Updated: Nov 30, 2021
End of November. It's freezing in Paris. People are stepping on an endless dry, yellow leaves carpet. Why not sliding back with me in the tunnel of time? back to September, to a region that diffuses warmth, light and beauty - Luberon. Already the name resonates so melodically.
After discovering the Ancient Roman Empire in Nîmes. I was heading to a region I had heard a lot about it. Luberon and to its largest town. Cavaillon.
I have arrived in a region where nature and art are integrated into a classical written poem.
I visited particular sites that were a revelation to me. Let me invite you to Luberon, where the ancient and the forgotten world is coming back to life.
"Would you like to drink coffee"? Asked me Olivier Morand, the owner of the L'Hôtel d'Agar in Cavaillon.
Shortly after arriving at Cavaillon, I was sitting in the sumptuous garden of L'Hôtel d'Agar
The word Hôtel has multiple definitions in the French language. Here it signifies a private villa that serves nowadays as a museum.
Relaxing in this outstanding garden, waiting for the coffee from my gallant host. I was in a garden taken from "Dante's poetry-fantasy." Various sculptures from different decades. A lot of Italian -Greek inspiration with allegorical meaning. Statues , African photos, fountains amid flowers and plants. All is balanced harmoniously. The Hôtel d'Agar is a house that Olivier and his family bought 24 years ago. It was empty and abandoned. They have found many objects and statues, during archaeological digs, some even from the 6th year before Jesus Christ.
Olivier Morand explains the origins of the discovered objects in the house and the Hill Saint Jacques with such clarity and depth that it makes the excursion in the rooms enthralling. I was diving into a historical book with yellowish, rustling pages.
It feels like you are entering a castle where all the most fantastic spirits are reunited
(including a special guest- David Bowie- (a picture of the late beloved singer is in one of the rooms) for a gala dinner.
The rooms are half-obscured, half-lightened, which adds to this magical -gothic atmosphere. It was great to notice the eclectic choices from ancient to modern. It is arranged flawlessly.
The collections are from various housewares, paintings statues: an entirely decorated ceiling was discovered during the renovations, In the last room on the top floor, is exposed an original of the renown painter Caravaggio.
I left this unique Museum -villa enchanted. I was soaked entirely in the beauty from autrefois.. as the French say ( from other times)
The town of Cavaillon, one of the oldest in France, was founded in the 6th year before J.C.
Its character was formed and shaped during all these centuries.
It was such a wonder to see the architecture of the building. It was originally built in the Middle Ages, but refurbished and rebuilt in the 18th century. The radiant pink, light blue and cream colours reminded me more of a ballroom than a sober Synagogue. A mixture of styles Baroque, Rococo, and the design of Louis 15. Some provincial elements as flowers and olives add to the original decoration.
Only the sight of the Menora and the Hebrew letters testified that it is a Synagogue.
It now serves as a museum. The life of the Jewish community was shaken and trembled in previous centuries. It was interesting to acknowledge what they have gone through, and all the transformations that this Synagogue has had.
The Cathedral of Cavaillon
This ancient, magnificent Cathedral from the Middle - Ages is a museum inside. I observed the Mediterranean motifs ,emphasizing the unique warm colours , announcing that you are in the heart of the Provence.
In the evening, when the lamps lighted, Cavaillon looked ornamented. Getting ready for the night's jubilant ambiance. I have found it even more mysterious with the view of the Hill Saint Jacques beside it.
In the day time, the colline Saint Jaques (when you look upon from Cavaillon) looks also quite impressive. Especially when you know how old it is, and all the treasures that have been found there.
In the morning we traveled to visit two ancient and charming perched villages in the surroundings of Cavaillon.
Many novels and movies (from Americans to Europeans) portrayed the romantic atmosphere of the Provence. The heroes often traveled there, in order to heal their broken hearts or start a new chapter in their life. As by chance, they have found a new love in these Mediterranean, romantic landscapes
You might be skeptical and say, well, this is only in the movies, but even if it seems like a cliché. I have to say that once arriving at these villages, it happen to be true. Your heart melts.
The sight of the hills filled with bright green vegetation near old stoned houses spread joy and grace in the inner feeling.
We visited the first day two villages that breath authenticity. Maubec and Oppède-le-Vieux
In Maubec, we did a beautiful walk. The scenery plunged me into a peaceful, meditative atmosphere.
