Provence day tripping – Luberon Villages, North and South.

One of many reasons for visiting Provence is that it is a varied collection of villages spread over quite a large geographical area. There is little in the way of regular public transport in most of the villages so, realistically, the only way to explore would be via personal transport (car, motorbike or bicycle). We have actually seen a lot of cyclists, fully kitted out with bulging panniers, labouring up and down the hills of Provence – had we been younger and fitter, we still (prolly) would have opted for a car, but the slower pace of a bike would let you stop in all the places that had amazing views but no pull-over for cars.

Over a two day period we explored the Luberon region, first going south then north.

Heading into Southern Luberon, we aimed the VDub at a lovely little village called Cucuron. Jo, in her extensive research, had discovered most villages have market days regularly where producers can bring local produce out for sale. Cucuron’s markets were set out around a central pond and public square, and we were after veg for meals later in the week, and lunch makings for a picnic.

We bought a baguette from the local Boulanger, and a couple of St. Marcellain cheeses, another punnet of delicious strawberries and some fresh fruit and veg, packed it away and explored the town a little. We walked up the hill to a little church, got lost in some of the winding streets and then returned to the free car park, just outside the town.

Our next stop was Pont Julien, an astonishing Roman bridge that spanned a river. It was Anzac Day, the road verges and fields around us were bejeweled with poppies, little wonder the poppy has endured as a symbol of remembrance. We picnicked in the warm sun, sitting on lush grass surrounded by wildflowers – heaven.

Read more »
Categories: Driving, Food, France, Markets, Provence, travel, Walking | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Provence day tripping – Les Baux

After a good sleep and leisurely breakfast, it was time to fire up the VDub and head towards Les Baux, a mountainous region accessible via terrifying narrow winding roads.

Our first stop was Carrières de Lumières, a repurposed underground limestone quarry that has been turned into a multimedia experience.

We saw something (a little bit) like this when we took in the “Van Gogh Experience” in Adelaide a couple of years back, but we have never seen anything of this scale or complexity. During our visit we took in two different shows: “Vermeer to Van Gogh, the Dutch Masters” and “Mondrian, artist architect”.

The beauty of these sorts of art experiences is the massive moving projections of the original artworks, some animated, some morphing into others, and the booming soundtrack. With our tickets we gained entry to the main chamber which was a huge space with monstrous rectangular chunks taken out (from the mining process) in a maze of sheer walls, columns and side chambers. All surfaces were covered with projected art, quite dizzying to take it all in, at different depths and distances.

Both shows were wonderful, you really get up close and personal with the art, the Van Gogh section was particularly moving. After the second show we emerged into a huge limestone amphitheater and had caffeine, toiletted and then made our first mistake for the day. When we arrived at Carrières de Lumières we freaked an amazing parking space just at the time when the parking inspector announced the parking pay machine was broken and therefore parking here was free. We left that dream spot looking for one a little closer to the main township of Les Baux, only to end up on the other side of the range, what felt like a mile away uphill to the hilltop village we were next to explore.

Read more »
Categories: Driving, Food, France, Provence, travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Provence day tripping – Vaison la Romaine and Aix en Provence

As Provence is a varied and geographically large region, and because there is not an extensive public transportation network, having a car seemed to us the most logical way to best see it. Jo&PDub in the VDub became a thing and driving on the wrong side of the road eventually became second nature. (Just quietly, I am hoping returning to the correct lane will not prove troublesome as at the moment my mind is wired for the wrong)

Jo planned a diverse exploration over the region and I have grouped some days as, logically, they belong together. I have, however, preserved the order we did things to provide some continuity.

Given France was once occupied by Romans, who called it Gallia, and it has such a long history pre and post Roman, there is so much evidence of past habitation that an exploration of Provence naturally includes a vast archaeological mix of building periods and styles. We visited Vaison la Romaine and this was so evident. The modern township sits atop a Roman town, and the hilltop still has mostly medieval buildings, making it an historical treasure.

We drove to the central free parking and then walked through the modern village, grabbing refreshments and looking in shops along the way. We crossed a small river and began walking up into the medieval village that dominates the hill. The village is not in ruins but rather is, mostly, lived in. 

We wended through fantastically wiggly cobbled streets, passing brilliantly wobbly walls, odd doorways, buttresses and arches all holding up various houses and hotels, shops and public squares. It was enchanting, every corner presented a photographic vista, wisteria, ivy and grape vines covered walls (and looked like the only thing keeping them up in places).

We greatly enjoyed a walking circuit that took in most of the village, but avoided the final climb to the summit (medieval feet-fuckers, our name for cobbles in all their forms, are particularly brutal). There are many boutique hotels and restaurants among the dwellings, and lots of restoration being done to stabilise walls, de-leakify roofs and so on, but you really get a sense of how the village worked, it felt alive in ways that ruins do not, if that makes sense.

Buoyed by our time in medieval surrounds, we returned to the town centre and bought entry to the Roman ruins section. As I previously said, the modern village is built on top of a Roman village, with lots of high status dwellings, grand villas, public facilities and all the infrastructure that goes with a working community. 

Read more »
Categories: Driving, Food, France, Markets, Provence, travel, Walking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment