Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Must See in the Luberon: Mathieu Lustrerie

Ever since I visited them roughly two years ago, I've been wanting to blog about Mathieu Lustrerie, a one-of-a-kind lighting atelier in Gargas, in the heart of the Luberon. They design and create the most elegant, distinctive, remarkable lighting...and repair chandeliers for royal palaces, prestigious hotels, spectacular private residences and clients such as the Louvre, the Elysée Palace and Versailles. The showroom is open to the public; they also have a lighting museum with rotating exhibits and pieces dating to the 15th century. While the on-site workshop is not open to the public, you can watch the meticulous goings-on through large windows. And it's all located in a re-purposed 19th-century ochre processing facility with many original architectural elements intact. This place is so special! But for one reason or another, I just haven't been able to get the story done. And then last week, I saw that another blogger, Deborah MacNeill, had done an exquisite story about it, calling owner Regis Mathieu "possibly the world’s premier creator, collector and restorer of magnificent chandeliers and lighting artworks" and illustrating her piece with gorgeous, original photos. So I reached out to her and asked if, rather than write my own story, I could just share hers with you...and she replied immediately mais oui

A Canadian commercial and editorial photographer, Deborah first came to Provence with her husband Arnold in January 2013 "in search of sun and inspiration"--both of which they found in abundance in the Luberon. That November, the couple bought an 18th-century mas in the small hamlet of Saint Véran, just outside Goult. Originally named Villa Goult, they re-christened it "Mas Belle Source" for the freshwater springs on the property which have fed their fountain for more than three centuries. 

"As our dream of Provence has taken shape," Deborah tells me, "we've had such pleasure improving the property, gardens and décor with antiques and ideas we find in the treasure troves of Provence–its lively fairs, brocante markets and ubiquitous vide greniers." Today the couple splits their time between Vancouver, B.C. and Provence. They typically spend spring, fall and winter in the Luberon...and welcome guest rentals at Mas Belle Source from June to September. Read more about the house here and see all the rental info here.

Deborah's blog, Provence by Design, was launched in 2013 and celebrates her passion for beautiful homes, talented artists, gardens, food and the Provencal lifestyle. Her latest project is a book inspired by creative women in Provence titled Les Lubertines; she expects to finish it this summer. As one would expect, the blog and the book are both heavily illustrated with Deborah's luscious photography. 

“I've always sought to use photography as narrative--to tell a story," she says. "It's a joyful way to explore the world. As an anonymous sage once said: 'To write about it (or photograph it) is to live life twice.' We have something wonderful and completely out of our predictable lives happen to us every day in Provence that contributes to my work. Living here has rekindled and continuously inspires our creative souls. We are bewitched!"

To see Deborah's story about Mathieu Lustrerie, click here.  

To inquire about renting Mas Belle Source, click here

You can follow Deborah on Instagram here and then subscribe to--or follow--her blog with the links that follow every post. 

To contact her directly: 

Photos: (1) Regis Mathieu and (2) his chandelier called A Cube, made of rock crystal and amethyst, produced in a limited edition of 8. These two photos courtesy of Mathieu Lustrerie; all other photos courtesy of Deborah MacNeill. (3) The workshop produces “the art of light in all its facets" for royal palaces, prestigious hotels and spectacular private yours! (4) Fitting polished fins together on a chandelier for a Russian client. (5, 6) In the museum, a chinoiserie cabinet and glittering antique chandeliers. (7) This sculptural "astrolabe" lamp made of black rock crystal was one of my favorites when I visited. (8) In the workshop. (9) The intricate task of wiring. (10) Deborah photographed in the museum. (11) A lamp designed to resemble a sea urchin. (12-14) At Deborah's home Mas Belle Source, the main entry, the dining room and the en suite bedroom called "La Rose."  (15) Deborah at home in Provence.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Winter Writing Retreat in Provence

Two women I adore and admire have teamed up to host a late-winter writing retreat in the South of France. Whether you’re already published, still aspiring or just curious, this five-night getaway in the beautiful Provencal countryside will be a journey of self-discovery and give you tools to help your writing spring to life, whether you’re interested in food writing, personal narrative, fiction or just about anything else. All levels are welcome!

The March 2 to 7 workshop will be led by Elizabeth Bard, the American author of the bestselling memoir and cookbook Lunch in Paris (Little Brown, 2010), along with two other books: Picnic in Provence (Little Brown, 2015) and her latest, Dinner Chez Moi: 50 French Secrets for Joyful Eating and Entertaining (Little Brown, 2017). Her articles on food, art, travel and digital culture have appeared in The New York Times, The London Times, Wired, Harper's Bazaar and The Huffington Post, among others. Elizabeth lives in Arles with her French husband Gwendal and their adorable 10-year-old son. 

