Vaucluse (84560) Population: 1,118 Altitude: 244 m
Ménerbes is a beautiful stone village perched along the top of a long ridge on the north side of the Luberon mountains. Ménerbes is Medieval, very picturesque (and "most beautiful"), popular, and similar to its neighboring perched villages of Lacoste and Bonnieux.
Ménerbes is one of the Most Beautiful Villages (Plus Beaux Villages) of France.
Approaching the village from across the farmlands, you'll see ancient walls, towers, churches and chapels perched on the stoney cliffs, in the center of an area of bories.
The ridge is very long, with Ménerbes stretched out thinly along the top.
The church is perched on the east end of the ridge, the ancient chateau is perched on the end towards the west, and the Mairie with its 18th-century wrought-iron belfry (campanile) is in between.
For local dining, there are a few restaurants and café-restaurants, many with outdoor terraces. Overall, they're of the tourist type, but reasonably good.
Most of the streets inside the village are very narrow, winding up and down between lovely old buildings. We made a lot of interesting discoveries, like this innocuous hole-in-the-wall Progres Café (our photo) that surprised us with a terrace with a magnificent view.
We love the old advertising wall signs left over from the early 20th century. In Ménerbes on previous trips we discovered a faded PTT wall sign, which was slightly more damaged on a recent visit in 2017.
Through an arch at the top square beside the ancient Mairie you have a magnificent view out across the plains, with several distant villages visible, including Gordes to the north, and sights such as a small Notre-Dame-des-Grâces chapel and farmhouse just below where you stand.
The ancient abbey of St. Hilaire is located about 3.5 km east-southeast of Ménerbes.
There are many of the fascinating dry-stone bories along the small roads and in the fields surrounding the village, some of them marked on the hiking maps.
Our photo here is of a double borie that's been cunningly incorporated into a stone house complex. This is a countryside house we were shown on an adventure ride by an elderly village woman (a complete stranger) to show us the nearby sites.
There is a very similar fountain, not yet restored, in a shady nook on the Rue Kléber Guendon in the center of the old village.
Favorite Sons of Ménerbes
The painter Pablo Picasso never lived here, but in 1994 he bought a house in Ménerbes as a parting gift for his muse, Dora Maar.
Dora Maar, French painter, photographer, and muse and mistress of Picasso had a large house in Ménerbes, near the top of Rue du Portail Neuf. There's a bronze plaque on the outer wall that identifies the house.
The Russian-French painter Nicolas de Staël moved to Ménerbes in 1953, into a compact chateau property called Le Castelet, on the very northwestern end of the ridge, out past the Notre-Dame des Grace church.
Other well-known artists who lived in Ménerbes include Joe Downing (Franco-American painter), François Nourissier (French writer), Jean-François Ganas (painter), Raymond Mason (English sculptor).
Peter Mayle (English writer) who popularized Provence for the English speaking world, bought a house in Ménerbes as his first residence in Provence. He later moved to a farmhouse near Lourmarin, on the south side of the Luberon mountains, and finally to the little village of Vaugines just east of Lourmarin.
The Pichone Dolmen (not this photo) is one of only three dolmens the Vaucluse departement. The Pichone Dolmen is located about 2 km east of Ménerbes, just beside the D103 road (GPS 43.8268, 5.229167), 100 m past the farmhouse along the north side of the road). If you're driving by, it looks like a culvert beside the road. Looking down, you'll see the ring of upright stones with the large stone-capped cover. The site was apparently at the base of the hill which has, over the centuries, half-covered the site. The built-up roadway also helped diminish the impact of the location, but the mystique remains.
A second Vaucluse dolmen is about 4 km northeast of Ménerbes (GPS 43.85638, 5.23160), in the commune of Goult. It's called the Dolmen de l'Ubac, which means shady-side of the slope. This is a striking dolmen, set in the center of a stone-paved tumulus.
A third Vaucluse dolmen was discovered in 1995, located 2.5 km northeast of Sault (GPS 44.106111, 5.428889.
There's a mushroom "farm" just out of the village (about a km to the east on the D3), using caves deep in the side of the solid-rock hillside.
History of Ménerbes
First record, 1081 Menerba
Prehistoric: This region was inhabited continuously from the neolithic, through the bronze age to the middle ages. The only two dolmens in the Vaucluse are near the village (see above).
Gallo-Roman: The Roman occupation ended here with the Saxon invasions in the 6th century.
Medieval: One of the better-known rulers here was La Reine Jeanne (Queen Joan) in the 14th century.
The village was so well fortified it was considered impregnable. However, the Protestants of Scipion de Valavoire entered by ruse and occupied the village until 10 December 1578. The Catholics then applied similar methods to retake the village, while the previous invaders departed with flags flying and drums beating, declaring themselves undefeated.
Tel : 04 90 72 22 05 ; Fax: 04 90 72 48 13
Aug (2nd half) - Fête votive
• GPS: 43.832264, 5.206166
IGN (1/25,000) #3142 OT "Cavaillon, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #14 "Luberon, Sainte-Victoire"
Ménerbes is perched high up over fields and farms, and walks along the roads will take you past small woods and hills.
There are many bories and interesting old buildings and sights in this region to make your walks interesting.
• Two hiking trails, one from the southern end of the village and one from a road west of the village, go south to the base of the Luberon mountains. An trail runs along the base of the mountains, between Robion and Oppéde in the west and Bonnieux in the east, and several other trails climb up through the forests onto the Luberon.
The Luberon en Vélo cycling path runs 100 km between Cavaillon, Apt and Forcalquier.
- See Beyond's Bus Schedules Page 02: Vaucluse Department for downloading Vaucluse bus-lines map and schedules (link for PDF files).
Cavaillon - Bonnieux - Apt Bus 15.2
- Vaucluse bus line 15.2 serves the towns and villages: Cavaillon, Les Taillades, Robion, Coustellet, Maubec, Oppède, Ménerbes, Les Beaumettes, Goult, Lacoste, Bonnieux, Gargas, Apt.
The trip between Cavaillon and Apt is about 1h45.
Cavaillon has links to Avignon, Aix-en-Provence and Marseille.
See Beyond's Bus Schedules Page 02: Vaucluse Department for downloading Vaucluse bus-lines map and schedules (link for PDF files).
Cavaillon - Bonnieux Bus
- Vaucluse bus line 15.2 serves the towns and villages: Cavaillon, Les Taillades, Robion, Maubec, Oppède, Ménerbes, Lacoste, Bonnieux. There are 3 buses a day: early morning, mid-day, evening.
Cavaillon has links to Avignon, Aix-en-Provence and Marseille.
Department 84, Vaucluse Buses
- See Beyond's Bus Schedules Page 2: Vaucluse Department for downloading Vaucluse bus-lines map [Plan global des lignes] and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).
• Avignon has train or bus connections to Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Nîmes, Saint Remy-de-Provence, Paris.
• Cavaillon has bus connections to Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Saint Remy-de-Provence.
• Pertuis has bus connections to Aix-en-Provence and Marseille.