Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Le Tour de France: Provence

Saturday, June 28
It was a very long drive from Beaune to Provence. We hit (Saturday) traffic for the first time during the trip, as we approached Lyon and then for a bit after the city too. We had our leftovers and market purchases for lunch at a rest area. [Note: Lots of rest areas every few km on the autoroutes in France.] We saw several nuclear reactors on the way, with huge cooling towers. Dan said France doesn't have oil and uses nuclear power for energy. As we got further south, I even saw a few lavender and sunflower fields, yay! Finally, we made it to le Mas Jorel, and our hosts Marc and Véronique welcomed us with drinks and a tour of the property. There are hammocks and lounge chairs all over the garden, and an inviting swimming pool. The view from our upstairs room was nice too. Dan picked some loquats from a tree in the courtyard, which were big, juicy, and delicious.

View from the blue room


Posing with sheep

Our host Marc made dinner reservations for us at Restaurant David in the nearby village Roussillon, with a beautiful view of the Luberon. Roussillon is known for the ochre, which is even lit up after dark. After dinner we walked around to see the views, and walked through the cemetery, where we saw the grave of the founding chef of the restaurant where we just ate! When we returned to the B&B, Marc and his son were playing petanque on the driveway. There was a thunderstorm that woke me up in the middle of the night, rather exciting. Dan slept through of it.


Pre-dinner pose

Lit up ochre

Roussillon cemetery

Sunday, June 30
We had breakfast on the terrace and met the other guests, which was very nice, although we had to be careful of the wasps (they wanted breakfast too). Marc pointed out some spots on the map, then we drove to L'Isle sur la Sorgue to see the big Sunday market. We passed two lavender fields on the way, so of course I made Dan stop for photos.


Lavender field!


There were many, many people, and the market seemed never ending. First we looked at antiques...latte bowls, china, soda bottles, petanque balls, spools of colorful twine. Then there was food, flowers, clothing, souvenirs, and more. I sampled many cheeses, and Dan sampled a lot of saucisson sec. And I saw a beagle! But I didn't get a chance to pet it. Dan said it was because it was too crowded, or maybe the person walking the beagle was hungry and wanted to get something to eat. I bought an heirloom tomato, endive, and a bag of cherries for 1.90€. Dan got a rotisserie chicken, and there was a big tray of beautiful roasted tomatoes, but it was reserved. So the vendor gave me a big raw tomato, which I thought was so nice. We also got yummy cheese, and Provençal fabric for Dan's mother.


Latte bowls


Soda bottles and petanque balls


Saucisson sec

Big cheese


Artichoke flowers

After the market, we drove to Oppède-le-Vieux, a much less crowded hilltop village. We had a picnic lunch of our market purchases, then explored the town and went inside the church, which is being restored. I saw a pooch waiting for the shop to open, I think it was closed for siesta.

View from Oppède-le-Vieux




Then we drove to Ménerbes, where the weather is always nice. We walked around town and saw many real estate offices (I later learned this is where A Year in Provence takes place). We bought a few bottles of rosé at Maison de la Truffe and got ice cream.


Weather forecast

We also stopped in Goult to see the windmill and check out the views. The buildings seem to be built directly on rock outcroppings. We returned to le Mas Jorel, where Dan watched a World Cup match, and I lay by the pool. Then we made a dinner of our remaining market purchases.

Rock foundation


After dinner we drove up to Saignon to see the panoramic view of Luberon, which Marc had recommended. We saw another lavender field! From the village, we hiked up some old ruins to see the sunset from the top. It was still light out, so we walked around the village for awhile, then went back up. Dan thought the sunset would be good, since it had rained earlier, but unfortunately it was not spectacular. The view from there was pretty though. We both liked Saignon, it was our favorite village in the Luberon.

Another lavender field!

Posing with lavender

View from Saignon


View from Saignon


Green doors


Vintage car

Walking up to the view


Rickety lookout box

Dusk color

Monday, June 30
After another delicious breakfast, including melon from nearby Cavaillon, we drove up past Gordes to the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque to see the lavender field. (My main goals in Provence were to see lavender and drink rosé.) I thought the fields at the abbey were not as impressive as the previous day's sightings.

Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque

Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque

Then we continued to Sault, a town higher up in elevation, where there are more lavender fields. It was a very beautiful drive, but kind of scary because the narrow twisty turny road is along the mountainside. We saw several cyclists, and an impressive rock face. We picked up the lavender trail map at the tourism office in Sault, then walked around town. None of the restaurants appealed to me, so we drove to Aurel, the next village.

A rock face

View from Sault Shutters
We enjoyed a leisurely lunch in Aurel. My rosé matched the orange glass bottle of water. I had a big salad, and Dan had a terrine followed by perfectly-cooked salmon. We shared a plum tart for dessert, and I had an espresso. Ah, vacation! A British couple sat next to us, and the wife was taking a photo of the husband with his dessert. I asked if they wanted their photo together, but they didn't hear me. When Dan got back from the restroom I told him to ask them, since he was closer, and this time they heard, so he took one for them. I heard the husband say "I probably shouldn't have pudding, but I am going to anyway" which pleased me greatly.

Big salad


After lunch we drove back toward Sault to le chemin des lavandes, the lavender trail. The British couple from lunch were there too! Great minds think alike, heh heh. They were from Bristol, and go to Provence every year to see the Tour de France as well as the bicycle race preceding it. The husband bikes up Mont Ventoux on his birthday. After we chatted for awhile, he said the walk would be very slow because his wife takes a lot of photos, but he had to be patient, otherwise he can't have his bike rides! It was very cute.   

Le chemin des lavandes


Lavender field


We saw a couple of people painting the lavender fields. We also met a family from Texas, and the father told Dan that the kids were ready to go home. They were four teenagers who looked very bored. Dan and I said they don't know how lucky they are!

After the hike we returned to Sault and bought lavender products at Dromel to bring home. The shop smelled amazing. Then we sampled nougat and and got ice cream at André Boyer, and looked into a couple of antique shops.

la Loubatière

André Boyer

We took a different route back, which was also very scenic and twisty turny. We stopped for a beautiful view of Mont Ventoux. Back at the B&B, I laid out by the pool and relaxed, even put my feet in the water, but it was a bit too windy for a swim, while Dan watched a World Cup soccer match. Then we went to look for dinner. Unfortunately we hadn't planned ahead and lots of places are closed on Monday, so we ended up getting pizza. Pizza in France, haha. It was okay, although the crust wasn't very good. We saw the sunset on the way back after dinner, which was spectacular! Dan said we should have gone up to the hilltop village to see it instead of the previous evening, but you never know how the sunset will turn out.

Mont Ventoux



Tuesday, July 1
After our last breakfast in Provence, we drove to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse to see the source of the Sorgue river, which runs through the Luberon. The water was incredibly clear, and we hiked up a trail along the river to see the source, which looked like a giant pool of stagnant water deep in the rocks. Odd. The village also had Santons, the Provençal clay figurines, which we looked at for quite awhile so Dan could select something for the crèche (he chose a billy goat). We also walked through the paper mill and an unfortunate gift shop mall with many vacant spaces. Then on our way to the autoroute we passed through L'Isle sur la Sorgue (the village where we went to the market on Sunday) and saw two beagles! That's three beagles in the same village in Provence! Dan and I both think they were traveling tourist beagles.

Water wheel


Shades of green

Next stop, Lyon!

No comments: