Bonjour mes amis,
We began our week in Fontvieille with great anticipation. We were really looking forward to a relaxing week in a small village in the south of France, Provence actually. Nothing disappointed, in fact our week was well beyond our wildest dreams. Lance has taken lots of photos and so the story will be brief.
We picked up our little car, a Peugeot at the airport in Marseille and headed off to Marseille with no real hiccups. It didn’t take long for us to arrive out our new home for the week, Maison Mireio, a gorgeous little French cottage. After settling in we set off to discover the village, get some supplies, find the cafe/bar which was where we would get internet (joy of joys, I was so happy there was no internet/TV/phone reception at the cottage – absolute heaven!!!) and find our feet.
Each morning we began our day with an espresso in the cafe with the locals and checked our emails, caught up with the news. At the end of our busy days we would go to the cafe for an Aperol Spritz or beer and catch up on emails before working out what dinner would look like. Some nights we cooked food we had sourced at the local markets or went to one of the amazing 27 restaurants in the village. If you go to Fontvieille we can thoroughly recommend La Cuisine au Planet. The wine shop also provide us with some great wines.
So what did we do for the week apart from eat and drink….
Sunday morning there was a big horse event in the village. I’ve never seen so many horses all in the same place. Then we drove to L’isle sur la Sorgue to see the antique markets, onward to Fontaine de Vaucluse which is the source of the Sorgue river where we saw kayakers competing in a slalom event. It was very exciting watching them navigate the rapids and the slalom course. Then on to Gordes which is considered one of France’s most beautiful villages, and has amazing views from the top of the hill (mountain)
Monday we went to Les Baux de Provence, which is an old fort 6000BC and extremely picturesque and then walked around to Carrières de Lumières which is an old mine now used to put on the most amazing spectacular light shows based on artist(s) work. This year we were lucky, the show uses Van Gogh’s work with fabulous musical accompaniment. Lance’s photos will give you an idea of just how spectacular it is. If you haven’t made your holiday plans for this year, go there!!
Tuesday didn’t start well with the bank alerting me that my credit card had been used fraudulently. Bit of a problem, however we went to the Fontvieille tourist office who let me ring the bank and we were able to sort things out. Highly recommend the very kind, helpful tourist office staff We then headed off with our packed lunch in our backpacks for a circular bush/forest walk to explore Moulins (windmills), Roman ruin aqueduct and olive groves, following the blue signs. Easy we thought, experienced Heysen trailers this will be a piece of cake. NOT. The blue signs are minute painted strip on a tree trunk, bit of rock, pole… and completely randomly placed. We think we followed the trail and got the hang of it so reached the Roman ruins aqueduct which were a detour off track, with no problem.
On our way back to the track we were joined by a dog who was walking down the middle of the road, oblivious to traffic. We got him off the road, and assumed he would go back to his house but he stuck with us. When we returned to our departure point for the detour we had trouble finding the mini blue line, but our new best friend Shasta II came to the rescue, he found the way and waited for us to follow him. We kept trying to get him to go home but he stuck with us, even responded to my French command of ‘ici’. We knew he was thirsty so Lance gave him a drink by pouring water into his cupped hand, Shasta drank his whole bottle. Eventually we decided to eat, so Shasta got half our sandwiches, bit fussy, didn’t like avocado, tomato or lettuce. While we were eating another walker came by, and we asked him hoping, that Shasta was his dog, but no…. he however was able to phone the owner whose, number was on Shasta’s ID tag, so the 3 of us walked back, with a very reluctant Shasta, and met his owner after about 2.5km. The French guy left and continued his walk while we chatted with the owner who was originally from California, now growing olives in France. We then retraced our steps and continued on our way, making our walk just that bit longer and of course the bit that we did twice was the steepest part of the whole track – these were real undulations, not the Australian version.
Wednesday we were off to Arles for more Roman history, the arena, amphitheatre the baths (the aqueduct carried the water from the Alpilles mountains to the baths, and what did the Romans ever do for France! and saw areas that had inspired Van Gogh.
Thursday, off to the Carmargue, a huge nature and conservation area where we saw pink flamingos. We ended up at Saintes Maries de la Mer looking out to the Mediterranean, but toooooo cold for swimming.
Friday we visited St Remy de Provence another area where Van Gogh worked, and with many well preserved Roman and Medieval historical sites. We then went on to a small village Eygalieres, which was just gorgeous. It is on top of a hill/mountain and has amazing 360 views of the surrounding valleys.
Saturday saw us heading off to Montpellier for our onward train journey to Spain. All went well until we got to the centre of Montpellier where we were to return the car to AVIS. Sounds simple, but was not. The sat. nav. was all set up with the address and led us in to the winding thin roads, with multiple choices at intersections as to which way we should go. Invariably we took the wrong turn and then were sent back to do the 4.9km circuit again. After about 90 minutes (and I’m not exaggerating, and so those of you who know Lance will know how ‘happy’ he was with all this) we got really close and in fact stopped right outside our hotel, which was opposite the railway station, so we were able to unload the luggage, and check into our room. The receptionist then gave us directions as to where to go to get rid of the car, which we had randomly parked in the square in front to the hotel. One of us was quite happy to leave it there and ring Avis to come and get it. However we set off, and ended up driving the wrong way down a one way street, who would have thought that could happen! A very agitated driver stopped us and then helped us by leading the way, with us following, as if we were on a Grand Prix circuit and we finally got to the unmarked place where you return hire cars. That afternoon one of us enjoyed retail therapy while the other took great photos.
The next morning we caught the train to Barcelona.
We are most grateful to Bryan and Kathy for their gorgeous cottage in Fontvieille. We met some lovely people, who patiently tolerated our attempts at French, but we did get better. This really has been the highlight of our holiday and we have some great memories of our time in this amazingly beautiful part of the world.
Lance & Barbara