When my wonderful companion, Remi, first came up with the idea to escape the noise of the Feria or Harvest Bullfights in Arles by going away, I responded with an immediate and emphatic "Yeessss". It was the best idea I had ever heard! While our friends had been dashing off to the beach or the mountains all summer long, Remi was working and working hard. We were city-bound, without the lazy glamour of being able to dive into air-conditioned multiplexes and echoing museums mid-afternoon. So when it was time to decide on a destination, we approached our search with the tenacity of France's rugby team preparing to head off against New Zealand.
We knew one thing and one thing only. We were both in serious need of Quiet. Yes, the capital Q kind. And as the beginning of September is still considered high season in many parts of Southern France, we had budget considerations to keep in mind as well. Of course I took my hunt very seriously. Hello? I am a travel writer! It is my job to sniff out the overlooked, the undiscovered but fabulous. So I spent days and I do mean days trawling every website imaginable. Until one evening, without saying anything to me, Remi popped online. Ten minutes later, pas plus, he casually tossed me a line, "Hey, what about this?"
"This" was a cabanon in the Northern Luberon, the anti-bling non-Maylesy kind that ne'er a tour bus does see. The wee abode is on the edge of a lavender field and yes, they accept dogs, yes, there was availability for that week, no there wasn't plastic garden chairs used as the living room furniture and for...300€ per week (that is $388 USD, 239 British Pounds). Done. So beyond done.
The owners, Eric and Sabine, were away on a little vacation of their own and so we were met and welcomed by Sabine's parents both of whom are from the area since generations. It says a lot about the people of the region that Sabine and Eric were trusting enough for us to be les maitres du domaine in their absence. But it was still with trepidation that I entered the cabanon--would it be all that I hoped?
I was not disappointed.
The snug living area had all that we needed and then some. A futon sofa that was so comfortable that it soon became the most sought after spot for la sieste (yes, even more so than the deck chairs), not to mention an authentic Provençal dining set as well as a box of movies next to the television that was exactly to Remi's taste...
Up a short flight of stairs to the cozy bedroom. Sabine's Mom proudly showed me the magnetic blinds she had made to block out the ever-present sunlight for those that didn't want to rise with the dawn. Um yes, that would be us, merci.
Back down to le salon and down a bit more to the fully stocked and I do mean fully stocked kitchen. I have to admit, this was one of the key factors that had sold me on the cabanon as how very, very rare that is. There was even un panier of left behind items--a box of spaghetti, coffee filters and the like--for the just in case. A touch which is completely in line with the beautifully thought out details of the renovation of what was once the family farm's four à pain or bakery. When I later learned that Eric is an interior architect, I was hardly surprised. I loved how he recuperated and integrated materials from the existing structure, such as the beams and shelves just over Ben's head below, not to mention that the sand-based lime-wash on the walls was one of the best executed I have seen, which for Provence, is saying something. Truly, a really lovely renovation that makes the best of what is and what was.
Beyond the kitchen is a small but entirely serviceable bath (and positively enormous compared to the "pirouette in place" shower that we have at home). Need I mention that everything was spotlessly and I do mean spotlessly clean?
It was no wonder at all that soon we felt right at home.
There are several outdoor spaces to explore. Just behind the kitchen is a walled in garden with a table set towards the sun...
...one which joins a private loggia installed with a banquette, another dining table and the absolutely crucial BBQ (more about that to come). A ps. to my design friends, please take a look at the gorgeously set roof tiles...
It is such a lovely area that it is also a preferred choice of certain other visitors...I warned you that this is the country!
Yes, there are cats and dogs and chickens but that is all part of the experience. Here, you are not isolated on the edge of the world but a part of something authentic even if the design is authentic! When Eric and Sabine returned, along with their toddler twins, they were not only extremely charming hosts but discreet ones as well.
The cabanon is exactly what it claims to be, a wonderfully comfortable stone cabin, at only 30 square meters large. But we honestly felt like we didn't need anything more.
And most importantly, we felt entirely bienvenue.
Le cabanon de Bourinet
Simiane la Rotonde
Contact: Sabine Reynard (she speaks as she calls it "schoolgirl English" but it is enough to make a reservation, by email is probably best)
Tel.: +33 (0) 4 92 75 91 39
For more booking information: http://en.luberonweb.com/location-2066/Le_cabanon_de_Bourinet/Le_cabanon_de_Bourinet.php
One final aspect worth noting, the cabanon goes up to 350€ in the peak of high season, which remains an extremely reasonable price and one in accordance with the farm setting. I only ask that you don't book the cabanon during the week of the lavender harvest because we plan on going back!