Gorgeous Gordes

We didn’t put Gordes on our Provence list, since we had plans to stay there this Fall when we were to meet up with Mom & friends on their wine trip.    However, we found out we had to drive past it on our way to Abbaye de Senanque and we thought it would be neat to pull over for the view.

And…wow.

This town was one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen.  In fact it wins designation from France as “Le Plus Beaux Villages de France“.

Our first glimpse, lookout #1

Second glimpse….ooo la la!

We found someone to take our photo.

Enjoying our little long weekend honeymoon.

 

 

 

Isn’t Gordes gorgeous?

I can’t wait to go back this Fall!

 

The hilltop villages of Bonnieux & Lacoste

After Oppède-le-Vieux, we continued onto the Luberon Valley.   An article from jet setter had recommended Menerbes, Lacoste, Bonnieux, and Gordes to be nice stops while in Provence.   We knew we  would hit Gordes later in the Fall with my Mom so chose to pick from the remaining.

Image courtesy of miniplan-Luberon

We settled on Bonnieux as it was supposed to have excellent views of the countryside and lavender fields.  We didn’t have time, but it is supposed to be an excellent place for pain au chocolat.   They also have a museum of bread-making.

Since we wanted to see the view, we drove right through town, up to the top.

Approaching Bonnieux

Vineyards surrounding Bonnieux

The town of Bonnieux

 

After driving through the adorable streets, we parked at the top.   There was an old passageway that was quite beautiful.

The passageway to the top

We found the most peaceful hilltop.   It was adorned with trees, permanently bent by Le Mistral.    There was a single cross and a few benches.   One fellow was meditating at the top, and we were the only others.

These trees had been shaped by Le Mistral, the strong wind in the South of France

 

The view was very calming as well.   Note the lavender fields in the distance?

View from the top of Bonnieux

 

We enjoyed taking in some of the architecture and panoramic views.

Provençal architecture in Bonnieux

View from the other side of Bonnieux, where La Terrace restaurant is located

 

As we were driving out, we got some views of Lacoste.   No, this town isn’t the namesake of the alligator brand.  But, an interesting fact is that Pierre Cardin has dedicated much energy to restoring and improving this little Provencal gem.

A few of Lacoste across the small valley. The towns are 4km apart.

 

Lacoste, France in the distance…

 

By the time we left Bonnieux, we decided we had had quite a full day of Provencal adventures so we returned back to our hotel pool for some relaxation.

 

Related links:

Schwingen in Switzerland:  Breaking Wind – Le Mistral

 

A nice view at Oppède-Le-Vieux

Bruno also recommended Oppède-le-Vieux.

In French, when a town is old, they put the word old right in the title.   So, while there is a regular Oppède, we searched for Oppède-le-Vieux to find the old town.  This is the same as Annecy-le-Vieux, and also in Geneva, we have Vieille Ville, old town.

The town is located against the Petite Luberon mountains.  You park about 1km from the town since it is perched high on the ledge.   A fifteen minute walk has you into the town.  It is super small little village but still adorable.  The day we were there, they were hosting a local arts festival.    Another fifteen minute ascent on narrow cobblestone streets has you at the very tip top at the site of 16th-century Notre-Dame-d’Alydon church.

Below are a few photos we took of the town, the hike, and at the top.

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A True Provençal Experience in Eygalières

The next stop after Les-Baux-de-Provence on our Provence adventure was Eygalières.   Bruno had mentioned to take the small roads, direction Destet.   Our GPS didn’t recognize Egalières, or Destet, so we pulled out a map of Provence that he loaned us and did it old school.

During the drive, we saw some lovely Alpilles countryside.

Driving through the Alpilles countryside.   Very arid.  It looks like Italy and Greece. 

Jagged rocks in Provence

Vineyards abound.

Olive groves. Who knew France had a big olive oil production?  I sure didn’t until this trip. 

 

We parked the car and decided to head up the hill to check out the view.

 

Starting our climb.

The top afforded clear views of the Alpilles range

Remains of a church

After our hike, we walked down into the small little town.  There were three restaurants open as well as a bustling grocery, even though it was a French holiday, Bastille Day.

Restaurants ready for Bastille Day celebrations

We settled upon Café de la Place.   We ordered planchas – smoked salmon & goat cheese for me and cheese & meat for Gabe.   This was truly a local place.  We didn’t hear one word of English in this town.  Good thing our French is getting better!

It was fun watching all the townspeople come in and greet each other.  Our waitress knew every single person who walked up.  Poor thing couldn’t get much done for all the double cheek kissing she had to do with the passing friends.

We counted the number of baguettes that passed.   Everyone was out and about doing their shopping.   And typically, a person would have 3-4 baguettes tied in a bundle.    This is another common sight in France – lots of baguettes being purchased.

Le Café du Place was a nice choice for lunch

As we left, we drove past Chapelle Saint Sixte.

We really appreciated the recommendation from Bruno.   We were the only tourists in town and it was nice to get to see a true glimpse of small town life.

If you are traveling to Eygalières, make sure to pack a good map!!

Gratitude Friday: My first glimpse of the lavender

Once Bruno found out we were into wine, he recommended we stop by Valdition as they were having a Fête de Rosé.    Valdition is located in the Alpilles area, near Orgon and St. Rémy.   They specialize in both wine and olive production.

When we parked, we found the jackpot…wine and lavender in the same place!    I had been on a hunt for lavender and we found it.   Thus, this week’s gratitude post.

Gardens at Valdition

I had planned the trip pretty much entirely to see the lavender in season.  In Provence, the high season for the beautiful crop is the end of June/July.   It is typically harvested in July/August.  I had read that seeing it was truly remarkable and a must-do once in your life.    Thus, we had planned our trip to Provence in mid-July, at the peak.

