Chalk-faced hills, pine trees with striking needles and a blue sky bursting with sunlight all combine to make the Luberon an area of scintillating happiness. Perched on the top of its hills every dry stone village hides a fountain, from which fresh and revitalising water flows under the shadows of centuries-old plane-trees.
Alhough this is a stereotype enhanced each summer by chic Parisiens, Londoners and New Yorkers, the Luberon remains a land of traditions where you can live well, eat well and relax.
The art of living, gastronomy and relaxation form the three pillars of Provencal hospitality. They come together in different ways depending on the character and the location of each hotel, allowing us to divide these establishments into three main categories:
- Gourmet hotels (many a top chef has brought the taste buds to life in this corner of Province),
- “Mas” (Provencal farmhouses) and other isolated “bastides” (country houses) which only crickets would dare disturb,
- Village hotels, which allows you to sample the Provencal markets and atmosphere while often also allowing you to take advantage of the beautiful views of the surrounding area.
Hotel in Luberon: The Gastronomy Bias
Bastide de Capelongue in Bonnieux – Two Michelin stars (2010). Chef Edouard Loubet created the Bastide in 2005 after his spell at the Moulin de Lourmarin, and he was duly rewarded in 2006 when it received a two-star Michelin rating.
Born in Val Thorens in 1970, this particularly creative chef spent his childhood between top level skiing and the family’s hotel-restaurant.
A chef who works with nature and plants, he takes his inspiration from the changes in the seasons, abiding by one belief: simplicity (oh how we dream of it!). His dishes: Truffle pie finished off with a truffled corn purée, pop corn with burnet leaves, black trumpet mushrooms in truffle vinaigrette, sea bass with “fleur de sel” sea salt - “memories of the Corsican coast” - and a light infusion of sausage and orange chips.
The Bastide de Capelongue and its gourmet restaurant is coupled with the Ferme de Capelongue just a stones throw away, which is more designer and offers cookery classes.
Les Bories & Spa in Gordes – One Michelin star (2010). Although the Les Bories hotel started its rise to fame in the mid 80s, it is above all since June 1999 that this establishment, inspired by its new owner François Gallon and thanks to large-scale investment, has been able to reach and hold onto its current stature.
One of the most luxurious hotels in the Luberon region, Les Bories has a gourmet restaurant which has been headed by chef Pascal Ginoux since 2004 and which was awarded its one-star Michelin rating in 2007.
Originally from Oppède and having passed by the stoves of Edouard Loubet to get where he is today, the young Les Bories chef reinvents Provencal cuisine, as seen with his rack of lamb glazed with lemon confit.
Hostellerie le Phébus in Joucas – One Michelin star (2010). Originally from Paris and learning his trade in the kitchens of Roger Vergé (Moulin de Mougins), Gérard Vié and Joël Robuchon, chef Xavier Mathieu treats his diners with recipes full of traditional food mixed in with eastern influences, new visions of gourmet dishes and little secrets of his own: Cod with Venetian leeks ( a Mémé Rose recipe); shredded Confit of lamb in a pastry crust with cumin and a potato fondue drizzled with olive oil; Lobster tail with lemongrass, spicy coconut milk and celery cannelloni.
Auberge de la Feniére in Lourmarin – One Michelin Star (2010). Here, everything began with a love story – that of Reine Sammaut, who fell in love with the man who would become her future husband and who convinced her to leave her native Vosges and her beloved studies to learn about good Provencale cuisine and take over the family restaurant.
At the ripe old age of 80 Reine’s heart is still in cooking, as she brings feminine creativity and a festive and international touch to the area’s traditional cuisine: Steam cooked Mediterranean sea bass with coriander, tempura oysters with spinach and broccoli and cream flavoured with kaffir lime zest.
There is a warm atmosphere here and it is also possible to take cookery classes in this highly gourmet establishment.
Domaine des Andéols in Saint-Saturnin-les-Apts – In March 2010, chef Guy Martin took over from Alain Ducasse, who had been culinary consultant for the Domaine des Andéols à Saint-Saturnin-les-Apts since 2005.
The owners, Partizia and Olivier Massart, hoped that this move would help them reap the culinary rewards that their beautiful house so thoroughly deserves.
Mas des Herbes Blanches in Joucas – Since arriving in 2009 in order to obtain a Michelin star for this establishment, chef Akhara Chay has injected new life and dynamism into traditional Provencal cuisine thanks to his Thai and Cambodian roots. Dishes include Saint Jacques d’Erquy nuts with pop corn, fresh leeks in dry Muscat wine, young rabbit saddle with scampi and soba noodles with spring onions and tomato confit.
La Prévôté, in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, may be less prestigious and more classical but it is still a gourmet restaurant with guest rooms, in the tastefully renovated settings of a former public wash house.
Hotel in Luberon : Mas, Bastides & Crickets
Go there for the Spa: Relais & Châteaux Le Couvent des Minimes - opened in 2009 with participation from the beauty product’s label L’Occitane, the Couvent des Minimes is found in the east of the Luberon bordering the foothills of Haute-Provence.
Beautilly settled in a former convent dating back to the 16th century, the property has been renovated following a design concept that is sobre, soft and minimalist all at the same time.
L’Occitane’s first Spa acts as a way for the Manosque label to pay tribute to its native region, by creating this luxurious hotel in a part of the Provence that remains totally authentic. The restaurant, the view and the swimming pool will convince those who aren’t completely won over by the Spa.
Go there for the wine: La Coquillade - located in the middle of 30 hectares of vineyard near to Apt, this charming hotel opened in 2009 by Swiss hoteliers is dedicated to wine tourism and discovering Provence. Whether it be visiting the establishment’s wine warehouses (where Aureto wine is made), taking bike rides, enjoying gourmet meals or hiring classics cars, hotel guests are completely pampered. With a modern design yet one inspired by Provence, la Coquillade’s 28 rooms, including 24 suites (9 of which are junior suites), are spread across a hamlet of six individual buildings.
