Thursday, October 25, 2012

Joucas, a Village of Sculptors in the Luberon

I told you that we think everyone should go visit the Luberon villages of Roussillon and Gordes. They are not far apart and both are classified as Most Beautiful Villages in France. During the summer, you will encounter many tourists, but don't worry, we always find parking not far from the "Centre du Village" (center of the village).

A few months back, we followed that advice and took friends John and Lorelei who were visiting from Santa Rosa, California to Roussillon and Gordes. After a morning walk through Roussillon and hike on the Sentier des Ocres, we headed towards Gordes.

A short distance outside of Roussillon, I saw a sign pointing the way to Joucas. We had never been to Joucas but I knew that Rick Steves includes Joucas on his list of Top 10 Provençal Towns and Villages in his ubiquitous blue guide to Provence and the French Riviera.

I am a planner and generally have a pretty good idea of what we are going to do every day we are in Provence. I confess that when we have groups of people visiting, I sometimes type an itinerary with morning and afternoon activities and restaurants specified and give a copy to everyone. I don't want to waste a minute of their time.

When we first came to Provence, our day trips were planned based on what I read in Rick Steves' book, the Michelin Green Guide to Provence, National Geographic's book "Provence and the Côte d'Azur" and other guides like Fodor's and The Rough Guide.

More recently, I am guided by posts written by expat bloggers like Tuula at Belle Provence Travels, Aidan at Conjugating Irregular Verbs, Barbara at Cuisine de Provence, Heather at Lost in Arles, Mary at Provence Food and Wine, and Sara at Sara in Le Petit Village.

We figured that if Rick Steves thinks Joucas is a special village, we should go visit since we were close by. Joucas is a small village perched on a hillside in the Monts de Vaucluse between two of the Most Beautiful Villages of France, Gordes and Roussillon.

This small village, population 316, is quiet and largely overlooked by the throngs of tourists who visit the Luberon. Of course there is not much to do or see except walk up the tiny step-streets to the top of the village or hike one of several trails that leave from Joucas.

As we walked around the village we came upon some unusual wood and stone sculptures by local sculptors Mieke Heybroek and Ulysse Plaud.

One of the refurbished homes we passed as as we walked around the village.

The cobblestone step-streets climbs to the top of the village.

This looks like it might have been part of the old city walls.

A few of Mieke Heybroek and Ulysse Plaud sculptures stand in front of this gallery.

A close up of some of the sculptures by Mieke Heybroek and Ulysse Plaud.

A pretty home in Joucas.

Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church topped with its pretty bell tower dates from the end of the 18th century.

The pretty interior of Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church.

The war memorial to the children of Joucas that died for France during WWI and WWII.

The Mairie or Town Hall with its bright blue shutters.

This stone step-street passes under a stone archway and continues up to the top of the village.

A beautiful gated home at the top of the village.

From the top of the village you can see the ochre colored hills of Roussillon and the wide plain below with the petit and grand Luberon mountains in the background. Like most of the perched villages in this area, the location for Joucas was chosen because they would see their enemies approaching from far off.

We enjoyed our walk around Joucas and up the stone step-street to the top of the village. To be honest, I thought it was a pretty village but I would not include it on my list of top ten villages in Provence. But if you happen to be driving in the area and see a sign pointing to Joucas, go, it will be worth your while.

Before I started to write this post, I checked the books I mentioned above to see what I could find about the history of Joucas and the two sculptors who live and work there. Guess what; none of the books besides Rick's Steves even mentions Joucas. So either the village is really undiscovered or other writers are not as impressed with Joucas as Rick Steve's is.

Bonne journée mes amis et à bientôt. Have a great weekend.


  1. Bonjour Michel. And that is why I really like Rick Steves (well, that and the fact that I have actually MET him :-) He and his French rep, Steve Smith, have a knack for bringing less known areas to his readers' attention. I have never been to Joucas, but thanks to you and Rick, I might stop by next time I am in the area. Lovely photos, merci. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  2. Lovely village and we have never been there. That will change - thanks to you, Michel.

  3. I really love Rick Steves too... have both his France & Italy guidebooks sitting on my shelf, it always feels like I'm getting advice from a trusted friend. I really can't wait to visit Roussillon and Gordes & now I can add Joucas to the list... Thanks for the great article and also the kind blog mention!

  4. Veronique - Very cool about meeting Rick Steves. I would love to visit with him and ask how he does updates, how often he revisits places or goes to new places and where does he get his leads.

    Barbara - Thanks for the sweet feedback Barbara.

    Tuula - As I write to you, I can see 6 different Rick Steve books on my shelf so you can see I am a fan too. I hope you can get to Gordes and Roussillon soon.

  5. Thank you for opening my eyes to another beautiful village not that very far from me :)

  6. Sara - I am always happy to introduce friends to new places to visit in Provence.