Our time in the South

Here’s a report about our lovely holiday spent near Mont Ventoux. Warning: long and picture heavy!

We left St Just on Saturday morning and the drive down was horrid. It rained all the way, and lashed it down for part of the way. We had hoped to get to the Chambres d’Hotes in time for lunch but had come off the motorway a couple of junctions early due to the traffic, the stop-start nature of the flow and the weather. We stopped in Vaison-le-Romain for a salad in a Pizzeria: we could have explored the Medieval town…but between the car park and the Pizzeria (first restaurant that we found that was open!) we got fairly wet.

We both chose the Salade Gourmande, which included smoked duck breast, chicken livers and foie gras. Very enjoyable. As usual, I forgot to take a photo of the meal, but here’s a photo of the restaurant

IMG_1450

We got to the Chambres d’Hotes a little later, and met up with Louis and Odette. We chatted and  Louis and Mr FD talked plans for taking on the Ventoux.  After the arrival of Laurent, their son, everyone watched the Heineken cup final between Clermont and Toulouse (our lot were disappointed when Clermont lost. Unlike Sarah at Le Petit Village!) Then we went into Bédouin, the nearest town, for a very enjoyable meal. I chose a goats’ cheese/tomato combo, followed by pintade with a black olive sauce and strawberries for dessert. No photo!

Sunday:
Odette decided to try to learn one word in English a day. So: Odette’s Word of the day: poppy (coquilicot in French)

Odette and I went to the wonderful (but admittedly fairly tourist-orientated) market at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, which is a beautiful little town, where the River Sorgue runs through the centre in various little canals and tributaries.

IMG_1455

There are water wheels galore, which were used in earlier days to provide power to various industries. Now they are just picturesque reminders of the past. I did buy a few bits – mostly to eat or drink (including a ginger sirop, which will, I’m sure, be used in my white chocolate & ginger cheesecake!)

IMG_1452IMG_1453 IMG_1454

We got back quite late, but the Boys – who had been out on a fairly long ride “to loosen the legs” – had cooked lunch. We ate at about 3.00 and I thought that was our meal for the day, so I ate plenty. I suspect you can work out that it wasn’t our meal for the day…No, we went to another restaurant later on! Before that Mr FD and I went for a short walk around the Chambres d’Hotes – the weather was closing in, and there were thunderstorms around.

IMG_1457 IMG_1461  The vineyards were claggy with mud, and  our boots ended up feeling like lead boots from the amount of mud clinging onto them! The vines weren’t as far along as they should be this time of year – the rain & lack of sun has had an effect on all the fruit trees in the area.

IMG_1462

IMG_1464

“Attention: Bird’s nest. Please don’t put anything in this letter-box”

We went out for dinner to a lovely restaurant, recommended by Monique, the owner of the Chambres d’Hotes. Unfortunately it was only set menus, so despite my huge lunch, I managed to eat another 3 courses – asparagus tart, bruschetta of red mullet with poischichade – chickpea purée – and then a rather odd dessert of sweet ravioli stuffed with apricots, served with creme anglaise. The things I do…!

Monday:

Odette’s Word of the day: vineyard  (vignoble in French)

This was Mont Ventoux day! (SFX: dramatic music!)

IMG_1465

Odette was going on a less strenuous ride, the Boys were climbing Ventoux, and I was Official Bread Buyer and Photographer. So the cyclists set off

IMG_1466

while I get on with the important task of ingratiating myself with one of the Chambre d’Hote’s cats

IMG_1468

going around the market, buying bread and generally doing nice things

IMG_1470

until suddenly I realised that, if I didn’t get a wiggle on, they’d be up the summit of Ventoux before I got there! It was a bit hairy driving up, as there must have been hundreds of cyclists going up. There was some kind of event, as there were scores of Netherlanders all in the same cycle kit cycling up, followed by their own private ambumance, plus with several refreshment stops and dedicated encouragers en route. There were also scores of other riders, some wobbling all over the road in exhaustion. Added to this a group of motor cyclists who wanted to overtake me on the winding route, you can imagine that it wasn’t much fun. I caught Louis and Mr FD up not much more than a kilometre from the summit (phew!) and so was able to snap our Brave Heroes in full cycling mode

IMG_1472IMG_1474

And, yes, that is snow behind them – it was 3° at the top. And there I was in my summery plimsolls!

IMG_1475

Here they are at the top. Mr FD grinning (“I’ve just cycled up here!”) with triumph. I do have to say how very proud I was of him! Well done Boys! Laurent isn’t there because (fit young thing that he is) he had got to the summit earlier, and had cycled down the other side so that he could turn round and do it all again. Mad. The two of them then zoomed off downhill, while I took it more slowly (stuck behind the Netherlander’s ambulance, which stopped next to anyone from their team who seemed to be struggling to check they were okay. And to have a long conversation. Sigh) I also stopped at the Tom Simpson memorial

IMG_1477

This is what my cyclist Mr FD climbed:

IMG_1476

The white isn’t snow (although you can see a line of it at the side of the road) it is white pebbles – nothing grows up there: too bloody windy!

