"Bonjour Ladys" at 7:45am as I ordered six croissants.
Off before 9:00am with the intention of visiting Gordes and Roussillon, two of the most popular villages perché in the Luberon. But first a short drive over to Etang de la Bonde, a large pond or small lake (take your pick) - very quiet at this time of day, but worth a visit later in our stay if we decide not to travel very far afield. A drive through a few unfamiliar villages over to Cucuron and then on to Gordes via Bonnieux. The most impressive aspect of Gordes is its dramatic setting as you approach the village - the commercial area is dominated by tourist shops and some artist and craft boutiques. Parking in Gordes was plentiful and we only saw one tour group near the end of our visit.
While we have been to Gordes several times, we have never visited the nearby Abbaye de Senanque, so I turned right on leaving the village and drove along a narrow road with dramatic views down into the valley until we reached the abbey. I thought it was good for a quick visit, then hop back in the van and move on. Instead we were there for almost two hours, listening to the church bells pealing (short video to follow) and even sitting in on a mass and being greeted by the Cistercian monks whose home we were visiting. A highlight of our trip so far.
Then off on some back roads in the direction of Roussillon. Shortly after driving throught the village of Murs, and past groves of cherry trees loaded with fruit we pulled of the road and examined a well-preserved shepherd's hut, a borie - pics to follow.
On to Roussillon with its ochre quarries, many shops and excellent photo opportunities. We paused for a drink before most of us toured the dramatic remains of the ochre industry, following which we walked to the top of the village, past the church where there was a funeral service in progress. We visited a few stores on our way through the town, the most memorable of which was the studio of Francoise Valenti. The artist was behind the counter wrapping a painting for shipment and greeted two of our group who entered the studio very warmly. She was extremely pleasant, even when it was obvious she wasn't going to make a sale of one of her original excellent works of art. When we made a purchase of a couple of prints she graciously offered to sign each one individually. I walked out of the store leaving behind a book I had been reading. When I realized it was missing, I returned to her store - but it was empty and there was no sign of my book. Where else had I been?, I thought, as I turned a corner, then heard "Monsieur, Monsieur". It was Francoise with my book. She had hurried to the nearest parking lot trying to return my book. A very nice lady, as well as an excellent artist. If you visit Roussillon, drop into her store - but be sure to go Monday to Friday. Her store is closed on weekends when she paints in the region en plein air.
Back in Ansouis by 5:30 - a long and enjoyable day when nothing much had been planned - highlighted by a few unexpected sights and sounds and a short visit with an artist that will remain a fond memory of Roussillon.
Over to Lourmarin and our 8:00pm dinner reservations a L'Oustalet restaurant. While our meal was OK, the setting outside under a plane tree, our waitress, the large party of locals at a long table behind us and the 3 hours we spent there made it a very pleasant evening.
Up early tomorrow - off to the Drome.