Ménerbes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France

Ménerbes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France
Ménerbes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bonnieux, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France

Flowing down a hillside in the Luberon, today's destination is the village of Bonnieux. Much of it faces north and provides commanding views across the valley to the snow covered Mont Ventoux, 40km/24 miles straight-line distance.

It seemed to be a popular bicycle destination, too. In fact, encountering bicyclists on these narrow roads and steep hills is common. ( Bill R. - your next destination?)

The tree covered top of the town is also the location of a local church.

And from on top, the world spreads out dramatically below. In this panorama, Mont Ventoux is mostly obscured by clouds along the horizon right of center. (Click on image to view full width).

View to the north.

Yes, that is a satellite dish at center - and where I'm sitting making this image is a restaurant patio with free wifi. The past of these old villages and the present blend well.

View to the northeast.

To the west (3km/1.8 miles) is a view of the neighboring town of Lacoste. The castle atop the hill was the home of the Marquis de Sade in the 18th century before fleeing in notoriety.  The castle is now owned by designer Pierre Cardin who has partially restored it and occasionally holds cultural events there. Much of the town is also influenced by the Savannah College of Art and Design which has had a campus there since 1970.

And here, with a spectacular view of the Luberon valley, we had a great lingering lunch at cliff-edge at the Brasserie les Terrasses. We were the only outside customers - the locals were inside drinking and eating at the bar wondering why those crazy Americans from Massachusetts were eating outside. It's because it felt like a summer day in Massachusetts!

The town was very quiet - it is still the off-season here - but this four-legged local walked the streets and sidewalks like he owns the place - I guess he does. By the way, mild-mannered dogs walking alone along the narrow streets is not an uncommon sight throughout this area based on my observation. They are neither aggressive nor unfriendly - just going about their lives.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Parade, L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France

Like most people, I love a parade. I heard a ruckus this morning and looked out my window to the sight and sound of this parade.  The signs they were carrying named the local elementary schools but I couldn't figure out the reason or subject. Sometimes it's frustrating to me not knowing the local language.

There were multiple musical groups playing over the course of the twenty minute parade.

Parents and kids, some in costume and some not.

All the instruments had bluetooth microphones (or some equivalent technology) that connected them to an amplifier cart rolling behind them so the town was rockin' !

The morning parade must have worn out the townsfolk - as darkness descends there is not a soul at the many riverside restaurants - maybe it's too early still - the dinner hours don't begin until 7pm or later.

Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque, (Sénanque Abbey), Gordes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France

The abbey was founded in 1148 and is still in operation today. The monks depend on growing lavender, raising bees, and tourism for income sources.

All the grays of this cloudy winter's day blend together: the stones of the abbey, the rocky hillside, and even the foreground lavender plants.

In July, the bloom of lavender brings folks from far and wide. I was very disappointed not to see it in March in full color so...................

.........I made it bloom myself - I am the great and powerful Wizard of Oz - (and I have some ability with Photoshop Elements software). 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Gordes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France

This viewpoint of the village of Gordes on the north side of the Luberon valley must be one of the most beautiful spots on the planet.  I thought yesterday's view from Ménerbes was spectacular but this is even more so. The storm clouds with a slice of sunshine lighting the town sure helped the drama. But as usual, a photo does not do it justice.

Panorama - click on image to view in full width.

Stone walls/fences hide prying eyes -"sauf riverains" means no entry except residents.

I like how the stone just sort of blends into the doorway frame structure.

A typical steep cobblestone lane in town. I bet the people in this town have strong leg muscles from a lifetime up walking up and down these streets.

A southward looking view from the town, the Luberon mountains on the horizon.

Spring appearing on the cherry trees nicely frames a local farm.

The calendar still shows it is winter on my visiting day but, it looks more like spring to me.

Cactus and palms are reminders that this climate is more like my former home in California than my current one in Massachusetts. 

A local walking home. The only thing missing is he's not carrying a fresh baguette from the local boulangerie.

Door number one or number two? This is actually a street/pathway in town.

Lunch today was at the restaurant L'Encas where we each enjoyed one of the best vegan meals of the entire trip - Salade Luberon - many grilled veggies over a bed of lettuce. Bon appétit! And a touch of "Vin du Moment" to wash it all down. A bit of wine at lunch - these French people are on to something good........and I was pretty much a teetotaler before this trip.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ménerbes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France

For our first field trip from our home base in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, we headed into the hills of the Luberon to the incredibly charming village of Ménerbes. 

A friendly local.

Stone houses, stone streets, and terracotta roof tiles - all constants in Provence.

I think I'd like to have a front door this color. Hmmmmm?

As Amy demonstrates, sitting quietly with eyes closed in a sunny corner on a cool winter's day is the best possible way to spend a few moments.

Looking out on the beautiful agricultural land below the town.

A view northward toward the Plateau de Vaucluse and Mont Ventoux.

Similar view over fields that have been bearing produce, wine, and lavender for many generations.

A typical Provence farm - grape vines, a stone farmhouse, terracotta roof tiles, and colorful wooden shutters.

This interesting tiny house perched on the edge looks like it's been there a while. I bet that's a pretty cool place to call home - assuming the main side not visible is full of window glass.

Wood shutters are the standard design on most houses I've seen here. And they actually are functional, unlike most shutters in the U.S. that are usually attached in place just for the cosmetic look.

These small villages with steep streets mean that you can only bring home the groceries that you can carry yourself in one trip.

Like many properties in these gorgeous towns, this house is for sale.  Prices are high due to strong demand from out-of-towners and foreigners.

This was one of those slam-on-the-brakes sights along the road back home after the day in Ménerbes - a stone field house nestled within an orchard.

Provence is as beautiful as I've always heard - and we're just beginning to explore. I realized while wandering around this picturesque town today that I am very fortunate to be a member in mobile health of the retired person's club.  To celebrate our good fortune, we ordered a 25cl carafe of wine for lunch that was called, "Vin du Moment," which, I guess means literally, "wine of the moment." Great name - really cracked me up laughing!  (The French version of "Two-Buck-Chuck?")

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France

We have begun part two of our three part trip with arrival here in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in the Provence region of southeastern France. Located centrally in the Provence region, we chose this town as the base for our visit to the area.

The Sorgue River flows through, under, and around the town and historically served as both a source of water, food, and industry powering multiple waterwheels. They have a popular Sunday market that originated in the late 1500's (and a smaller Thursday market also - more on that in a future blog post).

Our first evening in town it rained like crazy but made for an interesting view out the window of our apartment onto the glistening street below.

Out and about the next morning, I  saw a pack of wild but well-behaved dogs in the neighborhood who weathered the storm quite well......

...and also a donkey, pink sheep, deer, and even an alligator! 

This dog seemed to be keeping watch on the wheel barrow in case someone tried to carry it off. I think this is going to be a fun place to live for the next few weeks.