Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Provencal Village of Cucuron

On our way to Cucuron, we stopped off at Saint Barthelemy Church in Vaugines, where part of the French film, Manon of the Spring (Manon des Sources) was filmed.  Ricky and I had actually seen the movie years earlier at an art theater during one of our stateside adventures. 

After exploring the exterior of the chapel, we headed down the road to the traditional, fortified Provencal village of Cucuron.  If you have seen the movie, A Good Year with Russell Crowe, then you have seen a glimpse of Cucuron.  A man-made pond in Cucuron, surrounded by 200-year-old plane trees and lined with outdoor dining tables for multiple cafes, appears to be the center of activity in this village of 2,000 inhabitants .  Russell Crowe brought Marion Cotillard here for a date in A Good Year.  We, too strolled around the pond but since we didn't have dinner reservations, we didn't stay to eat.

Cafe area around "pond" in Cucuron
(Click on photo for better view)

Cucuron is located in Provence-Alps-Cote d'Azur region of southeastern France on the south side of the Luberon Range, the mountains referenced in Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence.  Adjacent to the pond with its surrounding ring of cafes is the medieval, hilly part of the village.  We decided to walk through the winding streets of this old part of Cucuron where homes and other restaurants are now built, using the old stone fortifications as part of the current structure.  We were looking for another restaurant that one of our French hostesses knew about to see if we could get dinner reservations there, and we were going to climb up to the highest point of Cucuron where the ruins of  a 14th century castle tower stand.

Here are some of the sites along the mostly uphill, as I recall it, walk culminating with an ungraceful scramble up a dirt embankment to the 14th century castle tower.  In the end, it was worth the effort.

I'm not absolutely sure this is Cucuron, it could be Vaugines where we stopped to see the church.

I love this old green door and ancient stone.

The village of Cucuron is surrounded by grape vines and olive trees, and I later learned that the village has both an olive oil and a wine cooperative.  What's not to love about a place featuring two of my favorite things, especially when served together. 

The view across the roof tops of Cucuron

Roof tile detail above and tiny flowers set into ancient fortification wall.

Sylvain on wall at castle tower ruins

Ricky and I made it to the top of the hill, too, and here's proof!

Modern Times Restaurant in Cucuron with proprietor chef & his daughter

We had worked up quite an appetite by the time we appeared at the little restaurant, Modern Times, named in honor of Charlie Chaplin, where we had dinner reservations. A long line of tables lined the patio of the small restaurant.  Inside was another eating area with about eight tables, plus the kitchen, all crammed into the space of a small house.  The beefy proprietor and owner was also the chef.  Since our table was next to the kitchen door, he came out to talk to us and help Ricky personalize his order with extra garlic!  The owner's teen-age daughters were the waitresses, and the one assigned to us spent as much time on her cell phone as waiting tables. At the table crammed next to ours was a dog that we had to step carefully over if we left the table for any reason.  But all this just provided local color--the food was delicious, the evening was starting to cool off and the company congenial.  It was also Ricky and my 16th wedding anniversary, and we couldn't have asked for anything more memorable.


  1. What a wonderful trip! Someday, I'd love to go to France, too.

    1. We're still trying to figure out how to get back there for a longer, more leisurely stay.