Early autumn is my absolute favourite time of the year for travel. It is less hot, less busy, and much more lending itself to a more authentic and relaxed travel experience. Our autumn road trip to Provence was inspired by Ridley Scott’s movie “A Good Year.”
In the movie, a London banker inherits his uncle’s vineyard in Provence, where he spent many of his childhood holidays. He goes there to sell the estate, the beautiful Château La Canorgue and its adjoining vineyard but not everything goes exactly to plan.
We planned to visit the current day winery and taste their prized Le Coin Perdu, the wine featured in the movie. We also decided to visit Avignon, the city that was the seat to the Roman Catholic Church in the 14th century and to spend time in Gordes, the picturesque hilltop village with magnificent views, which was used as one of the locations in the movie.
Our holiday started in the historic centre of Avignon which is, since 1995, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, including:
• Palais de Papes, the largest gothic palace in Europe which is open every day of the year with entrance cost of 12 euros.. In addition to magnificent architecture, you also get to see the Pope’s private rooms and a collection of frescos by the Italian artist Matteo Giovannetti.
• St. Benezet Bridge – the Pont d’Avignon, which we knew from the French nursery rhyme – “Sur le Pont d’Avignon, L’on y danse, l’on y danse….” For 5 euros entrance to the bridge, you too can dance on it (something we wanted to do for a long time), as you learn how it was built in 1177 by a young shepherd Benezet, on instruction from God. Combined ticket for Palais de Papes and St Benezet bridge costs 14.50 euros
• Cathedral of Notre-Dame des Doms, the Romanesque building that is the seat of the Archbishop of Avignon
• For wine lovers, 21st November 2019 is the date to bear in mind as this year’s date for Beaujolais Nouveau festival, known as Millévin in Avignon. This is an annual celebration of Côtes du Rhône wines. Many local producers present their new vintage in Les Halles, the famous Provençal gourmet food market where you can get a tasting glass for 5 euros.
The next destination on our drive was Gordes, a charming hilltop village with stunning views over the vineyards in the valleys below.
Gordes has its own castle, built in 1031 and renovated in 1525, right in the heart of the village, next to Hotel le Renaissance, the location that was the setting for the bistro scene in “A Good Year.”
The castle is used as a cultural centre, hosting various art exhibitions from March to October. The tourist information centre is located on the first floor, at the entrance.
If you are looking for accommodation in the area, the estate agency Rosier opposite the castle provides holiday rentals and can organise transfers and excursions.
Gordes is a wonderful place to stop for lunch and there is a plethora of restaurants serving local French food. If you can get a seat on the terrace at La Trinquette you get to enjoy the views as well as delicious food. The lunch there will set you back 26 euros per person for the main course and dessert.
As mostly everywhere in France (except Paris perhaps), vegetarian options are limited and vegan almost non-existent. For food on the go, check out the artisan bakery La Boulangerie de Mamie Jane on Route Neuve.
Château La Canorgue, home of Le Coin Perdu wine
Our final destination – and the ultimate reason we went to Provence – was Château la Canorgue winery, located in the Bonnieux commune. Having spent the day driving up and down the meandering country roads that were filled with cyclists, we almost drove straight past the entrance. Had it not been for the stone emblem for the property which denotes the entrance to the private residence we would have missed it.
To be clear, the Château la Canorgue is a private residence so there is no public access to the property, which is quite disappointing. But exactly because of that the visiting experience to the winery is actually better.
Access to the winery, hidden away from the main road, is accessible by a separate path which is parallel with the private driveway. We felt the peace and tranquility we’d associate with visiting a vineyard in Provence the moment we stepped out of our car in the little car park right next to the cellar. The cellar is open at specific times and offers wine tastings.
This does not include Le Coin Perdu. Le Coin Perdu is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Mourvedre grapes from the 100-year-old vines organically cultivated on the family estate, then barrel aged, yielding limited quantity.
Not only couldn’t we not taste it, we were told it is best to age it for two years before drinking. It retails for about 20 euros per bottle. Their Château la Canorgue red and whites are sold at about 10 euros per bottle and provide a good substitute while we wait for Le Coin Perdu to mature.
As we were buying our wine, we met some of the film crew who worked on the “A Good Year” movie. They had finished a different project and were stocking up on their way back to London.
A general piece of advice: If you are visiting le Château la Canorgue, it’s best not to mention the movie at all.
Having driven through Provence in autumn, we didn’t get to see the Instagrammable lavender fields. We knew we weren’t going to. But on our way out of Luberon, we did make a stop at the Lavender Museum which is just off the main road, D900.
It’s a lovely little museum, where the story of true lavender and its history is told. The museum is very family oriented, much like the rest of Provence. It takes about an hour to visit.
Entrance cost is 8 euros for adults. Children under 10 years can go in free with their parents.
We crossed the channel from the UK to France via Eurotunnel then drove 1,027 kilometers south. This takes about 11 hours allowing for fuel stops so we stopped over in one of the roadside B&B’s just north of Lyon.
Provence can also be reached by high speed train, there is a TGV stop in Avignon or by air, with Marseilles Provence Airport being the nearest international airport and budget airlines offering flights as cheap as 38 pounds return from London Stansted. If using public transport I would definitely recommend hiring a car.
About the author:
Lilly Rosier is business analyst, fine-arts lover, baker, wife and a mother who lives near Eindhoven, Netherlands
She’s passionate about travelling and always discovering new, great tasting vegetarian or vegan food.
Lilly’s secret to a happy life: “Spending time with a cat.”