Gabe preferred the old car sighting to the lavender sighting.  I am also grateful he is a patient husband.

There are over 39 varieties of lavender.   It grows in North Africa, the Mediterranean and India.  However, Provence accounts for 80% of the worlds lavender needs.

What would the world’s lavender needs be?

One of my favorite uses is for essential oils.  It is renown for its healing and medicinal properties.   In fact, I applied lavender essential oil at least three times a day when healing from foot surgery.    Also, it can be used for calming / relaxing, such as if you have sleep difficulty like me.   Or even for headaches when applied at the pulse point.

Beyond oil, it can be used to make soap, perfume, cosmetics and potpourris.

Sometimes it can be infused in dishes or used in tea!

The rows of lavender at Valdition

Lavender is farmed in rows in Provence.   I found it fun to run through them.

Hanging out in the fields

Up close

 

The smells are amazing!

Did you know that lavender bunches can repel bugs?   So next time you are having a gathering outside, try the nice smell of lavender.

It must not repel snails.  They were having as much fun as me out there.

After our lavender photo shooting, we did partake in the Fête de Rosé.   We bought three bottles of white wine and a bottle of rosé to enjoy back in Geneva.  I considered it our commission for using their fields for our photography.

Valdition
Route d’Eygalières
13660 Orgon – France
http://www.valdition.com/en/le-domaine/

We were grateful we found a field in this area as lavender production isn’t as common in the Les Alpilles.     I also feel lucky as I found out later that vipers like to live in the shade of the lavender.   Glad I didn’t get bitten.

Bon weekend, everyone!

Les-Baux-de-Provence

On Saturday morning, I woke up with high hopes for lavender sightings.   However, my new laissez-faire attitude with trip planning (“let it be”….just book hotel, do research on the way) had a flaw….we were a little too far South for the purple crop.   Oops.

Bruno, our innkeeper, recommended we stay around the area for Saturday and hit the lavender on our way home back to Geneva, since we’d need to pass by it to get home.   Gabe said he could visibly see me getting anxious as he listed all the little non-lavender producing hill towns we could see near Saint Rémy.   Anyhow, we decided to start with some of his recommendations, the first being Les Baux de Provence, and see how the day progressed from there.   It was just a ten minute drive south of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, so we headed off.

As we approached, we could see the settlement high on the mountaintop.   The range in this area of Provence is called Les Alpilles, or mini Alps.   Les-Baux-de-Provence sits on the top of one of these rock spurs.  On a clear day, it is said you can see all the way to the Carmargue, the mouth of the Rhone.

Approaching Les-Baux-de-Provence

The town was really beautiful and we got there early enough to beat the tour buses.  Apparently, they start coming in after 10:30 or 11:00 in the morning.

The architecture reflected the different civilizations that ruled over the town

The history of life on the rock dates back to 6000 B.C.    During the Middle Ages, the kingdom was quite powerful.   However, the Baux lords’ reign ended in the 1400’s and the town was ruled by the Grimaldis, of Monaco, from then on.   Actually, while we were there, the town was hosting a Princess Grace photo exhibition.

If you are interesting in learning more about the history of Les Baux de Provence, Schwingen in Switzerland has an excellent post entitled We Didn’t Know the Valley of Hell Was So Beautiful.  They also visited the castle, which we did not do, so you can get tips from their visit as well.

Streets of Les Baux

Morning skies over Les Baux

Walls of Les Baux

A few of the valley

Les Baux was built directly into the rock

A lovely square in Les Baux

A downward view of the streets

Gabe at the gate

Les Baux is worth a stop – make sure you hit it early to beat the crowds.

Le Quatorze Juillet: Bastille Day

As I mentioned, when we booked our trip to Provence, it didn’t occur to us that it was the Bastille Day holiday weekend.    Bastille Day is known as La Fête Nationale.  The equivalent would be our 4th of July Independence Day.

I am sure Paris it must have been nuts, but it ended up being a nice time to visit Provence and the countryside for us.   It’s always fun to see how another culture celebrates.

As we mentioned yesterday on the blog, we witnessed lively music & the running of the bull (singular) in the town square on Friday night, the eve of the holiday.   Saturday night, we had heard there would be fireworks for le quatorze.  Since we missed them living in Geneva for the 4th of July, we looked forward to celebrating with the French for their Independence.

For the evening of le quatorze juillet, we strolled around town a little bit and then had a divine dinner at La Maison Jaune.

St. Rémy in the early evening

Our table on the terrace at La Maison Jaune.  We could hear the music in the square that prefaced the fireworks. 

We concluded dinner with perfect timing at 10:00pm, the time the fireworks were due to start.   We had a general concept of where to walk to view them display, but ended up bumping into a walking parade so we just joined in.  We figured it would be simple enough to find them that way!

Everyone was dressed in their red, white and blue.   The children were dressed adorably, proudly holding their paper lanterns.   Paper lanterns are quite commonly carried for European holidays.  We saw our first last year on la premiere aout, Switzerland’s Independence Day.

We strolled along with the crowd, enjoying watching the celebrations:

When we reached the stadium / park, it was just in time for the commencement of the feu d’artifice (fireworks in French).   We found a nice spot on the edge of the sidewalk and enjoyed.   The show blasted in conjunction with Whitney Houston music, which we found to be a very entertaining addition.     All in all, it was a very nice fireworks show.   Not as big as Geneva’s hour long Fête de Genève production, but a very nice showing for a small town such as Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

Fireworks for Bastille Day

This is now the third “Independence Day” we have seen!!   We are grateful for the experience to have witnessed it.

A belated Joyeux Bastille Day to all our French readers !