Situated on the Plateau d’Albion between the Ventoux and the Lure mountains, Banon sits perched on a hill surrounded by fields of lavender, sage and wheat. It’s safe to say that this stunning village owes its reputation to the beauty of its spectacular landscapes, not to mention a brand of wildly popular goat cheese that’s been produced in the area since the 1st Century. Ramparts from a 15th Century castle can still be seen along its narrow cobblestone walkways and at the top of the hill the 17th Century Romanesque Church of St-Marc still stands, with its tall bell tower that was once encircled by a defensive wall. There are no fewer than half a dozen chapels in and around Banon and the Catholic church has played a significant role in the area.
We scouted Banon in the morning, before moving on to the nearby village of Simiane-la-Rotonde and Forcalquier. Warmly received by the local tourism office, we were escorted through the village just before a rainstorm and I was taken with its warm nature. The houses in Banon are almost all made of stone and they’re occupied by almost 1,000 local residents. We reached the church at the top of the hill, where an art exhibit was taking place and I spoke with the artist for several minutes. She had dedicated her oeuvre to photographs of Paris, New York and the Far East, capturing still life in romantic cities of the world. At the end of our tour and to get out of the rain, we found ourselves running into Le Bluet, one of France’s most celebrated book stores. Its owner has amassed a large collection of literary works over the years, selling books in several languages. After the rain we popped into a popular cheese and sausage shop, La Brindille Chez Melchio, which has been selling pork sausages flavored with lavender and sage for generations.
Banon has a simple, easy going quality about it that feels natural. A movie shot here would be fairly doable, although we would need to learn more about travel arrangements to and from the area, and investigate surrounding hotel accommodations for cast and crew. The views atop the village are special. In the month of July when the lavender is in full bloom, Banon sings with beauty and could be the perfect place to start a romance of our own.