"Bonjour, Ladys" at the boulangerie next door at 8:00am. The boulangerie is open from 7:00am to 12:30pm, then again from 4-7pm. In the morning there is a steady stream of customers - appears to be the best time of day for business. I bought our daily loaf along with breakfast croissants, because by mid-afternoon there is little left to choose from. Notice I did not say I bought our daily baguette in the previous sentence - because I usually don't buy the stick of bread above that label at the bakery. Instead I opt for un restaurant - a broader, more substantial piece of bread. I'll check on what else is available and get back to you.
Mondays are pretty quiet in the Luberon - most stores are closed unless there is a market in the village/town. BUT the wineries are open - so my plan was to do a wine tour of about 4-5 properties - I hadn't quite figured out how to combine the tastings with driving. I know there are containers to spit out the wine - but get serious. Who's going to NOT swallow an enjoyable mouthful of wine.
Our two most proximate Luberon villages of some repute are Lourmarin and Cucuron. We have driven through, by and around Lourmarin several times in our first couple of days - will stop in shorly, but not today. Instead I started our day by paying a brief visit to the sleepy village of Cucuron - with its distinctive etang (pond) that featured in A Good Year. Cucuron has always appeared to be a very quiet village, with not much to recommend it, but today as we walked around the village & up the hill to the church, I noticed a few artisan shops and at least two apparently good restaurants - one of which I hope to patronize during the rest of our stay here. Ansouis has one very good restaurant - La Closerie - only about a minute walk from our door. It enjoys an very good reputation and is reputed to be a favourite of Peter Mayle. We haven't decided whether or not to go there - opinion seems to favour the non side at present.
A longer stay in Cucuron that anticipated. There's a great story involving the plague that took over 900 lives many centuries ago, a community prayer and pledge to honour somebody if the plague would abate, and now a yearly ritual in which about a long tree trunk is carried up the hill by many men each year and mounted in front of the church. I'm not a big fan of churches - once you've seen one, you have seen a lot of churches - but at least the church in Cucuron comes with a good story - and a tree trunk stuck in the ground out front - not something you see every day.
Off to Chateau Val Joanis, arriving after 11:00am. Val Joanis is by far the largest wine operation in our part of the south of France - the drive from the road into the retail side of the business takes a few minutes past fields of grape vines. Val Joanis is the only wine from this region that I have seen for sale in Ontario - and only at the Vintages store on Rideau Street in Ottawa. While the wines at Chateau Val Joanis were only OK - the reds are a bit harsh for our taste and likely need some aging, we ended up buying a few bottles of different white wines, some mustard and a 50cl bottle of olive oil - a main attraction of the property are the extensive and beautiful gardens behind the retail cave. We have been here once previously, in September when the gardens were past their prime. This time we are here before the peak - but still quite impressive. Worth a visit.
We're "dining in" again this evening - only need some salad vegetables. On leaving Chateau Val Joanis we head over to Cadenet, hoping to catch the end of the weekly Monday market. Too late - we arrived as the last of the venors were packing up their trucks - but we saw a small store on a nearby street with boxes of fruit & vegetables out front. A minor exchange - buying some lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, and a bit of cheese - made very enjoyable by the friendly helpful manner of the owner - who appeared delighted to help us and explain the virtues of his products and prices.
Over to Bonnieux, always a busy spot - but much less so today. And I've noticed the traffic on the roads is quite light, in comparison to our other visits to the Luberon. In one pottery & jewelry store, the owner explained that the effects of the recession have had quite an impact on tourism in general and his business in particular. After a couple of hours in Bonnieux, we drove down to Le Pont Julien, a still-standing triple-span bridge from Roman times. There were at least two class visits when we were there and we we treated to a wonderful site - about 70-80 young students bicycling across the bridge - video to follow.
As we drove back in the direction of Bonnieux, we stopped at Chateau La Canorgue, the main setting for A Good Year. By chance, we had first visited the winery when the movie was being made back in September 2005 - and today was our 2nd visit since then. The movie has obviously been very good for Chateau La Canorgue. While we were the sole visitors on arrival, at least 4 other cars pulled into the parking lot when we were there, Souvenirs of the film are on the wall and tables and even in the wine available - one is called "Le Coin Perdu" - but the wines of Chateau La Canorgue enjoyed a good reputation in the the region before the film, and they continue to produce good products. A visit to Chateau La Canorgue is restricted to the retail cave where of course sampling is encouraged, but there is a sign reminding visitors that visits to the Chateau are not permitted. I suppose I wouldn't want strangers tromping through my house either.
After 4:00pm when we left Chateau La Canorgue - back to Chez Barbara by 5 - wine and cheese on the upstairs terrace and dinner at 7:30.
A good day.