Monday, May 2, 2016

Avignon Rose Festival is May 5 to 8


The glorious rose festival called Alterarosa happens in Avignon every two years...and it starts Thursday. It's an extremely popular spring event for families, with a huge rose garden blooming in the majestic cloister of the Palais des Papes plus lots of new events around town including a "pink tour" pedestrian circuit with a contemporary art exhibit at the Église des Célestins (map above). Everyone is invited to a "Pinknique Picnic" at the Rocher des Doms on Sunday at 12:30, with a concert for 100 voices at 1 pm. (Bring your own picnic or buy the pre-packaged ones at the Les Halles market; only drinks will be sold on site...and yes, they'll have rosé!). Shops all over town will be selling rose-themed products.

This is a great opportunity to meet top French rose breeders as they'll be presenting their latest creations at the Palais des Papes (make sure to vote for the People's Choice!). The French Rose Society will be leading seminars and there will be classes and workshops for all ages. There are special garden tours (see below) and a special Rhône river cruise. 

This year, a guided exhibit and garden tour will be offered in English as well as French. The tour includes the gardens atop the Rocher des Doms (where Avignon was first settled), the recently restored Church of Notre Dame des Doms and its private gardens (except on the Thursday tour) and the elegant garden of the five-star Hotel La Mirande, once the home of a 14th-century Cardinal. This tour is available in English on Thursday May 5 at 2:30 pm (cathedral gardens not included on this day), on Friday May 6 at 2:30 pm and on Saturday May 7 at 10 am. More info and ticketing is on the Avignon Tourist Office website here.

For the Alterarosa website, click here or find them on Facebook hereTickets for Alterarosa at the Palais des Papes are 5.50€ for Avignon residents and kids (age 8-17) and 9€ for adults. Kids under 8 are free. Tickets can be bought online, at the Tourist Office (41 Cours Jean Jaurès) or at the Palais des Papes.  

For help in English, you can also call the Avignon Tourist Office at 04 32 74 32 74 or email: officetourisme@avignon-tourisme.com.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

You're Invited: Cannes Film Fest Luncheon












The annual Cannes Film Festival Luncheon Party hosted by the American Club of the Riviera always attracts a great mix of locals and visitors. This year it's Saturday May 14 and everyone is welcome. There are 75 seats available on the terrace but if they sell out and the weather looks good, more tables will be set up on the beach.

Guests will gather for Bellinis and hors d'oeuvres at noon at the restaurant Vegaluna Plage Restaurant, just in front of the Carlton Hotel. During the three-course lunch (foie gras, sea bream, apricot tart), film industry folks will provide insider insights and, as in years past, there will be a famous film quiz.

If you're going on to the Palais des Festivals afterwards, it's an easy ten-minute walk along the seafront.

Water, wine and coffee are included in the price: members 65€, guests 75€. The reservation deadline is Monday May 9th and the event is expected to sell out. For all the info or to reserve: americanclubriviera.com

The 69th annual Cannes Film Fest launches with a screening of Woody Allen's new film, Café Society, on Wednesday May 11 in the Palais des Festivals’s Grand Théâtre Lumière. The festival runs until May 22 and all the info is here.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Julia Child's Provence House is For Rent

Now that it's possible to rent Julia Child's old house in Provence, it's only a matter of time until someone settles into that famous kitchen, whips up some delicious new recipes and publishes a cookbook titled In Julia's Provençal Kitchen or Channeling Julia or something similar.

From the moment I heard that Sotheby's had listed the house for sale (asking price: €880,000), I had a half-real, half-ridiculous fantasy of buying it and transforming it into a cooking school. And now that's exactly what Makenna and Yvonne (Evie) Johnston have done. They swept in, snapped it up and announced they'll be offering week-long "courageous cooking" workshops there, for six people at a time, in 2017.

In the meantime they're renting the house out via Airbnb, as of June 13, 2016.  Which means that alone or in a group, you could fulfill that classic foodie fantasy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in Julia's actual kitchen! Or, of course, write your own master work. When one of her students spied the house on Airbnb, food writer Molly O'Neill quickly booked it--along with another next door--for two one-week writers' retreats in October. (Molly is former NY Times food columnist, author of six books, a multiple James Beard Award winner and founder of LongHouse Food Revival. For info: molly@cooknscribble.com.)

