Exploring the Provence and its beautiful villages

Let’s head to Aix-en-Provence and its surrounding region for a three-day trip. A trip where time doesn’t matter and where one gets to experience a second summer. A way of enjoying the sweetness of an intimate and calm moment in the south, and following rivers under the autumn’s delicate light.

By Christian-Luc Parison
Le Pays préféré des Français YouTube channel (“The favourite village of the French”, in French): Provence and its atypical villages.

Friday, 1st day

Marseille – Provence – Departure at 10:30am.

A7 autoroute to Lyon, then A 51 to Aix-en-Provence

11:15am Arrival at Aix-en-Provence

Le Pays préféré des Français channel – Aix-en-Provence and surrounding villages.

The travel obviously began by a little stroll along the “Cours Mirabeau” street. This is one of the most crowded and lively places of Aix, a place where light and shadow play under the plane trees and where kings used to walk. Built in the 17th century in lieu of a rampart, it is now a natural separation between the two most important parts of the city: the “Quartier Mazarin” district and the old town. It is a place to wander and to hang around the many café terraces situated on the left sidewalk on the way to the king René statue. In a certain way, we take a moment to live…

Le cour Mirabeau à Aix-en-Provence
The “Cours Mirabeau” at Aix-en-Provence – ©

After that, it was time to leisurely walk on the streets of the old town. It is the oldest part of the city centre. It unites the village of Saint-Sauveur and the Cité Comtale. In place of the roman city, the village of Saint-Sauveur stretches from the cathedral to the clock tower and its bell tower (with an astronomical clock and statues that represent the four seasons) next to the town hall. We also found here many café terraces (which Aix is not short of) that get crowded on the very first day of summer, just like the ones on “Place des Cardeurs”. 

La place des Cardeurs à Aix-en-Provence
Created in 1963, the “Place des Cardeurs” is surrounded by beautiful restored houses – Photo: Aix-en-Provence city hall website.

Surrounded by boutiques, the pedestrian alley is quite busy. If you keep walking on that street, you will find the old Halle aux grains music venue next to “Place Richelme” and the farmer’s market. A Provence market just like the ones that French singer Gilbert Bécaud sings about. Towards the University square, you will find the Saint-Sauveur cathedral, of Romanesque and gothic architecture on the outside with a Baroque touch inside, a place that is worth visiting.

Saint-Sauveur cathedral in Aix-en-Provence – Aix ma ville (“Aix, my city”, in French) YouTube channel.

12.30pm. Lunch on the terrace of the Côté Cour restaurant on the “Cours Mirabeau”, under an opening roof. Ronan Kernen, former Top Chef contestant, welcomes us in a luminous decor with a modern and clean style. A lounge ambiance in a place where people come to be seen, but more importantly to eat well! The chef uses the best local products, cooks traditional meals and doesn’t care about trends. His mushroom risotto is to die for… 

Côté Cour, le restaurant de Ronan Kernen
“Côté Cour”: the restaurant of Ronan Kernen (former Top Chef contestant) – ©  Côté Cour restaurant.

Côté Cour – 19 Cours Mirabeau, 13100 Aix-en-Provence –

2pm. In the steps of Paul Cézanne: a 3km pedestrian route that allows you to discover the landmarks of the painter. Just like Little Poucet, you need to keep your eyes on the ground to find the studs stamped with a “C” (for Cézanne). The house where he lived, his favourite cafés, the cemetery where he was buried… Special mention for the “Atelier des Lauves” (Cézanne’s studio), in the north of the city, that’s where Paul Cézanne used to paint while looking to his beloved Sainte-Victoire mountain.

Guided tour of Paul Cézanne’s studio in Aix-en-Provence – MyProvence YouTube channel.

Discover the Paul Cézanne’s circuit at the Aix-en-Provence office tourism.

3:15pm. We took the D17 (which we often call the “Route Cézanne”) to the Château du Tholonet. The 17thcentury Bastide is a meeting point for walkers. From there, we went to Saint-Antonin-sur-Bayon where we were able to enjoy a beautiful view of the Sainte-Victoire mountain. 

