We’re Kathy and Charley Wood, founders and leaders of The Luberon Experience. We’re truly passionate about Provence– especially the Luberon area and the village of Bonnieux. The Luberon changed our lives, and it’s a magical, very special place for us.
For most of our careers, we worked in the corporate world. Kathy spent 25+ years as a Human Resources executive, and Charley was in sales for most of his career. We discovered European travel on our honeymoon trip. In Europe we’ve found everything we enjoy, in the most beautiful places we’d ever imagined. In the past 25 years we’ve made over 40 trips to Europe, most of them also involving our daughter Kelly, now 23.
Our family first visited the Luberon in June 2003. We rented a cottage in the village of Saignon and were truly captivated by this beautiful part of France. We returned to the USA determined to find a way to spend an extended period of time in Provence. One year later Kathy resigned her job, Charley put his business on hold, we rented out our house, and we took Kelly of out school for her 6th grade year. We embarked on a 14-month trip to Europe, including six-and-a-half months living in the Luberon. (You can read more about Our Grand Tour of Europe in Kathy’s online journal of this trip.)
We rented a 17th century farmhouse between the villages of Bonnieux and Lacoste, surrounded by vineyards, olive trees, and cherry trees. Kelly attended the village school in Bonnieux, and our family became part of everyday life in the village. We bought our produce and cheese at the colorful outdoor markets, got to know the shopkeepers, visited the surrounding villages and towns, became regulars at our favorite cafes, drank the local wine, hiked hundreds of miles in the mountains and countryside, improved our French skills, and made lasting friendships. We lived… and loved… the good life in the Luberon.
Our European sabbatical, especially our time in Provence, was a life-changing experience for us. When we returned home, we decided to make some major career and lifestyle changes. During our long trip we hosted several groups of friends and family, and discovered that we really enjoyed helping others experience the culture, history and beauty of this special part of Provence. We developed our idea for The Luberon Experience and pursued flexible careers that would enable us to be in Europe several months each year.
Charley is now semi-retired and enjoying a variety of interests. His first book A Chateau in Provence was published on Amazon in 2011 and is available in paperback and for the Kindle. This is a fun mystery, set in the Provence we love so much. His second book, A Villa in Tuscany, is set in the Chianti hills of Tuscany, the beautiful area where we lead our Chianti Experience trip.
In addition to our work with European Experiences, Kathy spent 10 years on the faculty of business school at the University of Tennessee, where she taught international business and human resources. She took early retirement in 2016 to focus full time on European Experiences and to have more flexibility for her other interests. Kathy has also been involved on several internet travel sites and for five years taught a popular class in UT’s non-credit program, “Planning Your European Vacation.”
Our first Luberon Experience trips were in September 2006, and we’ve since welcomed 43 groups to Provence, over 475 travelers. So many people were interested in coming back for a second Luberon trip that we now offer a week with different experiences: Return to the Luberon. We’re surrounded by so many special people in Provence: our local friends who are an important part of the experience for our groups and the wonderful people from all over the world who have joined us for a week and become lasting friends.
Many Luberon travelers asked us about the possibility of joining us for a similar experience in other parts of Europe that we love. In 2009 we expanded to include a few other trips each year and offered back-to-back weeks in the Salzkammergut of Austria and the Bavarian Alps of Germany. We offered The Cotswolds Experience in 2010, 2013 and 2014, and we’ve hosted groups in the Chianti region of Tuscany in 2011, 2012 and 2014. The Périgord Experience in the Dordogne region of southwest France was initiated in 2013, and we returned in 2014 and 2015. Our newest trip, The Alsace Experience, was offered for the first time in 2016. It’s been great fun to prepare for these new trips and to share other treasured places in Europe with old and new friends. You can learn about our other European Experiences trips and our plans for 2017 at www.european-experiences.com.
We now have our own very special apartment in Bonnieux, which is available for rent when we’re not there. Having our own home in the village has made our connection even stronger, as we continue to return to the Luberon and Bonnieux several times each year… with our groups and for our own pleasure. This is more than just a business for us. We know the needs, expectation and interests of travelers, because we’re travelers too. We love sharing our beloved Luberon with others and providing unique and memorable experiences for our travelers. We want this to be your best vacation ever!