In Lourmarin: the village triangle - Three Seasons Around France: Autumn - CycleBlaze

November 14, 2022

In Lourmarin: the village triangle

Today’s post is a photo dump masquerading as a bike ride.  And a hike.

Lourmarin

It was a last minute decision to stay a third night in Lourmarin.  We’d always intended to stay here the first two nights.  It made the list because it’s the natural springboard for the planned ride south to Aix-en-Provence, because it looks like a good base for a day ride or hike, and because as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France there’s probably plenty to see in the town itself.

Also, I want to stay here for sentimental reasons.  We briefly stopped in here before, around midday 25 years ago on our ride from Pertuis to Bonnieux.  I remember it fondly for the market that was underway when we biked in to the center of the village, and for the roasted half-chicken I picked up from one of the stalls and devoured on the spot.  That as much as anything defines my memory of our first visit to Provence.  It was incredible, probably the best experience with a chicken of my life.  

We added the third day because of the weather, which suddenly looks most foul for the next two days.  It’s not a particularly easy ride from here to Aix, and we don’t really want to undertake it on what looks like will be a very wet day.  The forecast predicts significant improvements two days out, so we’ll hole up in the excellent apartment we’ve booked here and wait for them.

Waking up this morning, the weather prediction looks accurate.  Most of today looks like it will be wet, as will all day tomorrow.  It’s dry at the moment though, so soon after breakfast I leave our shelter for a tour of the town.  It looks like I’ve got a couple of hours to work with.  Rachael’s not ready to take off so soon after breakfast, so she’ll leave for a walk later and hope she doesn’t get too wet when she does.

Lourmarin is a small place, with a fairly limited list of essential sights.  For me they include the cemetery and the chateau, and enough of a look at the town itself to get a flavor for it.  Roasted chicken of course would give it the best flavor, but it’s not market day.

Loumerin’s quite pleasant this morning, its streets nearly empty.  Not like yesterday when we came in and they were filled with the Sunday day trippers.  I’m getting the best look at it I can hope for, but I have to say that as nice as it is it doesn’t feel like one of the most beautiful villages in France to me, not when stacked up against places like Conques, Rocamadour, Vezelay and Roussillon.  I wonder what the background on its designation is.  Maybe it has lost some of its character through mass tourism?  It probably didn’t help that Peter Mayle lived here and so many people come to Provence to see the quaint villages of the Luberon he popularized in A Year in Provence.

I complete my loop of the village and am just returning to the room when I look up and see Rachael crossing the street in front of me, just starting her own walk.  I have the only key to the room, so we walk back to it together so I can get in and then I hand it over to her.  That way if conditions improve I can go out again rather than needing to stay around to let her in when she returns.

Across the street from our apartment is the public fountain, dating back to the 17th century. ‘Eau non potable’ the sign above warns, and I believe it.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesLooks like he drank some and the inevitable happened.
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Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesNice they left him here as a warning to others.
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On my way to the cemetery I get a view of the chateau and the nearby Protestant temple.
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The Lourmarin cemetery is a typical assembly of impressive graves, but there’s a surprisingly modest one tucked in on the right.
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It seems fitting that it’s such a low-key memorial. I think he would have approved.
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Rich FrasierYou must have known this in advance? I didn’t know he was buried there. Good find!
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Scott AndersonTo Rich FrasierWe did! I don’t know how I knew this but I was glad for it. I think The Stranger was the first Existentialist work I read, back in college.
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Jacquie GaudetTo Scott AndersonAt first I didn't recognize the book by the title you gave. I read it in French and always think of it that way, as L'Étranger. In Canada, I think the title of the English translation was The Outsider.
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Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetAnd I wouldn’t have recognized it as The Outsider either. It really sounds like a more pertinent translation though.
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Keith AdamsThe density of the surrounding greenery almost makes this seem to be an abandoned building, being taken back by Nature. Your shot above, of the chateau and this church, first put the idea in my head.
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Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsFunny observation. It looks like it’s just sprouting up from the jungle, but it’s a trick of the zoomed perspective. The green in the foreground is actually in the opposite side of the road.
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Lourmarin, with the Luberon rising behind.
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The belfry, built on the site of an old castle.
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The Lourmarin Chateau, the first renaissance castle built in Provence. It had fallen into ruins until its renovation early in the 20th century.
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Keith AdamsIt looks somehow like a U.S. Post Office from the 1930s, or the upper works of a steamboat or tugboat. Or maybe I'm just tired and susceptible to hallucinations, after staying up well into the wee hours to watch Artemis blast into space.
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Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsIt does have that look, doesn’t it? Not particularly elegant, really.
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The grounds below the chateau. Interesting how slanted all the pines are.
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Keith AdamsA result of strong prevailing winds, maybe?
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Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsI don’t think so. Other trees in the vicinity are not like this. I wonder if they were intentionally trained this way.
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The memorial to Robert Laurent-Vibert, who initiated the restoration of the chateau. This is the statue you can see at the far end of the photo above.
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The visitors entrance to the chateau.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesThose doorway framed shots are so pretty.
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Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesIsn’t this a great entrance though? This is the best of it though. It’s not actually all that interesting on the other side.
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I passed this field below the chateau at least four times before we finally left town. There are always donkeys here.
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On the outs.
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Looking into the mouth of the gorge, which begins right out of town. Lourmarin is certainly sited in a spectacular setting.
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In Lourmarin.
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Her turn for a walk.
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Ansouis

I’m back at the room for an hour when I realize that the weather is giving me an unexpected break - maybe four hours, if I leave now.  I have a 40+ loop ride to the east already loaded to the Garmin just in case, so I leave planning to ride at least part of it.  I’m thwarted immediately though, when I somehow delete the ride from my device rather than starting it - something I’ve never done before.  Brain fart.

