Friday, September 18, 2015

Best Day Yet, part 2

The trail was easy with mild ups and downs and led us directly to the mountain hut for our lunch.  I chose a cheese board and Chuck had apple strudel.  It was wonderful sitting out on the deck in the sunshine surrounded by gorgeous views.  We really lucked out with the weather and are so glad we chose today to do this particular hike.  All the hikers from all over Europe are just so nice.  As we were approaching the final leg back to Compatsch, we heard yodeling echoing across the mountains.  What could be more perfect than that?  We stopped and talked to Anni, the yodeler/Accordian player and promised to email her the pictures she let me take.  The first thing she asked us was if we were English speaking.  Are we that obvious?

Claire and Chuck

Friday, October 3, 2014

Last Day in France

It's really hard to think about leaving--we're procrastinating about packing--so we decided to spend a nice day in Uzes (ee-oo-zes), 7 km away.  It's such a nice town.  It feels real and most of the people we run into are French.  This is the town with the BIG market.

We strolled around and Chuck couldn't resist stopping for a treat.  As we were walking down the narrow street, Chuck eating his chocolate croissant, a Frenchman walked by, smiled and said, "bon apetite!"

One of the many little streets in the village to help you get lost.

Wishing I could stock up.

Thank you Nanci for reminding me to savor every moment.  I have.

We spent quite awhile walking around looking at various eating venues.  Nothing quite clicked.  Then we turned down a street where we hadn't been and, voila!  Perfect.

We've made some observations along the way.  French people really speak softly.  Restaurants are never loud; we could never overhear what someone at the next table was saying (even if we understood French). They speak so quietly into their phones you wonder how the person at the other end hears them.  Men wear pants of many colors; favorites are red, orange or aqua.  Men do wear scarves; I even saw a man with a suit and tie and still he had a scarf artfully wrapped around his neck.  This is a country where all your senses are pushed into hyper drive.  We will miss it so much.  What a lovely country.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Les Baux-de-Provence

So I take back everything I said about Les Baux, the ultra touristy village that I just couldn't face even through 3 separate people we met told us we must go.  I was wrong, they were right.  It helped that we arrived early.  We almost had the place to ourselves.

Les Baux is a shopper's paradise.

The village itself is a surprise around every cobbled corner.

This is an empty Renaissance window frame, marking the site of a future Calvinist museum.  The words carved into the lintel, Post tenebras lux, were a popular Calvinist slogan:  "After the shadow comes the light."

This is a typical village street with our future lunch location on the left with the blue door.

The sun-bleached ruins of the "dead city" of Les Baux are carved into, out of, and on top of a rock 650 feet above the valley floor.  Many of the ancient walls of this castle still stand in this spectacular position in the Alpilles mountains.  The name Baux means rocky spur.  The village gives its name to the aluminum ore bauxite, which was first discovered there by geologist Pierre Berthier in 1821.  Traces of human habitation has been found dating back as far as 6,000 BC.  During the Middle Ages it became the seat of a powerful feudal lordship that controlled 79 towns and villages.

It was windy up here but the sun felt good.

View of the valley where olive trees and vineyards grow

A view of some of the ruined castle from atop another ruined spot

We did a lot of climbing today and walked for several hours.  These stairs are typical, with a worn spot in the center from centuries of footsteps.  They are also quite steep.

Chuck with his audio guide, peering into an opening

We had so much fun up here.  It was enormous.  We found a chapel showing an HD video right on its lime stone wall, of a bird's eye view of all of Provence.  We recognized many places we have been.

We looked at several places but just didn't feel like a fancy lunch today but wanted to sit down and relax.  This little place had a 10 Euro "menu" choice of salad, pizza and dessert.  It worked for us.

Our salads were incredible.  Sprinkled over the lettuce were bits of warm bacon.  Even the tomato tasted as if it had just come in from a sunny garden.  The dressing tasted like a balsamic reduction and was so good.  We each had an Orangina to go with our lunch.

I had a mini fromage and champignons (mushrooms) pizza.  Chuck had a fromage and ham pizza.  We each received an olive provencal in the center of our pizzas.  I will say, eating a pizza with a knife and fork is quite a job.  French people do not pick up their pizza and it comes unsliced.  Chuck told me I was burning as many calories as the pizza just sawing my way through it.

 Our dessert as presented:  crepe sucre.  Sweet!

We wandered around for awhile, taking many more photos, when we saw a sign that said "Good Coffee" and "Terrace."  That's all we needed to know.

I had read about Carriere des Lumieres (Quarry of Lights) and it was a big reason for coming to Les Baux.  It's a mesmerizing sound-and-slide show, with 48 projectors flashing countless images on expansive quarry walls, accompanied by music.  The show lasts 40 minutes, is on a continuous loop, and is just exceptional and stunning.  It's a 300 meter walk from the village parking lot.

Inside, you walk around, once your eyes adjust to the darkness, and take in the continual movement of art.  This year the theme is 100 years of Viennese art and Gustav Klimt.  Even the floor is involved and Chuck even felt motion sick at one point because the floor appeared to be moving.  The art is constantly changing, as is the music, which was classical, opera, and modern.  WOW!

We had another unforgettable day with so many things to see and experience.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Roussillon in the Luberon, a region of Provence

We woke to another beautiful day and took off early for a planned trip to this gorgeous village sitting atop Mont Rouge (Red Mountain) at 1,000 feet above sea level.  An enormous deposit of ochre gives the earth and its buildings a distinctive red color.  I've been wanting to see this village for many years.

