For this week’s gem of the week, I thought I would pay homage to the old Provence, like it was back in the days, pre-tourist frenzy era. Nowadays, many of the surrounding Luberon villages are quite posh with many foreigners owning properties and bringing their money to this part of the country. There’s no surprise in bumping into John Malkovich in the supermarket or having dinner with friends and sitting opposite the table from Peter Mayle or Ridley Scott. Ladies strutting around with their Louis Vuitton bags on their arms at the market place is not an unfamiliar sight these days. However, before all of that, pre-poshness, there was the old Provence, the Provence that was poor and shabby chic as one would call it today and one of the villages to best represent that particular era is the village of Banon. A pittoresque little village known for its cheese production and that will give you a good work-out climbing on those old cobble stone streets leading up to the top of the village. The village certainly plays its shabby chic part quite well on the outside, but a closer look on the inside you will get the taste of the new world and by this I mean opening the massive church doors when you finally reached the very top of the village and expecting to see a beautifully preserved building but instead being hit in the face by radiant light. For a quick moment you think that the presence of God has touched your face but then you realise the Church is not the home of the mighty one that day, but rather a modern art display exhibiting some kind of light installation. A bit disappointed I might add, I found myself back on the cobble street, where the village was this shabby-chic and gave me back that ancient Provencal feel I lost momentarily.
Nonetheless, this charming village is also the proud home of a very famous book store called Le Bleuet (Bluebell) which is the most well-stocked bookshop in the whole of France. This shop holds over 1 million books in all thinkable genres. There are spiral staircases in every corner of this store leading you even further up to the roof and it feels never ending with books all around you wherever you lay your eyes to rest. Leaving the bookshop with sore eyes, ordering a Perrier to reflect on all impressions, one can’t stop to smile a little and appreciate the shabby-chicness of this village and the fact that it brought your feet back on the ground.