I'm so delighted that Julia's old digs--the summer home she loved so much--will continue to be a magnet for French food- and wine-lovers!

In reality this isn't the first time the house will be used as a cooking school.  In 1993, Kathie Alex, who knew and worked for Julia, took it over and ran a program there called Cooking with Friends in France.  She put it on the market in November 2015.

The story beyond the house--how Julia and Paul Child came to have it, who hung out with them there, why it was important to the whole American food revolution--has been well documented so I won't go too deeply into that here.  (If  the topic interests you, you'd love Julia's book My Life in France and as well as Provence 1970 by Luke Barr, which you can read about here.)

The house is called La Pitchoune ("the little one") but everyone calls it La Pitch or La Peetch. It was built in 1963, on a property belonging to Simone Beck, one of Julia's original cookbook collaborators. M.F.K. Fisher and James Beard were frequent guests. It's set amongst the olive groves near the villages of Châteauneuf and Plascassier,  not far from Cannes and Grasse.  (Not that Châteauneuf...but one of many villages with the same name.)

Makenna and Evie say that La Peetch Ecole de Cuisine will be more than just a cooking school. It will also welcome high-end retreats, family experiences, food and wine journeys and more. 

The Airbnb listing calls it "a space to cook, commune, explore and walk in the footsteps of the culinary greats." On Facebook they call it "A Center for Food, Culture and Community." 

Evie, a former U.S. Air Force captain who left the military in 2014,  is now studying at the International Culinary Center in New York. Makenna, a business strategist and life coach, will train at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, where Julia earned Le Grand Diplôme in 1951. (Like Julia did, Makenna graduated from Smith College in Northampton, MA.) 

The house has three antique-filled bedrooms, a sitting room, gardens, a pool...and of course that famous kitchen, which is virtually intact. Even Julia's pegboard is still there, the one Paul made and painted with outlines so Julia knew exactly which implements went where. The only thing missing is Julia's beloved white La Cornue stove, which now belongs to that other famous American cookbook author and cooking teacher in Provence, Patricia Wells

So of course I had to ring up Patricia to ask how she got Julia's stove.  "When the time came for Paul and Julia to give up La Pitchoune," she told me, "I asked her if I could buy it and she said no. Then she changed her mind and said I could have it as a gift, as long as I replaced it. So that’s what we did! We went to Darty, bought a new stove, went to her house, took the La Cornue and replaced it with the new one, which I believe is still the one in the house."

The La Cornue has two gas burners, a side burner where you can set a series of pots and a small, single gas oven. If you have Patricia's most-recent book, The French Kitchen Cookbook,  you'll see it in there. "The oven is bit cantankerous," Patricia reports, "and it's very difficult to adjust the heat so we don't use it often. But we definitely use the cooktop with our students, who of course love to cook on it. I always joke that having Julia's stove is a bit like having Freud's couch!"

As to what Julia would say about all this, I have no idea. I met her a few times over the years at food-world events but didn't know her. So I turned to someone who did,  my old pal Bob Spitz. Bob is the author of Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child and he's currently putting final touches on the script for a one-woman show of Dearie, which will open on Broadway early next year.

"Julia always filled La Peetch with friends and guests," Bob says, "so I’m sure it would delight her that the house was continuing her gracious tradition.  The fact that it will live on as a cooking school and retreat would be the icing on her, well, Reine de Saba.”  

Want to know more? Check out the stories on La Peetch in Vogue,  Conde Nast Traveler and People, then go to Lapeetch.com, where you can sign up for email updates.

