Saturday, October 3, 2009

More of Lourmarin, Mt. Vantoux, Menerbes.....May 2009

Fantastique! That's the French word that comes to mind when I recall the 2009 fabulous trip from Paris to the Luberon and back to Paris via Dijon. It seems that the more we return to France and the more we understand the culture, the more we want to experience. It's truly an addiction we most assuredly enjoy, our raison d'etre!

We decided long ago, after losing some friends very dear to us and at such a tender age, that we were going to spend our lives enjoying travel and adventure. Too often such enjoyment is tabled until a time when health simply doesn't permit such activity. We're going for the gusto!

As my last blog entry suggests, from Paris we traveled to Lourmarin. This small village is so delightful. Though we were initially there during winter and nobody seemed to be there except the two of us, such was not the case during mid-May to early June. To the contrary, cafés were ordinarily jammed with people and it was necessary to call the day before an intended restaurant visit in order to get in for a dinner meal--though such was not the case for lunch.

There truly is something special about the Luberon and Provence. The sky always appears to be doubly blue, the air is sweet with lilac, mimosa, wild sage, thyme, rosemary, lavender and Scotch broom, among other things. The same smell appears in soaps made of herbes and olive oil and in the taste of some of the produce, wine and cheeses. It's quite amazing. Homes are built sturdily with stones and red tin roofs and yards are littered with flowers of every kind while trees bearing the heavy weight of olives, cherries, apricots, peaches, and the like shade them with leafy branches. The region is a delight to all one's senses: taste, smell, touch and sound.

The day of our arrival we were asked by Lilian to come immediately for an apéritif followed by a beautiful dinner she would prepare for us. This time she demonstrated how the French create that special apéro, Kir Royale--a wine cocktail. It was delicious, as was her meal--a traditional Alsatian delight of sauerkraut and delicious freshly made sausages, ham and pork simmered for hours, served with steamed potatoes. She had several courses, beginning with a quiche, then the main course, followed by artisan cheese and bread, then salad with a deliciously licorice flavored dressing and finally a traditional cherry cafloutte (they don't remove the pits, so be careful! as the pits create a more intense cherry flavor they say) from cherries she'd just harvested. We rolled ourselves out the door and home to sleep it off! Fabulous, as usual.

We also learned that our former exchangers of the villa in Vaugines were visiting their villa from Canada. They also invited us over for an apéro a few nights later. We'd arranged to take Lilian out to dinner, so we only stayed for a short while but we enjoyed some pastis and good conversation and it was nice to revisit the villa.

Lourmarin is well located and it is easy to tour the entire area of the Luberon, north and south, using our apartment there as a base. We also bought a wonderful book from an author who lives in Oregon but lived for 10 years in Lourmarin. It's called "Provence Byways" and is well worth the purchase price. You'll find places you didn't even know existed because the author explored places off the usual highways in the Luberon. We found it to be indispensible to our tour of the Luberon.

Another plus of Lourmarin is the weekly market. It's lively and boasts some fabulous artisans and producers of pastry, meats, fish, cheeses, wines, soaps, herbes de provence, etc., etc. The sidewalk cafes provide a nice place to linger and the food in most all restaurants is wonderful. Also, super markets are located close by in other villages.

We enjoyed the drive to Fountain de Vaucluse. This is a big tourist's stop, but still is interesting and fun. Just make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes as you'll want to walk along the roaring spring and then back to enjoy lunch at one of the nice sidewalk cafes that abut the water.

Another amazing sight is Les Baux, a fortress hill city built into the rocks. While it was very crowded and the weather was bad, we still enjoyed looking at the site from the comfort of our car. It was quite amazing how a rock structure can be developed into a fortress.

From Les Baux we enjoyed a foot tour of the small village of St. Remy, where we also stopped for a delicious lunch. Mine a fresh salad with a large wheel of warmed buttery brie cheese on top and lots of fresh french bread. Doug opted for the plat du jour, a tender veal lunch with potatoes and we both enjoyed some creamy dreamy mousse au chocolat for dessert. It was tough to waddle to the car to continue our drive, but I assure you we had no dinner that night.

