Early Wednesday evening here in Chateauneuf de Mazenc in Drome Provence. The early mornings are very pleasant, ideal for coffee & croissants on the terrace, looking out over a broad valley of farm fields stretching over to the Rhone River and the hills beyond. But by 10:00am the temperature rises & it stays hot for the rest of the day - reaching well over 30C each day. When the sun begins to set in the early evening it is again very pleasant to sit and eat outside, sipping a glass of wine (or maybe even two).
Following is an outline of my activities over the past few days, featuring a revolving cast of characters.
Sunday June 22 - quiet day on my own
I have the whole house to myself; even the owners a short walk down the road have left for the Grand Prix at Magma-Cours. In the afternoon I go for a drive around the area, stopping in the nearby oddly-named village of Le Poet Laval , perched atop a hill, to have a look around. Once the centre of the Knights Hospitaliers the village is in a state of recovering ruin, with some businesses and residences - but it is still very small, very quiet with very winding pedestrian pathways. The only sign of life in the village is at the well-regarded restaurant Les Hospitaliers. In fact, the restaurants are the main hive of activity in the other villages I visit this afternoon. The French tradition of a long Sunday lunch is still part of the weekly life everywhere I go.
Dinner on the terrace with a salad and a veal cutlet purchased yesterday at the boucherie in La Begude de Mazenc. The boucherie is small, with the owner behind the counter and all the produce available is tempting.
Monday June 23 - into the Ardeche
My brother returned from the Grand Prix late last evening, accompanied by Adriano, a friend from Winnipeg. Adriano is spending almost 3 months travelling around Europe - mainly in Germany, Italy and Slovenia - but for now he is spending a few dasy in the south of France.
I leave the house by 7:30am, walking down to La Begude to buy a baguette at the boulangerie and an English-language newspaper for my brother at the tabac next door.. Last week when my wife and Katie made the same trek they took the wrong way back up. I was determined not to make the same mistake, mentally checking off markers down the hill to the road and a short walk besdie the highway into the village. However, I missed the first important turn off the road coming back, and was confidently strolling along until I realized the road was sloping downhill. I missed Chateauneuf de Mazenc completely and was walking toward Charol.
Late in the morning we headed west, through Montelimar and over the Rhone into the Ardeche. For the next several hours we drove around an area bounded by the communites of Privas, Aubenas and Viviers, turning off the main road St. Vincent de Barrie and taking a narrow and winding and very scenic road iup into the hills of the region. Just past Priovas we again left the main road & enjoyed more spectalar views over to a quiet village of St. Priest, where we started to look for a place to stop for lunch. We were directed toward the main road and about 5km later came upon Auberge de Chauliac, where we enjoyed a very long lunch highlighted by several conversations with the friendly and interesting owner.
After lunch we drove over to Alba la Romaine - a small village with some interesting Roman remains. But we only stopped for a visit to the Caveau des Vignerons to purchase a few bottles of some very good white and rose wines. I know we lost a few cultural style points for our gauche behaviour, but there was a TOUR BUS in the parking lot of the site of the Roman theatre.
Back to our house in the early evening. Around 8:30pm we walked down the hill into La Begude where we had pleasant dinner on the terrace of Le Jabron Hotel/Restaurant
Tuesday June 24 - market day in Vaison-la-Romaine
Up at 7:30am, coffee & fruit out on the terrace in the most beautiful part of the day.
My brother has some personal business down in L'Isle sur a Sorgue, so w decided to combine that with a visit to the market at Vaison-la-Romaine. I have been to several markets in Provence but the one in Vaison on Tuesday certainly appears to be the largest. In the early afternoon, we drove down to L'Isle sur la Sorgue where we stopped for lunch at one of many cafe/restaurants along the river. I have been to the town a few times in previous visits. I had the impression that it was a small village that only came alive on Senday, market day. This time we approached the L'Isle sur la Sorgue from a different direction and was very surprised at the size of the town and how busy it was on a hot Tuesday in late June.
Back to our house by 5:30pm. For dinner we had and unexpected and most enjoyable experience. Our hosts, Ulrike and Andrew, had invited us to dinner earliuer in the day. Kirk and Jackie also joined the three of us. We had a memorable evening in a picturesque setting on their stone terrace, with excellent food and wine and good conversation. More details and photos to follow in my TR.