A Week in Provence: La Portail, St. Saturnin-les-Apts

A home in the ancient walls of the city.


Every child dreams of living in a castle or some old fortress–the romance, the glory, the adventure.  THE ADVENTURE! My family and I are twice blessed on this count.  If you’ve followed my blog for long, you know that we live in a unique, charming, and slightly spooky “castle house” in Germany.  And during my children’s Easter break, we packed our bags and drove to Provence for a week’s vacation in another citadel on a hill:  La Portail, in St. Saturnin-les-Apts, France, nestled in the lovely Luberon mountains of Provence.balc

It was a stroke of incredibly good fortune that we spent a week in Provence in April.  Good fortune . . . and kind friends with a vacation home there.  They offered us their home in the ancient city walls for the week, and the home and the town were both magnificent!  La Portail (the name of the house) is nestled in the ramparts of the ancient city, and it sits close to the top of the hill, offering spectacular views of the valley below:


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The house was elegant and spacious, and full of old world charm.  But before we could settle into the house, we had to find it!

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Arriving in town, we twisted our way through the winding streets, looking for the old city walls that would shelter us in the week ahead  and getting the general lay of the land.  St. Saturnin is a small town, and that’s a good thing.  It has beauty, charm, magnificent views and architectural details, and several fantastic bakeries and restaurants.  Winding through the streets of St. Saturnin was an adventure in itself.

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arrow slit
An arrow slit in a castle wall.

It didn’t take long for us to find “our house,” and we were enamored the minute we stepped over the threshold.     The main door opens into a grand living room–stone walls, exposed beams, a grand piano–so beautiful.  But that’s not what caught my son’s eyes.    By this door, there was an arrow slit–a reminder that this had once been an ancient defensive wall, and this house sits at the gate of that wall.  At one time, someone would have stood guard here and, when necessary, mounted a defense against unfriendly forces.  Being on vacation we were happy to find it glassed in and no longer needed for that original purpose.  As if to offer extra reassurance that we wouldn’t need to defend ourselves from marauders on this trip, a small spider had spun his dainty web over a corner of the glass.  It was a whimsical and comforting touch.

Sword standing at the ready.
Sword standing at the ready.

But, just in case, there was a sword standing at the ready by the other door.  (The sort of detail that I might have missed, but my children picked up on immediately!)

In recent weeks, I’ve posted many photos from Provence, and I will post more (along with some insights about the area) in the weeks ahead.  For today, I’ll simply leave you with a few photos of this lovely home, and views from around town.   And a heartfelt thank you to Beatrice for opening her home to us–it was so gracious, and we had a wonderful vacation!



bed piano 2 small stairs

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Another side of the house in the old city walls: with two balconies and magnificent views.


The road to redemption, St. Saturnin, France
The road to redemption, St. Saturnin, France

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11 thoughts on “A Week in Provence: La Portail, St. Saturnin-les-Apts

  1. What a gorgeous house such character and beautifully preserved! I have always wanted to go to Provence it looks so lovely – the medieval hill villages look idyllic! A beautiful place in which to unwind and relax!

    1. It is lovely, and the terrain encompasses both hill villages and the Cote d’Azur. I could certainly have stayed more than a week and been happy to continue to explore. I had always wanted to go. . .and now I want to go back!

  2. Wow – that house is perfection. Makes me want to cash it all in and move to Provence… I need to visit you asap!

    1. Yes, you do. You really, really do. And you would have loved the house–and the family poker games each night. (Will needed you around to call his bluff–he is a remarkably good–or lucky –poker player. Or maybe he just cheats? Who knows.)

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