Monday, July 11

Provençal Day Trip

I'm determined to get this trip blogged as soon as possible because our Ireland trip last month still weighs heavily upon me. But not as heavily as a severe case of nesting that kicked in today! I mapped out the kids' rooms late last night and had Ryan un-bunking beds as soon as I felt it safe to ask after dinner.

So Ryan and I were able to get away together for a day without the kids. Ryan's always itching to go and explore while I'm the happy homebody. Make that a happy homebody who doesn't like heat, a vehicle with no air conditioning, and carrying around an extra 30lbs with an opinion of its own. So I was a little anxious about our day out and that we'd try to tackle too much, but it was wonderful! Seriously simply charming and beautiful and tasty!

We'd been well-prepped to fall in love with it after hearing Mark and Nancy rave about it for a few years now. They highly recommended reading Peter Mayle's "A Year in Provence" and some of his other titles which we really enjoyed. A&E even has a 2 disc series dramatizing the books which we recommend as some light fun.

The L'Ameillaud Vineyard we stayed at is up between the two villages of Cairanne and Rasteau. Our route that day took us 45 minutes down to the L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue's market day followed by another 45 minute drive more south to the market in Aix-en-Provence. Then we ventured back north through the Luberon National Reserve soaking up the fields of lavendar, sunflowers, and vineyards while stopping to see the hilltop villages of Bonnieux and ochre Roussillon.

My handy little camera broke a while ago so we either had Ryan's serious camera (more than I like to heft) or the iphone. We left the real camera in the car while absorbing the delights of the markets as temporary locals. It's so nice to wander freely like that, yet then I get home and kinda wish I could share those images that will forever be romanticized in my memory.

L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, the Venice of Provence. A nice quaint market day happens every Thursday although we hear their Sunday market is famous for antiques. We loved the sights, the friendly vendors who let you sample their honeys, cheeses, melons and what not. This place has a number of old water wheels that powered a thriving textile industry centuries ago and oh how I wanted to buy some of those beautiful comforters! There were also lots of vendors selling meats, shoes, gauzy linen and cotton clothing, flowers, produce, jewelry, olives, and much more. This measly lot of pictures here just doesn't do it justice!

After promising to come back and buy some delicious Gruyere Savoiu cheese, we took the cheese vendor's recommendation for the best boulangerie-patisserie. We grabbed a baguette and pain au chocolats in the midst of a line of locals there and then crossed the street to a little cafe with three outdoor tables so we could people watch and have some hot chocolate with our breads. It happened to be the best hot chocolate we've had since the Tubingen Chocolate Festival! Yes, it was that good! I had the 72% Venezuelan cacoa and Ryan had the 70% Argentine cacoa. Be still my heart, now I'm craving it again! Happy were we! Thank you Couleurs Cafe!

We bought some lovely light, smooth acacia honey that we had to get replaced because the lid came off in the vendor's sack. Phew! Glad it hadn't been in my bag! There were so many really nice people among the vendors, you felt like you lived there and weren't numbered among the scores of vacationers invading their market for snapshots.

Next it was down to Aix-en-Provence.

I'm a horrible shopper on vacation . . . from a vendor's perspective. When I like something, I put it back and say I'll come back if I can't stop thinking about it. Then I get so enthralled by the sites and choices that I talk myself out of my favorite items or forget about them until we're far, far away. Oh well, that just makes more travel possible right?

We simply ventured up this main pedestrian street where the market was being held. At the end, there was a very popular pizza-by-the-slice place we decided to try. Pizza Capri, it was called. It was seriously so good! The crust was just the right thickness and tasted light and toasted and airy while the toppings were just right. We grabbed an empty bench and watched fellow tourists and many locals saunter by either carrying the same pizza wrap or looking like they wished they were. Then it was time to hit the road.

I loved the tree lined roads that kept us pretty cool as we made our way into the Luberon National Reserve. It was between 86-89 degrees, phew!

Here's 34 weeks on the dot, baby!

We loved the sight of villas with their expansive, neat rows of vines sprinkled with fields of sunflowers or lavender! Driving through the Luberon was by far Ryan's favorite memory of the trip I believe. All the winding, narrow roads up and down the hills begged to be driven in a sporty little convertible with the wind and sun adding to the sheer thrill of the ride. I did my best to enjoy it for it's unparalleled beauty while trying to manage the shifting waterbed that sits upon my lap. Does that description make sense to anyone else?

We came around a curve and the adorable hilltop village of Bonneiux was before us. We had to drive all the way through it and then turn around to get pictures twice. It was just that cute! And what a great view of the valley spread out below.

And then the ground started subtly changing color,
becoming more red as we neared the ochre cliffs of Roussillon.

This was a very adorable place to wander and take pictures, but Ryan can attest that I was done at this point. Oh how my body ached by Roussillon and that was before we'd reached Ryan's favorite part of the drive! I couldn't help but think of that Greek lady in Athens who wished me, "Happy Liberation!" and how much I wanted it! I found a decent bathroom, some great gelato, and a seat in the shade while Ryan had fun with his camera.

There were big gusts of wind while meandering through the village
so I had to hold my skirt down to remain decent! Where's my ride? "I got hot!"

After Roussillon, the drive became very dramatic and uniquely scenic. There's the red cliffs in the distance before we headed up into some hills and got to the best winding drive of Ryan's life.

At one point, Ryan gleefully giggled, "It never ends! This is AWESOME!" Sheer delight rang in his voice. As the terrain flattened out again, he wistfully declared, "It'll be a long time before I forget that drive!" I don't have pictures of the drive because I was bracing myself in my seat. When we reached this traffic circle I really wanted a picture of the sculpture. However, Ryan had to circle it a few times because I had to wrench my large-and-in-charge self from my seat to be able to snap a shot or two on the move. Ever try to take pictures while riding a roller coaster around a curve? That was the comedy unfolding before Ryan as he watched me trying to get this shot!

And back to the flat vineyards at the base of these hills. What a great day!

Time for a dip in the pool! Don't mind if I do!