Where should I stay/eat in the Luberon? Where to eat on a Sunday and Monday in Avignon? (questions on Provence)
We are headed to Provence in a couple weeks. We are staying in Aix, Avignon and Arles. I was also thinking of staying one night in a smaller town in the Luberon. Does anyone have any recommendations as to which one? I'm looking for that perfect combination of amazing meal, charming town, and nice place to sleep off the wine.
Another question is where to eat on Sunday and Monday in Avignon or the surrounding area... most everything seems to be closed!
So far the only dinner I've booked for my entire trip is at La Chassagnette, so any recommendations are most welcome!
Your best bet is to do some searches on this board for recent posts. good towns to stay in or near are Sr. Remy de Provence, Paradou, les Baux de Provence (visiting the castle-fort is worth a stop). Between Arles and les Baux is the old Abbaye de Montmajour which is also worth a visit to see how huge and abbey could be in olden days.
As for a good restaurant in this area, half-way between St. Remy and Chateaurenard is the Pre Gourmand in the town of Eyragues. Lovely setting, excellent prix fixe dinners at mid-range prices.
I have recently returned from provence and the best meal we had in Avignon was at Chritian Etienne.
If you go to St Remy, do yourself a favour and visit the chocolat shop of Joel Durand.....extraordinary!!!
As for the best place we stayed and ate was in Le Beaux. i though Ousteau de Baumaniere was exceptional, and the town is great, especially if you are staying nearby and can go early or late and beat the crowds. Our meal at Ousteau was fantastic, though to my surprise we had a better (and cheaper meal ) at its sister hotel Cabro D'or. The ambiance of Ousteau beats Cabro, but in terms of food Cabro rated ahead.
Jean-Luc Rabanel in Arles is a unique and excellent experience. He was the chef at La Chassagnette when it first got a star. La Fenière near Lourmarin is a fine place to stay and eat for a night.
For a small town stay, I would recommend Gordes, one of my absolute favorite towns in the world.
I don't have any great recs for Aix or Arles, but in Avignon, I second Christian Etienne, which is the best restaurant in the town by far. Great, reasonably-priced tasting menus, love the lobster (homard) menu. Also good are L'Isle Sonnante and Hiely Lucullus.
Nice small towns in the Lubéron: Lourmarin, Gordes, Bonnieux. All of these are postcard-picturesque and very countrified and serene as well. The stuff Provence is made of!
There are wonderful restaurants in the main square of all of these towns; your biggest issue, as you've already discovered, is the August closings of restaurants. Most restaurants close for at least a part of the month!!
I can't tell you if they are open, but these are some great choices in these towns:
Gordes-- Le Mas des Herbes Blanches
Perhaps the OT can tell you if these places are open on the dates you will be there.
For a great dining experience and a very charming small inn situated in the heart of the Louberon, I suggest Auberge La Feniere just outside the charming town of Lourmarin. If possible try to time it with the market day in Lourmarin, which is Friday.
Chef Rene Sammut of Auberge La Feniere is considered by many to be France's top female chef and lunch or dinner at her beautiful restaurant situated on her small farm is a very special experience. In the summer you will dine on the patio and at other times in the equally stunning dining room. The menu features the best of the season, much of which is grown there on the property, and the wines heavily favor the local vintners.
Rooms are exceptional and the grounds very peaceful. Well worth a visit.
Also, do not miss Bistrot de Paradou, in Paradou just outside of St. Remy.
Do restaurants in the Luberon close in August? I thought that was just in the big cities.
I am currently in Vaucluse and every restaurant we have wanted to try is open and doing great business. The place is packed with French tourists who have escaped Paris etc. I assume this is the time restaurants in the country really make their money. I can't imagine it is that different in the south of Provence.
Unlike Americans, the French put pleasure before profit all the time. The heavily touristed towns will have more places open than those "off the beaten track". Provence is probably not as much of a problem as some of the other regions. But, in August, even in the countryside, restaurants do their "fermeture annuelle".
I agree with with the pleasure before profit theory, but there is a practical side to it. The towns empty in August so it isn't sensible to stay open, the countryside fills up so it is the time to make the profits for the year, thus most food related businesses are open.
I am on the third leg of a 5 week trip, Ile de Re, Langudoc and now Vaucluse/Drome, and I have seen no evidence that restaurants (or food shops) are closed in August, in-fact most are full to bursting (and it wasn't ever an issue when we lived in France).
I thought the OP's big issue was that restaurants close on Sunday/Monday, which is true. Restaurants are not open 7 days a week and most will have two days off, my local one here closes Tuesday/Wednesday.
I had a nice meal at La Riboto de Taven in Les Baux, and I can second the comment below that Les Baux would be a nice 'smaller town' to catch a night. La Riboto also has rooms which look nice from the outside (we didn't stay there). As for recs in Arles, I highly urge you to head to La Gueule de Loup, a wonderful little place on the Rue des Arenes. Jean-Jaques Allard, the chef, is as warmly friendly as he is talented.