Friday October 27th, 2000 Provence
Got a late start this morning, headed south about 9:30 am to the autoroute. We’re going shopping for more Cassoulet Soup and some cheese for now! Then on to Aix en Provence, a large city to the south that Paul Cezanne, a famous impressionistic artist, called his home.
After the shopping we drove around Isle Sur La Sorgue which is an island between two rivers with lots of restaurants, shops and a great market on Wednesday mornings. Looks like a good one to come back to for shopping. Famous for the Antique Market on the weekend.
We arrived about noon in Aix and found parking and then the information center. Then we had our first experience with a toilette on the street. Amazingly clean! Put 2 franc in the slot and it opens up. Has paper and everything. When you’re finished you open the door, go outside, the door closes immediately and you push a button. It activates the flushing and the whole inside is washed down…walls and all. After a few minutes the next person in line may operate the door with a coin. Walked down the length of Cours Mirabeau, their famous street lined with Plane Trees, they’re like large umbrellas. Lots of people sitting outside at tables in each little plaza enjoying the sunshine during lunch. We went to see two churches but both were locked up. The fountains and bell towers are great! Saw St. Saliveur and St. Jean De Malte. Also the La Rotonde which is a huge fountain at one end of the Mirabeau. By 2:30 pm we were on our way out of town and headed back north on the autoroute.
Spent the rest of the afternoon driving to Mont Ventoux. It is a mountain that is 1912 meters high and can be seen from all over Provence. The famous Minstrel Winds come down off of this mountain several months each winter. It is also used for the Tour de France bicycle race every few years. We went up the northwestern route, which was very steep. We arrived about 5 pm. After spending some time at the top we went down the east side which is the side the bicycles race up. Near the top we saw a sailplane taking advantage of the wind currents, it was so close we felt like we could reach up and touch it! The colors in the sky were several shades of blue; from baby blue to some deep hues. The clouds were very white and fluffy! The top was extremely cold and windy when we arrived. We were freezing and could hardly stand up. One of the reasons that it is so famous is that the top of the mountain is entirely bare due to the limestone top of the mountain which appears to be year round snow from a distance. There is an observatory and several other government buildings at the top.
On the down side we found the graffiti on the road in support of the bicycle riders during races. Spectators who line the route of the Tour de France each year spent the time waiting by painting their favorite bicycle rider’s name on the street so they can see it on their way up. There was about ten miles of names! The way down was very enjoyable, reading the names and also the beautiful scenery that was in total contrast to the stark façade of the western side of the mountain. The fall colors created a rainbow effect on the countryside; yellows, reds, greens and all shades in between were spectacular! There is a carpet of leaves from the Plane Trees all over the Provence area. Home just before six-thirty, we barely had time to dress for another fabulous dinner at the hotel. The chef we learned is only thirty-five years old and has been with the restaurant for twelve years. Came there right after attending cooking school. Christoph said that he is like one of the family. Another great day. We did more postcards during our dinner. Hard to believe that tomorrow is Saturday already.
My favorite quote for the postcards is: “Hilltop towns, sunny days and long, winding country roads….”