A Taste of Provence, while we wait for la Mistral wind to die down

Mention Provence, and my heart beats a little faster.  The colours, the smells, the tastes, of Provence are unforgettable.  Provence enchants and delights all senses. It doesn’t only get under your skin, it gets into your heart, forever.  

The villages are works of art, they embody the art of living simply but abundantly.  People eat what is in season. The weekly markets arrange their stalls as works of art.  Locals buy produce with care, picking up a melon, smelling it, examining the rich red tomatoes for firmness and flavour, tastings are proffered to entice buyers. Long discussions ensue about quality.  

We are moored up on a pontoon outside Avignon in the village of Roquemaure.  A local villager and his dog show us a short cut to walk into the village. We catch a bus daily to and from Avignon.  From Avignon, trains leave in all directions. Locals hardly speak English, we have found them kind and most helpful, and tolerant of our poor French.

My very favourite day of our trip this season has been the Tour we did with Provans. (Sweet play of words). Nico,  co owner of Provans, was our guide. It was a day to savour and delight. One of those golden days to remember forever.  

Nico and Rob in the lavender fields of Sault.  Rob wearing the new shirt I bought him

In order to assist struggling little Villages in France, One of the mayors of these little villages created “la Plus Beaux Villages” of France, the most beautiful villages of France. To belong, the village has to have less than 2000 inhabitants, have a rich cultural heritage, with at least 2 “monuments historique” and to be tourist friendly. The French are big on tradition.  Lunch is sancrosanct. Shopkeepers will smile and help until the stroke of 12 midday. And then doors close for one or two hours.

The first Plus Beaux village Nico took us to was Gordes, also called a “Village perche” because many of these villages were built on top of hills around a castle, it’s thick walls built to protect from invaders during the turbulent Middle Ages.

Nico pulled our (a/c)  van over to get the first and  best views of Gordes, perched on the hill

The natural stone buildings blend seamlessly into the “terroir”.  What a view. Of Gordes and the Luberon valley.  

The Luberon valley, nestled amidst the Luberon mountains .  Vineyards aplenty, themselves works of art.

Tourist friendly village of Gordes.  Cobbled streets, charming stone buildings with duck egg shutters and peeling walls- no wonder Provence drew artists like Cezanne and Van Gogh amongst others.

Our little tour group here, a young Australian, and a sweet couple from Hong Kong

Picturesque shops selling local products.  I so love the deep blue pottery.. couldn’t resist

The streets entice one to wander and explore …

A local restauranter getting her tables ready for lunch

A view from a different part of the village

From Gordes, we drive to the famous Abbey de Senanque, where 11 Cistercian monks work the lavender fields. The colours and the light are truly beautiful .  

Magnificent simple architecture from the 11Century

An icon of Mary in the Abbey gardens, the welcoming arms  of Mary inviting exploration and contemplation

The village ramparts built around the castle and the village

From Gordes it’s a short drive to another Plus Beaux village, also “perched“ on a hill. Rousillon is famous for its hues of orange, reds and yellows, the paint colors being created from the nearby ochre cliffs.  All village houses have to be painted in a hue from the local ochre quarries. The effect is a rich, warm village, full of charm

The village of Roussillon, any travelers delight

The ochre cliffs on which the village is built

Baby olive trees planted in local pottery, souvenirs to entice most

One can understand why they are named villages Peche, perched on top of hills, this photo take from the “Ochre walk” alongside the village

Lavender heaven

Pure delight in the smell, the sight and the experience of so much lavender, actually this is the hybrid called Lavendin

Lavender, the real lavender, as far as the eye could see, the various colours differentiating the growth stages. Lavender only grows above 800 meters, and this wild lavender is not allowed to be irrigated.

Nico our guide, and Rob.  We spent the afternoon in various lavender fields.

A train trip from Avignon on another windy day to pretty town of  Isle-sur-Sorgue

Isle-sur-Sorgue is famous for its Brocantes and Antiques.

A little Brocante shop

Canals run through the town giving it a little Venice feel

A delightfully curated shop

Rob dozing while I ……..

The little bus we caught to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse 

Crystal clear water, erupting from a 230 Metre high cliff, springing from an immense underground network of waters 

The “weed” creating the effect of emerald green water

The cave where the water appears to come from to create the river Sorgue

We lunched at this delightful restaurant

Gazpacho soup with sorbet as a starter

Romanesque style church dating back to 10th century, simple exterior and interior

And The Camargue, famous for its  wetlands, wild white Camargue horses and black bulls, raised by Europe’s only cowboys, the Gardiens.

Wooden pathways through the wetlands 

The Gardians on their horses waiting for the bulls to be released, then a mad dash ensues with horses and bulls charging together

The bulls… 4 had been selected one by one by the Gardians and driven into this pen

I get to stroke a Camargue horse

Rob and I plan on another taste of Provence next year,  but time to move on now..

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