about next.

[00:46:39] Elyse Rivin: Right. It is so funny. I know I was the one that told you to go do Oppède. One of the days I was in the area with just one of my sisters, we decided we were going to just go off and sort of explore.

[00:46:50] And it was not on my list. I had never really heard of it. And then when we were in the car and it was like, oh, I see this sign, let’s see what this is like. And it was like, oh, okay. So how do you explain the charm of Oppède Le Vieux? First of all, there’s an Oppède Le Vieux, and then there’s another Oppède, which is down below.

[00:47:10] Annie Sargent: There’s two places. They’re Le Vieux and not Le Vieux.

[00:47:14] Elyse Rivin: And not Le Vieux is down below, where basically all of the shops are. And the stuff you need to really survive for longer than just a few hours of a trip. But Oppède is a village that is vertical. A much more vertical than some of the others. It’s much more like Lacoste in that way, but it’s much bigger.

[00:47:32] It turns out, to my surprise, that it also has over a thousand people year round, which must include some people a little bit further down below, because it’s certainly not up above where the ruin of the Chateau is.

[00:47:43] But it’s down below, there’s a very nice big parking area. And there’s a huge flower botanical garden down below, and the vegetation around it is really quite lovely. So it starts out on the right foot, because you suddenly are in this very beautiful place, and you go up this path, and lo and behold, you are in this village, I don’t know what there was about it, I found it was kind of like, oh, this is charming.

[00:48:12] And it’s got a lot of boutiques with art, with crafts people and a lot of lovely red restored houses, and a couple of places where there’s like a little bit of a square. And then if you go up higher up, I think you’d stop there because you were having some trouble.

[00:48:27] Annie Sargent: I went all the way to the first church. I didn’t go to the very top.

[00:48:31] Elyse Rivin: Yeah. We did. I mean, we were a little crazy because it was a hot day, and I was yelled at because I didn’t have a hat on my head, but there, once you get past where all the houses are and the charming couple of cafes and everything, and it’s very lovely. And it was a day when there weren’t a lot of people, which probably also added to its charm.

[00:48:48] Annie Sargent: I think it doesn’t get visited as much as the rest.

[00:48:52] Elyse Rivin: There’s a place where there’s, to go up to the top where the top church and the ruin of the Chateau is, it forks, so you can go to the right or you can go to the left, and both of them work their way really up, and it’s up, up, up, up, up, and they go past the first little church.

[00:49:08] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it’s like a chapel. They built a tiny chapel, like, halfway up the road.

[00:49:14] Elyse Rivin: And then you get up to the top, and lo and behold, you have a church, and then, there are the ruins of a chateau that you cannot get to.


[00:49:24] And so I was doing a little research about it. And it turns out that the ruins you see there are the ruins from 1731. What happened in 1731? I don’t remember, but nothing has been touched in 300 years. Nothing has fallen either in 300 years. The ruins are the ruins of what was the chateau of the Lord of Oppède.

[00:49:47] It’s very quiet up on top and then you can go in to visit this church. And then what we did was we went up one way and we came back down the other. It’s like helix, like a double helix. And these gardens, there are these gorgeous gardens, beautiful gardens of the houses along the way.

[00:50:04] And lo and behold, I went and did some research and it turns out that there are two things to know about Oppède Le Vieux. One is that it is in fact an artist’s village, and has been since the middle of the 20th century. A group of artists who were seeking refuge from the Germans went there starting in 1940 and brought other people with them.

[00:50:28] And so there’s a whole community of artists that wound up living and working in Oppède Le Vieux, which I’m sure 60, 70, 80 years ago was probably not in very good condition.

[00:50:39] Annie Sargent: Probably.

[00:50:40] Elyse Rivin: And they stayed there, and so it gave the village a reputation as being a village for artists. But also it was, like Gordes, a center of a resistant group.

[00:50:51] But they, unlike Gordes, managed to stay out of too much trouble in the sense that they didn’t get assassinated.

[00:50:59] There wasn’t a group that got arrested and killed. They actually were able to use the ruins of the village as a clandestine place for their meetings. And so it has this kind of interesting 20th century history attached to it. But I found it just absolutely lovely.

[00:51:14] Annie Sargent: Yeah, I don’t, I can’t put my finger on it, but I thought it was very satisfying as a visit, and it didn’t have near as many tourists as the other places we went. So I really recommend you give it a try. Oppède Le Vieux is definitely a keeper in my book.

