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LE CLOS DE L'EGLISE

Not too many years ago there were three little stone houses facing the village church in the space now occupied by Le Clos de l'Eglise. They had been purchased by a Parisian who, having spent his boyhood in Châteauneuf-de-Gadagne during the Second World War, wanted to renew his ties to the village by establishing a family vacation residence in the Lubéron. With the help of a clever architect, a small army of masons and no small amount of French francs, the three houses were joined to create from ancient stone a modern villa of style and charm. Here, tucked away just off Place de l'Eglise in this unassuming little village of a couple hundred souls, one finds tranquillity, privacy and a beautiful view of the Lubéron Valley. Because it is still a family home (the owner's daughter was married in the church a few years ago), the villa has an appeal that is often lacking in properties that are maintained mainly for rental purposes.

Le Clos de l'Eglise has two other features that are rare for Provence: First, While the property has a pool and is large enough to accommodate up to 11 people comfortably, it is not in the countryside - as most substantial properties are in Provence - but directly within a village where all the basic necessities (bakery, small grocery store, casual café/restaurant, pharmacy and a presse with foreign newspapers, including the International Herald Tribune lie within a five-minute walk. Guests should be aware that the village streets are steep and the walk back up the hill from the café or bakery takes 10 minutes.

The second rare feature is that three of the house's six bedrooms are air-conditioned. This is an important amenity on those infrequent occasions when there is a heatwave in Provence.

The villa is laid out on two main levels: the first (French) floor, which includes the entryway and foyer and all but one of the bedrooms; and the ground level, which is comprised of the living-dining room area, a smaller adjoining salon and the kitchen. All of these rooms open onto the pool, terrace and garden area. Finally, all by itself on the uppermost level, is a bedroom with an ensuite bath. This bedroom is reached by a metal spiral staircase that elderly or heavyset people may find a little daunting.

The cathedral ceiling of the downstairs salon rises two stories to the foyer, where there is a wide stone staircase leading to the ground level. The foyer thus has a lofty view over the downstairs and through the huge palladium-style window that opens to the outside. The living-dining room area and kitchen give directly onto the terrace, which is adjacent to the 11M X 5M (36' X 16') heated pool. Directly off the pool terrace is a door that gives access to the ground-floor bathroom with shower stall, sink and WC.

The terrace, trellised by vines, has a large wood buffet for service, a dining table for 10-12, and a built-in barbecue that is gas-fired but uses real charcoal. Around the terrace are flowerbeds and ceramic pots with geraniums. Beyond the terrace is a small lawn where children can play or those seeking to escape the sun can find refuge under a shade tree. Placed next to the pool are an additional round table and chairs, and a full complement of chaise longues with cushions that are stored under the staircase are provided for outdoor enjoyment.

The salon and living room (comprising about 70m2, 770 sq. ft.) are warmly furnished in good taste with a mixture of antique and contemporary pieces that complement the casual but stylish feel of this villa. Comfortable sofas and armchairs are centered around a big stone fireplace, and there are good-quality antique wood pieces in both the salon and living room. The dining area, which opens to the terrace-barbecue area through sliding glass doors, has an attractive wood table where up to 10 can dine comfortably.

Next to but separate from the dining area is the newly renovated kitchen, which also opens onto the outside dining area. The kitchen is all in white with yellow cabinets and tile floors and is well illuminated, with overhead spots and under-cabinet lighting. The extensive features include a halogen-top four-burner electric stove, wall oven, microwave oven, dishwasher, two-door refrigerator with in-door ice and water and a variety of small appliances. There is copious cabinet and counter space and a round breakfast table for four. In the laundry room, at the opposite end of the ground floor, are two washing machines and a separate dryer, a small refrigerator and a freezer.

Special amenities at Le Clos de l'Eglise include satellite TV reception (with CNN), a large color TV with VCR (European-size tapes only) and stereo system (with tape and CD) in the living room, small TV sets and telephone extensions in several bedrooms, a portable telephone for poolside use, and, hidden away in a beautiful sidepiece in the salon, a variety of board games and videotapes of classic French and English movies.

Three bedrooms lie in the north wing of the villa, and three on the opposite side beyond the foyer. All have large antique armoires or spacious in-wall closets, good-quality beds with bedspreads in pretty Provençal fabrics, floors of either polished hardwood or terra cotta tile, and views over the village and Lubéron valley.

Each of the three bedrooms in the north wing has an individual air-conditioning unit. In the north wing one bedroom has a queen-sized bed, and another has twin beds. These bedrooms share a bath and separate WC at the end of the hallway. The upper-level bedroom, reached by a spiral staircase, has a queen-sized bed and a newly renovated ensuite bath with hand-held shower. This large bedroom also has a private terrace, about 2.5M X 3M (8' X 10'), with a fine view over the village toward the Lubéron Mountains.

In the south wing are three bedrooms - that are not air-conditioned - all with queen-sized beds. The latter two bedrooms share a private terrace that overlooks the garden and has excellent views over the village and valley. This terrace is covered by a vined trellis and is an enchanting spot for an evening apéritif. It has access to the pool via a flight of stairs. At the end of the hallway are a separate WC and tiled bath that, like the bath in the north wing, has a tub with wall-mounted shower and a glass half-door for a shower curtain. Several hair dryers are left in the bathrooms for guests' use.

Beyond the church is the Plateau de Campleau, an open park with playgrounds from which well-signed walking and biking trails originate. A 15-minute walk from the villa is the Parc de la Chappelle, which has a view of Mont Ventoux and many old and rare trees as well as additional playground areas for children. The owners leave information about these local excursions at the villa

Châteauneuf-de-Gadagne could hardly be better situated for exploring the major areas of Provence. The villages of the Lubéron (Oppède, Ménèrbes, Gordes, Lacoste, Roussillon, Bonnieux, etc.) lie just minutes to the east; L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue with its famed Sunday-morning antiques and food market is 5 km. to the northeast, and beyond it are the Vaucluse Plateau and Carpentras, Vaison-la-Romaine and the wine villages of Gigondas and Vacqueyras; Saint-Rémy and Les Baux are a half-hour to the south, and of course Avignon, with its Palace of the Popes, annual Music Festival and TGV train service, is 20 minutes to the west. The Roman aqueduct known as Pont du Gard, an engineering miracle even by modern standards, and the medieval village of Uzès, where the Gérard Depardieu version of "Cyrano de Bergerac" was filmed, are 45 minutes to the west.

Le Clos de l'Eglise is one of JUST FRANCE's most popular properties owing to its size, location and amenities. However, its most attractive features are the warmth and charm of the house and garden and the unique physical beauty of the architecture. Guests will certainly remark the stunning silhouette of the Provençal roofline against the brilliant blue sky while lounging at the pool. Le Clos de l'Eglise is a place where several couples or a large family can create indelible memories of the beauty and enchantment of Provence.