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Natural Regional Park Luberon, Vaucluse

43°49'60"N 5°12'26"E
Published: June 2010
last updated: March 2011
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++++The visit

If you are an avid reader of Peter Mayle, you probably already know and love Ménerbes. Every street of this tiny village is a perfect Provence postcard.
Ménerbes Ménerbes is curious: built on a long cliff range, it resembles a ship drifting through the sea of cherry orchads. It is often called “vaisseau phantome” (ghost vessel) and the legend says that the first person to give the village its nickname was Nostradamus.
Ménerbes resists well its fame: it preserved this perfect simplicity and “joie de vivre” that we cherish so much in Provence. You might think that Peter Mayle was the one to make Ménerbes a jet-set magnet, but it’s not true. Decades before the world saw “A Year in Provence” Ménerbes was known as the residence of Dora Maar - legendary film-photographer and a muse of Pablo Picasso. Picasso himself lived some time in Ménerbes, as did his colleagues Nicolas de Stael and Joe Downing.
Ménerbes is gourmand: the village is known for its truffles, its wine and cheese and opulent Christmas markets. From april till october you can indulge yourself in Maison de la Truffe et du Vin du Luberon, open in the XVII century Hôtel d’Astier de Montfaucon. It offers wine and truffle expositions, local produce, restaurant services and a great cave where you’ll face a difficult choice of wine.

Needless to say that like in other perched village of Provence, you should leave your car on the parking on the entry and walk through Ménerbes. The lower part of the village will charm you with small café terrasses and hand-painted shop-signs. Walk on past the house, which once belonged to the beloved of Pablo Picasso - Dora Maar, until you reach the medieval part of the village. Like any perched village, Ménerbes offers numerous view points: one view on the blue mountain Luberon, another one - on the vineyards and cherry orchads of Calavon valley and yet another one - on the red-tile roofs of Ménerbes. Make your way to place d’Horloge with beautiful townhall, clock tower and elegant Hôtel d’Astier de Montfaucon now hosting the house of Truffle and Wine of Provence (if it is open, don’t miss the chance to explore the wine-cellar and pretty italian garden).

You will find more beautiful views from the esplanade in front of the XVI century church Saint-Luc, constructed on the place of the older, XIIth century church. Some of the most remarkable landmarks, such as le domaine de la Citadelle, which once belonged to Pablo Picasso and le Castellet - the property of de Stael family, are closed for visits.

Around Ménerbes: visit l’abaye Saint-Hilaire - a XIIIth century monastery, carefully restored and preserved by its current owners. Unlike many other private properties in France, Saint-Hilaire is open to visitors for a very modest contribution of 2 euros. A couple kilometers further - le Musée du Tir-Bouchon (Corckscrew museum) - a funny and unique collection of over 1000 corckscrews of different ages.


Dolmen de la Pichouno near Ménerbes is one of the only two megalithic stone tombs of Luberon dating back to over 2000 years B.C. Ménerbes first appears in chronicles in 1081 under the name Menerba - a small provencal village bears the name of roman goddess of wisdom.

In the medieval period Ménerbes took its shape: built on the massive rock and protected by a citadel and impressive ramparts the village looked and felt invicible. Only two gates gave access the the village, duly named Saint-Saveur and Notre-Dame (you can still see two keys - the symbols of tho gates on the emblem of Ménerbes). It’s hardest and most glorious history hour came in XVI century during the religous wars of Provence.
This catholic village, so dear to the Pope Pie V, was taken by a modest army of 150 huguenot soldiers with the help of one of the local priests. Brave catholic army of 1500 men, led by Henri d’Angôuleme besieged the village. The siege lasted unimaginable 5 years, from 1573 to 1578, until finaly the villagers suffering from the lack of potable water and constant assalts, opened the gates and capitulated. Local legend says that the huguenots used undeground passages to get to nearby fields and buy supplies.

++++Practical information

Unless you are lucky to find a buss-tour to Luberon (ask the local Tourist Information Office for it), you will need a car to get to Ménerbes. The easiest way is to go in the direction of Cavaillon, then take D2 and just after the village Robion turn to D3 and fllow the signs Ménerbes.
Or take a long a beatiful route of Luberon: from Pertuis take D973 to Cadenet (which itself is worth attention), then turn on D943 and pass Lourmarin (another one of the most beautiful villages of France) and continue on D36 until Bonnieux. We advice you to take all day to visit three nearby villages: Bonnieux, Lacoste and Ménerbes, separated by the vineyards and cherry orchads, and not to miss a chance to stop by at some mass to taste local wine, honey and fruit.

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