This last week has been lovely – the house has been full (a great test of the temporary fabric walls & open plan bathroom!) Not only has my eldest son been visiting with his girlfriend, but also my mum, so all the rooms have been put to good use.
Of course my son knows the area well and he’s been dragged around enough markets over the years, but my mum has only had one previous brief stay in the area & also this proved to be my son’s girlfriend’s first trip to France.My task (on the face of it) was simple……
1. Settle everyone in
2. Feed them
3. Give them a taste of the area, making sure there was something for young & old alike.
The first two things were easy and the fabric walls & shouts of ‘I’m in the bathroom’ seemed to work well and of course you can’t go wrong when pulling supper together using local ingredients. But giving my mum (in particular) a taste of the area in the 3 days she would be here was much more of a challenge.The main thing was where to start?When I sat down to actually think about what to do I realised I would have to be very picky, as it would have been simple to stick to the main sights, but somehow miss showing her what we really love about the area. So where to start?
She was arriving late on the Saturday night & leaving early on the Wednesday morning, so we really did only have 3 full days.
In my mind Sunday is market day and a day for fuddling around Vide-Greniers or Brocante markets and happily I knew my mum would enjoy any or all of these options and what better way to get a taster of some of the towns & villages around us.
Our day started with coffee & croissants at the Café de la Gare in the centre of Coustellet market, listening to a chap singing by our table and watching the world go on around us. We then spent a pleasant hour or so wandering around the stalls, buying fresh fruit & veg from local farmers & taking in the lovely atmosphere that’s always there.We then headed into L’Isle Sur la Sorgue and took our time looking at the Brocante stalls that line the main road……. ……..and pottering through the market to buy a ‘Poulet Roti’, requested by my son for supper. Before it all got too busy we found a table in one of the river-side restaurants for lunch, choosing one where all the food is handmade on the premises (denoted by the ‘fait maison’ logo), and it was worth it with a delicious, well-cooked 2 course meal costing about €19 After lunch and a slow wander through the town we headed home via Bonnieux, which was hosting a Brocante market in its main square. We had a nice look at all the stalls & I was tempted by a couple of things, particularly what looked like very tiny sugar tongs, but we’re actually designed to pick up Calissons – however this time I resisted temptation& actually managed to leave empty-handed, which must be a first!!
To end the day we headed home via the wonderful lavender fields that seemingly cover most of the plateau between Bonnieux & Saignon. I’m sure no trip to Provence at this time of year can be complete without taking in the purple-striped fields that colour the landscape & fill the air with scent.The day ended with wine!
As my son is training for the forthcoming massive #MoortoMed bike ride he headed off on his bike first thing in the morning so the rest of us headed off to Forcalquier, where there is a bustling Monday market with a real focus on crafts. The drive across is lovely, with the road lined by Plane Trees & glimpses of the Alps in the distance & I’d ordered a purse for when I’m cycling from one of the new shops in the old town so had a good excuse for the trip. Somehow the morning flew by & it wasn’t long before we were back having a lunch of market-bought bread & cheeses with my son who had returned from his ride.After lunch we all headed across to Fontaine de Vaucluse & the lovely walk along the side of the river to visit the source of the Sorgue. I can’t help it, but as a family we have a real soft-spot for this tourist-spot & love to see the varying levels of the source where it comes out at the foot of a sheer cliff. This time the level was as low, if not lower than I’ve seen before in June, reinforcing how dry it has been here over the winter. After a cooling drink in a café by the river we headed back home via the tourist route ( steep, bendy old road), paying a quick visit to Gordes, stopping for a few minutes at the view-point on the edge of the village, to take in the spectacular view of the perched houses and the Luberon valley dotted with lavender fields, Olive trees & vines stretching out into the distance. The day ended with wine!
This day’s activities had been set in stone quite early-on as the weather was set to be good & my son wanted to cycle from the house to the summit of Mont Ventoux (a round trip of over 130 km) & I was determined we would be there to cheer him on. Of course it would have been lovely to ride it with him, but that wasn’t the point of this trip & I’m pretty certain my mum (75) wouldn’t have been up to it!!Mont Ventoux is such an iconic landmark and this would be the first time my son had done the ride on his own, so we all piled into the car to meet him at Sault for breakfast. From there he started the climb & we were able to take it slowly, stopping to encourage him on, but also to take in the incredible views that open up as you climb higher up the mountain. After a brief stop at Chalet Reynard we headed on stopping on the final bend to look at the simply jaw-dropping views North & East towards the still snow-capped Alps, certainly a view that shouldn’t be missed, before we parked to watch him make the final ascent to the summit. I don’t know what it is about the experience of watching people arrive at the summit, but it never fails to bring a tear to my eye. The sheer effort that goes into the ascent is huge & there is a real sense of happiness for everyone at the summit, which you feel regardless of how you get there yourself. This is something that is certainly worth experiencing along with the views that are indescribably stunning, with the whole of the Vaucluse (and beyond) laid out thousands of feet below you. After a quick descent we had a good lunch at the restaurant on the terrace at Sault, before we made our way back home, making a final stop at the colourful village of Roussillon, finishing our whistle-stop tour of the area. The day ended with wine!
So that’s it – 3 days packed with Provençal experiences. There was so much that we couldn’t do – we didn’t visit the Abbaye de Senanque, or walk the Ochre trail at Roussillon. We had to leave wandering around the deserted streets of Oppede Le Vieux and taking in the views from the Chateau at Lacoste until next time. We couldn’t find time to visit the Lavender Museum at Coustellet or the Rose Garden at Valsaintes – in fact there’s a huge list of things that will have to be considered for next time.That’s the thing with this area – there’s so much to do, without having to do much at all and days can easily pass in a blur of a cycle ride and a visit to a market, before you even start thinking of structured visits. Provence for us is as much about the wonderful way of life as it is about its beautiful villages & other sights and I hope I managed to build an understanding of this into, what was a busy few days.
So roll in the next time & doing it all again!
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