Menerbes

Menerbes is best approached from the north, when it emerges from the sea of cherry orchards and vineyards, like a ship at anchor, the outline of its deck picked out by blocks of ancient buildings, churches and citadels.

Menerbes has survived centuries of strife and Peter Mayle remarkably well. When Mayle wrote A Year in Provence here it brought the coachloads to photograph every square inch of the village. But now Menerbes has returned to what it was - a beautiful, quiet medieval village, exquisitely poised over the Luberon valley.

At one end of Menerbes is the Citadelle, a miniature fortress of the 16th century, and at the other end are the cemetery and the chateau du Castellet, where the expressionist painter Nicolas de Stael lived.

In between is a walk along the top of Menerbes, through paths and alleys, the Place de la Mairie, and the many example of 16th and 17th century architecture, till you get to the church and cemetery, where all journeys end.

All along the way the views over the steeply pitched sides are memorable, whether to the south and the Luberon mountain, or northward over the plain to the Monts de Vaucluse and the white-tipped Mont Ventoux.

This is the upper, less-visited level of Menerbes. Halfway up are the shops and restaurants.


'Downtown'

Menerbes amenities

There are 4 restaurants in Menerbes, including Le Galoubet and Cafe Veranda

There is also a small grocery store, a butcher and baker, pharmacy and doctor's surgery, as well as two cafés, one with wonderful views over the countryside.

Menerbes market is held on Thursday mornings.

In the Place de l'Horloge at the top of Menerbes is the Maison de la truffe et du vin (House of truffles and wine) in a beautifully restored, grand village house. There you can find out all about the truffles and wines of the region, as well as taking wine appreciation courses in the summer.

Just outside Menerbes, on the road to Cavaillon, is the Musee du Tire-bouchon (Corkscrew museum), with over 1,000 corkscrews to see, if you're into that sort of thing. It is also a hi-tech winery - Domaine de la Citadelle - owned by the mayor of Menerbes, and has quite a good gift-shop full of wine paraphernalia.

 

Menerbes history

Walking around Menerbes, you don't get a sense of the carnage of the wars of religion but in the 16th century Menerbes was known nationwide. It withstood a force of 12,000 Catholic troops for 14 months. Much of the action focused on the chateau du Castellet, at the western end of Menerbes. In the end the villagers ran out of water, because they had too many fires to put out, but they emerged with honour intact.

The Castellet is set below the upper part of Menerbes, under the cemetery, which must be one of the best placed cemeteries in the country, with lovely views on three sides. The cemetery is locked but you can ask for the key at the Mairie.

There is then a charming walk to the Place de la Mairie, past a grand house or two, and beyond the Place de la Mairie you carry on towards the Citadelle, where the road ends. This fine and sturdy citadel is anchored into the rock and is one of the keynotes in the distinctive look of Menerbes.


Cemetery at the top of Menerbes. A good place to end

Menerbes artists

Menerbes has long attracted artists. Nicolas de Stael lived here, and Picasso brought his mistress Dora Maar a house near the top of the village. The poet Clovis Hugues is remembered in a street name, and there are many unknown writers and artists toiling away amid the same stones, views, and light that inspired the greats. Not forgetting Peter Mayle.