Explore: Travel in ProvenceJulie WhitmarshVillages Towns and Cities

Menerbes the Luberon Village Made for Exploring

Hilltop Menerbes

We often find ourselves sitting on the wall on the front edge of the pretty village of Menerbes, while we’re out exploring the area on our bikes.

Like so many of the hilltop villages in the Luberon, it has an incredible view that stretches as far as Mont Ventoux. We spend time sitting and watching the light shift across the hills while listening to the swifts screaming as they hurtle around the rooftops. Needless to say, it’s always a very lovely way to pass a few minutes (often more) on our way around the Valley. Continue reading here for this contributor blog post and photos of Menerbes by Vaucluse Dreamer.

Today, the perched villages of the Luberon offer visitors and residents sweeping pastoral views of the Vaucluse. However, historically, these hillside locations were chosen for strategic and defensive reasons, not because of their beautiful settings.

Beautiful Menerbes

The village of Menerbes is well-deserving of the “les Plus Beaux Villages de France” label. After visiting hilltop Menerbes, it is easy to understand why the Luberon and this town have enchanted so many. The charming main street compels you to pause and wander through an art gallery, or have a drink at one of the restaurants, particularly so if you have biked up the hill like Vaucluse Dreamer.

It’s believed that Menerbes comes from Minerva (Minerve in French), the Roman goddess of wisdom, strategic warfare and a supporter of the arts. The name is fitting for a village that has been home to famous artists and writers.

Author Peter Mayle may have put Menerbes and the Luberon on the radar for many of his readers, but that is more recent history. Long before his books were published, the town was home to several creative types. Those famous names included Pablo Picasso, Nicolas de Stael and Dora Maar (French photographer, painter and Picasso’s muse) among others. Nicolas de Staël painted Nu Couché in Ménerbes in 1954 at Le Castellet. In 2011, the canvas sold for €7 million, the auction record for any work of art in France that year.

Nicolas de Stael Nu-couché

Nu Couché

However, not everyone felt that way about Menerbes. In 1950, shortly after delivering the manuscript of French Country Cooking, Elizabeth David and a couple of friends rented a huge draughty house in the Vaucluse at Menerbes, in her own words, “a crumbling hill village opposite the Luberon mountain.” She was there for some months from late winter to early summer.

Historical Menerbes

As part of a program developed by Marina of Learn French in Provence, Julie joined a guided walking tour of the village. They explored the town that Nostradamus described as, “Ménerbes is a ship in a sea of ​​vines.”

Traces of human habitation on the hilltop date to Neolithic times. Construction of the citadel took place in teh 12th century. During the Middle Ages, the townsfolk lived behind fortified walls, and traders entered the village via one of two gates the Saint-Sauveur and Notre-Dame (destroyed in the 19th century).

Menerbes was almost impregnable with its combination of high-level viewpoints and fortified walls. In 1573, During the wars of religion, the protestants arrived. They occupied the town for five (5) years full of upheaval and fighting in the heart of Papal territory. The protestants left on December 10, 1578, after years of conflict between the Pope’s armies and the King’s forces.

Must-see Menerbes

The 18th-century belfry with a wrought-iron campanile

The former ramparts

St Blaise an 18th-century chapel

The House of Truffles and Wine (Maison de la Truffe et du Vin) with a restaurant, bar, wine cave and boutique. Located in the centre of town in a restored Renaissance-era home.
Place de l’horloge
84560 Ménerbes

Domaine de la Citadelle, botanical garden and the corkscrew museum (Musee du Tire-bouchon) with over 1200 corkscrews.
601 Route de Cavaillon
84560 Menerbes

The troglodytic dwellings

Abbey of Saint-Hilaire a Carmelite convent and associated buildings from the 12th and 13th centuries.

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Julie Whitmarsh

Julie Whitmarsh

Julie and her husband Andy started visiting the Vaucluse area 25 years ago & over the years have increased the amount of time they spend there with their growing family. She has a deep affection for the area, finding it is a great place to visit, where the whole family can relax and enjoy time together.

She longs for the day when she can ‘up-sticks’ from her home on Dartmoor & relocate to the Luberon and spend her days cycling, walking, visiting markets & brocante fairs and of course enjoying the local food and drink.

Her blog VaucluseDreamer gives her a space to highlight some of her favourite things about the area from places to visit to particular activities that she and her family all enjoy.

She hopes one day it will be a place where she can share the process of renovating a house in France, but at the moment that will have to wait.

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