We ate a hearty lunch – but I’d wised up to this, and only had bread and salad and cheese. The cyclists had fully deserved their guacamole, rice and tomato-olive sauce, but I didn’t feel I merited the calories! In the afternoon, there was a general air of langour so I went out for a walk, while Mr FD lolled on the bed snoozing and reading. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t warm enough to go in the pool…

IMG_1482 IMG_1483 IMG_1485 IMG_1486 IMG_1480

By the time I got back (slightly sore feet) and had a beer, Gilles and Sylvie had arrived, Gilles full of what he was going to climb (despite being fearfully out of training). Sylvie patiently raised eyes heavenward and kept schtum. Heading out that evening to the restaurant, the conversation was full of joshing and discussion, in rather-too-rapid French for me to keep up. But it was fun.

IMG_1489 IMG_1487

The menu (what would you choose?)                                      Louis & Odette

This evening, I had a sort of tuna mousse (Flan de thon aux capres), and then a pork dish (Sauté de porcelette aux artichauts) with strawberry crumble for dessert (Crumble de fraises aux pistaches) Again, all very delicious – and very good value at 16€ (£13,50) for the meal.

IMG_1490

I forgot to take a photo of the meal – but here’s the bread basket!

TUESDAY:

Odette’s Words of the day: artichoke  (artichaud in French) AND – feeling brave! – asparagus (asperge in French)

Everybody went out cycling (though not Ventoux today – Gilles needs to get some kilometres in his legs first!) while Sylvie and I went out for the day, to visit Fontaine-de-Vaucluse which is the source of the River Sorgue. Last time Mr FD and I were here it was the height of summer and the river was a mere trickle, with the source just a big hole with a puddle at the bottom. This time…

IMG_1493

…it was a bit more than a puddle…

IMG_1492

…and definitely more than a trickle!

We had lunch overlooking the waterwheel – omelette and salad (and chips!) – and then took the scenic route back, through Gordes, Murs, and the beautiful gorges.

IMG_1491

After a coffee back at the Chambres d’Hotes, we all went to Vaison la Romaine again, where we split up. Gilles, Louis and Laurent to find a bar, Sylvie and Odette to tour the shops and Mr FD and I to visit the Medieval town which we’d missed out on at the beginning.

IMG_1495

Mr FD took this picture, and then decided to wait for those people to go so he could take another..but they just stayed, and stayed, and stayed. In the end we gave up, and carried on up the hill. We were tempted to loiter in the gateway and spoil their next picture, but in the end we were kind!

IMG_1496

Photo of (Hey-I-climbed-that!) Mont Ventoux from the Chateau.

If you read my other blog, you might know that I recently won a beautiful bag in a giveaway. I took it away with me, and here I am, modelling Vicki’s gift around the Roman remains at Vaison-la-Romaine

IMG_1494IMG_1497

We found an ice cream (coconut and melon for me; cookies-and-cream and coconut for Mr FD) and then headed back to meet up. Then back to another restaurant in Bédouin for dinner. It was another lovely meal : piperade à la Provençal, beef in shallot sauce and then strawberry dessert:

IMG_1498

WEDNESDAY:

Odette’s Word of the day: Goodbye  (au revoir in French)

Mr FD and I were leaving today – I was working on Thursday – so, although he was a little tempted, he didn’t go cycling in the morning. Especially as the Mistral was doing its bit and blowing a gale! Instead we meandered towards L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, stopping to take a few photos at Suzette

IMG_1499Les Dentelles de Montmirail

IMG_1500

Arty shot of (Hey-I-climbed-that) Mont Ventoux

Another pause to buy wine at the co-operative at Beaumes-de-Venise, a stroll around the breezy streets of L’I-s-l-S and one more meal: mousse aux tomates aux basilic, magret de canard with honey (mmmm!) and then faiselle (a type of creamy cheese) with a raspberry coulis. Then we were off home, pausing at Ikea in St Etienne to buy a toilet seat. Oh! the glamour!!

And there you have it! Our lovely few days in the South.

3 thoughts on “Our time in the South

  1. Mmm, I would have had the strawberry and pistachio crumble too! Fascinating blog post and lovely photos Dormouse. Sad to read about Tom Simpson, hadn’t heard of him before .

  2. What a beautiful holiday! I miss those blue sunny skies, I wish they would return to the South. It’s been grey and raining all day.
    And actually my husband and I support Clermont. It just so happens that my cousin plays for Toulon so we have to root for them from time to time. But between me and you, I would have been delighted if Clermont won the Heineken Cup 😉

  3. Oh my—- what a beautiful trip!! In the contest of travel photos– you win girlfriend!! Gorgeous in every way! How I long to be able to spend more time in those beautiful places– you are so blessed!

    Your bag was just meant to be with you!! Call it fate that you had that amazing trip planned– you look beautiful sporting Vera in those pictures!

    Thanks for sharing your amazing journey and your lovely new bag—

    Love
    Vicki

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s