07.10.2016 - 09.10.2016
We bade a fond farewell to Montreux on Friday morning after ensuring we had carried out our host Lorenz's very precise instructions for the disposal of our rubbish. Compost in the green bin, paper in the brown, bottles in one bag, cans in another, and general waste in a white bag (it must be white!) and into another bin! We set our trusty GPS for Buis-les-Baronnies, our next destination, in Haute Provence.
We stopped for lunch in the village of Tullins, at an unprepossessing cafe near the station. We were in need of a stiff drink after nearly being reversed into in the car park. Thankfully Chris was able to locate the horn and we avoided disaster by millimetres. The bar at the front of the cafe had a few patrons but no sign of anywhere to sit down, so we made our way through to the back which was heaving with locals on their lunch break. The dish of the day was beef tongue, which surprisingly none of us fancied. As we've found before in France, simple meals served in a low-key setting are often delicious, and this was no exception. We were also impressed that the cost for three of us to eat was less than the cost of one cocktail at Funky Claude's!
We arrived in Buis late in the afternoon, and I was very glad Chris was driving. It's really hard to describe the layout of the town. Higgledy piggledy doesn't come close: the narrowest of streets go off in all directions, with houses right up against the road. I thought the streets of Kirkwall were narrow, but they were freeways compared to Buis. Having been here three days now, I'm still not confident I could find my way home by myself! The house was built in 1760 and has 5 levels: cellar, garage/entry, kitchen/living, and 2 floors with bedrooms, all 3 of which have bathrooms. It has a sun-filled terrace which faces the local landmark of Rocher St Julien - it's a glorious spot to sit and soak up the Provençal sunshine. Chris is out there now reading a book about the history of Buis, and it's believed Hannibal passed through this area with his elephants, and that there are remains of Roman walls in the cellars of some houses in the town. Extraordinary.
The Saturday market in Buis is the smaller of the two held each week, but it was the perfect place for us to stock up on a few provisions and strike up conversations with some of the locals. We wandered the streets again later in the afternoon and retired to the house for a delicious dinner whipped up by Chris in our well-appointed kitchen.
Sunday dawned bright and sunny, perfect for our planned excursions to L'Isle sur-la-Sourge and Avignon. I'd read that L'Isle sur-la-Sourge's Sunday market was reputedly one of the biggest and best examples of a Provençal market, so was keen to check it out. No disappointment there - the sights and sounds and smells were amazing. Bright colours everywhere, even in the cheese! I did my mother proud in the market-buying stakes as we made our way through the crowded rows of stalls. Olives, nougat, spices, lavender, fruit pastes, cheese - the products of Provence were in abundance and a delight to behold.
We set our course for Avignon, about 40 minutes away. We parked near the Palais des Papes, the construction of which began in 1252. Avignon became the residence of the Popes in 1309, and at 15,000 square metres, the palace is the largest Gothic building of its type in Europe. It's enormous! The streets of Avignon were full of colour and movement. We worked our way to the Pont d'Avignon which crosses the Rhône. Just one more lovely sight in a sea of relentless beauty!
After a hard day of shopping and sightseeing we decided to take our chances at finding somewhere open to visit for dinner. Chez Max is a stone's throw from home (although I still wouldn't know in which direction to throw said stone!). It was the sort of place you would love to have as your local, with welcoming hosts and delicious food served in yet another amazing old setting. We marvelled at the thought of all the people throughout history who would have sat where we were under the beams, and talked through their days.
The night ended with the successful completion of three crosswords: one quick, one French, one cryptic. This is the life.