“For me, writing is both a passion and a craft,” Elizabeth says. “Since I published my first book in 2010, I’m amazed at the number of readers who write to me saying they have their own stories to share. This week is about confronting the blank page – in writing and in life!” 

Your host for the week will be Kelly Goehler, an American (originally from Nashville) who landed in Provence after years spent working in the marketing world, in New York and Asia. Kelly owns and runs La Belugue Wellness and Wandering Retreats and La Belugue Cooking School, from her gorgeous, art-filled 18th-century farmhouse in the Southern Luberon. Her warm style of southern hospitality and her French culinary training make La Belugue the perfect, Provencal escape in any season. Kelly and her husband Philippe have made their home in the tiny village of  Beaumont-de-Pertuis since 2017. You can read what I wrote about La Belugue here

“I feel so lucky to be living this life and it makes me so happy to share it with others,” Kelly says. "This is a chance to learn about this wild, unspoiled part of the country...its culture, traditions, food, wine and more. And at the same time, to write your heart out guided by an accomplished author who knows the region intimately.”

The five-night retreat includes accommodation at La Belugue or a similar B&B in the same village, all meals (except two lunches and one dinner), daily writing workshops and one private coaching session with Elizabeth. Plus, plans include wine tasting, truffle hunting, a cooking class, a visit to Cezanne’s studio in Aix, a boat ride and bouillabaisse meal in Cassis and a hilltop picnic at a 12th-century chapel. You’ll enjoy aperitifs by the fireplace, sunsets over the vineyards, superb home-cooked meals with local wines and much more. 

Airfare and transfers from the train station or airport are not included. Pricing is 3000per person for a private room, 5400€ for a double room or 2700€ per person for a shared room. 

Day trippers (those living or staying in the area) are welcome for 1500€ per person; details of what’s included in that package appear here

I know from personal experience that creative getaways of this type can be completely life changing. In 1997, I signed up for a two-week photography workshop in first visit to the region. I think it was on Day #3, after the jet lag had started to ease, that I realized two weeks wasn't going to be anywhere near enough. I returned about a year later, and that's when reality hit: my marriage to New York was pretty much over and my love affair with Provence was in full bloom. I went back to New York, quit my job, sublet my apartment, found a cute little stone house in St. Remy and have been blissfully happy here since. Who knows what may happen if you grab this chance to experience the magic of Provence while pursuing your passion for writing with a small group like-minded people? 

“Provence is such an inspiring place to write,” Elizabeth says. “The cuisine, the history, the landscape – there’s so much to get the creative spirit moving. I'm so excited to share that with you." 

All the retreat details are on the La Belugue website here

If you have specific questions for Kelly or Elizabeth, feel free to reach out: or

Photos: (1). You've arrived! La Belugue is surrounded by vineyards and yes, you'll drink the wines! (2) Elizabeth Bard. (3) Kelly Goehler. (4) Elizabeth's first book was the best-selling memoir and cookbook "Lunch in Paris." Two books have followed. (5) Once part of the village’s original farm, the 18th-century house that's now La Belugue was used as a shelter for sheep and for hay storage. While the exterior is simple and rustic, the interior is vibrant and colorful, with high ceilings, lots of light, art, sculpture and original architectural elements. Here Kelly has combined her passions for hospitality, local food, wine, fitness, nature, horses and more. (6) The tile was made by a local artist. (7) The area surrounding Beaumont-de-Pertuis is heavily agricultural, with beautiful farms and orchards producing high-quality fruit, veg, wheat, meat, cheese, flowers, olive oil and wine grapes...much of it organic. (8) In the 14th century, Beaumont-de-Pertuis was a prosperous market town with roughly 1,000 residents; it has not many more today. It's just 30 minutes from Aix, an hour from the Gorges du Verdon. (9) Cooking class at La Belugue. (10) Rolling hills and lush green valleys are dotted with historic villages and sites. The snow-topped peaks of the Alps are very often visible in the distance. (11) A goatherd and her flock pass by. (12) Guests love to gather at the fireplace for the apero before dinner. (13) Cheese, Bread, Wine: Kelly loves to support and promote local organic producers. "Everything in this picture was made within 20 miles of us," she says. (14) A guestroom at La Belugue. (15-17) Day trips and activities during the retreat will include a truffle hunt, a boat ride to see the gorgeous cliffs and coves of the Calanques and a bouillabaisse in Cassis (last photo courtesy of