Rosé-tinted Provence: Why author CHRISTOPHER HART is dreaming of the idyllic village of Oppede-le-Vieux and its magical surroundings
- The Daily Mail’s Christopher Hart recalls a trip to the village of Oppede-le-Vieux in Provence, France
- He remembers visiting old castle ruins, swimming in his villa pool and drinking rosé under the stars
- A highlight was a trip to Monsieur Joel Durand’s chocolate shop in St Remy – the ‘Mr Darcy of the ganache’
Under a blue sky, I’m standing amid rough sun-warm grass, facing a long limestone wall. The hire car behind me is still ticking and cooling off after the drive from Avignon.
I fit the big iron key into the lock of the old wooden door, turn and push … and we step through into the loveliest secret garden in Provence …
Everything is the same as last year. The stone-lined saltwater swimming-pool surrounded by olive trees, and the lovely line of the Luberon hills to the south.
The Daily Mail’s Christopher Hart recalls a blissful trip to Oppede-le-Vieux in Provence, France
Pictured is the beautiful bell tower in the village’s main square, which is backed by lush rolling hills
The twisty old acacia tree shading an outdoor dining table and eight or ten chairs. As for the villa itself, spare and uncluttered, white painted walls, bedrooms like sun-washed caves, a big airy kitchen: the heart of the house.
This holiday has a lot to do with eating. We have to swim about 50 lengths a day just to burn off all the cheese. And then there’s the saucisson, the cassoulets and ratatouilles, the rosé …
Later, we drive down into Coustellet for the market. Overwhelming fresh fruit aromas from the melons, the apricots, the peaches…
Green and pleasant land: The village of Maubec, which is two miles from Oppede-le-Vieux
You feel like a wasp in a September orchard, drunk on apples. Then on to Monsieur Joel Durand in St Remy. Dark-eyed M. Durand has an intense, passionate devotion to his craft — and his craft is chocolate. His creations sit in a beautifully laid-out cabinet, with Provencal flavours like lavender, rosemary and black olive.
M. Durand is a female fantasy figure sans pareil, a Mr Darcy of the ganache and the noisette, a handsome chocolatier.
Later we swim, read, gossip. In the cool of the evening we walk down into the old village.
Monsieur Joel Durand’s chocolate creations feature Provencal flavours like lavender, rosemary and black olive
Charming: Monsieur Durand’s chocolate shop is located in St Remy. Pictured is one of the town’s pretty narrow streets
An aperitif or two at the bar in the tiny square. There used to be an agreeably grumpy waitress here, who took our orders without a word, and slammed down our change in a little white saucer as if she still nursed resentment about Agincourt.
We fondly nicknamed her ‘Tittie le Clamp’.
Before sunset we walk up the hill to the ruins of the old castle, once inhabited by the evil Baron Maynier. There’s also a chap who lives up here in a cave. The locals just shrug. Pourquoi pas? It’s a free country.
Then back to the villa for dinner under the acacia and the stars. The cicadas stridulate, the bats swoop and hawk, we stay up too late, the bottles of rosé disappearing at an alarming rate …
Tomorrow, exactly the same again. We hope.