La Voute is a stone house that sits in beautiful countryside on the edge of the village of St Michel l’Observatoire. It is a place to relax in peace and tranquillity, yet it is only a few steps from the bustle of the village square with its butcher’s shop, restaurants and cafes, and just around the corner, is a traditional epicerie. If you come with a car you can park it in front of the house. The entrance to the original stone vault is at street level. This is furnished as a bedroom with an ensuite shower room, toilet, and hanging closet. It is the perfect place to cool off on the hottest summer days. On the floor above you’ll find a small courtyard and laundry room with washer and dryer. The dining area has three doors that open on to a large sunny terrace, part of which is shaded with a roof for outdoor dining. The terrace is surrounded by Provencal flora: thyme, rosemary, lavender, plus an olive and cyprus tree. The kitchen opens on to both the terrace and interior dining area which makes serving easy. At the top of the house are two bedrooms, a bathroom with a walk-in shower, wash basins, a bidet and toilet. The windows of all the rooms open on to views of the hills and fields surrounding the village
If you leave the house and walk downhill you will quickly come to the hotel and bar l’Observatoire. It has a rather special restaurant. Gilles, the chef and proprietor serves delicious provencale dishes made from locally sourced ingredients. In front of the hotel is the fountain. If you turn right past the church you’ll find the grocery. On the other hand. if you continue down the hill you’ll come in to the square. To your left is the Mairie, or town hall, and a sign board with a map indicating the lovely walks that start from the village. Around the square are cafes, a pizza place, a butcher’s shop, hairdresser, two other eating places, and a bakery. There are very some nice images of the village on YouTube (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Behind La Voute you’ll notice a path that leads up to the delightful 12th century Eglise Haute. It houses an interesting 12th Century marble font carved with heads of fantastic animals. Concerts are given here at intervals throughout the year. Continue up the path that skirts the chateau and you’ll find an orientation table from which you get marvellous views of the surrounding country. Walk on, and as the ridge ends you will find a track that gently takes you back to La Voute.
Another short walk (sign posted) will take you from St Michel to Lincel, a lovely little village with a beautiful church. A number of longer walks across country start from the roads leading into and out of the village.
When you feel inclined to explore further, by car, bicycle or horse, continue downhill until you come to the D4 100 . Turn left and the road takes you past a little turning to the left that leads to a riding establishment . A bit further along, off the road to the right is the beautifully restored Chateau. Check opening times at the gate, and enjoy a conducted tour by the owner. Next along the road, you’ll come to the village of Mane. Just before you enter the village, off the road to the left is Salagon, a chapel with a medieval garden. Growing there you’ll see plants our ancestors relied on before Columbus came back from America with potatoes, tomatoes, herbs and vegetables that we eat now. Next stop, a petrol station, and a Casino supermarket.
Another few minutes along the D4 100 you come to the sizeable town of Forcalquier. It hosts an enormous market every Saturday. If you visit it, go early. Parking can be difficult in the height of summer. The rest of the week, is less hectic and there are plenty of interesting shops and cafes, and for a bit of exercise take the uphill path leading to the Citadel above the town.
In the other direction, the D4 100 goes through I’Isle sur La Sorgue, a very pretty town with lots of expensive antique shops and continues to Avignon and the Pope’s Palace, a must-see building of enormous size and interest where the Pope resided during the schism.
There are famous villages in the Luberon, Menerbes, for instance, where Peter Mayle lived while he wrote, A Year in Provence. Lacoste, for another, where the Marquise de Sade did all manner of unmentionable things. There are lots of other less known, but intriguing places to discover. All it takes is a map, a car and an enquiring mind.