4:30pm. Direction Salon-de-Provence by the A8, then A7 (the sun motorway). We stopped to visit the house of Nostradamus, turned into a museum. 

Nostradamus in Provence

Born in 1503 in Saint-Rémy de Provence, Michel de Nostredame died in 1566 in Salon-de-Provence. For the 500th anniversary of his birth, the two Provençale towns have prepared many events that will take place until December. Conferences, concerts, historical reconstruction, expositions, visit of Nostradamus house-museum in Salon-de-provence… In Saint-Rémy, a historical reconstruction with period costumes is scheduled for the 9th of august and a “In the steps of Nostradamus” circuit will happen on the 20th and the 21st of September on Heritage days. Including a Sound & Light show on his birthday, the 14th of December. The touristic circuit “Provence at the time of Nostradamus” will allow you to follow the steps of this 16th century scholar reputed seer. Phone: 04 90 92 74 91 and 04 90 56 27 60.

6pm. We took the autoroute D17 to the north: Eyguières, Mouriès then Maussane and the Chaîne des Alpilles. The white snow on the mountaintops was glowing under the light at the end of the day.

7pm. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. We drop off our luggage at the Château des Alpilles located outside the village. Surrounded by centuries-old plane trees, the beautiful house is nestled in a vast garden and looks like something out of a Marcel Pagnol book. 

Le majestueux Château des Alpilles
At the foot of the Alpilles, the Château des Alpilles extends over an area of seven hectares in a lush garden full of exotic plants – © the Château des Alpilles.

We had dinner in the garden and slept in old-fashioned but charming rooms. Upon waking up, we had a good swim in the beautiful outdoor swimming pool.

8:30pm. We had an aperitif and dinner on the patio of the Auberge of Saint-Rémy, it was a great way to enjoy the elegant cuisine of Fanny Rey and the desserts of Jonathan Wahid. Former France champion of desserts when he worked at the Ritz in Paris, the baker also used to work with his brother Sylvestre at the famous Oustau de Beaumanière restaurant at Baux-de-Provence and has managed to open a successful restaurant with his wife. For which they were awarded a Michelin star. After this gastronomically experience, we went for a walk in the evening’s warm weather, along the boulevards that surround the old district of Saint-Rémy.

Saturday, 2nd day

Des maisons de pierre sèche nichées dans la végétation à flanc de colline : tout le charme du Luberon.
Dry stone houses hidden in the hillside’s vegetation: the charming beauty of the Luberon. 

Under the sunlight, the Alpilles look like they’re coming out of an Alphonse Daudet’s tale. We walk in the little streets in the heat haze. Let’s forget Baux and its Mont-Saint-Michel impression, and let’s go to Maussane. A real village of the Alpilles with its massive church. A game of pétanque was being played at the square, which a traveller could have easily joined in. Crowned by the clock’s tower, Eygalières is also a charming place where one can spend some time at the café with the regular customers. After that we went to La Durance in Cavaillon, and then to Luberon with its hillside villages and valleys. 

Gordes, un des plus beaux villages perchés de Provence.
Gordes: one of the most beautiful hilltop villages. 

On the farmer’s market of the Petit-Palais, every Saturday, from March to December, some local farmers come to sell their products: fruits and vegetables, olive oil, honey, gingerbread, chicken, herbs… Good-natured ambiance. An initiative that started twenty years ago, which shows that the region didn’t wait for the “eat local” trend to start enhancing its better products… 

The Vaucluse is the leading producer of truffles in France, which you can see by the truffle’s market every Sunday of Christmas in Ménerbes. To know more about this precious mushroom, you can go to the Maison de la Truffe et du vin du Luberon in the Clock’s tower square. A meeting place where you can book a table at the Cantine des Gourmets for a little gastronomically trip to enjoy truffles and regional wines. 

Shop of the Maison de la Truffe et du Vin du Luberon located in Ménerbes – ©Maison de la Truffe et du Vin du Luberon.

