Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bonnieux, Where Our Search for a House in Provence Began

We have decided to visit as many villages in the Vaucluse as we can rather than return to the same favorite ones every time we are in Sablet. Visits to new villages give us the chance to explore different areas, try new restaurants, and catch up with extended family members who live near by.

One Sunday morning last fall, wife Shirley and I got in the car and took off for Bonnieux, a village located a little over one hour away in the Luberon. Our plan was to visit Bonnieux and hook up for lunch with cousins Annick and Pascale who live close by.

Bonnieux is built on the a steep hill which overlooks a beautiful valley planted with a patchwork of vineyards, lavender fields and orchards. There is a church perched at the top of Bonnieux and houses and shops cascade down the hill.

There are actually two churches in the village; the Eglise Haute or Vieille Eglise - the upper or old church built in the 12th century located at the uppermost point in the village and the Eglise Neuve - new church built in 1870, located at the bottom. The upper church at nearly 1400 feet elevation is visible from every direction as you approach Bonnieux.

Bonnieux is on the road to Lourmarin and when you arrive in Bonnieux from the direction of Lourmarin, this is the beautiful view that you see.

This was not the first time we had been to Bonnieux. Our first visit occurred in January 2007 when we stopped in the village with our group from Bistro Des Copains, the small French country bistro I co-own with my friend Cluney in Occidental, California.

That day back in 2007, we had already visited Gordes and been to Roussillon where we ate lunch. Being January, there was not much open in either village so with afternoon sun remaining, we stopped in Bonnieux to walk around the village before heading back to our rented house in Mormoiron.

I have wanted to live in France ever since my first visit to the Metairie Neuve, the small family farm near Viane and then in Provence because of Peter Mayle's delightful tale "A Year in Provence" about his first year in Provence and the local events and customs.

Although I had this dream, I had never done anything about trying to make it happen except for looking at publicité - advertisements, hanging in the windows of immobilier - real estate offices in towns and villages where we visited. I had never even gone into an immobilier office, until that cold January day in 2007.

From the very first, I have always wanted an old stone village house within easy walking distance of boulangeries, boucheries, cafés and restaurants. That day in 2007, there was an advertisement in a immobilier's office for a village house in Bonnieux within our budget.

So while Shirley and the rest of our Bistro group walked around Bonnieux, pretty much deserted except for a few shops, being January and all, I walked into the office and inquired about the house in the advertisement. The immobilier lady was very happy to take me to see the house which was located close by.

That house, the front door is shown below, was the first of many fixer-uppers or houses described as in a village that weren't that we looked at during the ensuing years until we found the perfect house in Sablet. Our experience that day helped us develop our criteria for the type of house we wanted: no fixer-uppers and in a village with shops open year around.

Last fall, Shirley and I arrived in Bonnieux on a bright sunny day with a blue sky so typical of nice days in Provence. We found parking near the Eglise Neuve - new church, at the bottom of the village.

We found cousin Pascale without a problem and she and Shirley posed for me on the rond-point - roundabout near the church while we waited for cousin Annick to arrive.

We set off to walk into the village. One of the first things we noticed is that while most of the homes and businesses are well preserved, there is no center of the village or commercial hub so you don't really get a sense of a lot going on. There is a Friday morning market which is said to attract many sellers and visitors.

One of the many pretty house we walked past on our visit to Bonnieux.

There are several restaurants and cafés in Bonnieux.

We stopped to eat lunch on Place de la Liberté at Le St André, a busy café with a pleasant terrace, perfect for a warm sunny day.

Cousin Annick and Pascale waiting for lunch at Le St André.

Shirley and me hanging out with the cousins at Le St André.

We love seeing the dogs in French cafés and restaurants waiting for handouts from their owners.

To get to the the Eglise Haute or Vieille Eglise at the top of the village, you have to walk up 86 steps from the bottom of the village or you can drive on the road which winds back and forth up through the village.

Once you get to the top, you are rewarded with wonderful views out over the plains towards Mont Ventoux

and over the village below

and out towards Lacoste with its famous château which formerly belonged to the Marquis de Sade. Today the château belongs to M. Pierre Cardin, the famous stylist designer. Lacoste is a village on our list to be visited in the future.

The bell tower of the Eglise Haute or Vieille Eglise located at the top of the village.

The clock and bell tower on a Bonnieux building.

Nearby, you will find Pont Julien, a beautiful Roman bridge and the Cedar Forest, planted in 1862 from cedars imported from the Moroccan Atlas Mountains.

Bonne journée et a bientôt.


  1. To answer your question, Lupin Blanc, it is in Revest des Brousses, a small village in the Luberon in between St Michel l'Obersvatoire and Banon. The closest bigger towns (may help you visualize location) would be Apt and Forcalquier. Hope you get to try it, both food and service is lovely.

  2. Loved your photos,that beautiful blue sky! I have been to Bonnieux and had to smile when you referred to the new church built in the 1800s!We were in that one after walking down the winding little streets to the bottom.

  3. Cute little village. Send me your address if you would like me to send you a postcard. ;) My email is megank4 at yahoo.

  4. Nice trip and great commentary on the trip. Photos were gorgeous as well.

  5. Sara - Thanks for the information. I will add Lupin Blanc to my list of restaurants to try in addition to Restaurant Bonaparte in Cassis. I expect to get to Cassis in early April. I have been wanting to go to Banon to check out where the wonderful Banon cheese is made.

    Talesfromagarden - Thanks! I found it amusing as well that they refer to something built in 1870 as new.

    Megan - Thanks! Will do!

    Sullivans - Thank you so much! I hope all is well in Vaison-la-Romaine? How long are you there for this time?

  6. What lovely photographs, Michel! They make me want to take a plane and fly to Provence right now! How much time do you spend there every year?


  7. I've always heard great things about Bonnieux, & clearly from your photos, they're all true - a beautiful spot!
    Glad your first trip there helped to clarify your house search & I'm very interested to visit as well...cafes, dogs, & all :)