I confess, I’ve watched “A Good Year” about a dozen times. Russell Crowe has a lot to do with that, but even Russell would probably agree that the star of the movie is really Provence. Mesmerized by the countryside, weather and cuisine, Provence had quickly worked its way up to the top of my travel list and this past June I knew it was time to get over to France and see it myself. What seems like such an idyllic place in the movie – the rolling hillsides, tiny medieval villages on the hilltops, vast expanses of vineyards and lavender fields – it’s all real. This is a laid back, quiet place with tiny windy roads, brilliant sunshine and the sounds of summer.
“A Good Year” is based on the book of the same name by Peter Mayle. It was directed by Ridley Scott and was released in 2006. Now I keep this DVD handy when I feel like being transported to Provence for a few hours. In addition to the scenery and plot, winemaking and grape growing is infused beautifully into the movie.
What I found in Provence was even better than I expected. A quiet, simple place, with so much to do and dozens of villages to explore, every one of them with so much history. We stayed for a week and really only scratched the surface of what there is to do there. There are literally so many places to see, restaurants, and villages to explore. I now understand why so many people buy houses there.
Anywhere you go in Provence, the food is incredible. Our favorite restaurant was La Terrasse in Goult. Dining outside on the terrace is wonderful and you’ll get an incredible view over the Luberon. Everything is delicious and the local wines are excellent (labeled Côtes du Luberon). Anywhere you go here you will find local wines along with plenty of Côtes du Rhône, and rosés from Côtes de Provence.
The movie was shot in the Luberon area, and mostly near Bonnieux. This is where you’ll find Château la Canorgue (Château la Siroque in the movie). I was beyond excited to visit the Château. It is not possible to see inside the Château itself as it is a real home and the owner does live there. But you can visit the tasting room and buy some wine. From the vineyard and garden below you can look up and see the long driveway, the courtyard and bedrooms on the second floor. The family will tell you that much of the movie was filmed in different areas of the Luberon and what you think is part of the house in the movie is not really there at all.
Provence is perfect for independent travelers that like to drive and explore. You WILL get lost, the road signs are extremely confusing, but that is ok, you will eventually get to where you want to go. I do recommend getting a GPS. I had a great time learning the directions from a friendly French lady, en français on the GPS. It is certainly a quick way to learn directions in French!
If you do visit the tasting room be sure to pick up a bottle or two of their rosé. It is really one of the best in the region and I loved their signature blue bottle. The movie also inspired them to make a wine labeled “CP” or “Coin Perdu”. Those of you that have seen the movie will know it was the mysterious, fabulous wine that was kept a secret. I am pleased to report that I brought a bottle home with me for my collection in New Jersey.
I really recommend spending at least a week in Provence and discovering the myriad of different towns. It’s also a must to find time to relax and take it all in with a glass (or bottle) of rosé.
If you’re interested in visiting Provence I think watching “A Good Year” is a great way to get inspired and start thinking about your own trip.