Photos: (1) Julia's famously colorful Provence kitchen has been kept (almost completely) intact. Rent the house and have it all to yourself...or come take a weeklong "courageous cooking" workshop next year. (2) In the kitchen at La Pitchoune, Paul Child painted outlines of Julia’s tools and equipment on the pegboard walls. [Photo by Benoit Peverelli, courtesy of Luke Barr.]  (3) Julia Child on the terrace at La Pitchoune in the early 1970s, courtesy Luke Barr. (4-8) Interior and exterior shots of the house. Makenna says "Our goal is to maintain the house as much as possible, we have no intentions to remodel or update the house itself.  But we definitely are updating some elements of decor, including furniture and linens." (9) Julia's old La Cornue range now lives with Patricia Wells at her home and cooking school in Vaison-la-Romaine, Provence. Owning it, Patricia says, is like "having Freud's couch." (10) Julia at La Pitchoune in 1969. [Photo by Marc Riboud/Magnum Photos, from the Wall Street Journal.]

Monday, April 4, 2016

Another Fine French Book Giveaway!

Just in time for the 2016 travel season in the South of France comes Markets of Provence: Food, Antiques, Crafts, and More by Marjorie R. Williams. This charming guide is perfect for anyone living in Provence...traveling here...or still dreaming of visiting "some day." 

The book comes out May 3 and the publisher, St. Martin's Press, would like to gift two of my lucky readers with free copies.

Marjorie is a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based travel writer who believes that exploring markets is one of the most-rewarding ways to immerse oneself in a foreign culture. It's a passion that goes back to her very first sojurn in France around 1980...and one she has explored extensively through the articles she writes for magazines such as Afar, France Today and House Beautiful.

"My first French market was in Fontainebleau," she tells me. "I bought a sundress and a blue mesh bag which I still use...and they always take me back to memories of that trip."

Marjorie's first book was Markets of Pariswritten with Dixon Long and published (second edition) by Little Bookroom in 2012.

The new book--which I already have and love--is the result of Marjorie's many months criss-crossing Provence, learning about the villages and markets, talking to the vendors, trying their wares, exploring surrounding areas. And while this research trip wasn't exactly a hardship, she says it definitely had its moments. Such as?

"Well, my rental car had GPS so I didn't think I would need a printed map," Marjorie tells me. "I was following the GPS and not paying attention when, to my great surprise, it led me onto a car ferry. I had no idea if that was mistake and, if so, where I'd end up! Everything turned out okay--it was just a 10-minute ferry ride and indeed a good shortcut--but the shock of it taught me to always carry a printed map.''

And then of course there were all the typical tiny misunderstandings, which happen even to those travelers who speak terrific French. "At a fromagerie stand in the Tarascon market," she remembers, "a vendor kept urging me to try his 'cheap cheese.' And I held back until I realized he was saying 'sheep cheese!'"

Popping up over and over again at all the various markets like certain vendors do, Marjorie got her share of curious looks; they couldn't quite figure out why this woman with notepad and camera was everywhere, asking questions and tasting everything. "And then one day in Arles I had the opportunity to shop the market with Michelin-starred chef Jean-Luc Rabanel," she recalls. "He's very recognizable and well known among the vendors. They certainly took notice of me then!"

The charming 300-page soft-cover features 30 of Marjorie's favorite market finds--the very-best ones and the B list as well. She also serves up local specialties, practical tips, interviews with popular chefs and farmers, delicious photos, maps, restaurant recommendations and more. It's organized by the day of the week to make itinerary planning easy...and small so it can popped easily into a handbag, backpack or glove compartment. You can read more about it here.

Peter Mayle, author of A Year in Provence and many other books set in Provence, finds it "thorough, accurate and mouth-watering."

Luke Barr, author of Provence 1970, calls it "an indispensable...authoritative and seductive guide."

So how to win a copy? Simply leave a comment below, where it says "comments," and tell us why you'd love to have it. Please be sure to leave us your email so we can reach you if you win; signing in with your Google account is not enough. If you're not sure which way is best to sign in, choose "Name/URL." Then put your name or any name in the first field...and your website or blog in the second field. If you don't have a website or blog, you can skip that. Then type your message...but be sure to leave us an email somewhere in your message.

If you want to go ahead and buy the book, it's on Amazon here

Marjorie will be doing readings and signings in various US cities in May...see the list here.

