As we hover between the last gasp of winter and the earliest days of spring, take a moment to visit Roussillon with me.
Roussillon rises out of the Vaucluse like a Provençal Brigadoon. The ochre-laden earth gives it a sunny luminescence even on the grayest day. Roussillon is one of the villages perchés of Provence—the perched villages that grew up on summits as a protection from invaders—in the Luberon region, much of which is protected as a national park. This is the Provence of story, straight out of Marcel Pagnol*. If you are lucky enough to visit at an off time, when the village is not over-ridden by tourists, you are guaranteed to find magic there. But even in the height of tourist season, Roussillon is worth the effort.
Our favorite Roussillon experience, bar none, was wandering into Galérie Porte-Heureuse, where we discovered the paintings of André Deymonaz and first got to know the wonderful Deymonaz family. Don’t miss it if you visit the village.
Roussillon is the fictitiously named village in sociologist Laurence William Wylie’s Village in the Vaucluse, the result of his in-residence account of rural village French life in 1950-51, with a later look back at the inevitable erosion of a culture and lifestyle clinging to its roots while still traumatized by the war and its aftermath. During one of our trips, I happened to meet a delightful woman who had grown up in Roussillon at the time of Wylie’s stay. She told me that her family had befriended the Wylies, and that a number of the villagers were very upset when the book was published, as they felt it far too personal and critical. Having read the book, I can understand that; I found some of his perceptions cold and distant, but an academic would argue that one with me, of course. Nonetheless, if you are a francophile and/or a 20th Century history buff, you may want to try it.
Note: I’ve added a number of links to this post so that, if you are so inclined, you can easily learn more.