It’s fine though.  I’m just out for a ride to the east, and my one certain goal is the nearby village of Cucheron.  Rachael and I stayed there back in 2003 and I have warm memories of it and would like to see it again, so I stare at the map and start biking.

Brain fart number two - I miss my turn and discover that I’ve veered off to the southeast, with a different village rising up on a hill a few miles ahead of me.  This is fine too though - it looks interesting seen from below, so I’ll visit it as long as I’m here and then study the map again.

On the way to Cucheron, or at least that’s the plan.
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Interesting.
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Keith AdamsGives new meaning to the description "barrel-chested".
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Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsThat’s the phrase I was searching for but couldn’t bring up. I kept getting stuck on six pack abs, which doesn’t really work.
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Keith AdamsTo Scott AndersonAlways happy to help.
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What’s this place, I ask? Ansouis, the Garmin responds in its quiet way. Never heard of it, but I might as well bike up there and have a look.
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I’m startled as I bike up to town when I pass by a sign identifying Ansouis  as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France.  This place too?  It’s a little embarrassing - after saying we don’t really seek these places out, here I am at my third in as many days.

Ansouis doesn’t feel like Rocamadour or Vezelay or Conques either.  In fact it feels pretty dead.  There’s almost nobody around and only minimal sign of a commercial presence.  It looks like there’s a B&B here and a cafe and a few shops, but really not much else.  It’s quite interesting though and well worth the trek up.  More interesting than Lourmarin really, in my humble opinion.

Entering the upper village through the Petit Portail.
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The belfry.
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The belfry.
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Keith AdamsA modern contrivance, in the Minimalist tradition? "Suggestive of a belfry yet open and mostly invisible, implying the impermanence of existence" or some such explanatory tripe.
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1 week ago
It looks like there’s lodging here, in season at least.
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ann and steve maher-wearyGreat picture, I love the colors, blue door, red leaves, a shot of yellow with the flowers and the artistic sign.
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Scott AndersonTo ann and steve maher-wearyI liked the look too. Made me think it might be a great place to stay a night.
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And an art gallery.
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In Ansouis.
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A pair of rarely opened windows.
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In Ansouis.
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At the top of the village, the passageway to the village in front of the church.
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A spectacular view to the west, if I’ve got my bearings right.
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I’m a little mixed up by the monumental structures at the top - the church, the citadel, the consul house. They all blend together.
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The entrance to Saint Martin Church.
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The corner of the same structure that houses the church. The whole thing looks more fortification than house of worship. This corner looks like it was designed by Vauban.
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I understand that the interior of Saint Martin Church was used as a film location for Jean de Flourette and Mannon of the Spring. I’ll have to look for that when I watch them again some winter night.
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Cucheron

I’ve spent far longer poking around Ansouis than I’d anticipated, and I’m starting to run out of day and perhaps dry weather.  The direct way back is a bit shorter, but it doesn’t add  much to swing by Cucheron on the way so I decide to do that and have a quick look to see if it jogs any memories.

On route to Cucheron. In the background is the summit of the Grand Luberon, at 1,256 meters elevation the high point in the range.
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Cucheron does bring back memories, and earns some admiration.  There’s quite a bit to see here, and it has a respectable character - there’s support for tourism, but the place doesn’t look dominated by it.  It’s worth more than the half hour or so I have to poke around, but unfortunately that’s all I’ve got.  It’s about four when I leave, and it’s looking grey and like rain could break out at any minute.  It’s a good thing that it’s downwind and generally downhill for the ride back to Lourmarin, and that I don’t get lost this time.

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Scott AndersonTo ann and steve maher-wearyIt was really nice to see this spot again. I’d forgotten all about it. This is one of those unfortunate tours where I quit keeping a journal half way through and my memories are very faded.
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Keith AdamsInteresting to see both Romanesque and Gothic arch styles together in one structure.
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A cat in Cucheron.
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A last look back. Nice place, Cucheron. If I were nominating places for the most beautiful villages in France, I might include this one.
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ann and steve maher-wearyHoping to cycle the south of France in the spring. You are showing us how perfect Provence and the quaint villages of the Luberon are for cycling. It is going to be hard not to just put your routes in and follow along in your footsteps. Your photos are glorious, with the fall colors. You are still having fine cycling weather!
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo ann and steve maher-wearyYou should definitely check out the Luberon, especially if you can be here off of peak season. You should look further north too. The plateau around Sault and Montbruns is beautiful, and there’s a mountain of note nearby that might interest you. Also the Nesque Gorge, which you really don’t want to miss.
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Ride stats today: 15 miles, 1,000’; for the tour: 1,757 miles, 97,000’

Today's ride: 15 miles (24 km)
Total: 1,757 miles (2,828 km)

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