Dinner at La Bastide
The Luberon—I knew the maison would be amazing. Cédric Reversade, swankiest of the swankiest international agents, doesn’t do anything but amazing, whether it’s an Ottoman pile on the Bosporus or…La Bastide, a stone manor house that embodies the complete Provençal fantasy: the landscaped follies, the pale-blue shutters, and the white limestone façade. There were Warhols, a Corbu lounge, books and music to die for, and a cool modernist interior hidden inside the perfect 17th-century bastide. But a year later, it is the clacking of “her” copper pots I remember most, along with the chop, chop, chop of fresh basil and the shuffle of her espadrilles crossing the rocky courtyard en route to our table amid the lavender and evening stars. Madame Laurianne was both housekeeper and cook, but she did the latter with magic. Her English was nonexistent; so, too, my French. My wife tried to parlez-vous a bit, but we communicated mainly through gestures and enthusiasm. She was our own Julia Child, albeit with the Swiss accent of her birth, and her repertoire was delicious, from chilled soups of mint and cucumber to voluptuous daubes to roasted pigeon or grilled lamb. Alas, on Saturday, we kissed, hugged, and promised to come back. But Madame, who knew the ways of summertime renters, merely smiled, closed the car door, and handed us a little glass jar. “Confiture de figues,” she explained, with nothing more than a nod to the fruit on the tree nearby.
La Bastide is just outside the town of Apt, an hour’s drive east of Avignon. Set on 25 acres, the house has six bedrooms and sleeps up to 12 people. It is available for rent (price upon request) through Unique Properties & Events (cedricreversade.com).
En Route in Provence
For the classic Provençal experience, there’s L’Oustau de Baumanière (maisonsdebaumaniere.com), the legendary auberge nestled among the white cliffs of the Vallon de la Fontaine, less than an hour’s drive from Avignon. Some complain that its formality is too much for the rural magic of the landscape. I disagree. That said, L’Oustau is expensive at $420 a night. Elegant and intimate—and with rooms from $260—La Riboto de Taven (riboto-de-taven.fr) is just a five-minute walk from L’Oustau. The owners are as charming as the setting, the place, and the rooms, some of which are actually built into the cliffs. Our meal there was perfection: roasted veal with potatoes, yellow beans, and fresh peas; cheeses; and vanilla ice cream with pineapple compote. Ten minutes farther south is Le Bistrot du Paradou ($ 33-4/90-54-32-70). On my last visit, a lunch of agneau des comtes de Provence and a pistachio-and-apricot tart convinced me that there is no finer French country restaurant anywhere.
$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.