Another scene from A Good Year (see previous post on Ridley Scott's movie filmed in the Luberon)...is the great green bassin - L'Etang - at the heart of the quiet village of Cucuron. This is where Max takes Fanny on their first date, to an outdoor cinema in an almost impossibly romantic setting. Candlelight and lanterns flicker and the water shimmers beneath the leaves of two hundred year old plane trees that stand guard around the pond.
Actually, the romance of the place is real. The origins of the pond lie in a lake created in medieval times, fed by water sources from the Luberon mountain and used to power the local flour mills. The rectangular bassin we see now was constructed in the 19th century. Today it's a serene place but the deep green shadows cast by the trees give it an air of mystery. From any distance, all is surface reflection of the tall trees, restaurants and houses lining its banks, masking an infinity of depth.
Cucuron sits on the south-eastern side of the mountain ridge, over the col from the main Luberon valley where we are; this is the side of the Durance, the strong wide river that rises in the Alps and flows down to join the mighty Rhone south of Avignon. It's a village of farmers rather than tourists, though the two meet every Tuesday morning for a lively market with stalls placed all around the pond.
The fields around are full of vineyards and olive groves, melon fields and cherry orchards, vegetable and wheat fields, all set within the National Park. The long history of the village, from neolithic settlement through to Roman invasion and medieval ascendancy, is embedded in the ancient walls and quirky yet unassuming buildings. A gentle stroll through narrow winding streets takes you to dungeons and belfries and a lovely Romanesque chapel from the 13th century.
It strikes me that what Mediterranean countries do so much better than we do is allow the ancient and modern to co-exist. Even structures with an early industrial purpose have an element of beauty and are allowed to evolve, adapted and tranformed rather than destroyed. It shows a natural understanding and faith in the past.
And that too makes Cucuron a truly inspired place for a romantic first date.