When he was the mayor for fifteen years, the cinema producer Yves Rousset-Rouard (Emmanuelle, Les Bronzés…) multiplied the initiatives to make his adorable village a known place of culture and art of living in Luberon. From thirty years, at the head of the Domaine de la Citadelle (famous vineyard), the creation of the Maison de la truffe et du vin du Luberon was his doing, as well as the unconventional Corckscrew Museum…

In Ménerbes, if you push open the door of the old cemetery full of vegetation you will find a wall with a view to the Castallet, the big house where painter Nicolas de Stael used to live. Here you can see the landscape of the Luberon up till the snow-capped mountain of Mont Ventoux. 

1pm: On the hilltop of Luberon, Gordes represents the simple beauty of exceptional landmarks. Surrounding the castle, the houses are carved into stone and are connected by a complex labyrinth of narrow alleys. 

Midi en France channel (“Midi in France”, in French): Gordes, a belvedere in Luberon. 

Admirably well preserved, this distinguished member of the “most beautiful villages of France” houses a gorgeous hotel with panoramic terraces in a 16th century building: La Bastide de Gordes. 

La Bastide de Gordes : calme et sérénité au bord d’une des plus belles piscines avec vue de Provence.
La Bastide de Gordes: calm and serenity by one of the most beautiful swimming pools of Provence. 

We gave the keys to the valet, dressed in a linen shirt and embroidered waistcoat, and entered into the coolness of the Provençale house. Sunlight pours through the doors and will guide you to the terrace where the tables are ready for lunch. 

L'intérieur de la Bastide de Gordes
La Bastide, in Gordes: a tasty breakfast in a historical setting. The new decoration by Christophe Tollemer respects the warm and refined style of a Provençale house. 

The quality of the meals by Jean-François Piège and the stunning panorama of the Luberon will make your eyes go back and forth between your plate and the landscape.

Le charme du Luberon
Dry stone houses hidden in the vegetation of the hillside: the charm of the Luberon.

3pm. We drove again for some more kilometres to get to the Sénanque Abbey. The Cistercian building, located in a lavender field, is a sight for sore eyes. Then, pit stop at Bonnieux in front of the Lacoste Château where Pierre Gardin organizes a festival of classical music every summer. Another stop at Roussillon to see the ochre pits and finally Goult. This discreet village is loved by everyone. Its “Café de la Poste” is a famous place.

Le Café de la Poste de Goult
The terrace of this decades-old emblematic place is one of the rare places where celebrities who live in the region can have a coffee without being disturbed.

This bistro-tabac-press house is one of the most important spots of the region. The sunny terrace welcomes construction workers, bakers and plumbers alongside stars during their vacations. It is one of the rare places where, some years ago, John Malkovitch could come as any other neighbour to read his journal without being disturbed. 

Le charmant village de Goult
The village of Goult is Luberon’s best kept secret. Less popular than its neighbour Gordes, it has all the benefits of a peaceful life in the Provence.

6pm. In an enchanting valley, at the foot of the Ménerbes, the Bastide de Marie is surrounded by yellow grapevines. One can feel the authenticity of this place, which looks more like a friend’s house than a hotel. Yellow mimosa, purple aster, Nîmes blue… those are the colours of the rooms. A delicate atmosphere where stone matches the linen fabric. In the living room, one can browse the books from the bookcase on the denim clothed sofa in front of the big patina stone chimney. 

La Bastide de Marie nichée au coeur du Luberon
At the foot of Ménerbes village, la Bastide de Marie hides its private villas in the vineyards. 

At the extremity of the property, by following the pathway surrounded by lavenders, one will find an antique farm of the 18th century that houses the Villa Grenache. A beautiful house to rent for a family.

La villa Grenache nichée au coeur de la Bastide de Marie
A little far away from the main house, the Bastide de Marie is an intimate house inside a wall surrounded by lavender fields.

Staircases used by many generations of farmers, decoration with ancient local furniture and objects made by local artisans, everything here invites you to take your time: you can have breakfast under a pergola, then enjoy the private swimming pool sheltered from the mistral by a stone wall, with the last vintage of the Bastide, a delicious rosé produced there…

La piscine privée de la villa Grenache à la Bastide de Marie
Apart from its five bedrooms and living rooms that can host ten people, the Villa Grenache also has a charming and private outdoor heated swimming pool.

