Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Des Parents Chez Nous (Part 1)

Discipline is something that can be applied to many areas of life. Diet and exercises are probably what come to mind when the word discipline is mentioned in the same sentence as life, but for me I think the area of my life that perhaps needs the most discipline is travelling. I find that everything related to travel in my life falls into either a completely disciplined practice or completely lacks discipline. Starting in mid October we had almost a continuous visit from first my in-laws and then my parents; hence the month turned into an on and off travelling extravaganza. The traveling itself ranged in discipline from our usual extreme, do as much as you can, to at times only seeing one thing per day! (I know what a crazy idea, how could we be related to such people?) But discipline is also an aspect when it comes to things related to travel like taking photographs. I have become more disciplined with my picture taking over the past year, both in terms of quantity and quality of image, but I still seem to be lacking the discipline it takes to edit out the bad ones and then write about them. That is why you are receiving this blog now and not three weeks ago after the pictures are taken. For those of you who are tsk, tsking me right now I must add that three weeks is actually miraculous, considering it took me over six years to finally put all my wedding photos into a scrapbook. Well better late than never.

I think that partnered with discipline on the list of virtues is patience. Yes having house gets for a month does require a bit of patience, but when they cook for you and do your dishes it is does not require a lot. What did require some patience and imagination was going back to some of the sites we had already seen around Provence a number of times. With Keith’s parents we went again to Pont du Gard, Avignon, Gordes and Rousillon. For myself, I was quite content to simply take more pictures while the in-laws saw the site, but Keith as always likes to discover new things and took the opportunity to go off the beaten track a bit more.

The ruins of the chateau at Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

 We stayed in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which in October is really off the beaten path. The town itself is quite small, and was particularly sleepy during the day, but the restaurants were still full up at night. We had some lovely meals, a bit of bad French service to give Keith’s parents something to talk about when they returned to Canada, and amazing wines. In fact one of the best parts of Chateauneuf-du-Pape was the host of our B&B, Danièle RAULET-REYNAUD. Not only was she the first woman in France to earn the designation of Sommelier, but she is now part of the Femme Vignes Rhone, a group of women involved in wine making in the area. The basement of her home has been turned into a tasting area and her willingness to share her knowledge of wines and the region was amazing.

Daniele's cellar.

We used Chateauneuf-du-Pape as a jumping off point to see much of western Provence and some of the Luberon. We started with Pont du Gard. 

The museum is amazingly well done and I enjoyed it just as much as the first time I visited. We also were able to catch somethings that we had missed the first time through, like a great newsreel clip of Tour de France cyclists from the 1940s crossing the bridge. In addition to that Keith and I walked part of the aqueduct past the bridge that has fallen into complete ruin. It really is amazing that you can still see it after two millennia.

After this we continued on to Avignon, where Celia and Kelly went to see the Palais des Papes, while we wondered the streets. 

Celia on the ramparts of the Palais des Papes.

Celia dancing on the bridge, while Kelly stands looking cool, as usual.

The next day we wondered the market that threads through the centre of L'Isle sur la Sorgue. The central part of the old town where the market takes place is totally encircled by water. Stores have small bridges across the canal so that customers can access the “front door”. The market snaked through the narrow streets with no apparent organization and extended beyond the island. We were able to pick up some souvenirs, look at antique curiosities, and watched a sculptor working on the lawn of city hall.

We continued on with our road trip to Fontaine de Vaucluse. The attraction of this town is its spring which is hidden in a narrow valley between precipitous mountain cliffs. The source of the water is still a bit of a mystery, as the spring is so deep. We were able to look down on the pool that feeds the river that runs through the town, but I guess in spring time the water rises a good ten meters and flows over the place where we were standing. The town that sprung up around the Fontaine has been around since Roman times, and you can see where they diverted the river and constructed yet another aqueduct. In addition to this, there is a waterwheel which was used to make paper. Some of the accompanying mechanics are still present to give you an idea of how this process worked. The town clearly survives on its tourisme, but it really is one of the greenest places I have seen in France. I can see why people come here to appreciate the calm and natural beauty.

We finished our day with a drink in the lovely hilltop town of Gordes and then went off to enjoy the sunset on the red cliffs of Rousillon.

The highlight of the trip was Vaison la Romaine. This town not only has one of the most extensive Roman archaeological  sites in France, but it also has a unique medieval town and fortress. You are able to walk among the ruins of what were once opulent Roman houses and can see store fronts and roads that people would have travelled along daily. A large theatre is cut into the hillside and the one bridge that spans the river between the medieval and Roman parts of the town has been rebuilt multiple times using the same Roman design because of its efficiency. In September of 1992, Vaison la Romaine was victim to an extreme flash flood that decimated the Roman part of the town. This was one such instance when the Roman bridge was rebuilt to connect the two halves of the town. The medieval town is topped with a crumbling fortress and a condemned church that is just barely hanging onto the rocks of the cliffside.  To explain the history and charms of the entire town we had one audioguide which kept us occupied for a good three hours, once we figured out how to switch Keith’s from German to English.

I guess I should get used to it, but the history here continues to surprise and intrigue me.  More to come I promise from our weeks of travelling around with parents.