Discovering Mallemort The Heart of Provence
My mother might not approve as some of my relationships these days start via social media – a tweet, a Facebook “like.”
That is exactly how we ended up on a rocky trail bordered by the Durance River and cherry orchards with our new friend Charmaine. We spent a Tuesday morning mountain biking (VTT) bumpy paths past fruit trees and goat herds near the property that she and her husband have converted into Mas de la Croix de Fer in Mallemort.
Then, we went for lunch so Charmaine could tell us about her village. We dined at le Jardin a small restaurant-café in the heart of the village. Murielle Garcin, a fully bilingual Mallemort native, owns and operates the restaurant. The menu includes a wide range of meal-size salads featuring products such as local chèvre and honey.
Mallemort is a medium size town in the Bouches-du-Rhône with a population that hovers around 6,000 people. The first mention of the Castro Malemortis was in 1092, all that remains of an ancient castle are crumbling walls of the tower. However, make an effort to climb to the top of the hill to see the Durance River and Luberon Valley unfold in all directions. You will now appreciate why the castle was built on that spot.
Apparently, Mallemort acquired its name from the unpleasant combination of mal (bad) and mort (dead). Prior to dams and irrigation channels, the valley was marshy and subject to the Durance’s frequent flooding. It was a terrible place for both crops and disease. Today, long after the marshland has dried up, Mallemort residents are fortunate to reap the benefits of low property taxes with the nearby Pont Royal Golf Club supplementing the tax-roll.
Elected officials have directed funding to sports and entertainment facilities including a large public swimming pool, tennis courts, a soccer field, a skateboard park and basketball courts. There is also a cinema theatre, and highly important in a Provencal town a shaded park for boules.
This town is an excellent location for a short visit given its proximity to vineyards, beaches and historical artifacts. It is also a good choice as a commuter town with major centres such as Aix en Provence, Marseille, Avignon, Salon and Arles within easy reach.
Here are Charmaine’s Perfectly Provence recommendations for Mallemort (and a couple extra):
- The Friday market. Although, it is small there is everything needed to prepare a few nice meals and do a bit of shopping.
- Endless hiking trails including sections of the GR6.
- Options for road cyclists with the Luberon trail system just across the river.
- Mountain bike (VTT) routes with steep climbs through gorges or flat routes that continue for more than an hour.
- The old suspension bridge (pont suspendu) over the Durance River, built in 1848. It is currently closed to the public as it no longer safe to cross the wood-plank deck. There are plans to restore the bridge for non-motorized traffic and pedestrians.
- Bread from la Boulangerie Patisserie Foirestier in nearby Cazan.
- Meat from O Cote Viande an excellent butcher in town.
- l’Auberge du Vieux Village which specializes in meat dishes. This restaurant has an upscale atmosphere and a lovely upstairs terrace for chic summer lunches.
- Le Jardin’s (see above) delicious salads or try its menu du jour. In the summer, le Jardin has a pretty, shaded garden.
- Shop at le Sud they sell top clothing brands.
- With a glass of rose after visiting nearby vineyards.
- In the shade and watch the locals play boules.