Ménerbes occupies a largish hilltop and seems somewhat more spread out than many of the Luberon villages. Further evidence of this is that it isn’t even difficult to park here – in fact, it isn’t anywhere near as pedestrianized as most other nearby villages. It has a variety of the requisite Luberon limestone buildings and a church topped with a caged bell, plus a fortress that saw duty during the bloody Huguenot wars in the 1500s. Originally named after the Roman goddess Minerva, Ménerbes has not completely eradicated its Roman past, with the odd remnant of Roman villas still occasionally popping up in the fields at the foot of the village.
This is the town to which Peter Mayle moved, made famous by his book A Year in Provence. His book is primarily a tale of his dealings with the local workmen who remodeled his home and the guests, invited and uninvited, who turned up to share his idyll. Mayle lived outside the actual town, and reportedly he doesn’t live there any more, having been driven out by persistent tourists splashing in his swimming pool. Tourists still descend on Ménerbes, however, in search of Provençal heaven, drawn I think because the name is familiar. While a nice enough little town, Ménerbes, in my humble opinion, is not where you’ll find it -- try a few kilometers away, in Oppède-le-Vieux.
What you will find here is one of those idiosyncratic little museums that I find hard to resist. On the D3 road just outside Ménerbes toward Cavaillon, stop at the vineyard Domaine de la Citadelle and check out the little Musee du Tire-Bouchon – the Corkscrew Museum, a collection of more than a thousand corkscrews from all over the world. The corkscrew was invented in the mid-17th century. The earliest examples are T-shaped and rely on the strength of the user to remove the cork, but as time went on, more practical mechanical versions were invented. In addition to functional variations, however, you’ll also find an astonishing assortment of elegant or whimsical models. Some are even a little racy. It’s almost a shame to stop if the weather is beautiful, but it doesn’t take long to see, you can taste some wine while you’re there if you wish, and if it’s raining, well, it’s something you can do indoors in a region usually visited for its alfresco charms.