Menerbes of A Year in Provence fame

[00:51:31] Annie Sargent: Okay, time is going fast, so let’s talk about Menerbes a little bit, and then we’ll call it good, how about that?

[00:51:38] What was your impression of Menerbes?

[00:51:40] Well, what’s interesting about Menerbes for visitors like me who just spent a couple of hours there, there’s probably other things to do, but you have that one street that goes along a cliff, and you have a beautiful view, a lot of restaurants and cafes have a terrace overlooking the view, which is lovely. And I knew that that’s where Peter Mayle, lived when he wrote A Year in Provence, so that’s what made it famous.

[00:52:08] I didn’t think it was as pretty as Gordes, for instance, or Oppède le Vieux, for that matter, but I thought it was a very nice little village to go spend a couple of hours.

[00:52:19] It’s interesting because I knew nothing about it, and yet it’s on the list of the most beautiful villages in France. And of course I went. Why? Because my sister said there was a market there. Yeah. And as it turned out, the village is actually fairly big physically, and it’s a village where almost every single house has been well restored, but there were very few people out, the market was very small, it was very strange, it was very, very small considering the size of the village, and so we just kind of walked around for a while. And I think we just spent about an hour and a half there, we didn’t even spend two hours there, because it wasn’t lunchtime.

[00:52:54] So we weren’t there to stay and eat. But there were some very nice boutiques and clearly, there were some very, very nice houses that were well restored. And I have only since found out about the fact that Peter Mayle lived there. And also, it turns out that it was the home of some very famous 20th century painters including a painter that now has a big exhibit in Paris named Nicolas de Staël, who had his house there.

[00:53:20] And also it was, this is kind of one of those anecdotes, Picasso, who of course, he had many, many women in his life and many mistresses, he gave one of his mistresses, a woman named Dora Maar, who was a very, very good photographer.

[00:53:36] There are lots of paintings he did of her. When they broke up, as a compensation, is that what you would consider it?

[00:53:42] He gave her, he bought her a house in Menerbes and she lived there for the rest of her life. Not bad at all. I would say my feeling about Menerbes is that it was very lovely. It was very, very fixed up and very pristine.

[00:53:57] Elyse Rivin: A little bit too much for my taste. I think that part very nice, very beautiful, very clean, gorgeous. I’m sure there are lots of Airbnb, or Chambre d’Hôtes and a couple of hotels. Very beautiful. But it didn’t have the same, I don’t know, as Oppède.

[00:54:16] Annie Sargent: It didn’t grab me as much as other places in the area. I mean, honestly, it’s very beautiful, it just didn’t call my name, you know?

[00:54:24] Elyse Rivin: Yeah.

[00:54:25] Annie Sargent: The view from those terraces on the cliff side are just beautiful. They’re gorgeous. Yeah.

[00:54:32] Elyse Rivin: And again, it also has a chateau. I mean, each one of these villages has a chateau.

[00:54:36] Annie Sargent: And most of the time, you can’t go inside.

[00:54:38] Elyse Rivin: No. This one has actually been restored and it’s inhabited by somebody.

[00:54:43] Annie Sargent: So there you go. Somebody goes inside, somebody goes inside, just not you and me.

[00:54:47] Elyse Rivin: Yeah. Not you and me.

[00:54:50] Annie Sargent: So, overall, I mean, the Lubéron is chock-full of beautiful, beautiful places. We only mentioned a few. There’s a couple others where we stopped, but I don’t want to mention them because they’re teeny villages and you’ll run into your own teeny little villages, you know, just stop wherever you feel like.

[00:55:06] If you want to do this on a bike, make sure you have very bright clothing, because,

[00:55:12] I don’t understand why they drive so fast. Like the locals, I suppose they get very impatient with all the tourists and people pulling over on the side to take a photo because it’s so gorgeous you want to stop and take a picture, right?

[00:55:27] Elyse Rivin: Well that is the problem. It’s gorgeous everywhere, it really is, it is true that these are very narrow country roads, and so yeah, you do have to be careful, although I have to say that some of the men in my family group, they rented electric bikes and did a couple of these villages, but they said that was the workout for the week. Yeah, it’s very hilly.

[00:55:48] Annie Sargent: Yeah. It’s very hilly everywhere. And you know, as far as when to go, I would say avoid July and August, if you can, yeah.

[00:55:57] Elyse Rivin: It’s also very hot.

