Perched Villages of the Luberon
Submitted by mag on Wed, 07/10/2019
After Saintes Maries, we landed in Lacoste more by accident than design. We wanted to escape the heat by getting up in the mountains and didn’t have a lot of time to research options. I remembered the name Lacoste because Maggie LaCoste (who publishes the great website https://experiencefrancebybike.com/ ) mentioned it so the name was stuck in my mind. Then I found a pleasant looking airbnb cottage with a great pool, so that cinched the deal.
The cottage turned out to be lovely, richly furnished and very private (we only saw the owner once and had the place and lovely pool all to ourselves) with a big BUT… zero connectivity… no internet, not even phone service so we couldn’t use our hotspot… nothing at all even though the description claimed full internet access. This really put a cramp in our photo organizing, blogging and most important planning ahead for future routing and stays during the business holiday time in France. We tried connecting from various restaurants but this didn’t work well either so this had some long-term impacts. If we’d been able to connect we’d have known what we didn’t learn until much later – the Tour de France was coming exactly down the route we planned to take north after our visit with friends on Cote d’Azur. Our route was Macon, Chalon-Sur-Saone, Belfort and Mulhouse on our way to Colmar during the exact time of the Tour… road closings and lack of accommodations were going to dictate Plan B. Luckily we are pretty agile for old guys and in the end came up with an even better route.
We knew Lacoste was a perched village so cycling would be challenging, but we were pleased to discover there is also a little-known railtrail that extends all the way from Apt to Coustellet with a trailhead at Pont Julien not far from Lacoste. So we had a great variety of steep climbs and pleasant rides and a wonderful chance to explore the perched villages of the Luberon.
There is really only one restaurant in Lacoste – dramatically situated clinging to a cliff with a striking view to other perched villages like Bonnieau. The old town is only accessable on foot due to the narrow, rough and extremely steep alleys with frequent long passages of narrow stone steps. We noticed there were an unusual percentage of young,affluent, English-speaking people (many of Asian descent) in the village. While strolling around the steep cobblestone alleys we met a professor who explained why. “The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is a private, nonprofit, accredited university with locations in Savannah, Georgia; Atlanta, Georgia; Hong Kong; and Lacoste, France.” SCAD has pretty much taken over the tiny village with facilities tucked into every corner of the ancient buildings, some dating to the 9th century. It’s an experience reserved for the privileged few “offering immersion in the history and culture of Provence. Lacoste is a beautifully preserved medieval village, known by artists for its extraordinary light and exquisite pastoral setting.”
We cycled to both Apt and Coustellet – two towns of about the same size that could not have been more different – Apt dating from Roman times with a vibrant authentic local market, while Coustellet is a modern shopping center offering all kinds of supermarket shopping including even a huge new Aldis! In Apt I left Jim in at a restaurant while I hit the market, and there he met a charming couple, Riki and John from Devon. We hope to keep in touch with them.
Three days in Lacoste, then on to Claviers!