Nestled in the heart of Provence, the Luberon is an enchanting landscape of historic hilltop villages, verdant valleys and romantic luxury retreats
We’re in the South of France on the kind of balmy summer’s evening that demands an outfit that’s equal parts chic and carefree. For me, a strappy linen dress. For him, a crisp white linen shirt. Both of us, even hotter than the 28-degree air due to ironing out the deep creases in said linen. On our faces, smiles that say: “Is this place even real?” Around us, one of the most astonishingly beautiful settings we’ve ever experienced.
We are dining alfresco in one of France’s most alluring villages – the fortressed hamlet of Gordes in Provence that was, by some massive human feat, built into the rock face of a 340-metre-high hilltop in the Middle Ages. The restaurant, aptly called La Citadelle, at one of Provence’s most renowned and luxurious hotels, La Bastide de Gordes, is a quaintly arranged collection of tables and chairs on a gravelled terrace, neatly tucked behind a wrought-iron balcony.
The restaurant has freshly ironed, parchment-white tablecloths and napkins, gold-trimmed china, waiters that are just the right amount of attentive, and no bad tables. Here, every diner has spectacular views handed to them on a platter – a plunging panorama of lush, verdant valley stretching out for kilometres and flanked in the distance by a low-lying mountain range.
There is a four-piece jazz band playing my favourite style of dinner music, and the ambience is so romantic, the moment so perfect, my childish instinct is to giggle, like the person who inappropriately laughs during a sad story.
To top it all off, it’s ‘magic hour’ and the sun is creating a monumental piece of art out of setting tonight, painting the sky in fairy-floss swirls and streaks, its pink hues mirroring the colour of the top-shelf Côtes de Provence rosé in our crystal glasses.
There are moments in life when words fail even those who write for a living, and this is one of them. Because this isn’t just Provence, this is the Luberon, and it’s undeniably one of the most beautiful places on the planet.