And to learn more about her or connect with Marjorie online, check out her website, blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Good luck in the giveaway!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Fundraiser for Camargue Cowboys April 3


Let's give it up for the Gardians! On Sunday April 3 at Domaine Paul Ricard de Méjanes, the Rotary Club des Baux de Provence is hosting a full-day event to raise funds for the Mutual Insurance de la Confrèrie (brotherhood) de Camargue, which supports the men and women who work the manades (ranches) of the Camargue region of Provence. The Mutual is a supplement, not unlike the one used for mountain guides, which helps with expenses following a serious work accident and assists the families of those who are handicapped or deceased. 

"This is a serious undertaking and we hope this event will find a place on the Camargue calendar each year," says Larry Ware, vice president of the Rotary. "This 'day in the country' will help all of us to better appreciate these amazingly passionate and devoted people. It will also help visitors discover the Camargue 'profonde' and hopefully create a closer bond with this remarkable and authentic region of France and its people."

Larry advises turning up at Méjanes before 10 am. The day begins in the Arena (plaza) at 10:15 with a demo of the "Course Camarguaise," a traditional bull sport. This will be followed by a bullfighting demo by a young Camargue bullfighter; neither bulls nor men will be hurt! Next comes a display by the gardians about how they work with the cows (not bulls this time). At 11:30 the Amazones (a group of women on horseback) will exhibit their equestrian expertise. An apertif and lunch will be served in the restaurant at 12:15. 

After lunch comes a rare event: The Queen of Arles and a number of Arlesiennes will demonstrate and discuss the evolution of these traditional and unique outfits. From 2:30 to 4 pm, there will be “a round table” where a Camargue dignitaries, ranch owners and gardians will field questions. There will also be multiple activities for kids of all ages. 

Tickets are 29€ for adults, 15€ for teens; free for kids under 12. Ticket price includes all events plus lunch with wine and coffee.

All entrance fees and tombola (raffle) earnings go directly to the Mutual Insurance de la Confrerie des Gardians de Camargue.

For questions: ware42larry@gmail.com, 06 19 05 31 90.

Larry asked me to mention that the Rotary Club of Les Baux is always looking for new international members, both expats and part-timers.  "We have a number of English speaking French and Belgian members," he says, "so language won't be too much of a problem."

And for info on upcoming bullfights and competitions in the region, click here.

Photos: A few of my favorite Gardian shots (courtesy of the Manades Jacques Bon and Hotel Mas de Peintand a graceful Arlesienne on a white Camargue horse (courtesy of Domaine Paul Ricard). The map shows where in the Camargue the April 3 fundraiser will be held. The poster is easier to read if you click on it. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Châteauneuf Wine Fest is April 2 & 3


The weekend wine festival called Printemps de Châteauneuf-du-Pape, now in its seventh year, is a festive rite of spring here in the South of France. This year it's Saturday and Sunday, April 2 and 3, with a special day on Monday April 4 (9:30 am to 2:30 pm) for wine-industry professionals. Roughly 85 domaines and châteaux will be represented, making this a wonderful opportunity to meet local producers while tasting their latest releases and a few smashing older vintages. It’s also an easy way to buy the wines you love, some of them normally quite difficult to get. 

This year, the fest celebrates the 80th anniversary of Châteauneuf's designation as one of the very first AOCs (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) in France.  The AOC decree was first created by Pierre Le Roy de Boiseaumarié (aka baron Le Roy), a winemaker at Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Château Fortia). That first year, there were five villages named: Châteauneuf, Monbazillac, Arbois, Cassis and Tavel.  

Each year the Printemps festival invites special winemaker guests from other regions so this year's guests of honor will be winemakers from the four other "first" AOC villages. (For an AOC update, see below.)

In years past, the tasting workshops (Les Ateliers Dégustation) at the festival have been super popular and this year seems no exception; two of three have already sold out. Last I checked there was still space left in the one called "Eraflé ou Non-Eraflé ? Telle est la question ..." which delves into the differences between "stemmed" and "non-stemmed" wines. For almost 20 years, two wine making styles have distinguished the cellars of Châteauneuf: The modern method (de-stemming) and the old-school (keeping the stems or the whole grape cluster).  The workshop is Saturday at 3 pm (30€); sign up online.