The next day we drove to Mont Ventoux to see what it might be like for the cyclists in the Tour de France to make the climb. It was impressive, there's no doubt about it. At times it was even a white-knuckle drive for the two of us as steep hills gave way to unguarded drop-offs that seemed to go into infinity. Quite amazing and it winds up above the tree line where snow still remained despite the hot days encountered in this area of Provence. We enjoyed chatting with some Canadians. The father had made the cycle climb successfully on two or three other occasions, while this was the first time his son had done it and successfully. They were celebrating up top. Trucks were set up with Refreshments and long tables filled to the brim with all kinds of sweet bonbons. It was impressive and we admit to putting a few pieces into a bag to enjoy on our journey around the Luberon.

The drive in Provence's countryside was often breathtaking. Rounding a corner, it was possible to suddenly be face to face with an entire field, bright red with poppies, or a bright purple field of blooming lavender, followed by an entire hillside filled with sweet smelling scotch broom--it's bright yellow almost blinding in the searing sun of Provence. We passed through lanes completely shaded by ancient Sycamore trees with leafy branches creating a solid arch of green overhead. These lanes are everywhere in Provence and we learned that it was Napoleon who had them planted in order to provide shade for his weary soldiers as they moved through the countryside. One dare not divert attention from the roadway ahead, as to veer accidentally left or right has lead to the death of many a motorist. We've heard that the government is concerned enough to contemplate removal. Such a drastic measure would be a terrible shame, as it's soothing and beautifully peaceful to encounter the trees.

Although we'd scheduled a mid-week dinner out with Lilian at a great restaurant in Lourmarin, we had nothing planned for that morning or afternoon. Also, the French don't eat until 9 pm, so we had plenty of time left for exploring. On a whim we decided to drive to St. Tropez. We hadn't been to Côte d'Azur, except Marseille, so we were more curious than anything. The drive was tedious, on narrow country roads so we quickly found the Autoroute and took it until we saw the turn-off we needed. St. Tropez was crowded and all the people appeared to be well-dressed and enjoying the shopping, dining and ambiance of the area. Yachts filled the harbor slips and were also anchored in the harbor. Bistros and brasseries were loaded with young tanned physically fit bodies. It was way too crowded for us and I'd packed a lovely picnic, so we drove up to a look-out and enjoyed our peaceful uncrowded lunch while gazing out at the Mediterranean. Quite enjoyable.

There are so many quaint villages throughout the Provence region that it's really impossible to say much about them, or this blog would be completely out of control. Instead, recommending that you seek your own adventure is a more rewarding route to experience.

Enjoy photos of our day trips throughout Provence. What a pleasure it was.

A Visit To The Glacier (Ice Cream Maker) Is Just What These Cute Little Ones Needed!

A Nice German Couple Enjoying Lourmarin As We Are

Lourmarin: Sidewalk Cafés, Wine & Conversation Abound

Beaucoup de voyages. Time To Relax In Lourmarin On A Sunny Afternoon

The Dogs Are Very Social In The Tiny Village Of Rain

It's Called Volaile (Poulet)...To Me A Mystery Meat. Chicken? Really? With Crumbles? Pass. (I Enjoyed The Potato and The Wine Instead) C'est La Vie

A Beautiful Sunny Day For A Country Drive And A Provençal Field Of Lavender! Bon!

A Parking Lot For Greek Tycoons In St. Tropez

A Window Washer Hangs Off A Yacht, St. Tropez Playground For The Rich & Famous

We Stop For A Picnic With Côte d'Azur As Our View, Lovely!

The Côte d'Azur Near St. Tropez

Watch Out For These Rocket Bike Jockeys Who Zoom Past You On The Right And Left! (San Tropez)

A Photovoltaic Power Plant Near The Caderache Site Where Construction Is Underway For Enhancement To Include A Huge Facility For Fusion & Nuclear Power

Small Village Of Merindol, Green Fair Focuses On Elimination Of Oil Products

Sometimes A Snap Decision Is Necessary And We get Confused!

