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Sunday, 17 July 2011

A Weekend in Provence: La Maison Valvert

We needed to get away before the mad rush of the summer, so we booked ourselves into the lovely Maison Valvert in Bonnieux and headed out for olfactory pleasures in the heart of the Luberon...wine,lavender and olive oil....Did I mention wine?

 Bonnieux is in what is known as the Petit Luberon and our first stop was for lunch at the St.Andre, a little corner restaurant in the village which commanded the attention of the sun. Unfortunately the wind picked up on the attention and began its mischief. No sooner had we sat down when everything that wasn't nailed down took off....rocket leaves and radicchio went up and across the terrace, soon followed by grated carrot and my napkin. My empty bottle of Perrier toppled over and attempted take off but we caught that just in time. These diversionary tactics helped take my mind off my entree " Avocado smoothie". I expected a small shot glass of this tempting entree...instead I got a drinking glass full of tasteless baby food that Gerber would have frowned upon. My meal improved thankfully with the main dish and so did the entertainment. The wind not satisfied with flinging our food to the village pigeons,decided to up the ante by claiming new victims, an elderly couple sitting behind us who were treated to a dressing down with chocolate sauce whiplash:
" I managed to stay clean all week and look at me now...I'm covered in stains" exclaimed the elderly lady. They fled indoors afraid for their lives when their coffee was served.

La Maison Valvert is a gorgeous, deluxe B&B, tucked away behind a gated entrance high up in the green hills of Bonnieux. It is run by the delightful Cathy Herssens who welcomed us with a warm smile, a coffee and the lay of the land.

There are 4 accommodations, each one beautifully named; 2 of which are rooms that sleep 2 ,the 3rd is a suite with it own private terrace that sleeps 4 and finally the piece de resistance: the luxury tree house that sleeps two...and is simply amazing.
*Our room: No1 "Dentelles de Montmirail"

*Private terrace of suite "La Montagne de Luberon"

*Private entrance to rooftop paradise*

*TREE HOUSE:"La Cabane de Valvert*

Each room is tastefully decorated with Cathy's eye for detail...there is nothing you will lack, from bathrobes to all the lovely products in the bathroom.There is also a bottle of Valvert water,which is replaced when empty..never usually the case in some 4*establishments. The shower was lovely and big,fit for two and the loo on its pedestal...fit for a king. Apparently not all B&B's have TVs in the room...this one thankfully did as well as a safe that managed to hold my wallet hostage from the get go. To top that,each room has its own wicker basket in which you will find towels to use by the pool....loved it! 

Breakfast is a BIG affair and served between 9 am and 10am , with as much variety as you please. The blackboard lists the yogurt or fromage frais du jour and where there is a local market or village event in the area. It is a cheerful affair with guests and the hosts all eating together but with only one sour note: the overzealous use of flemish with their Belgian guests.We felt a little like the outsiders at a cocktail party. There were two sets of Belgian guests and a lot of laughter and merriment between them... while we chewed on our warm croissants feeling like illegal immigrants and unable to join the fun! 
 Once breakfast is cleared there is always something available for you to snack on if you are lounging by the pool and "The Honesty Bar": a fridge providing you with chilled rose or champagne as well as soft drinks....the honesty part is keeping a log of your consumptions in the main house.

This place really is a haven of peace and tranquility,forget your phone...there is barely any reception at the best of times in the house... and forget your troubles...simply enjoy. All around the Maison Valvert there are places to sit,lounge or even lay...no noise,no distractions other than turning the pages of your book or the buzz of an idle bee heavy with nectar.

*View from our room*
*The breakfast area /staircase up to 2 rooms*
We took off to visit the lovely village of Cavaillon, a 20mns drive away and known for its luscious melons. We didn't buy any melons but chose to wander aimlessly until my radar picked up on a delightful boutique in the center of town. "L'Ancienne Librairie" commands attention with its quirky exterior and eclectic mix of designers . It doesn't sell any books,hence the quirky...and is run my a lovely young woman with style and grace.


At the St.Andre , we had ordered a bottle of  deliciously fresh and crisp rose from the  "Domaine De Marie ", a stones throw away in a village called Menerbes.

Nothing like wine tasting at 11.00am after a hearty breakfast....and nothing more satisfying than buying wine straight from the vineyard ...much cheaper.We also went on to buy lavender honey from a local producer and olive oil  which we sampled at the Moulin Saint Augustin .

We ended our stay with dinner at the magnificent Relais &Chateau: "La Coquillade" in nearby Gargas . Not only does it have its own vineyard,golf course and command a breathtaking view,the service is impeccable and the food at the Gourmet restaurant,out of this world.... An absolute treat.

We left Bonnieux and the Luberon a little heavy hearted and a car full of local delicacies. Only one thing left to do.... return.