East of Avignon and north of Aix, the beautiful wine-growing, lavender-carpeted valley of the Luberon has long been a favoured escape for well-heeled Parisians, Dutch and British, not to mention artists. The Luberon’s northern face is damper and more alpine in character than the Mediterranean-scented southern slopes, and gets extremely cold in winter. It’s almost all wooded, except for the summer sheep pastures at the top, and there’s just one main route across, the Combe de Lourmarin. In addition to the valley’s one sizeable town, likeable Apt, countless small villages – like Saignon, Bonnieux and Gordes, among others – cling stubbornly to the Luberon foothills. With their impossibly narrow cobbled streets, tumbledown houses strewn with flowers, and sun-baked places, they make wonderful days out and even better places to stay.