L’Ancienne Poste is a luxury rental property in the heart of Ménerbes, the charming, peaceful village immortalized in Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. As its name suggests, the house is a former post office now elegantly restored and stylishly furnished, yet still partaking of this protected building’s original historic charm.
At 5,000 square feet (450 m2) L’Ancienne Poste has a courtyard, a rooftop terrace, a nearby private swimming pool and incredible views of the Luberon Valley from every bedroom and bathroom. The house can accommodate up to 10 people: a group of friends, a mix of couples and kids, or one couple hosting an “open house in Provence” for a few weeks.
The house’s ground floor is decorated in warm tones reminiscent of the safre stone so prevalent in the village. Its spacious interior has been tastefully refashioned in a sophisticated, contemporary style that enhances the original architecture, with walls of brick, terracotta and even wine bottles.
The spacious open-plan living and dining area includes a fireplace surrounded by generous Lloyd Loom sofas and art deco armchairs. Artifacts from owner Philippe Brown’s travels include Italian prints and lithographs, Vietnamese contemporary art and Provençal paintings.
The simplicity of Provençal living, with copper pots and rustic furnishings perfect for lazy breakfasts. Opening onto the courtyard via glass doors, the kitchen has a pantry and modern amenities (Smeg pro cooker and oven, Siemens dishwasher, fridge with ice machine and chilled water) and nearby WC.
A stunning beech staircase leads up to the first floor, with its wonderful countryside views. The bedrooms are painted in cool pastels and designed with comfort in mind: beds have hand-embroidered Frette sheets; Provençal toiletries from L’Occitane and Frette bath linens from Italy are provided in the ensuite bathrooms.
The First Master Bedroom includes a king bed (72 x 75 in / 180 x 190 cm) that can be separated into two single beds. The ensuite bathroom (with a Luberon view rare in a village property) has a bath/shower and toilet.
The Second Master Bedroom has a queen bed (63 x 80 in / 160 x 203 cm) and an ensuite bathroom (again, with a Luberon view) with bathtub, shower and toilet.
The first-floor library offers comfortable armchairs, a backgammon table and a view onto the courtyard.
The second floor, with its ancient exposed beams, has three more bedrooms, a spacious living area filled with contemporary furniture and access to the rooftop terrace.
The Third Master Bedroom offers a queen bed (63 x 80 in / 160 x 203 cm) and an ensuite bathroom with bathtub, sink, a separate WC and a Luberon view.
The Fourth Bedroom has a king bed (72 x 75 in / 180 x 190 cm), which can be separated into two single beds, plus a shower room (shared with the Fifth Bedroom) and a separate WC. The Fifth Bedroom has a king bed (72 x 75 in / 180 x 190 cm), which can be separated into two single beds, and a separate WC.
The Fifth Bedroom has a king bed (72 x 75 in / 180 x 190 cm), which can be separated into two single beds, plus a shower room (shared with the Fourth Bedroom) and a separate WC.
The second-floor living room offers a stereo/CD, satellite TV and DVD player, with an excellent selection of English-language and foreign films.
The rooftop terrace, with its dining table and chairs, is the perfect place for pastis at sunset. From here you can see Gordes, Roussillon, Lumières, Goult and Mont Ventoux (whose 20 mi/34 km uphill has been part of the Tour de France route).
Often available, the rustic house next door has its own entrance, but you can access L’Ancienne Poste via an internal door and the courtyard. A perfect private retreat for in-laws or grown-up children, with a mezzanine living room, kitchen-breakfast area, large bedroom, troglodyte shower with WC and Luberon views.
Notwithstanding its brush with literary fame thanks to Peter Mayle’s best-selling A Year in Provence tiny Ménerbes remains one of the quietest and least-touristed villages in the Luberon. Families who were born and bred here share the village with an eclectic collection of artists, writers and bon vivants from around the globe who have chosen to live here. Cliché as it may sound, L’Ancienne Poste is a home away from home where you can take time to appreciate a leisurely café, the play of light on leaves, and the company of family and friends. It’s the perfect place to begin or resume your discovery of Provence’s natural beauty, intriguing history and seductively unhurried way of life.
