This weekend, IAU planned another wonderful excursion for us students. We left early Sunday morning and drove through the Luberon, stopping to visit several towns. I was somewhat familiar with this area since I read A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. The Luberon is particular area and national park just north of Aix-en-Provence that is famous for its mountains, flora and fauna, and picturesque villages.
Our first stop on the excursion was the town of Lourmarin. There is a restored castle on the top of a hill that was built in built in the 12th century and expanded upon in the 15th. Lourmarin is also famous for its large Protestant population. This is also the town where Albert Camus is buried.
Protestant temples, like the one seen in this picture, are generally hard to find in France, but this area has many. In 1545 there was a Protestant massacre in this town. (King Henry IV did not issue the Edict of Nantes protecting Protestant rights until 1598.)
The village itself was gorgeous. It was the picturesque French town with winding, cobblestone street lined with small art galleries, cafes, and shops. On a quiet Sunday morning, it was perfect to pop in and out of shops and admire art galleries through their large windows. Jenna whispered to me that she felt like she was in Disney World and at any moment she thought she was going to walk around a corner and find herself behind a movie set. That’s how beautiful and perfect this town was.
Our next stop along the tour was the town of Lacoste. Another picturesque town overlooking the equally picturesque town of Bonnieux. Savannah College of Art and Design has a campus there, so we ran into some fellow Americans there. (Thanks to Jenna at http://100daysofaixenpvc.blogspot.com/ for letting me steal the following pictures; my camera battery died part way through the day!)
Lacoste is built up on a hill with the ruins of a castle at the top. We climbed up the hill and picnicked there. The weather was perfect- upper 70s, sunny with a light breeze.
As we were walking around, I kept noticing a crunching sound underfoot. When I looked down, I realized that the grass was covered in small snails bleached white from the sun. They had attached themselves to blades of grass, so I thought that they were little bunches of flowers at first.
Again, talk about straight off a post card! It’s hard for me to accept sometimes that people actually live here.
The roads that wind through the Luberon are very narrow, about 1 and 1/2 cars wide, and very windy! There were some rather tense moments when two tour buses were headed straight towards each other around hairpin turns, and it took some impressive maneuvering to fit both buses through.
Next we went to the town of Roussillon. The area is famous for its ochre quarries, which make the soils vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow. To the French, Roussillon is called “Arizona Provençal” There is an ancient legend as to how the hills became red. A long time ago, the area was ruled by Raymond of Avignon who greatly enjoyed hunting, which meant his wife Sermonde was often left alone at home. She soon fell in love with a young troubadour. When Raymond found out, he was furious and had the man hunted down and killed. That night, Raymond threw a banquet serving lots of game. After the meal, he asked Sermonde how she enjoyed the main course. She said it was delicious, and Raymond laughed and told her she had just eaten the heart of her lover. Sermonde was so horrified she ran out of the hall and jumped off a cliff, and it was her blood that stained the countryside red.
It was a great trip, and I’m very glad IAU planned the day for us! I want to try to get back to the Luberon at some point during my stay to do some hiking or biking. We passed tons of mountain and road bikers on the drive, and the area is perfect for it. I think it would make for another fun weekend trip!
Tonight we went to a wine and cheese pairing class. It was fabulous and very interesting! I took lots of notes and pictures, so I’ll post about that very, very soon. First I need to go digest the 5 types of wine, cheese, and bread that I just ate!