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Report 1532: A Traveller in the Drome

By Doug Phillips from Canada, Spring 2008

Trip Description: June 14-28, 2008. Two weeks based near La Begude de Mazenc, a small village in Drome Provence - with day trips into the Vercors, the Ardeche, the Luberon - several market visits - a GTG and meals in several restaurants.

Destinations: Countries - France; Regions/Cities - Provence

Categories: Vacation Rentals; Attended GTG; Day Tours; Foodie Trip; Sightseeing; Wine Trip; Independent Travel; 3-4 people

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Page 1 of 16: Saturday June 14 - Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc

photo by Doug Phillips


Almost a year ago, Ron, one of my two younger brothers, invited my Beautiful Wife (BW) and I to join him and his wife Mary Jane in sharing a three-bedroom rental house, La Petite Maison in a place named Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc, near a village called La Bégude de Mazenc in Drôme Provence. This was their fourth visit to the same village, renting two different places from the same hosts. Ron was renting for four weeks in June 2008; Mary Jane was staying for three, before returning to their home, and back to work, in Winnipeg. We had the option of staying for up to four weeks. We have been to France for each of the past three years - two weeks in Provence and four days in Paris in September 2005 (TR 798: Footloose in Provence & Paris); a week in Paris in October 2006 (TR 1135: A Traveller in Paris); 10 days in Provence and two days in Paris in September 2007 (TR 1417: Return to the Luberon). We like France ... a lot.

After some discussion, we decided to accept Ron's offer. It would give us the opportunity of visiting a different area in the south of France in a different season of the year and spending some time with close relatives whom we see infrequently. Besides, it would mean that we would be able to see fields of lavender and not just dried bunches in the autumn markets. However, since we were going in late June, BW realized that she would only be able to stay for a week because of work commitments.

By a happy coincidence we were able to invite another local couple to join us. Chris and Katie were in the process of booking a train tour in Switzerland and decided that a week in the south of France would be a great addition to their plans.

So the plans were for the four of us to fly from Canada on June 13 (Friday the 13th!!) to CDG in Paris, take the TGV down to Valence where would would pick up our rental car and following one of two sets of directions (one from my brother using the A7, one from our hosts using local roads) and arrive, by my best estimate, at Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc around 5:15pm. Since Chris and Katie were flying Air Canada from Ottawa and we were flying ZOOM from Montreal, arriving in Paris at different times, we weren't sure where we would meet up - but we spent an hour together at the TGV station at CDG waiting for our train.

Once at Valence, everything worked out according to my estimate. Following our hosts' directions, we pulled into our parking space a short walk down a hill from our house in Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc at 5:15pm. However, I forgot that my brother said he would be waiting for us on the road outside the Tourist office in La Begude de Mazenc - which we had avoided on the way there. Now, I said we pulled into our parking space but it was actually more of an inclined slot between a stone wall and some rubble of building stone and broken roof tiles - and I actually had to pull ahead and back uphill to get in. Getting out was going to be a bit tricky. Most fortunately, a guy showed up, evidently knowing who we were, and without introductions offered to direct me out of the parking space and lead me into the village. Nice guy - must be the owner I thought. Wrong again.

After meeting Ron and Mary Jane and stopping for un pression in the village, the six of us returned to Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc and our home for the next week or two. Our accommodations are excellent - three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two outside terraces, a very well-equipped kitchen. individual heating/AC units in each room, laundry facilities, and an unlimited supply of toilet paper. Our hosts are Ulrike and Andrew Wanié, a most agreeable couple. Phone calls to North America and Internet access are included from the owners' den a minute away.

The views from the terraces, especially the upper terrace off the kitchen, are excellent, but it is very evident that this is not the Provence of the Luberon with which we are more familiar. Instead of rolling hills of rows of grape vines and olive groves we look out onto flat fields of wheat and grain and corn and other crops familiar to us from our home surrounded by a dairy farm in Eastern Ontario. There is a row of windmills on the hills in the distance on the left and steam from nuclear power generators along the Rhone River on the right. In the evening, the lights of Montelimar and smaller communities glow in the distance.

View from the upper terrace at La Petite Maison

While on the A7 (the Autoroute du Soleil - a toll road that sweeps into and across the south of France, with a maximum speed of 130km) over the next two weeks I noticed flashing signs asking drivers to reduce their speed because of local excessive pollution. Often, we could see the pollution from our terrace - a haze in the distance along the A7 and the Rhone moving down from Lyon in the north.

Dinner was a barbeque on the terrace with far too much rosé wine.

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