Roussillon and around
25.07.2012 - 27.07.2012
(On the ochre trail, Roussillon)
Today, from Roussillon (our home base), we drove to Aix-en-Provence (pronounced X) and parked in a big underground parking garage. "Aix" is actually a much nicer, more prosperous-looking city than, say, Avignon, although it is much smaller. We strolled down Cours Mirabeau, their famous pedestrian-friendly street, past La Rotonde, a gigantic traffic-circle fountain. We had their city's specialty patisserie item, "calissons," and ate them outside, near one of the smaller fountains, moss-covered from centuries of neglect.
We also had a cafe break at "Aux Deux Garcons," once the favourite of Cezanne. It's been there since 1792, and among the others who ate there are Churchill and Picasso. We did a lot of shopping (at least for us), especially Anica, who bought earrings, a scarf, and a hat (all skull-themed in their own unique ways). Lunch was in Richelme square, where Jenn and I had the "suggestion" of the day, a lamb "plat."
At dinner, back in Roussillon, Jenn didn't feel well, so just the four of us went out, choosing the Bistrot de Roussillon again (like the first night we were in town). We enjoyed the dinner, but the smoking and the dogs beside me are starting to overshadow the pleasant aspects of the patio experience. I won't miss all the smoking when we leave France!
Out time here is winding down a bit, but we still got off on our early start today to beat the heat and the crowds. Today is a drive up Mont Ventoux. We can see it from Roussillon - we can see it from half the places we've been in Provence, actually. It's a 1912-metre peak, made extra visible by its chalky, deforested cap, and lighthouse-looking observation tower.
(Summit Approach, Mt. Ventoux)
The road up is all about cyclists. They challenge themselves to cycle to the summit, which is often part of the Tour de France. A British cyclist died here in the 1960s, and we saw his memorial marker. The road is written or painted with messages of encouragement for the cyclists going uphill. We did our part by not running any of them over.
(Like a lunar lansdscape)
Today there was a haze, probably from the extreme heat, but you could still see a long way in all directions.
We came down a different road, to Sault, where we also got out and looked around. It's the centre of the lavender industry, and there's plenty of lavender fields around Sault.
(Sault What? Anica contemplates the lavender)
(Get your lavender here)
It was still only about noon and we'd just had a snack (including "Lion" chocolate bars), so I suggested we take the "Gorge de la Nesque" road. Despite the fact that we'd been to the Gorge de La Verdon recently, this was an impressive sight. The problem was that there was no good way out, and we eventually had gone 30 km and were only 10 or 20 from Sault.
We headed "home" to have a hot dog/sandwich takeaway lunch from "Le Petit Snack" across the street, before having a relaxing afternoon. Jenn and I went and got groceries in Apt for dinner and lunch tomorrow. We made a car back up to get out of our way on the road/ramp to the parking lot, but I'd had to do that a couple of days ago, so ha!
The last full day in Roussillon - it's been wonderful. In the morning today, we did the famous ochre walk. You pay a couple of euros and enter a landscape like Mars. It's down the side of the cliff in a trail laid out, and the formations are partly natural and partly from the former quarry. So red! It's what many of the buildings are made with, and the palette extends through oranges and yellows and many shades of red. It makes Roussillon unique.
(What a bunch of ochres...)
After more swimming, reading, shopping (Anica), we went out to dinner at Comptoir des Arts. It's a little more expensive, a special final dinner in Provence.
We've been doing so well with our French. I think it really helps. We always start in French, and stick with it unless the people we're speaking with switch to English. We've found none of the "rude" French stereotype, not here and certainly not in Paris. In fact, I would generalize the opposite: the French are exceedingly polite, we've found. Perhaps reserved, perhaps somewhat formal, but the opposite of rude.