Provence conjures up images of rolling lavender fields, blue skies and gorgeous villages and our stay delivered on all fronts.
Hooped by 4.3km of superbly preserved 14th century stone ramparts, Avignon is the belle of Provence’s ball. We arrived late afternoon on Sunday 11 August and quickly set out to explore the main attractions, including the Palais des Papes and its quaint hilltop garden.
On Monday we visited L’Isle Sur la Sourge. The crystal clear Sorgue River flows through and around the town in various natural beds and canals and powers countless water mills. Its source is located in a gorge of the Plateau de Vaucluse and its waters are a constant 13 degrees celsius all year round.
Fontaine de Vaucluse, the village near the source of the Sorgue River, was our next stop. We walked along the sparkling emerald waters of the spring to a deep blue pool of water at the foot of the mountain and watched as people threw countless stones into the unknown. A probe has made it to a sandy bed at a depth of 308m but the spring itself comes from somewhere even deeper.
We returned to our walled city at the end of the day and shared dinner and a few drinks in atmospheric Place Pie.
On Tuesday 13 August we took a train and bus combination to the hilltop village of Gordes. Gordes is officially one of the most beautiful villages in France and I dare not disagree. We spent a couple of hours exploring its labyrinth of calades and sampling local produce before boarding the bus once more.
Our next stop was Roussillon, burnt various shades of red, yellow, orange and pink by one of the most significant ochre deposits in the world. Hungry for lunch we waited painfully for over one hour for our meals before visiting the old quarry which is best described as other worldly. We watched on as children painted themselves in the palette of the land and smiled as parents struggled to clean stained toes at the end of the day, thankful for our walking shoes and dark clothes.
We collapsed into bed at the end of the day and promised ourselves less travel, less walking and more rest over the next few days.