Lourmarin

Lourmarin is not a perched, hill-top village, and it is not on the north side of the Luberon, but it is one of the loveliest Luberon villages anyway.

 

If your idea of a perfect Provence village includes cafes and restaurants spilling out onto the cobbled streets, Lourmarin is the place for you.

The café culture is sparse in some of the Luberon villages but not here. There must be 15 restaurants and cafes to choose from, and several of them are very good.

In the centre of the village where the roads converge there are tables everywhere on the sidewalk for anything from a coffee in the morning sun to a 5-course dinner.

 

The streets of Lourmarin meander round, past fountains and tight-packed houses, and you get the impression that they are circling around the impressive belfry (Castelas) at the highest point of the village. The belfry is built on the vestiges of the medieval moated castle that once defined Lourmarin.

Lourmarin has been an important staging post on the Marseille-Apt route since the XIth century. It is in the cleft that runs right through the Luberon mountain range, separating the Grand Luberon from the Petit Luberon, and marked by the course of the Aiguebrun river. The drive to Lourmarin is quite thrilling, winding through cliffs and forest, with a few hairpin bends thrown in.

Lourmarin itself is on a plain, with two slight hills (more like rises) - one houses the village of Lourmarin, on the other is the (mainly) Renaissance chateau. Between the two, a little on its own, the protestant temple dating from the start of the 19th century.

The chateau is known as the Villa Medicis de Provence, and is used for concerts and exhibitions. There are guided tours of the chateau and its art, including some engravings by Piranesi.


Lourmarin's lower church

Albert Camus

Lourmarin's most famous resident was Albert Camus, the Nobel prize-winning author whose L'Etranger (The Stranger) is one of the great texts of the 20th century. It opens memorably: "Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I'm not sure." ("Aujourd'hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas.")

Camus hated driving and said he couldn't imagine a death more meaningless than dying in a car crash. For a writer so preoccupied with the meaninglessness of existence, it was tragically fitting that he died in a car accident, on the way from Lourmarin to Paris, in 1960. He was 46.

Albert Camus is buried in Lourmarin cemetery and has a street in Lourmarin named after him.