While this quaint and picturesque Provençal village can be traced back to Neolithic times, its architecture is in large part from the mid-16th century. Set on a long, ship-shaped ridge, Ménerbes has panoramic views over the vineyards, cherry orchards and the tranquil countryside of the Luberon. From outlooks you can see villages such as Gordes, Goult and Roussillon to the north, and the Luberon massif to the south. The village streets wind between a variety of medieval and Renaissance buildings: the Mairie and the wrought-iron campanile; the 18th-century Hôtel de la Carmejane; the 14th-century church of Notre Dame de l’Assomption; the Castellet from the 16th and 18th century; the Hôtel Tingris, former country residence of a prince; and Maison Dora Maar, a beautiful parting gift from Picasso to his former mistress.
Staying at L’Ancienne Poste, you can discover the unique magic and slower rhythms of village life in Provence. Chat in your beginner’s French at the épicerie (grocery store). Linger over a multicourse lunch at the Café du Progrès, the hub of village life, catching up on local gossip and maybe getting tips on truffle-hunting from owners Patrick and Carmen. Browse the boutiques for gifts and Provençal keepsakes, talking to Véronica and Roselyne at La Vie est Belle or Sacha at her eponymous shop. Louis the butcher shares his secret for preparing boar sausage and his opinions on most any topic. As you stroll, enjoy a wonderful choux à la crème from village baker Joel Roche. And sip your first glass of pastis on the L’Ancienne Poste terrace as the sun sets below ancient rooftops.
Mayle Was Here
After 15 years in the advertising business, Peter Mayle escaped the corporate world and fled in 1986 with his wife to the tranquility of Provence, where they settled into an old farmhouse just outside Ménerbes. Mayle originally intended to write a novel. However, inspired by his new surroundings and his encounters with local characters, he crafted a first-person account detailing his experiences as an expatriate in the south of France. The result was A Year in Provence, an international best-seller that subsequently became a TV miniseries. The Russell Crowe film A Good Year was also shot nearby.) Mayle has continued to delight fans with other books set in his adopted Provençal home. As you explore the village streets, you may see a few of his characters strolling past.
The Real Provence
You don’t have to spend a year to discover the natural charms of Provence. Setting out from L’Ancienne Poste on foot or by car, you can immerse yourself in sun-baked vineyards and cherry orchards; summer fields of lavender, sunflowers and wild herbs; the bleached limestone outcrops of Les Alpilles; historic fortified towns and crumbling Roman ruins; medieval streets lined with chic contemporary shops and stylish restaurants; bustling markets filled with antiques, fresh produce and fragrant olive oils; the earthy warmth of robust Côtes du Rhône wines; and everywhere the magical light and vibrant explosions of color that inspired van Gogh, Picasso, Cézanne, Matisse, Monet, Chagall and many others.
Exploring the Luberon
The Luberon, where Ménerbes is located, is the heart of Provence, its sun-drenched landscapes dotted with hilltop villages, castles, forts and ancient ruins. There is a deep sense of history, yet at the same time, the region is wonderfully wild and beautiful a place where you can spend a peaceful day walking or biking along quiet trails, through oak forests and among fields of wild thyme and rosemary. In more precise terms, the Luberon is the name given to a range of mountains running about 34 miles (55 km) roughly eastward from Cavaillon to Manosque. The region has been designated as a park le Parc Régional du Luberon that is divided into the Petit Luberon to the west and the Grand Luberon to the east. UNESCO classified the Luberon as a worldwide Biosphere Reserve in 1997.
This nearby town has a Saturday market that continues to grow in popularity.
Enjoy panoramic views as you walk through this pleasant village. The Musée de la Boulangerie is interesting, as is the baker opposite the museum. Quite the character, he makes a superb meringue and orange tart known as…Tarte Provençale. Please say hello from Philippe from Ménerbes if you visit.
This collection of more than twenty 500-year-old restored bories is now a museum of rural life. The enigmatic dry-stone buildings (similar to Puglian trulli) were occupied until the early 19th century, but to this day their origin and use remain a mystery.
A five-minute car ride from L’Ancienne Poste, Coustellet holds a market every Sunday. Come early or late, but make sure you stay for lunch at Gouin.