[00:55:58] Annie Sargent: Yes, yes, very very hot. You definitely need AC. The apartment we rented had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, the bedrooms were air conditioned, but not the rest of the house, and it got very very hot in the rest of the house. And also, if you’re planning on sleeping with your windows open, keep in mind that there are cicadas and they never shut up.

[00:56:21] Elyse Rivin: And there are mosquitoes. This is an area that does have mosquitoes. However, if you’re doing an Airbnb or a hotel, look for one that has a pool.

[00:56:29] Annie Sargent: Yeah, pools are good. Yeah.

[00:56:30] The place where we went had a small, above ground, or halfway buried pool.

[00:56:36] They had a jacuzzi that was above ground, but I’m kind of icky about these places, I don’t go in those things.

[00:56:41] Elyse Rivin: Oh, we had a pool, it was cool. Nice.

[00:56:45] Annie Sargent: Most people love them, I’m just like, ooh, no, other people go in there.

[00:56:47] Elyse Rivin: But it is, it is true, it gets really hot in July and August, just know that. But it’s beautiful.

[00:56:52] Annie Sargent: Merci beaucoup, Elyse.

[00:56:55] Elyse Rivin: De rien, thank you, Annie.


Thank you Patrons

[00:57:03] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for giving back and supporting the show. Patrons are amazing! They get several exclusive rewards for supporting this show. You can see them at Thank you all. You are wonderful!

[00:57:23] And a shout out this week to new patron Mary Pariseau, I should say Mary Pariseau, she’s Pariseau, that’s a very French name. Wonderful to have you on board in the community of francophiles who keep this podcast going. And if you’d like to support Elyse, go to

[00:57:45] Last week, I had a Zoom call with patrons where we discussed big events coming up in France in 2024. There’s the Olympics, of course, everybody knows that, but there are many more.

[00:57:57] Elyse and I are also going to start to do a monthly just chat between the two of us that we’ll share with my patrons and hers and look for that one at the end of this month.

[00:58:09] My thanks also to Michael Gilbertson and Cassandra Akerson for their one time donation. They clicked on one of the green buttons on that says ‘Tip your guide’.

[00:58:20] Michael wrote: My wife and I have been listening and taking notes like crazy, just wanted to say thank you for all you do, an epic trip to southern France and Paris this summer is booked, we are planning fools, and your podcast has helped us tremendously”.

[00:58:37] That’s fantastic Michael, and when you’re back from your trip, email me, and perhaps we can record an episode together. I’m always looking for firsthand experiences to share here. And I would like to extend this invitation to anyone who would like to share what they learned on their trip to France.

[00:58:53] I do not invite marketers on the podcast, no industry professionals, just regular people who want to give back, whether they’ve made a donation or not, by the way.

[00:59:04] You can learn all sorts of things from regular conversations.

[00:59:09] If you enjoyed this podcast and would like to keep it going for another 10 years, keep this small business going by using my tours and services. You can see all of that at

[00:59:21] Right now you will see the Sign up page for the bootcamp 2024, the link for the itinerary planning sessions, the audio tour purchase page, where you can get your listener discount, the Sign up page for day trips around the Southwest with me in my lovely electric car. I don’t talk about my car enough. I love that thing.

[00:59:43] You can also get my cookbook: ‘Join Us at the Table’ in various formats. And you can also see my favorite travel related products on Amazon.

[00:59:53] The podcast is free, will always be free, but shocker, I need money to live. So I sell my own products rather than other people’s products.

[01:00:05] I get asked all the time, could you recommend this or that, in exchange for a commission? And the answer is almost always no. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember if I ever said yes to this. Perhaps I’m a fool, but this podcast is my baby and I’m not selling my baby for a few euros. And Patreon to me is part of that same philosophy, because patrons get extra content that I create and I get to talk to them face to face at regular intervals, every month usually. I like doing that. It doesn’t feel like selling out at all.

[01:00:42] So if you want to be nice to me, if you like the podcast, go to my boutique page and buy some of my great products and services, again, it’s or become a patron, you know, and thank you so much.

Phone Country Codes

[01:00:58] Annie Sargent: Okay, let’s talk about phone country codes.

[01:01:01] You’re probably wondering, what does that have to do with anything? Well, I want to tell you about the phone country code problem I had this week. In the US and Canada, your country code is +1 over that huge landmass. In Europe, every time you change countries, you get a new country code.

[01:01:21] France is +33. Spain is +34. Italy is +39. England is +44. Belgium is, I think, +32, and Germany is +49. You get my point. Country codes change rapidly in Europe.

