Friday, April 19, 2013

Two grand days

April 18 and 19

Yesterday, Bev took the day off, being still worn out from driving the long trip to and from – not to mention around – the Gorges du Verdon.  So Kathy, Lee and I set off for Les Baux without her.

Les Baux was once an impressive fortress/town essentially carved out of the mountain.  It dates to the 800’s and some of the stonework has been dated to 60 B.C.E.  Les Baux is still a soaring monument to man’s ingenuity and creativity.  It is obviously an ideal class trip site – there were at least three there yesterday – so they have demonstrations of old weapons and old games available.  Less interested in the weapons, Kathy and I watched some kids playing the games.  I could identify precursors of skittles, pinball (really!), ring toss and cornhole – this last had overtones of skee ball, too. 

The way to the castle is the village.  While the construction is quite authentic, the village’s sole purpose is to part people from their money.  Aside from restaurants and sandwich shops, there are all the wooden swords and shields anyone will ever need along with the usual Provencal mementos – soap, sachets of lavender, magnets, postcards and funny round towels with a loop in the middle for hanging it up.  There was a sweet shop and Kathy and I both bought cookies.  I’m still longing for a good ginger snap or oatmeal raising one. ;-)

After lunch, we drove home and spend the rest of the day there.  Bev and Kathy went to the grocery store to get asparagus and risotto for dinner so we had another good feast.  They bought ice cream, too, to go with the cookies but we haven’t delved into that yet.  We did wipe out the brioche at breakfast this morning, though.

The destination du jour was Roussillon, one of my very favorite towns in Provence.  In fact, we think it is the one we would live in if we were to live in Provence which is, of course, not very likely.  This village is the site of ochre production on a large scale until World War II when, apparently, the color went out of style.  I rubbed my fingers in some sand lying on a wall and they came away orange so there’s still a lot of ochre to be had here.

While most of Provence’s buildings are cream to a dark tan, Roussillon is anything but.  The varying shades available from the ochre range from a dark orange, almost red, to pale yellow.  And always the Provencal blue shutters are present.  We saw a wonderful dark green door today that really set off the ochre.  Houses built of stone have reddish hues in the rock and, of course, the mortar is also orange/red.  Only the church is out of character in this respect, tending more to the dark tan.

But this is one of my favorite churches.  The building is Romanesque and the altar is Rococo!  While it is dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, the painting over the altar is the annunciation.  There is a wonderful modern painting of the Nativity that I had a terrible time photographing the last time we were here.  I did a little better this time but the yellow in the picture tends to blow the flash of the camera. 

We had a really terrific meal at the same restaurant we ate at last time.  So far, it is the best meal out. 

The last thing I expected to do today was shop.  But shop we did!  There was a store across from our restaurant that had these really great scarves and purses and, for me, lightweight cotton blouses that will be stunning with a clergy shirt underneath.  I bought three, pig that I am.  Then, as we left the church, we turned uphill to see the view except we found a ceramic store we hadn’t remembered.  Yes, we all bought ceramics and would have shipped them home but the cost was about half of what each piece we bought cost.  So they are carefully wrapped and I now have to look for a larger bag than the one I bought in Arles to bring home breakable stuff.  What a hardship! :_)

It is afternoon here and we have all had a refreshing cup of tea with a cookie or two.  I have also had a nap, equally refreshing.  We cut short our plans for the afternoon – Gordes and Les Bories – because it began raining and turned very chilly.  This evening, we are still planning to return to Chateauneuf du Pape for dinner.  I do hope it will be inside!

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