Les Printemps is organized by by The Young Winemakers Association of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and takes place at the Salle Dufays on the Place de la Renaissance in Châteauneuf. Hours are 10 am to 7 pm both days. Your 10€ ticket (pay at the door) gets you in all weekend and includes a tasting glass. There will be free parking...indoor and outdoor play areas for the kids...and food available on site.

For all the info click here and follow the festival on Facebook  and Twitter. If you have questions, you can email: printempschateauneufdupape@gmail.com.

For general info about the wines of Châteauneuf, the village and the region, click here and here.  Or, you can call the Tourist Office: 04 90 83 71 08.

FYI about AOC: The European designation AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) is slowly replacing the French AOC for agricultural products...so expect to see more AOP on wine labels in the months to come. Read more here and here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Chagall Show Opens in Les Baux March 4


The Carrières de Lumières (Quarries of Light) is a magical space in a vast cave-like quarry at the base of the village of Les Baux. There in the cool darkness, close to 100 video projectors and 27 speakers generate the choreographed movement of 3,000 images over an area of more than 75,000 square feet, onto walls as high as 45 feet, onto the ceilings and even the floor. The sound-and-light show changes roughly once a year and has become one of the most-popular sites in Provence. Since its opening in 2012, Les Carrières de Lumières has attracted more than 1.6 million visitors

The 2015 show, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael: Giants of the Renaissance, was unveiled on March 6, 2015, closed last month and drew 513,000 visitors.

The new show, called Chagall: Midsummer Night's Dreams, will be unveiled on March 4 and will run through January 8, 2017. 

The Chagall show represents the first time that the folks at the Carrières de Lumières  have assembled an exhibit focusing on a single artist...and most of his best-known masterpieces have been digitized for projection here.

Marc Chagall (1887 - 1985) was born Moishe Shagal, the eldest of nine children in a Lithuanian Jewish family in Liozna, near Vitebsk in Belarus (then part of the Russian Empire) . He moved to Paris in 1910 and earned his French nationality in 1937. Chagall worked  in virtually every artistic medium, including painting, book illustration, stained glass, stage sets, ceramic, tapestries and fine art prints. Art critic Robert Hughes called him "the quintessential Jewish artist of the 20th century" although Chagall saw his work as "not the dream of one people but of all humanity." The artist is buried in the town cemetery in St. Paul de Vence, on the French Riviera.

This multimedia exhibit is intended to provide a journey through all the major phases of the artist’s career. Chagall: Midsummer Night’s Dreams is a story in 12 parts: Vitebsk, Life, Poetry, Collages, The War, Stained Glass, The Opéra Garnier, Daphnis and Chloé, Mosaics, The Circus, Illustrations and The Bible. It presents Chagall’s creativity in all its diversity,,, and his multiple sources of inspiration. The universal themes of love, the family, roots, the landscape, the circus, war, and music are perfectly showcased within the dramatic, magical setting of Les Carrières. 

The choice of the soundtrack accompanying the show was guided by pianist Mikhaïl Rudy, a close friend of Chagall’s.

The Carrières de Lumières are located in the Val d’Enfer, a stone's throw from Les Baux. The quarries here first produced white limestone, used in the construction of the village of Les Baux and its château. In 1821, the aluminum ore bauxite was discovered here by geologist Pierre Berthier, who named it after the village. In 1935, economic competition from modern materials led to the quarries' closure. Dramatic and otherworldly looking, the area has inspired artists of all sorts; it provided the setting for Dante’s Divine Comedy and Gounod created his opera Mireille here. Later, Cocteau came to film The Testament of Orpheus in these very quarries. Formerly known as the Cathedrale des Images, this particular quarry was closed in 2011 and re-opened (after a €2 million re-do) as the Carrières de Lumières in early 2012, under the management of CulturespacesThe Carrières du Val d’Enfer have been awarded Natural Monument status in France. 

For opening hours, prices, directions and more, click here.

