Rollicking Road Trip Through France: Chapter 10
I have been delaying writing about the Luberon villages for a while because I haven’t been able to think of anything interesting to say. You know how I like to add a little somethin’ extra in these posts — a little “langiappe” if you will, but nothing came to me. But when I finally decided to dig through the pictures, I remembered the obvious topic when I came across a photo of his grave.
That last part will make sense later.
The Luberon Villages
These small Luberon villages are quintessential Provence. They are quaint and picturesque. Everything you think of when you think of a small French village: cute little shops; tiny, steep, winding roads; bright shutters; and crumbly stone walls. They are places where you take way too many pictures. Where everything looks like something out of a movie (and have been used plenty for that purpose). Each town is a little different from the other, and they just have to been seen to be fully appreciated.
We picked L’isle sur la Sorgue as our homebase for exploring this region and then selected five villages to visit: Roussillon, Gordes, Lourmarin, Bonnieux, and Ménerbes.
Isle sur la Sorgue
Waterwheels. Markets. Antiques. This is what Isle is known for. It has a great market scene, which we checked out on one of the days we were there. And the rest of the time we walked the waterwheel circuit throughout the town. The ever-present and extremely clear water filling up the canals throughout the city added such charm to the area.
The apartment we had – another Airbnb find – was awesome as well. We loved it. It had a loft style layout with a gray-white-black-yellow color scheme going on.
We had picked up some ingredients in Avignon before we left so we could make a quick dinner upon arrival in Isle. After spending the day walking around Avignon, we were really looking forward to relaxing, cooking, and drinking some wine. We were enjoying ourselves in the kitchen, mid-way into cooking dinner, when all of a sudden the power went out. And just like that, I remembered why I dislike Airbnbs. Inevitably, there is always some weird quirk you discover about the apartments you’re in and can’t ever quite feel totally carefree. It wouldn’t have been that bad except we couldn’t find the breaker box since it was well camouflaged – and oh yeah, totally dark. So we had to call the owner so he could direct us to the breaker box and then we had to adjust our appliance usage to avoid any future outages. Ridiculous. But these little quirks are worth it for the cost savings.
Of all the places we visited in Provence, this was the most striking. I’ve never seen anything like it. Red, orange, yellow everywhere. The town sits on these huge ochre deposits. We walked the trail (Sentier des Ocres) that runs through these brilliantly colored cliffs. And after that, we roamed the city where all the buildings reflect these same red hues. It’s gorgeous.
This might be the most impressive town in terms of its hilltop location. The white stone buildings have been built right into the steep cliffs of the area. We found a great lookout point and enjoyed the views as the evening approached sunset and the skies started to change color. Perfection.
Unlike some of these other villages, Lourmarin is on flat land. It’s just a sweet, little town, surrounded by green, lush landscape. It has a couple of claims to fame. Most recently, Peter Mayle lived on the outskirts of the town. But perhaps more interestingly, Albert Camus, author of The Stranger and The Myth of Sisyphus, lived here in the 1950s and is buried in the cemetery. So, sandwiched between two aimless walks through the town, we took a stroll through the cemetery to visit Camus’ grave. And finally, before departing to our next stop, we picked up a few sweet and savory snacks from a cute, little bakery. A croissant aux amandes is the perfect pick me up.
After Lourmarin, our next stop was Bonnieux. A set of 86 steps led us up to the “Vieille Eglise”. The views from here are amazing — panoramics of vineyards, orchards, old stone buildings, and some of the other Luberon villages.
If we decide to spend a spring in one of these villages, this might be the one.
This was our last of the Luberon villages. It was late evening by the time we got here and the whole place was starting to get cast in this dark, gloomy light. We took a quick, but tranquil walk through this charming little town.
Albert Camus – the Looker, the Philosopher, and the Journalist
So before we get into any details, let’s just get a couple things out of the way. Albert Camus was hot. Seriously. This is a widely accepted fact. The New Yorker called him the “Don Draper of existentialism”…and that’s a pretty lovely description for a fella.
Second, I wanted to mention him for two reasons: 1) he’s come up for us recently because of this trip and I really mean that – like we actually sit around and talk about him. 2) he says some interesting things about journalism that are particularly relevant in today’s political climate.
For a little background… As I mentioned, he’s most famous for the book The Stranger, the philosophical essay The Myth of Sisyphus, and the notion of the ‘absurd’ — meaning the discord that arises from humans searching for meaning in what Camus considers a meaningless world. In The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus says the essential philosophical question is the question of suicide. Is life worth living or should we just kill ourselves? Which, spoiler alert – he says yes, it is worth living. He suggests that you can accept the absurdity of life and continue to live in spite of it. He uses the character of Sisyphus as his prime example of someone who does just that. In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was condemned to futile labor – an eternal punishment of pushing a large boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down again continuously. He suggests that Sisyphus becomes conscious of his fate and a sort of master of it. And through this consciousness and acceptance of the struggle, of the frustration of life, of the absurd, Sisyphus can be fully alive and even happy. Again, I don’t quite follow that conclusion, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Btw, please recognize this is a really brief summary and I am by no means doing this justice, so please read for yourself if interested.
However, what is maybe even more relevant now is some of his writing on journalism. He was a journalist and wrote a good deal on war and post-war topics like free press and journalistic responsibility. Specifically, he wrote about how important it is for journalists to find a balance in recording events objectively so as not to obscure the facts and in also providing their own commentary. Journalists are informers certainly, but also influencers. They are thinking persons with opinions, perspectives, and knowledge and should share this in a thoughtful way that enables and shapes constructive, reasonable discourse. And while I doubt anyone would argue much about this when it comes to journalists, I think it’s more interesting to consider whether all of us and especially those very vocal participants in political and social discussions should take a note as well.
Now that we have won the means to express ourselves, our responsibility to ourselves and to the country is paramount. . . . The task for each of us is to think carefully about what he wants to say and gradually to shape the spirit of his paper; it is to write carefully without ever losing sight of the urgent need to restore to the country its authoritative voice. If we see to it that that voice remains one of vigor, rather than hatred, of proud objectivity and not rhetoric, of humanity rather than mediocrity, then much will be saved from ruin.
~Camus at Combat 24