Thursday, 20 December 2012

Roussillon, Gordes, Fontaine de Vaucluse and L'isle-sur-la-Sorgue

Market day at Arles! Our first purchase - baguette, pain au chocolat and brioche cooked with egg, butter and sugar. Mmmm... 
Today was market day at Arles! We woke up early to visit our very first Provencal market. We were a bit worried when we got to the market. It seemed to be a very general market much like Paddy's. Fortunately we kept walking and the stalls changed to those selling fresh produce. The stall vendors were so friendly! The cheese man gave such generous samples of so many different types of cheeses that it could have substituted for breakfast. And he didn't just give samples to the adults but to every child as well...hard cheese, soft cheese, garlic cheese, smoked cheese. Well his sales technique obviously worked because we walked away with 30 euros worth of cheese! There were specialty stalls which were fascinating - the vanilla lady, tea man, olive man, preserved fruit man, and much much more! Our empty backpack filled up very quickly with food. The fruit were delicious and cheap. Fuji apples were 1 euro for 1 kg. We bought one dozen fresh, large eggs from the egg man for 1,5 euro.

Starting the day early with Market Day

The cheese man with HUGE chunks of cheese

A lovely local soft cheese

Smoked cheese

The garlic many different types!
We packed some of our purchases in our daypack and started our day of sightseeing. We drove to Roussillon, a village in the Luberon perched atop an ochre ridge. One of the former ochre quarries can be visited the 'Sentier des Ocres'. Malcolm thought it was a good idea so off the children went trailing yellow, orange and red pigment back into the car with them...Once again there were very few other tourists around. Another perk of coming in the off season was that parking was free! We found parking easily in the centre of all the villages we visited today.

Our next stop

The perched village of Roussillon

Famous for ochre so off on the ochre trail we go

The old ochre quarry. Mother is saying this is not a good idea...

Too late to stop the troops!

Boots became did the van and those cream pants!
We continued onto nearby Gordes, a village overlooking the Luberon Valley voted as one of the most beautiful in France. It didn't disappoint. It was like a French version of Italy's Positano in stone. Once again, we were able to enjoy it with almost no one else around us. We stopped for lunch at Marianne's, a VERY small restaurant just off one of the roads near the centre of the village. Our family of five took up half the space in her restaurant with only 3 other small tables for 2 left. She was essentially a one woman show, taking the orders and then cooking it in the kitchen within the room! Everyone knows how non-existent our french is and Marianne hardly spoke any English! We managed somehow...She made the children some pasta with tomato based sauce which all three ate very quickly! It was generous portions of hearty home cooked meals finished off with a delicious chocolate gateau and caramel ice cream. We briefly detoured to see the Abbaye de Senanque, a survival of rare "severity", a place designed so as not to have any sensual distraction. In the warmer months, the field in front of the Abbaye would be awash in purple, with the monks who lived there in times gone past growing lavender as part of their livelihood.

The gorgeous Gordes

On a tiny unassuming alley... this little restaurant! Where I was sitting taking this photo is the other end of the room!

There's Marianne! The one woman show in her kitchen preparing our lunch

View from the top of Gordes. The children happy after being given lollipops by Marianne

Driving out of Gordes. Stone walls everywhere you go

One of the mortarless stone huts found in the region

Abbaye de Sénanque
Our last stops for the day was Fontaine de Vaucluse and the nearby L'isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Fontaine de Vaucluse is a village right next to the source of the Sorgue river. The pool of seemingly still water then rushes over the sides and flows towards the village and onto the next village of L'isle-sur-la-Sorgue  For once, we came at the right time! Winter and spring are the best times to visit as the water levels are at its highest. As the light was quickly failing, we hopped into the car and drove back to Arles for a simple home cooked dinner and more laundry...

Our first glimpse of Fontaine de Vaucluse

Let's go! Time for another the spring!

The Spring or the source for La Sorgue

It gushes down...

... continuing on past Fontaine de Vaucluse... the village L'isle-sur-la-Sorgue

Very pretty village

Simple home cooked dinner with fresh produce bought today. Bread, tomatoes and eggs!

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