Name of House: 'Menerbes One'
A luxury village house at the very top of Menerbes - a haven high above the most beautiful part of Provence for honeymooners, artists, writers, food lovers, or just plain old romantics.
Even when you are in bed there are three different views to choose from - the Luberon mountain opposite, down the valley to the sunset, and over the rooftops of Menerbes.
Menerbes was the village that inspired Peter Mayle to write 'A Year in Provence' - it is one of the select group of hill-top villages in the Luberon National Park and officially one of the most beautiful villages in France. Being at its highest point means peace and solitude; while the little shops, cafes, restaurants and village life are a couple of minutes stroll down the hill.
More about the house: it is small but perfect. To make the most of the light and the glorious views I have taken out the upper storey and put the bedroom and bathroom on a mezzanine level.
I do not know how I was allowed to do it in such a carefully protected village, but the new windows that open onto the Luberon are extraordinarily generous. Eight feet high, and then there is the balcony beyond big enough for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and with unmatched views, suspended over the full glory of Provence. This is not to mention the sun terrace that opens out from the living room, giving you a bigger plot of Menerbes real estate to stretch out in, sunbathe, take in the view.
A word about furnishings - this is not your typical rental home. In fact it is a lot nicer than my real home. It is finished and furnished to a very high standard, with hand-made tiles and furniture, and a hand-made kitchen. There is also free WiFi internet for those who need it.
The kitchen has everything you need for civilized living - dishwasher, microwave, washing machine and dryer, and waste disposal (try finding these in Provence). And there is another village rarity - an off-street parking spot.
The bathroom has a walk-in shower and large showerhead, so it is not a typical French bathroom. The bed is a good-size double (English king size).
Menerbes is the heart of one of the enchanted corners of this world. Everything you read about in 'A Year in Provence' is here - the lavender-scented landscapes, daily markets overflowing with local produce that actually tastes of something, hill-top villages rising above the sea of vineyards and sunflowers, outstanding food and wine, and the sensational quality of light that has always brought painters and poets here.
In Provence, everything simply tastes, smells, and looks better than at home. And it is all right on your doorstep.
Here are some of the many things you can do using Menerbes as your base:
• Choose from an endless number of walks in the 120,000 ha Luberon Natural Park, starting from your doorstep.
• Go to the local markets and rediscover what food used to taste like.
• Long, lazy lunches (and dinners) outside.
• Lose the extra calories by cycling round the famous hilltop villages: Gordes, Bonnieux, Lacoste, Roussillon, Lourmarin, Oppede-le-vieux, etc.
• Antique and bric-a-brac hunting at Isle-sur-Sorgue – France’s antiques capital.
• Explore Fontaine de Vaucluse - the extraordinary source of the crystal-clear Sorgue river (or ride a canoe down it).
• Visit the Marquis de Sade's castle at neighbouring Lacoste
• Bump into Princess Caroline at chi-chi St Remy.
• Learn to paint sunflowers.
• Picnic in the cedar forests outside lovely Bonnieux.
• Drive to the top of Mont Ventoux (cycle if you're mad) and let the Alps and the Med take your breath away.
• Marseille, 1 hour away, is France's most exciting city, and home to the world's best bouillabaisse.
• Avignon, half an hour away, is a fascinating medieval city small enough to walk round in a day.
• Go wine-tasting at the local vineyards or venture just beyond Avignon for some great Rhone wines.
• Day trips to Monte Carlo, Cannes, the Camargue, Arles, Aix, Orange, Gorges du Verdon, Rhone wine trail, even Spain if you leave early.
This is a year-round destination - the Luberon in winter is as beautiful in its way as during the long summer that can stretch from May to October. As Peter Mayle discovered, in the off-season the Luberon is all yours - there will not be crowds, but there will be truffles and fabulous dinners. And in every month there are days when it is warm enough to eat outside in the Provencal sun. When it is cold, you will appreciate the under-floor heating, the mist hanging in the valley below, the odd wisp of smoke punctuating the scene.
The price of the rental includes everything: all utilities, local phone calls, satellite TV, towels, bed linen, after-stay clean.
Please note - this house is only suitable for a maximum of 2 people, and there are too many things for a small child to break.
Keywords: Village House, Menerbes