Charming Reillanne a Luberon Village to Visit
Martine and George Greenlee arrived in Provence for a one-year trial – several years ago! It took time to decide that Reillanne, in the Luberon Valley, was the place that they wanted to live. Reillanne ticked all the boxes, and they bought a home in 2016 – it’s close to a couple of medium-sized towns with good supermarkets and hospitals. The town has services including a butcher, a boulangérie, a little superette, a good wine shop and two café/bars. There’s also a big market every Sunday morning, a smaller one every Thursday, and a couple of local farmers who sell their produce in the village square on Friday afternoons. Buying local is easy in Reillanne.
A lifelong equestrienne, Martine is no longer able to ride and has turned her attention to painting pet portraits and animal studies. She blogs (sporadically!) and shares her latest works on Tails From Provence.
George is a portrait and landscape photographer and has had several successful exhibitions. Discover his impressive work on this website.
They own and run Villa Amande, a gîte on the outskirts of Reillanne (details below).
Where I Live in the Luberon
Tell us a bit about where you live in Provence?
Reillanne is a small, rural community on the eastern end of the Luberon valley. With approximately 1,700 permanent residents, it’s easy to get to know people. Tourism and agriculture are the main sources of income in the area, and the population pretty much doubles during the summer months. The farming community mostly focuses on lavender, cereal growing, some fennel (for pastis) and sheep.
Being a country girl, I’ve always been interested in different farming practices in different countries. Where I lived in Ireland, the grass grew lush and green all summer for the many dairy farms in the area; here, the grass grows rapidly in the spring, hay is made much earlier, and then the fields are bare and brown until the autumn rains fall (if they arrive). And then the lavender growing, harvesting and distillation process is fascinating.
The airport at Marignane is a 90-minute drive, which was a consideration when we bought our home. Now that I think about it, Reillanne is very central, roughly an hour and a half away from many places; the coast, the mountains, Avignon, and Sisteron. The final and most important thing for me was that my horses live on a farm on the outskirts of Reillanne, a five-minute drive from our house.
Of course, Provencal markets are always an attraction for both locals and visitors. We’ve come to know all of the year-round Sunday market vendors well, and for sure, we have our favourites. Parle a mon Cru is a wine bar that opened last year. The creative owners now have a market stall where one can buy their wines, beers or aperitifs, and they’re always ready to engage in a chat about which wine is best for which purpose. There are lots of local producers too, who sell a range of delicacies from honey to sheeps’ yogurt, as well as mushrooms and herbs gathered in the woods in season.
There’s also the young lady who sells wool from her sheep. The fleeces are sent to Italy to be spun and dyed and then return to Reillanne to be sold. The merino wool, so lovely and soft it’s hard to resist.
Then there’s the flower seller, who is always cheerful, even on the coldest days in January, and always happy to chat about the world of rugby!
But if I had to pick a favourite market vendor, it would probably be the big cheese stand. They have an extensive selection, are also very willing to discuss your preferences. And I love cheese.
Why is Reillanne a great place for someone to visit?
Visitors are charmed by the quaint old village, topped by the Saint-Denis church and the Saint Pierre tower ruins. But, there’s so much more to Reillanne than that. You can do a walking tour from the village, through oak forests and lavender fields, with stunning views towards the Alps on one side and towards the Monts de Vaucluse.
Sunday mornings can be spent ambling through the market, browsing through Le Passé Composé, a little antique shop in the village square, followed by a long, lazy lunch on the terrace of one of the two cafés.
Art abounds in Reillanne; the Galerie des Arts en Luberon has exhibitions throughout most of the year, and the Musée des Amis des Arts usually runs exhibitions during the summer months, in addition to its treasure trove of ancient artifacts. Across the street from the Galerie des Arts en Luberon, you will find wonderful handmade jewellery and watercolours in Jorelle Création, all created by the owner.
A stroll through the village will reveal surprise gems as well, from the découpage pieces of Gilbert Duranton scattered here and there to the art sauvage murals by Ponny, which adorn the walls around the Boulangérie. And you never know what sort of hat you might find on the fountain…
Is there a must-see attraction in Reillanne?
A walk through the old village in the late evening, with a bottle of wine and some snacks to enjoy a sunset apéro from Saint-Denis.
