Wednesday, 18 June 2014

L’isle sur la Sorgue part 2. (June 17 to 19)

I had so looked forward to spending some time eating a good meal under the plane trees at Gigondas. The town was just as I remembered with the shady trees, the restaurants, the various wine shops, the creepers covering the walls of houses. Beautiful!

gig trees
Under the plane trees
gig window
A window
gig door
Scene in the town
gig water
Water drips in the fountain

Then we chose the wrong restaurant! A bit put off by the apparently small menu at L’Oustalet we went instead to the Du verre à l’assiette. While the menu looked quite good (asparagus and ecrivisses salad for example) what I got was tinned asparagus and I suspect preserved ecrivisses, tiny, poor little things with no taste. The salmon pave was unboned but otherwise quite tasty. Meanwhile, across the road, the others were being treated to fine dining. We compensated by buying some nice Gigondas wine and a bottle of Beaumes de Venise. I suggest others choose more wisely than we did.
We hadn’t heard about the Parting of the Waters at L’Isle before, so went there first thing the next morning. Very pretty and calm where the Sorgue River splits to encircle L’Isle. Lovely parkland, a few nice cafes, some people fishing and a very pretty drive back along the canal into the city, looking at the houses that border the waters. A lovely situation to live in and the location is perfect for picnics, families and lazy luncheons as well as a gentle walk from town.

a partage 1
The Sorgue
a partage black dragonflies
Black dragonflies
a partage weir
Water flowing right
Off to Fontaine de Vaucluse. Last time we visited the spring was in full flight and that would have been in mid-June also. So it was somewhat a different experience to see it very low and just the huge cavern where it had been, with the rocks from the water course dry and the moss on them all brittle and brown.

w Fontaine levels
The well is dry, at least for a long way down mid June 2014
But in mid June 2008 the water covered where people are standing. See the line on the wall
Lower down the river, the huge rush of water from under the rocks and bubbling up through the pools was still amazing to us, this fierce flow of water apparently right out of the earth, so once more we sat in Philip’s restaurant and had delicious ices while contemplating the white water gushing up changing to green, clear water just a few feet further on.

w fontaine gush
w fontaine water
w fontaine
w fontaine green
The local church is very old. Once again the hollowed out rectangular altar though this time with a more modern altar stone set in (Catholic altars have a stone set in them supposedly holding the relic of a saint). Old Roman columns with Corinthian capitals hold up the area around the altar and very old statues adorn the almost windowless walls.

w altar
Recessed altar top
w column
Old Roman column put to new use

Then to Rouissillon where, in several fields as we drove, we saw lavender in full bloom. That made the trifecta, poppies, sunflowers (unphotographed, nowhere to stop the car) and lavender (well lavandin actually).

z lavandin
z lavandin2

Then sitting on a café terrace looking out at the coloured soils and the roofs of the houses it seemed we could almost have been alone in the world, until a glance over the village showed tourists toiling along in the heat. Carpaccio and Café Gourmand at the Bistro de Rouissillon in the mid afternoon; don’t mind if I do. Once more we chickened out on the actual walk to the ochres; too hot, too steep and too far. But we did get lovely photos of the pink and orange village basking in the sun, punctuated by the exclamation marks of cypress trees.

z town
Pretty Rouissillon, all pink and orange
z rouissillon ochres
Some of the ochre cliffs
z steps
Steps to the church bell tower
z scene2
z door
A rather charming door
z scene

And as usual, we paid our respects to the church, this time finding a most unusual baptismal font, a half circle bowl set into the wall under lovely stucco work of the baptism of Christ

z font
Half round font on wall

A good day, finished off at home with some beef bourguinone and little ratte potatoes from the boucherie/traiteur on Rue de la Republic.

Last day we first needed to check the wifi at the Tourist Office. Orange is not coming to the party re getting the line fixed. It is amazing how much we have come to rely on the internet, from communication with family back home to checking on a restaurant or the difference between lavender and lavandin. Then a wander through the Thursday morning market where the flowers were magnificent, bunches of roses and the gorgeous flowering artichokes in all their purple, spikey glory. Too late! We move on tomorrow. The market seemed to be mainly clothes and local produce and was much smaller than Sunday.

Off to some small villages just to explore. First Saumane de Vaucluse; perched up on its hill with charming windows and shutters with vines and flowers, but their church was shut and the chateau was being restored with much chuting of stones and dirt, raising clouds of dust, so not much action for us.

z Saumane de vacluse window
z saumane house

Next, St Didier which has a clock tower and arch over the road as part of the ancient church, facing the chateau. A long main street lined with linden trees, a lime and moss encrusted fountain, pleasant cafes already attracting customers at mid-day. These villages are easy to love and we love that the old, old churches are still in use.

z st didier
The church clock tower
z st didier fountain
Weird accretion of calcium growing moss in the town fountain

Then to Venasque. It came into view as a bell tower and golden stone way up the hill, but was easily reached. The Planette is a sweet flat square with a fountain, some seats, some gorgeous windows that indicated various ages for the different houses backing the area; it was all just lovely. There was an outlook from La Planette over Mt Ventoux, sitting brooding over the landscape and making its own weather. Truly, it was providing the clouds as the moisture laden winds were pushed upwards by its bulk.

z venasque window
Medieval window opening  
z venasque door
   Hollyhocks and vines
z ventoux weather
z ventoux

We visited the very old Roman style church with unusual flat stones for a roof, like large flag stones, and sturdy triple arches inside with a dome over the crossing. There is a quite famous Roman baptistery but it was closed.

z venasque church
The church
z venasque what
This is in one corner of the dome supports. Two others have angels. What is it?

A bit further on we found another square with a fountain, cafes with outside seats favoured by the intrepid bicyclists in their Lycra gear, and for us, a fabulous lunch spot under a green leafed archway on the top of the village, at Les Remparts.

z venasque cafe
z les remparts
Place for lunch

Well it was lunch time, the menu was attractive and we had no real plans except to meander. A complete meal on one plate; a salad and various cold meats and terrines, a slice of a superb tomato tart, a piece of very good camembert and a petit crème brulee flavoured with lavender. Plus some Ventoux rose of course. Nick had civette of pork; I didn’t tell him till after he had demolished it that civettes are usually made with the blood from the beast, which explained the dark sauce. But he loved it.

After that any further exercise seemed unnecessary so we returned to L’Isle. Afternoon nap times sometimes feature in our days now.
Next: Lyon

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