[01:01:38] Belgium, it’s teeny, and you drive a half an hour and you’re out of Belgium. So often, Americans and Canadians get a bit lazy about country codes because they don’t need them unless they travel outside of their very vast region.

[01:01:56] So what happens when we travel? If calling the US from France, I need to add +1.

[01:02:02] If calling England from anywhere, but England. I need to add +44. If you’re in the US and you’re calling France, you need to add +33. Sounds like a pain, right? Actually, there’s an easy fix.

[01:02:17] I’ve gotten into the habit of always saving phone numbers with their country code. That way, the call will go through no matter where I happen to be. I recommend you do the same because when you’re visiting France and you need to call home because of emergency, the call will not go through unless you saved the number with the country code first.

[01:02:40] So always save numbers in your phone or contacts with the country code, even if it’s +1.

[01:02:48] Now, this is going to sound like I’m skipping to an entirely different subject, but I’m not, give me a second. I’m renovating my apartment in Spain and I decided on an IKEA kitchen because the quality is good for the price, it’s actually great for the price, and also, you can redo a kitchen in a month start to finish if everything goes well with IKEA and speed matters to me.

[01:03:11] So, things are progressing well in my kitchen redo, and one of the steps is a verification from an IKEA employee who was supposed to come to my apartment to make sure that what I’m planning to buy will fit in my space. IKEA is going to do the installation, so they want to make sure I buy all the right cabinets, all the right fittings, all the right things with strange names that are necessary for the new kitchen in my space.

[01:03:39] Because you can do all sorts of things on the IKEA Kitchen Planner, but reality is another matter. So, this guy was supposed to come between 1 and 5 on Tuesday. I’m home, ready for a phone call, followed by the doorbell, hopefully. And that never happens.

[01:03:57] At 4pm, I emailed the kitchen designer at IKEA, and she says, ah, there’s still time, don’t worry, relax lady. Tranquila, tranquila, they say to me. That means relax, relax, yeah, in Spanish. Well, 5pm comes and no kitchen verificator. So, at 6.30 pm I drive to IKEA. They stay open till 9 here because this is Spain.

[01:04:20] Instead of telling me to relax, the lady actually looked at my file and after a few minutes she saw what the problem was. My phone number was missing the +33. No country code, no IKEA kitchen verificator for me. The guy made a note in my file saying: ‘Wrong number, we can’t find the customer’.

[01:04:44] What they should have done is drive to my address anyway, and ring the doorbell. But that’s not the procedure, and I really, I don’t think it’s too much to ask, especially because you have to pay for this verification step in advance. I don’t think anybody’s going to set up an appointment just for giggles, right?

[01:05:00] I mean, they’re going to be home, anyway. And of course, this is not my fault at all, because I did not enter my own phone number in the IKEA system. Somebody, an employee did this a few months ago and was too lazy to enter the country code.

[01:05:15] At any rate, this is going to delay me a little bit, nothing too bad, but since I’m doing this away from home, obviously, and I don’t love being by myself in Spain for weeks on end. So I will go back to France and spend a week and then come back and then go back and forth a few times like that.

[01:05:33] A lot of people don’t know about the country code thing, which is why I’m telling you. The lady who started helping me with this project in September probably ignored that if she didn’t put it in, it wouldn’t work. I’m certain I told her my country code because I always include it. But she was creating my file, I didn’t see what she was typing… I don’t know.

[01:05:54] Here’s what I want you to know, if you did not already, and probably many of you already did, but this is important. All phone numbers must have a country code. Please add the country code to the phone number in your contacts because even if you don’t need it when calling within your country, as soon as you travel, the call will not go through unless you’ve included the country code.

[01:06:18] And you’ll think, you know, it’s horrible service from Verizon or AT&T or whatever, they told me my phone would work in France and it doesn’t, blah, blah, blah. Add the country code and your phone calls will go through. This is really important, because, you know, again, if there’s an emergency, you’re stressed, this is not the time when you need to figure out how to make a call.

[01:06:37] So never add another phone number to your contact list without a country code. Okay, can you do that for me? It’s good practice and will save you grief later.

[01:06:47] My thanks to podcast editors, Anne and Christian Cotovan, who produced the transcripts and make me sound good. Next week on the podcast, an episode about photography, enjoying museums and taking it easy with Greg Rutter, he’s a bit of a flaneur that man, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

[01:07:06] Thank you all for listening and I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together. Au revoir.


[01:07:13] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France travel podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2024 by AddictedToFrance. It is released under a Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives license.



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Category: Provence