The houses of Gordes cling to a rocky outcrop, rising in tiers above the Imergue Valley. The village and its Renaissance château are worth a visit. Drinks on the secret terrace of the Cercle Républicain are a must.
This quiet village is dominated by the ruins of the Château du Marquis de Sade. Head to the Café de France for an omelette frites and a super view of Bonnieux.
Still More Towns
Just 30 minutes away, L’Isle is a pleasant town that was a center for weaving, dyeing, tanning, oil, grain and paper-milling in centuries past. Today it’s home to the well-known weekend antiques market, where haggling for rarities is an art in itself. And don’t forget to stop in at La Maison Biehn, a textile and Provençal curio emporium run by Michel Biehn.
With a wonderful market every Friday, this village is nestled in the folds of the Luberon and is dominated by its Renaissance château. The village is the burial place of Albert Camus and the new home of author Peter Mayle, of A Year in Provence fame.
So Many Towns
Edith Mezard’s beautiful home/store has an incredible collection of fine contemporary embroidered linens and other gift items and the nearby church has an ex voto collection.
Oppède le Vieux
Set in stepped terraces at the foot of the Luberon, by a pretty 13th-century collegiate church, Oppède le Vieux is the ideal place to stop for drinks on a walk from Ménerbes.
Roussillon is famous for the ochre cliffs on which this colorful village is situated. It could be one of the most perfect spots for a café break in all of Provence. Make sure you walk beyond the church to enjoy views from the enlightening orientation table.
Major Centers (you mustn't miss)
The attractions of elegant St. Rémy and Les Baux de Provence are too numerous to mention here (any good guide to Provence will have pages of information), but the important part is that they’re just 40 minutes by car from L’Ancienne Poste. Avignon, Arles, Aix and Nimes are also within easy driving distance, as is the chic Mediterranean beauty of the Côte d’Azur and the wild coastal region known as the Camargue.
The essence of the Provence experience is in its wonderful cuisine. Traditional Provençal fare uses seasonal ingredients artichokes, zucchini, eggplants, asparagus, garlic, peppers, olives available from the overflowing stalls of every farmer’s market, plus fresh lamb, squab and fish from the Mediterranean. And a meal wouldn’t be complete without goat’s and sheep’s milk cheeses to accompany a host of delicious red, rosé and white wines many of them produced near Ménerbes. Then there’s the fruit…cherries, apricots, figs, peaches, nectarines, apples. Melons from Cavaillon. Black truffles and cèpes in the autumn.
There are great restaurants across the region, including wonderful places right here in Ménerbes. At La Veranda, Chef Laurent Jouin prepares Provençal classics such as Quiche Ménerbienne, Petit Cochon en Pot au Feu and Assiette tout Chocolat. Other notable spots from family-run places to culinary landmarks include the tasty and simple Bistrot du Paradou, and Wout Brus’ Michelin-starred Le Bistrot Eygalières. By L’Ancienne Poste is Le Fournil in Bonnieux, the simple Café de Sade in Lacoste, and Reine Sammut’s great La Fenière just outside Lourmarin. Le Mas Tourteron and l’Estellan are on the road to Gordes, and farther away there are Michelin-starred gems such as Christian Etienne and La Mirande in Avignon, and l’Oustau de Baumanières and La Cabro d’Or in Les Baux de Provence.
Côtes du Luberon Wines
The Luberon is a young region that produces wine with an unforgettable fragrance and bouquet. Its great terroir also produces truffles, olives, fruit, lavender, rosemary and thyme. Ménerbes is at the heart of the Côtes du Luberon appellation. Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah are the principal varietals grown here, and although 90% of the volume is processed by cooperatives, the best wines come from many of the local private domaines. These houses produce reds that can be fruity in style (meant to be enjoyed young) or more mature wines aged in oak (to be left for a while). Worthy of a visit are Château de la Canorgue near Bonnieux; the ancient Château de Mille or Château de l’Isolette, both just outside Apt; and the excellent Domaine Faverot, Domaine de la Royère, Domaine de la Garelle and Domaine Gros near Maubec.