It was an hour and a half drive so we debated whether it was worth it.  I finally decided it was and Chuck was game so off we went.  But, first there was the red light stopping traffic while construction work is done.  That took about 20 minutes.  Not long after, traffic again came to a halt and after about 10 minutes, Chuck got out to see and it was clear there had been a recent accident.  We sat there for about 30 minutes, finally drove by and saw that 5 vehicles were involved including a truck and a van.  The damage was pretty bad.  On we went.  But, suddenly, driving over the Rhone and cruising alongside the gigantic walls of Avignon, we took a wrong turn and that was it.  Struggling to get back we went down a road and saw a pharmacy.  Chuck needed to fill a prescription and we've been told that Pharmacists are the best people to ask for directions because they generally speak English.  He did and got us on the right track again.

Finally, much later than we expected to arrive, we found the town and a place to park.  We were surprised at how foggy it was.  At least it wasn't cold.

We walked past this nice setup on our way into the village.  I'm sure the view is beautiful when it's clear.

I love this little shop.  Why didn't I bring another suitcase to bring it all home?

Fantastic colors!

It was just about lunch time so after reading several menus, we decided on this place and we were their first customers.  While we were here, we met an American couple who live in Massachusetts who want to come and see us when they come to California in the next month.

Even with the fog, it was nice enough to sit outside.  While we enjoyed our 2 hour lunch, the sun came out.

We started with a "Petite Salade Italiene," delicieux!

Our main course was Chicken Provencal.  Excellent but way too much.

In between courses, a French couple sat down, ending our conversation with the American couple on the other side.  The French couple ordered these fun drinks and the man insisted I taste it so I had to take a picture.

My dessert, white cheese again with almonds and peach sauce.  Not quite up to the caramel one but quite good.

Chuck ordered Tiramisu.  He said it was great with lots of creme fraiche.

After lunch and a stroll through more of the village, we walked to this trail with great anticipation.  It more than exceeded our expectations.  It felt like we were in the American South West.  We were lucky that there had been rain.  The trails were not powdery and therefore kept the tops of our shoes and our pants ocher free.



What a great day, as it turned out.  We were home by 4:30 but it was a lot of driving.  Fortunately, the way home was without mishap.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Walk in the Village

It mostly rained yesterday with some really fantastic, booming thunder and lightning.  In fact, as directed in our instructions for the house, we disconnected the internet for a few hours.  It was quiet all night.  This morning was gray and it hasn't rained--in fact, it's warm out--but thunderstorms are predicted.  The next 4 days are forecast to be sunny and warm.  However, Montpellier, where we are catching our Air France flight home, is flooding.  We're hoping it drains off somewhere before we have to leave.  Also, we were mildly sweating the pilot strike which was resolved yesterday.  It wouldn't be too terrible to be trapped in the South of France.

We spent all day yesterday reading so today I really needed to get out.  I decided on a walk around Sanilhac-Sagries.

This is a typical little chemin, or path, in the village.

This is a photo from the owners' website and it is exactly what our house looks like.  The two front windows on the left are the living room and dining room.  The window to the right of the front door is the kitchen.

You won't be able to break in through this window.  We see these everywhere.  So much nicer than the iron bars.

This is downtown, 2 blocks from our front door.

This is just opposite the Boulangerie with the day's crowd gathered by the Mairie (town hall).

Yep, it's a really relaxed place.

Our cute little wheels that get us around.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hiking to the Gorges du Gardon

Today we planned for a hike right out of front door.  In fact, the trail begins right next to the boulangerie.  We took off around 9:30, before it was too hot and what a gorgeous morning it was.  We were mostly alone as we followed the signs, well one sign, plus some occasional yellow markers, very familiar to us now.  We had seen a French couple get out of their car back at the boulangerie and peruse a huge map but they never caught up to us.

This is the view of Sanilhac-Sagries from the trailhead.  Our house is nestled in there.

The path was level until it began to gradually descend.  We came to a magnificent view way at the top of that hill above Chuck's head.  I couldn't imagine we'd be able to make it all the way down to the water.  When we did get to the bottom our eyes just popped out of our heads.  Old ruins were on either side of the mountains.  We climbed up the stairs to see what was up there.

This little building is chapel Saint-Vérédeme, backing on to the cliff, at the entrance to a cave, and was for a long time a pilgrimage destination.  The exploration of the many caves and cavities has shown that the site has been inhabited since prehistoric times. During the 7th century, the Greek healer Vérédème (the future Bishop of Avignon) retired from the world to live in the Gardon Gorges.

 Inside the chapel

Around the corner along that path was a big cave and of course we couldn't resist. We were astounded at the size of this cave opening had to explore it.  The first room was huge and fairly well lit by the doorway but as we ventured further, it was pitch black.  We hadn't brought flashlights but each of our smart phones has a flashlight app that works quite well.
 Inside the cave, looking out.

I was all the way to the bend and there was no light whatsoever.  I shined my iPhone flashlight on myself and Chuck took a picture using his flash.  We continued to explore, moving very slowly--the ground went up and down but it was quite roomy inside.  No crawling required although Chuck did find a small cave opening along the way that would have.

At one point, we turned off our flashlights to see how dark it was and Chuck saw a light at the end of the tunnel!  We hemmed and hawed about whether to keep going but decided to go for it.  I took this picture of the doorway at the end and he is shining his flashlight on himself.

As it turned out, we had to go back the way we came as the trail outside was so overgrown we would not have been able to get around it.  What a fun morning.  The hike was 5 miles and not even difficult.  Unfortunately, the boulangerie was closed for the day.  It's Sunday.

We walked the 2 blocks home and settled into the backyard.  I was sure I would go in the pool--it was quite warm out, or at least we were, but it just wasn't hot enough.  In the shade it's quite nice and cool so that's where we settled for several hours with our books.  Chuck brought down a magnificent lunch of cheese, salami, bread, grapes, apples, cookies and orange juice.