Eating and Drinking in Town
Where do you go for coffee?
We try to share our business fairly evenly between the two cafés, the Café du Cours and the Café de la Place. In the summer, we seem to opt for the Café de la Place more often, simply because it’s a little quieter than the Café du Cours and has lots of lovely trees to give shade.
Le café du cours
cours Thierry D’Argenlieu
Café de la Place
1 Place de la Libération
Do you have a favourite bakery?
It’s not a boulangerie per se, but La Rue des Biscuits in Cereste is one of our favourite places. Their chocolate chip cookies are to die for! They do a huge range of biscuits and goodies, and you’re always assured of a warm welcome from owners Emmanuel and Carine.
La Rue des Biscuits
Lieu dit la gare
Where do you recommend going for a casual lunch with friends?
I’d recommend either of the two village Cafes in a heartbeat. You’ll get delicious basic cuisine in both of them, in a casual, relaxed atmosphere. They’re both cozy and warm inside on a winter’s day, and they both have plenty of outdoor seating for sunny days. Plus, you stay in the village and don’t have to worry about a designated driver.
Where is your go-to spot for an apéro?
If not near the Saint-Denis church, I would have to say the terrace of our friends’ house!
I can say with absolute certainty that the younger locals, and many of the older ones, love the Café du Cours. This is a thriving, lively and quirky bar, which hosts amazing live music every Friday night – all year round.
What is your top pick for a romantic dinner?
For something a little fancier, I would suggest going to Le Bistrot de Lagarde, at Lagarde d’Apt. Well worth the drive, the ambiance, food, and service are very special at this bistro.
Le Bistrot de Lagarde
Route Départementale 34
84400 Lagarde d’Apt
Where do you like to go for dinner with friends?
La Pastoraleis one of our favourite restaurants in the area. It’s on the main road (D4100) from Avignon to Forcalquier and is situated just below Reillanne. The food is always excellent quality, at a good price. And the staff are delightful. They have a huge terrace for dining in the summer, in addition to two large dining rooms, one of which has a cozy fire for the winter months.
Lieu dit la garde de dieu
Domaine du Pradaous
What about family-friendly dining?
For something very different for the kids, I recommend La Pitchounette, located near Vachères, about 6km from Reillanne. They are a small, family-friendly farm, where they aim to provide farm-to-table meals. The children can visit all the animals, and there’s also a little play area.
Quartier les Escayons
Touring Provence from Reillanne
What is the best day trip from Reillanne?
There are so many to choose from, given Reillanne’s central location. Head to the coast or the Camargue, go up into the mountains to the beauty that is the Lac d’Allos, visit the Carrières de Lumières in les Baux de Provence, spend a day in Avignon. There are many wonderful day trips.
However, my absolute favourite is a visit to the Gorges du Verdon. Drive the Route des Cretes in the morning, stopping regularly to gasp at the drop beneath you, lunch in La Palud, then back to the Lac Sainte Croix to swim or, better still, rent a canoe and paddle up the lower part of the gorge. Now, that is a magical day in Provence!
Where to Stay in Reillanne
If money was no object, where would you recommend staying?
This is one for the future! Last year (2020), the Auberge de Reillanne changed hands and is being upgraded to become a boutique hotel with a top-class restaurant. Of course, COVID has slowed everything down, but I can’t wait to see how it turns out. I know the chef, and his cuisine is exceptional! But until they finally open up, I’d recommend Le Couvent des Minimes in Mane. It’s a 5-star hotel, with a wonderful pool and spa area, and a top-class restaurant.
Where do you recommend for comfortable accommodation?
Well, my first choice would have to be our 2-bedroom gîte Villa Amande! It’s got such a unique position, completely isolated, with staggering views across the Luberon valley, and yet it’s just a five-minute walk to the village.
What many of our guests have said about their stay in this part of the Luberon. The thing about Reillanne is that you can make your holiday here as peaceful or as lively as you want. You’ve got the choice of lazy afternoons by the pool or in the orchard, listening to the bee-eaters as they swoop and dance overhead, or you can dance the night away in the Café du Cours or Le Parenthese in Forcalquier. Or you can make your holiday about art and culture… or wine… or food. You’ve got all the options right here.