Côtes du Rhône Wines
Further afield but definitely worthy of your attention are wines of the Côtes du Rhône. These are usually made from a number of varietals, Grenache chief among them and Syrah dominating the north. Within the appellation there are traditional, powerful wines with a firm aroma as well as very supple, fruity wines reminiscent of their Beaujolais neighbors. Worthy of a visit are Guigal (the most important Côte-Rôtie producer) and Domaine René Rostaing near Ampuis; Domaine Georges & Luc Vernay in Condrieu; Chapoutier in Hermitages; Château la Nerthe and the outstanding Domaine du Pegau in Châteauneuf- du-Pape; Domaines du Cayron in Gigondas; and du Clos de Caveau in Vacqueyras.
As the village post office, L’Ancienne Poste was a place where people would chat and forge friendships. Carrying on that spirit, we’re pleased to introduce guests to the local chefs, artists, writers, historians and raconteurs who have become our friends. You’ll enjoy exclusive access to talented people who know the region intimately and can help make your Provence experience unforgettable. (When we have confirmation of your booking at L’Ancienne Poste, we’ll provide all the details you need to arrange activities to fit your tastes. Reserve early to avoid disappointment.)
There are three secrets to learning French: (1) find a fun and talented teacher; (2) have a glass of wine in your hand at all times; and (3) get out and use your newly acquired skills. We can help with the first two our teacher is extremely gifted (and fun), and our wine is excellent. The third ingredient is up to you.
Fitness & Health
Marie is a Provençal native who worked for many years in the U.S. as a certified personal trainer. She can drop by the house at your convenience to help you maintain your fitness objectives (and ensure you don’t carry home any extra pounds from the great local cuisine).
Yoga and Pilates
If you’re looking to increase flexibility and tone, release tension, energize and refresh, yoga is an ideal complement to your stay. Benedicte continues where your yogi at home left off or introduces you to techniques learned on her visits to Southeast Asia. She's schooled in Hatha and Ashtanga yoga but also practices Bikram.
You and a companion can enjoy a set on the courts in a nearby village. Or play with a local partner it's a great way to learn French!
Massage & Spa
After a great bike ride or walk, what better way to relax than with a massage? Adrianne and Katia are two of the finest masseuses in the Luberon, and we can arrange to have them visit you at L’Ancienne Poste. They’re schooled in everything from Californian and Swedish to Shiatsu and Korean relaxation techniques.
Enjoy a few hours of pampering and rejuvenation at the Bastide de Gordes Daniel Jouvance Spa in Gordes, or the nearby Centre Agora in Goult, both featuring massage, yoga and gym facilities.
Our friend Robert is a Michelin-starred chef with three restaurants in Avignon. If you’re interested in cooking from a regional perspective, he'll come to spend the day with you. Together you’ll prepare a menu, visit the market for produce, enjoy a one-on-one cooking session and prepare dinner as Robert shares the secrets of Provençal cuisine. His signature dishes include: compotée de legumes aux deux tapenades, plancha de legumes à l’huile de basilic, risotto de girolles and tartine de rougets à la Provençale.
Le Marmiton Cooking School (Avignon)
At certain times of the year, this respected school brings together classes of 12 students with a renowned Provençal chef in Hôtel La Mirande’s kitchen and you taste the results of your efforts in the chef’s private dining room.
Meet the Winemakers
At Domaine de Pegau in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, winemaking couple Laurence and Mark produce outstanding wines that have won a 100-point rating from Robert Parker and high praise from other experts. Whether you’re just getting to know wines or are an aficionado, a day in the nearby wine region is a great experience. Your hosts introduce you to their village, their vines and their wine from the barrel, then from the bottle over a hearty lunch.
Discover the Côtes du Luberon in the company of François Faverot de Kerbrech, acclaimed winemaker and proprietor of Domaine Faverot. Visit the vineyard, learn about grape cultivation, discover the winemaking process, taste some great vintages and enjoy a magnificent lunch in the courtyard of the Domaine's 18th-century Provençal mas.
Art & Architecture
Jean-Pierre a local artist can help you further explore your hidden talents. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist hoping for tips with landscapes and still-life scenes, Jean-Pierre’s friendly style will make your day enjoyable and fulfilling.
van Gogh’s St. Rémy
Walking with our art historian friend Mathilde around St. Rémy, you can trace van Gogh’s footsteps, stand in olive groves he painted and learn all the fascinating details of his life and art.