Go there for the view: Relais & Chateaux Abbaye de Sainte Croix - a former abbey converted into a charming hotel by the Bossard family, who have been at the helm for the past 25 years, the Abbaye de Sainte Croix offers one of the most extensive views of the Provencal landscape from its terraces. Chef Jérémy Picanol offers reliable and flavoursome local cuisine, whilst the bedrooms, built in the former chambers of the Abbey, are typically Provencal, that is to say very stylish but perhaps a tad old fashioned.
Go there for the elegance: La Bastide de Marie - If your dream is to play the Provencal gentleman farmer, and to do so as authentically as possible, then the Bastide de Marie is the place for you. A former farm situated in the middle of around 15 hectares of vineyard, olive trees and lavender and sage fields, the Bastide de Marie was the vision of designers Joceyln and Jean-Louis Sibuet.
They conceived this hotel with the same care as other projects such as the Villa de Marie de Saint Tropez in Saint Tropez or the Fermes de Maries in Megéve. Designed with reassuring taste, each of the 14 bedrooms and 5 suites bears the name of a Provencal herb, and some even have their own chimney or terrace. A spa, two swimming pools and a restaurant also add to the feeling of easy living. And if candle-lit meals on the terrace aren’t enough for you, from summer 2010 you can even choose to sleep in a caravan and let the chic, bohemian atmosphere take you away.
Go there for conviviality: L’Auberge de l’Aiguebrun - a genuine oasis of conviviality and indulgence, l’Auberge de l’Aiguebrun is a former Provencal manor dating back to the 19th century that has been transformed into a fairy tale hotel for food lovers. The calm of the surrounding hills, the nearby river, the small houses scattered around the area and the cookery classes on offer create an environment that is undeniably one of relaxation and pleasure.
Other hotels include:
- Le Mas de la Sénancole, for a touch of tranquillity, right next to Gordes,
- L’Hostellerie La Grangette, for a warm and traditional welcome, near to Isle-sur-la-Sorgue,
- Le Mas des Grès, for a bit of indulgent and convivial escapism, even though its proximity to the main road doesn’t allow for a total escape.
- Le Domaine de la Grange Neuve, rustic but very secluded.
Hotel in Luberon : Village mansions & Traditions
In Gordes – La Bastide de Gordes: created by Jacques Mazet at the end of the 80s, this 16th century residence evolved in the very fortifications of Gordes.
Nested a stone’s throw away from the very touristy market place area, La Bastide de Gordes has terraces on the outskirts of the village, and from its gardens, swimming pool, spa or certain bedrooms there are some incredible views of the valley to admire.
Constantly renovated to give its interior a Provencal feel that is both stylish and equipped with all the modern home comforts, the hotel opened a Sisley Spa in 2009 covering over 800m² and spread across three floors. Although other hotels may offer a more original feeling of luxury or more options for gourmet food, the Bastide is still an institution in the region.
Also in Gordes – Le Mas des Romarins: a former 19th century residence opposite the village of Gordes, on the road which leads to l’Abbaye de Sénaque, this small, charming hotel is a little gem. On top of being the only hotel from which you can admire the village and yet be so close to it, le Mas de Romarins also offers attentive service – and, above all, prices that are much more affordable than other hotels in the area.
In Fontaine de Vaucluse – Hotel du Poète: located below the village of Fontaine de Vaucluse (one of the Luberon’s most popular destinations due to its unique landscape at the foot of a cliff from where the river Sorgue springs), the Hotel de Poète was once a windmill. Benefiting from proximity to the village yet also a peaceful setting by the river Sorgue (visible from the back of the hotel, while the front overlooks the road), the hotel allows for the best of both worlds: tranquillity yet without total isolation. With its park, river and swimming pool, this poet’s ode is one to relaxation!
In Lourmarin – Moulin de Lourmarin: although the 18th century oil-producing windmill has given way to a modern boutique hotel, it has preserved its Provencal ambiance. This is undoubtedly due to its location in the heart of the village of Lourmarin, surrounded by old stones and with pleasant limewood terraces. Historically known for its gourmet restaurant, the Moulin de Lourmarin will open for the 2010 season under new management but without a restaurant – or at least until the arrival of the new team.
In Roques-sur-Pernes – Château la Roque: an 11th century fortress situated at the top of a hillside village, the Château la Roque has been renovated with care and taste to offer a charming hotel boasting history and a unique landscape. The owners, who love these old stones, are good guides to help you discover every alley, stairway, cobblestone road and passage of the marvellous village of Roque-sur-Pernes.
In Rousillon – Le Clos de la Glycine: this charming little hotel & restaurant is located in the heart of Rousillon, one of the Luberon’s most beautiful villages. With light and colourful décor all around, the hotel’s nine rooms offer incredible views of Rousillon’s ochre and the village itself. The main suite offers a stunning panoramic view – one to almost rival that of the restaurant’s, with its succulent food.
In Bonnieux – Le Clos du Buis: located at the entry to the village of Bonnieux, Le Clos du Buis, a large, detached stone house that has been completely renovated, offers a panoramic view of Mont Ventoux, the Luberon and the surrounding villages. As well as the family atmosphere there is private parking, eight unique and carefully designed rooms, and a garden with a swimming pool.
In Isle-sur-la-Sorgue – La Prévôté: situated right in the heart of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, a paradisiacal village with canals and antiques shops, this former municipal wash house was turned into a restaurant which opened some guest rooms in 2009, offering soft décor that is both modern and Provencal.