There was something wild and retreated about the village, which I loved. Nature is abundant and lively. There are some lovely spots for a picnic on the way up.
Another village must-see not far is Oppède-le-Vieux It is more animated and active. As we reached it, beneath the village,
We arrived at a beautiful Museum - The Museum of the local olive- oil- La Royère The Provincial olive- Oil.
Inside the Museum, I soaked in the history of this oil production. It is tastefully and cleverly designed, for adults and children, with the pieces of equipment (the old and the modern ones) and videos explaining how they made and produced the oil.
The olive oil and its texture are associated with the Provence. It is one of its fundamental elements,
I continued to visualize the texture of the green olives and their transformation to oil long after we had left.
There is a shop in the Museum where you could buy these long elegant olive oil bottles.
Their taste is highly delicate and refined.
The village is based on cliffs, which means you have to climb until you reach the top. I didn't feel the effort as the landscapes didn't stop to switch on the road up.
Once on the top, I got the sight of the whole village and of some parts of Luberon. It was enchanting, as the view of the abandoned stone castle, on the side.
When we got down, there was an excellent choice of scenic and inviting cafes and restaurants.
The next day we visited other unique villages.
How does it feel to enter inside a vivid drawing? That is how I felt when I entered the village of Gordes.
It is one of the most famous villages in France. The landscape is breathtaking.
It is recognized for its sublime majesty.
The village is set over the cliffs, which makes it so unique.
I can still visualize it so clear now: the narrow-paved alleys with the stone houses. As we entered inside the village. My imagination started to work as there was a lot of mystery placed behind them. Who was living there back at the time? Everywhere grow nurtured trees and flowers. When you are there, it is easy to understand why it has become so prominent. A big cathedral in warm, Mediterranean colours is one of the wonders that I visited there.
It attracts many tourists worldwide. In the main square, are some lovely cafés and restaurants. Gordes exudes natural elegance and striking beauty. I would have love to stayed there a couple of days, but there was a program to follow.
My great guide Olivia Roman introduced me to other lovely places.
Le Borries is a village that is approximate to Gordes. It is a historical village, where you witness how life was in a provincial village in ancient times. Cabanes are made of stones. A museum and a short movie give you more detailed explanations about the villagers' way of living back then. From 1977 it has been classed as a historical monument.
The architecture and the texture of the house's stones were: from the time of the Bronze.
Although Gordes and Le Borries are next to each other, they are worlds apart, and the contrast between them is tremendous.
I have ended this incredible journey (wait, there will be a second part) in the Abbey de Sennaque.
It is an old monastery set in a range of purple lavenders. (To see them blooming, best arriving in summer.) However any season it looks beautiful.
When I have seen it from far, a painting of Van Gogh has come to my mind.
This old abbey was founded in 1148 by Cistercian's monks. It is nowadays a museum for visitors, but there are still a community of monks who are living there.
At the end of the visit to the solemn halls, you can find a shop with various products, from lavender oil to scents and soaps.
The place wraps you with serenity and quietness.
The cloister immersed in white flowers and vegetation demands nothing from the observer but a good feeling and peace of mind.
In a troubled and unsteady world that we happen to live in, I have let the healthy, harmonious, trusting arms of the Provence embrace me. Where the sun is glowing, and art and nature blend in entirely as one.
Text and photos by Niva Josef
In Cavaillon, I have stayed in a great hotel, attributed to my experience of the Provence to be so successful.
"Hôtel du parc". I found that this charming hotel has answered my wishes . It was exactly how I pictured my staying in Provence. It has a beautiful patio, with a fountain and sculptures. The room was rustic, having the character of the ancient Cavaillon,but super comfortable, and breakfast was with fresh, local products. Even if it is rated modestly three stars, for me, it was five!
I have eaten in two different restaurants in Cavaillon.
A brasserie," Le fin du Siècle". Inside, you are in "an art picture" The dinner was hearty; sitting on their terrace on a warm evening was enjoyable.
The second restaurant, "L'Instant Gourmand," has offered a delicious gastronomic dinner with a friendly welcome from the chef and the waiters. Its location on the little square with a big terrace makes it very popular.
Both restaurants are in Cavaillon center of town.