8pm. We had dinner at L’Estellan. A restaurant alongside the route, at the Hamlet of Imberts, three minutes from Gordes, L’Estellan is one of the renowned restaurants of the region. The mansion is big, welcoming and looks like a bistro with a chic style. 

There, you will see an original decoration that matches trendy colours and living materials with patina walls and nice texts of Alphonse Daudet and Frédéric Mistral. A creative cuisine with Mediterranean flavours and the best products that the chef buys at dawn on the regional markets. Nice terrace in the garden… Young and efficient waitresses.

Les Imberts, route de Gordes. (04 90 72 04 90).

Sunday, 3rd day

The first sunrays appeared on the Notre-Dame de Lumières bell tower and we stopped at a bakery. Their sourdough bread is famous across the region and is reserved for the early birds… the smart ones order it days in advance. With our flavorous brioches, we then took off for 15km and arrived on l’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, the bargain hunters’ paradise. Before that, we stopped at Coustellet to visit the Lavender Museum and to feel the good ambiance of the city’s market. Like the others markets of the Provence de Bécaud, people there talk “avé l’assent” (with the accent, in regional French language) in a cheerful way. 

It is a good thing we left early, that way we could park in l’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue before the rush. With its river system, l’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is nicknamed the “Provençale Venice” (like Martigues and others…).

Les bords de l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
La Sorgue, which splits into two, gave its name to this pretty town that was the most important city of the Comtat Venaissin when popes ruled in Avignon. 

The city’s charm is due to its chanting river channels, just like its alleys and docks where one can enjoy a drink; but more importantly its reputation has been build thanks to its many antique dealers and brocanteurs. Since 1978, this profession has been growing after the creation of the first village of antique dealers.

Les façades des maisons de l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
Here, walls tell stories… One can find many antique boutiques on the shores of the Sorgue.

Nowadays, there are 500 exhibitors between the Villages and the flea markets on the weekend. L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is the isle of flea markets. There is a kind of nice disorder everywhere you go, even in the alleys of the old town. The stalls are put on the road in front of the stores and the tourists have to slow down because of how dense is the crowd that wanders between light and shadow.

Notre-Dame des Anges à l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
Built in the 17th century, in the site of a 13th century collegiate church, the Collégiale Notre Dame des Anges is one of the most beautiful historical monuments of the city.

Then, we enjoyed a daily special at the terrace of the Jardin d’Aubanel and we visited some art galleries on the Cours Anatole-France and the Quai Clovis-Hugues. The city of René Char is like a poem dedicated to articles of yesterday and always. 

Les terrasses au pied de Notre-Dame des Anges
The terraces are always full in front of the Collégiale Notre-Dame des Anges.

Places to visit


The Atelier des Lauves
 – 9 avenue Paul Cézanne – Phone: 04 42 21 06 53.
Maison Sainte-Victoire, Saint-Antonin-sur-Bayon – Phone: 04 42 66 84 40


Mas des Barres – Oil mill run by René Quenin. You can buy souvenirs at the shop and book a visit of the manufacture – Phone: 04 90 54 44 32.


Le Village des Antiquaires de la Gare (80 shops) – 2 bis avenue de l’Égalité – Phone: 04 90 38 04 57.
L’île aux Brocantes (40 shops) – 7 avenue des 4 Otages – Phone: 04 90 20 69 93.

Where to eat?

In Eygalières: “Chez Bru” Eygalières bistro. More of a restaurant than a bistro, but with a friendly ambiance.
Rue de la République – Phone: 04 90 90 60 34.

In Maussane: This beautifully decorated restaurant in front of the church was a good surprise. During beautiful days, you need to book a table if you want to eat on the terrace.
City centre, 65 avenue Vallée des Baux – Phone: 04 90 54 23 31.

In Saint-Rémy: Auberge Saint-Rémy. Fanny Rey cooks wonderful meals while her husband Jonathan Wahid (former baker at the Ousteau de Beaumanière restaurant) makes the desserts and welcomes the customers. A place you need to visit! 
12 Mirabeau boulevard – Phone: 04 90 92 15 33.