Art In The Country, A Mural On A Building In Sènas

Mont V, In The Clouds At Highest Peak

Canadian Father/Son: Father Has Tackled Mont V Twice, This Was Son's First. Hurrah!

Cyclist (Okay, us too!) Stock Up On Bonbons To Energize On The Trip Down

Memorial To Cyclist On Tour Who Died On The Spot From Exhaustion

Steep Grade of Mt. Ventoux Where Tour de France Cyclist Pedal In High Altitude

The Top Of Mt. Ventoux

A Romanesque Aqueduct Near Carpentras, Provence

A Colorful Apartment In Lauris On The Road To Lourmarin

Interesting Sculpture Of Produce in Orgon

Boutiques & Chocolatiers Line St. Remy, Lovely!

A Colorful Window Along The Walkway In Quaint St. Remy

At This St. Remy Café We Refuse To Recall The Number of Calories Consumed

An Entire Wheel Of Buttery, Oozy, Warmed Brie Topped This Decadent Salade! Oh la la!

A Cemetery On The Outskirts Of St. Remy, Provence

The Base Of Les Baux de Provence, A Fortress Of Stone

Les Baux de Provence On A Rainy Day
A Country Drive. Field Of Barley, Shifts In the Breezes

It Truly Is As Delicious As It Looks, Love The French Petit Dejeuner!

In The Studio, We're Treated To A View Of More Of Her Creations

The Copper Etching & Finished Picture. How Does She Do It? Amazing!

Tools Of A Painter, Illustrator & Etcher

I Admire The Etching My Friend, Lilian, Has Crafted. It's Now Framed And On The Wall

It's Said: Napoleon Planted Sycamores To Provide Shaded Lanes For Horse/Foot Soldiers

The Apt Outdoor Market Is A Must, When In Provence

Two Provençal Table Clothes For Under 50 Euro! Incroyable!

The Wonderful Hand-Crafted Sharp Knives, Sold Here

Apt Market Place, The Sweet, Soft, Delicious Strawberries Of Provence

Our Peugeot! We Scored A Prime Parking Space, Busy Popular Apt Market

Dawn, Photo Of Lourmarin's Chateau (An Early A.M. Stroll)

Fresh Sweet Peaches We Bought At A Fruit Stand Near L'Iles-sur-Sorges The Day Prior

Dawn's Early Light, Lourmarin Village

Typical Road Signage As We Leave The Village Of Oppède, Provence

Characteristic Pastels Of Provence Living, Menerbes

Typical Provençal Colored Door Against Gray Stones Adds Light & Dimension

This Residence Is Only One Of Several Stunning Structures, Menerbes

Menerbes, Northern Luberon

The Menerbes Farming Valley Below The Village With Luberon Mts. In Back

A Curiour Statue Outside A High School Near Menerbes, Southern France

Doug Hikes Down In To Find The Spring's Source

A Centuries Old Defense Site Carved Into Rock Above The Spring

Fountain de Vaucluse, Largest Spring In Europe. Quite Amazing!

A Double-Blue Sunny Day At Fountain de Vaucluse, Provence

Fountain de Vaucluse Near L'Isle-sur-le-Sorges

Near l'Isle-sur-le-Sorges

A Noisette Pour Moi et Un Bierre Pour Mon Mari! Vaugines

We Catch An Artist Crafting Tin Into Art, Vaugines

Colorful Village Of Vaugines, Southern Luberon

Ancient Fountain With Centuries Of Moss Collecting On It's Column, Vaugines

12th Century Stone Church, Vaugines

Centuries Of Drifting Soil Have Almost Buried The Burial Site In This 12th Century Church

A 12th Century Stone Church In Vaugines, Luberon

Some Picard Pastis With Friends

Friends Invite Us For An Apéritif At The Villa We Exchanged During Winter 08

A Former Exchange Villa In Summer (Much Better!)

Friend, Lilian, Teaches Us How To Make A Kir Royale À La Française (Yum!)

Next Post: Cucuron, Dijon....Ah, yes...Paris!

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