Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Maubec: A Perfect Spot for Holiday Villas

The quaint little village of Maubec lies at the foot of the Luberon Mountains near Cavaillon, in the Parc Natural du Luberon in deepest Provence. It is beautiful countryside offering hundreds of trails for walking and hiking and the little village itself has a few delights to discover. The "Tour de l'Horloge du Beffroi" is the central attraction, a lovely old clock tower that looks down over the village. The local agriculture is based on those omnipresent Provence classics, the grape and the olive.  Grapes are used not just for wine production, the village being in the wine area AOC Luberon, but the grape pips are also used to make grape seed oil, which can be found for sale, along with a selection of the local wines, at the regular Sunday market in the village.

Maubec is so quiet, it does not even boast a hotel, indeed gites or a campsite seem to be the only options, except for the most obvious option, rent a private villa to relax and unwind in a way seldom possible in a hotel.  Private villas often offer an oasis of calm often with views, very often with swimming pools, which are most welcome after a long day our hiking or sight-seeing.

 Nearby villages also offer a nice distraction, once you have had your fill of relaxing, eating and drinking their rose.  Oppède Le Vieux is a fantastic old un spoilt hill-top village, reached by a pretty little path from the parking area, no cars are allowed in the village which when you see it you will realise is a good regulation.  It has a ruined Chateau, boutiques, arts and craft shops, a collegiate church, which is the dominant feature, and the village clings to the hillside in the way only Provencal villages can.  The surrounding forests offer a striking backdrop and the area much-loved by film stars and others in the public eye, some of whom have bought properties in the area.

Ménerbes, just 4 km's away is another hillside village, considered by many to one of the most beautiful in the Luberon region.  In the 16th century Ménerbes was the centre of the Protestant movement, but its historical roots go back to pre historic times, and was also inhabited and cultivated by the Romans. It is beloved by artists and writers, indeed Nicolas de Staël and the artist Picasso both owned houses in the village. Don't miss the corkscrew museum, with over 1000 examples of this very handy implement, which you will not be surprised was invented by a Frenchman  (Monsieur Le screw?) in the 12th century.

The village of Robion has a nice Roman Church. It has a music festivals during July and August, whilst Taillades which was once a quarrying centre, is also worth a visit, and it also has a musical connection, some of the quarries make perfect amphitheatres where concerts and other musical events are staged in summer. It also boasts a water-mill, the Saint-Pierre, which although not working anymore (it stopped production in the 19th century) used to take its flow from the Carpentas River which runs languidly past the village.

Overall then, Maubec stands at the centre of a network of pretty Provencal villages, there are no towns nearby so a car is a necessity as public transport hardly exists but that does not stop you enjoying the relaxing lifestyle mixed with a little light exploration, and perhaps an early morning walk before it gets too hot in order to work up an appetite for lunch, the word memorably use by Peter Maile, author of A Year In Provence to describe the area in one word.

 Nearest airport is Marseilles, about 70 km's distant, which has a good array of flights to and from most European cities including London, Brussels, Paris and several french towns as well. Allow up to two hours to drive across as there are no real motorways and anyway the back routes are much more picturesque and allow you to take in the local environment more fully.