In Coustellet: The family-run grocery has become a restaurant where you can eat a generous regional meal. As for the wine, the customer can choose the bottle in the wine cellar. On evenings, meals cost 31 euros. 
Maison Gouin, route nationale – Phone: 04 90 76 90 18. 

In Gordes

Le Bouquet de Basilic. Daily specials, light salads, nice place. 
Route de Murs – Phone: 04 90 72 06 98

Clover Gordes. The restaurant was inaugurated last year by chef Jean-François Piège in La Bastide, in Gordes. It is the perfect combination of his two universes: Clover Green vegetable cuisine and Clover Grill embers. You can enjoy your meal inside the restaurant (which looks like a country house) or on the terrace with a view on the Luberon. 
Phone: 04 90 72 12 12

In MénerbesBistrot Le 5. A cosy room and a vaulted cellar offer an off-season warm atmosphere, but the terrace is what ensures the restaurant’s success… along with its cuisine, of course. On beautiful days, people rush to the terrace to enjoy their meal while admiring the valley and the Mont Ventoux. 
Phone: 04 90 72 31 84

In GoultLe Café de la Poste. A place to visit rather for its terrace’s ambiance than for its cuisine. Generous daily specials and grilled meals… If you go for lunch, you’ll find a busy restaurant, so I advise you to book your table…
Rue de la République – Phone: 04 90 72 23 23

In l’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue: Cute restaurant which is also a flower shop and a flea market. Refined daily specials, tasty desserts, and smiling waitresses. The terrace is a true wonder.
Au Jardin d’Aubanel – 9 rue Théodore Aubanel – Phone: 04 90 20 66 94

Where to sleep?

La Maison. Domaine de Bournissac. At the end of an avenue of evergreen oaks, in the middle of vineyards overlooking the countryside of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, this 14th century Mediterranean farmhouse (“mas”, in French) opens its blue shutters over the surrounding fields. Twelve luminuous rooms to enjoy simple moments. Mediterranean cuisine. Double rooms from € 145. 
Phone: 04 90 90 25 25 –

La Maison du Village. David and Vicki have fallen in love with that charming house that they bought in 2017. An adorable little hotel, beautifully decorated in a provençal chic style by Vicki. You can enjoy your brunch or a tea in the garden. Doube rooms from € 190. 
10, rue du 8 mai 1945, St-Rémy-de-Provence – Phone: 04 32 60 68 20 –

La Bastide de Marie. In an enchanting valley, at the foot of the Ménerbes, the Bastide de Marie is surrounded by yellow grapevines. One can feel the authenticity of this house, that looks more like a friend’s house than a hotel. Double rooms from € 450. The price includes breakfast, dinner (for two) with wines from the propriety, aperitif and tea during the afternoon. 
Ménerbes – Phone: 04 90 72 30 20 –

La Bastide des Demoiselles. Surrounded by the houses of an adorable and traditional hamlet in the grapevines, this ancient magnanery of the 18th century is composed of five big rooms. Double rooms from € 165.
Roussillon-en-Provence – Phone: 06 14 15 04 72.

Au ralenti du lierre. At the foot of the cliff, in the hamlet of Beaumettes, five minutes in the centre of Gordes, this house of the 18th century has been admirably restored by the owners. Thierry and Serge, both aesthetes, have managed to keep the French ceiling, floor tiles and spiral staircase. Brown patina walls from Roussillon, salon’s chimney, beautiful swimming pool in the closed garden… everything there brings calm and serenity. From the garden’s terrace, you can see the pink roof tiles and blue mountains of the Luberon. Double rooms for two nights: € 240.
Les Beaumettes – RN 100 – Phone: 04 90 72 39 22 –

La Bastide de Gordes. At the foot of the cliff, dominating one of the most beautiful landscapes of the Luberon, this magnificient house has forty rooms and suites decorated by the talentuous Christophe Tollemer. Antique panelling, Toile de Jouy, 18th century floor tiles… and many terraces with a restaurant and three swimming pools. One of the most distinguished places of the whole Provence. 
61 rue de la Combe – Phone: 04 90 72 12 12 –