History & Culture
Arles Our friend Mathilde, a professor at the University of Aix en Provence, immerses you in this city of artists, hedonists and bullfighters as you visit sites like the Gallo-Roman amphitheater, and the Romanesque cloisters and tympanum of St-Trophime.
Vespers at the Abbaye de Sénanque
Just 20 minutes away in a lavender-filled valley, this secluded abbey echoes each evening with Gregorian chants as the Cistercian monks gather. From 6:00 (sharp) to 6:45 pm, it's a perfect place for prayer and quiet reflection.
The Parc Régional de la Camarque is a birder’s paradise. And Michael Bonham Carter, an expat Brit with a great passion for birding, is the region’s star birdwatching guide. We highly recommend his services if you plan to spend a day in this very special place.
Parc Régional du Luberon
You’ll enjoy excellent biking and walking through this scenic regional park.
Cedar Forest Walk (Bonnieux)
Imported from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, a forest of majestic cedars was planted just outside Bonnieux in 1862. From this dramatic starting point you can enjoy a full-day’s walk along the crest of the Luberon with phenomenal views to the north and south.
Antiquing at L’Isle
Your first visit to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue’s famous weekend antiques market can be a bit daunting why not equip yourself with an expert or two? Xavier and Claudia have spent much of their lives among L’Isle’s antiques. They can direct you to the right dealer (to find that perfect Provençal armoire), assist you in selecting suitable pieces and guide you through the buying process.
Shopping with Amélie
To make the most of your time, you might want to spend one day on a tour of all the finest stores of the region. Our friend Amélie has impeccable taste and the knack of finding the very thing you’re looking for before you even think of it.
At L’Ancienne Poste, we’re fond of children, which is why we’ve done everything to make it an unforgettable place for young people as well as parents. For each day of a family stay, we suggest activities that kids and parents will enjoy together (and even find educational!). Choose from biking and walking; horseback riding; canoeing or kayaking; visiting the Haribo candy factory; touring a bike and motorbike museum; playing boules; ballooning or gliding; go-karting; bowling; visiting a crocodile farm; walking in a bamboo forest; viewing animals in the zoo at Château de la Barben; heading underground to the 60-million-year-old Grottoes of Thouzon; exploring a giant maze; and venturing into the treetops along a cable adventure course. And at the house we have numerous age-appropriate DVDs and board games to occupy the kids while indoors.
Care & Classes
We can provide au pairs to care for your children during the summer for an additional fee. For the most part these are bilingual students who are experienced in working with children. Each au pair is able to look after 4 children between the ages of 2 and 12. Please note that we require full payment for this service at the time of booking.
We can also arrange French or English language classes (with a tutor coming to the house); pottery or art classes; instruction in mixing and painting with ochres; cooking lessons; or even classes in circus skills. (Any prearranged class will incur an additional charge at the time of reservation.)
L’Ancienne Poste guests have access to the swimming pool of a nearby boutique hotel just two minutes by car or a pleasant 15-minute stroll.
The proprietor of L’Ancienne Post began his career in advertising with Ogilvy & Mather in London and Boulet Dru Dupuy Petit in Paris. Fluent in English, French, Italian and Spanish and conversant in Vietnamese Philippe joined the luxury travel company Butterfield & Robinson, where he has been an expert guide, regional director and trip researcher in France, Morocco, Chile, Peru, Iceland, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. He has now launched his own travel firm, Brown & Hudson.
As much as he loves to travel, Philippe wanted a place to call home. And Provence, with its vibrant landscapes and relaxed pace, appealed to his sensibilities. After living near Ménerbes for several years, he stumbled upon L’Ancienne Poste one day while walking in the village. Inspired by its history, he purchased the former post office and created something extraordinary.
For More Info
We’ve tried to anticipate as many questions as possible on this site, but if you want additional information about L’Ancienne Poste in particular or Provence generally, we’d be happy to tell you more. You can contact Philippe Brown, owner/creator of L’Ancienne Poste, via all the usual avenues:
Tel: 1 646 217 4723
Fax: 1 413 832 6111
L’Ancienne Poste Rue du Portail Neuf Ménerbes 84560 France