Route de Maillane  
13520 Les Baux de Provence 
Tel: +33 4 90 54 47 37

Photos: (1) Rendering of the Carrières de Lumières lit up with the new Chagall show. (2, 3) Two of the many well-known Chagall paintings that have been digitized for projection. More than 3000 images are used in the show.  (4, 5) A photo of the artist (photographer unknown) and a 1956 portrait by Marie Vorobieff.  If you're visiting the Cote d'Azur, don't miss the Chagall Museum in Nice. (6) The quarry in daylight. (7) Another section of the vast space is lit beautifully for private parties and other events. (8) One of my favorite photos of the village of Les Baux, taken by Philippe Clairo

Note: A exhibit called Marc Chagall: Le Cirque will be on view at the Musée Yves Brayer, on the hill in Les Baux, from May 2 to September 29, 2016. For info, contact the museum or the Tourist Office

Another note: Want to spend the night in a quarry? Sure you do! All the details on one very cool Luberon rental are here

Sunday, February 14, 2016

In Chicago, Sleep in Van Gogh's Bedroom


If somehow you're lucky enough to snag a reservation, you could spend the night in a startlingly realistic recreation of Van Gogh's bedroom...not in the South of France but in a doorman high-rise in Chicago's River North neighborhood.

The room was commissioned by the Art Institute of Chicago, in conjunction with their new show, Van Gogh's Bedrooms. The show and the nearby room officially open today and will remain intact until May 10. 

The museum exhibit focuses on Van Gogh's "quest for home" and, in particular, the three paintings the made of his bedroom in the Yellow House in Arles during 1888 and 1889. The famous Dutch artist moved 37 times in his short 37-year life.

The show features all three of the famous paintings, one on loan from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, one from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the third from the Art Institute's own collection. More than 30 additional works--and a scale replica of the bedroom--round out the exhibit, with large screens scrolling images and text from Van Gogh's letters and sketchbooks, and music tying it all together. 

Those who do get to book the room will pay just $10 for the night...with tickets to the show thrown in. The rental is listed on Airbnb here and written in Van Gogh's voice; the photos are fantastic so have a look whether you actually want to stay here or not. If you do, good luck with that: the first block of nights were snapped up immediately and you'll need to check the museum's social media channels, such as Twitter and Facebookto find out when more will be released.

From a publicity standpoint alone, the rental room was pretty genius, generating enormous press for the museum exhibit in the Guardian, Adweekthe New York Post and Today.com, just to name a few. 

"It's sort of crazy how excited people are over the project," said Glenn Ragaishis in the Chicago Tribune; he oversaw the room's fabrication at Ravenswood Studio, the local company that, more typically, builds sets for Lyric Opera and other theater companies. 

"Who wouldn't want to spend the night inside a painting of a rustic garret that once belonged to a suicidal Dutch post-impressionist?" asks Jezebel.com (which goes on to call the room "cramped and creepy" looking).

The rental, equipped with cable and Wi-Fi, will remain intact until the exhibition's May 10 closing. 

The first overnight guest, staying tonight, will be Robby Sexton, the Art Institute's social media manager. His goal, he says, when he writes about his stay on the museum's Facebook page and elsewhere, "will be to make people feel as jealous as possible."
Other nights have been reserved for "social influencers," artists and bloggers, who will of course be chronicling the experience.
"We hope it's a way to bring fresh eyes and fresh perspective to the painting, which has long been an icon of our permanent collection," says the Art Institute's Amanda Hicks.

To watch a short, touching video in which curator Gloria Groom explains why having a bedroom of his own was so important to Van Gogh, click here.

To learn more about Van Gogh and the paintings, you might enjoy the Vogue.com story

And for all the show details, visit the Art Institute website here.

Photos: (1) The recreated "Bedroom in Arles," in Chicago's River North, is  theoretically rentable on Airbnb for $10 per night. Follow the Art Institute on Twitter and Facebook to find out when. (2) The room is an amalgamation of the three paintings Van Gogh did of his bedroom; all three are in Chicago for the show. Pictured is one from 1889.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Where to Stay in Provence? A Roman Quarry!


Calling all wanna-be cave dwellers! Get in touch with your inner troglodyte by vacationing in this one-of-a-kind stone home, built within a Roman quarry in Provence.

