Menerbes is one of the best known of the Luberon villages and rightly so. It's not only beautiful in itself, but the surrounding countryside is beautiful as well. If you are making a tour of Provence, we highly recommend you add a trip to Menerbes.
Menerbes, an Introduction
Menerbes is located 12 kilometers east of the larger city of Cavaillon, between Oppede (you'll want to visit old Oppede, Oppede-le-Vieux as well) and Lacoste, known for its castle once owned by the Marquis de Sade.
Menerbes is once of France's prized "perched villages" or "villages-perchés"; the village is spread out on the top of a hill that rises from a valley of agricultural fields, vineyards (from which the celebrated Cotes du Luberon is produced) and cherry orchards. In spring it's gorgeous, in fall, when we last visited, it was still quite colorful.
At one end of the village is Menerbe's mainly 16th century castle.
In the center of town is the Place de la Mairie, surrounded by 16th and 17th century buildings--and a little further on is the Place de l'Horloge, where you'll find a wine, truffle and olive oil education facility called Maison de la Truffe et du Vin du Luberon; in summer there's a small cafe/restaurant inside where you can taste these things. Between Christmas and new years a truffle fair is held here.
While the village of Menerbes might not suit the long-term visitor in itself, the villages surrounding it can't easily be covered in a week.
I prefer to stay in a place in the Luberon and take day trips--the distances to each attraction from another aren't large, and the countryside is beautiful enough to keep the tourist from becoming bored with the landscape. Menerbes makes a good hub from which to operate this way.
Menerbes isn't awash in hotels.
In fact, at this time there may be none. Suffice it to say there are more bed and breakfast operations around Menerbes than hotels. A place with a spa like Le Roy Soleil &Spa might fit the bill. Or, a little further out, the Bastide de Soubeyras is also one of those charming old farmhouses with apartments. The good deli food available in the Luberon may make you wish you had a self-catering apartment, even if you don't like to cook on your vacation.
Some describe Menerbes being inside the "Golden Triangle" of the Luberon. The main villages include Ménerbes, Gordes, Lacoste, Bonnieux, Apt, Roussillon, and Isle sur la sorgue.
Just outside of Ménerbes is the Abbaye de Saint-Hilaire (English) founded in 1250 and easily spotted from the ramparts of Menerbes.
If you've ever wanted to see a collection of 1000 corkscrews, nearby is the Corkscrew Museum, Musee du Tire-Bouchon.
Did Peter Mayle Ruin Menerbes?
At one time there was a lot of talk about the success of Peter Mayle and how that success translated into the over-touristing of the little village of Menerbes. Well, I've been there in November and Menerbes seems to have reverted to the pristine and sleepy little village it was before Mayle arrived.
So, don't hesitate to visit this Luberon landmark. Mayle has moved to Lourmarin.