Luberon Stories and Tips

Joucas: Undiscovered, Unspoiled

Rustic doorway Photo, Luberon, France

Little Joucas, with a population of only 321, is on no one’s tourist agenda and has no extraordinary sights. Never an important town, it was even abandoned during the 10th and 11th centuries. This is exactly why I was glad to call it home during my stay in the Luberon. The peaceful calm of Joucas makes it an ideal hideaway. Spilling down the side of a very modest hill, it doesn’t have the dramatic setting of other villages, but it’s a real charmer, full of narrow cobbled step-streets and limestone houses and shaded patios garnished with ivy and flowers. It’s clear the town is being lovingly maintained and restored, but thankfully it doesn’t have the posh polish that can spoil the charm of a rustic place.

Best of all, it belongs heart and soul, day and night, to its residents, some of whom are leathery native Provencals and some of whom are an eclectic bunch of artists who have made Joucas their home, often for many years. The lower part of town, near the church, is patrolled by a pair of calico cats, one short-haired and one long-haired, busy monitoring all the comings and goings in town, who turn up on nearly every doorstep you pass. At night, the croaking of the battalion of frogs in the pond below town sounds like ducks quacking.

On my first afternoon, while trying to locate Maison de Mistral, where I was staying, I became slightly side-tracked on a different path and discovered the atelier of a Norwegian husband-and-wife team who make fascinating sculptures (see photos). This couple has been living in Joucas for more than 15 years. One of their larger wooden sculptures stands right outside their workshop and home (located across the path from one another), a somewhat larger than life standing figure, and another seated figure is located around the uphill corner. The wife spoke excellent English and told me that she and her husband work together on all their sculptures, from the largest to the smallest with no division of labor even between heads and bodies. If you want to take a look, put the church at your back and walk as straight as you are able through the first "intersection" and take the next right. You should be able to see the tall wooden sculpture shown below.

The little town church is located at the bottom of town, near the road to Gordes. The obligatory Luberon village World War I memorial is located on its southern side. The church looks like nothing from the outside, very plain, flanked by two small evergreen spires. I found out only when I got home that I had missed a gem by not pausing to poke my nose inside. Apparently the interior is brilliantly painted with Italian trompe l’oeil, a sophisticated technique which can be used to render 3-D architectural details on a flat surface. That’s what I get for letting my church-fatigue get the best of me! If you come to Joucas, don’t be so foolish.

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