Located five km from Bonnieux--near the villages of Gordes and Roussillon--the Carriere St. Symphorian is the home and studio of husband-and-wife architects Philippe and Lien Jonathan and their two boys ages 8 and 11.  And they love to welcome travelers from all over the world.

Philippe, who lived in nearby Aix as a child, first fell in love with the Luberon while biking its winding roads as a teenager. He went on to a career in Paris, built the quarry house as a vacation property and moved the family to Provence full time in 2013. Today he designs residential projects across the South of France--houses, gardens, pools and greenhouses--as well as public buildings in France and elsewhere. Lien works with Philippe on all projects...and you can see their striking work here

Looking for property in the Luberon back in late 1990s, Philippe wanted something "different and challenging"--not the typical mas or bastide. When a realtor showed him the site in 1997, it was derelict, overrun with vegetation and had been on the market for many years.

"Previous buyers had been put off by its inaccessibility and lack of services," Ruth Corbett wrote in a Sunday Times Magazine story in 2012. "But Philippe was mesmerized from the moment he set foot in it."

"I am an architect which means I am a rational man," Philippe chimes in, "but concerning this I am irrational. I felt that the place had chosen me."

The quarry dates officially to the 12th century but archaeologists say that Romans were cutting limestone here 2000 years ago. Stones from this quarry were used to build the nearby Apta Julia Theater and the Château de Buoux, among others. During the final chapter of the quarry's life, workers excavated the mountain itself using the “chamber and pillar” technique, which resulted in the space that the Jonathans now call home. At one point 20 workers lived in its humble dwellings, until it was finally abandoned in 1930.  It took Philippe and Lien ten years to transform the rubble into this magical property.

"There are not so many places where I feel so good," Philippe told the Times.

There are a couple different ways you can stay here. You can rent a room in the quarry house (it's called "Situation Exceptionnelle" on Airbnb)...or rent a small separate house called the Eagle's Nest. During the month of August, you can rent the entire property, although the first two weeks are already taken.  Occasionally the Jonathans also rent out the grounds for events such as art exhibits, concerts and weddings.

The "Situation Exceptionnelle" (quarry room) is for two people only, consisting of a bedroom with a 160 cm bed,  bathroom (shower, sink and toilet) and a small living room/lounge.  The 60-square-meter Eagle's Nest--with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a small lounge area with a fridge--can accommodate a couple with two children. 

All guests have use of the infinity pool--carved into the rock, with exceptional views of the Luberon and three historical monuments--plus the pool house with its small outdoor kitchen.

The property has three hectares of outdoor space so you and your imagination can run wild in a totally tranquil setting.

The Luberon is a vast regional "parc naturel" and one of the most-popular areas of Provence. The serene rolling landscape of farms and vineyards is dotted with perched Medieval villages and laced with paths and trails, perfect for hiking and biking. Tennis, golf, kayaking, hot-air ballooning, historical sites and multiple outdoor markets are nearby. Bonnieux is roughly one hour from the Avignon TGV (high-speed train) station, from Aix and from the Marseille/Marignane Airport.

Rates for the quarry room and Eagle's Nest are range from 130€ to 170€  per night, including breakfast, for a minimum of three nights. 

Want more info?

See a video of Philippe and his family at home here....

Read the Times Magazine story here (if you have Times access) or here  (if you don't)...

And see the "Situation Exceptionelle" and the Eagle's Nest on Airbnb here and here. (Change the language to English at the very bottom of the screen, then click "translate" within the text itself.)

Then, for further questions and booking, contact Philippe: jonathan.architectes@orange.fr, +33 4 90 71 70 88.

Photos:  (1 to 6) Various indoor and outdoor spaces including the room (photo #6)--called "Situation Exceptionelle" on Airbnb--that you can rent. (7) The stone infinity pool and its view. (8) At night, parts of the quarry site have made a mystically beautiful space for concerts and other performances. (9) Come into our cave: Lien and Philippe love to welcome guests from all over the world.  (10) A site overview from Google Maps.  Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Still looking for the perfect Provence vacation rental? We can help! Email me: whattodoinprovence@gmail.com.--Julie

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