Whenever we are in the Luberon region in Provence, we visit one of our favorite perched villages: Ménerbes. I know what you’re thinking: “Peter Mayle fans!” Not really. After living here for eight years, I was rather disappointed when I read One good Year.
The stories of Cyriel Buysse, a Flemish writer who drove 5000 km in 1915 in an open Minerva (!) are far more interesting and evocative of the times when Provence was not so commonly visited as today. Just imagine the sheer expeditionary character of his trip. In the red Michelin guide of the early ’60, you can read that even then Provence was still nearly impenetrable!
Anyway, after driving 9 hours in luxury compared to Cyriel’s tour de force, we stood in the Rue de l’Eglise in Ménerbes. Before rounding the corner to the Place de l’Horloge, I sketched the sun throwing fantastic light and abstract forms on the walls of the medieval buildings. I stood with my back to several wall paintings, in open air(!) by Joe Downing (1925-2007), an American artist who lived in Ménerbes. The forms and colors in his paintings are fragile. A good example is never far.