Saturday, October 20, 2012

Carpentras and Bories

I’ve already reported on our success at reaching the summit of Mont Ventoux; but before that day, we had tried even though it appeared to be cloudy at the top as we’d seen it cloudy several days in a row when it had cleared up in the afternoon.  Though we didn’t make the mountain, we had other adventures. 

A borie
On the way down this remote road, we stumbled across bories right at the side of the road—unannounced and neatly kept for all to see—at least all who passed that way and happened to look to the right and catch the one-lane road next to it.  It was fascinating to be so close, walk around and go inside.  The bories at Gordes are available for close inspection, but we’ve never stopped to visit.  And these were free for the taking, so to speak.  For those of you to whom bories are an unknown phenomenon, they are attributed to an ancient people who built them beginning 2000 years ago and left little behind except their abodes.  Not much is known about them, much like the druids.  In more recent times they were used by nomadic shepherds.  This borie had three rooms, the threshold to one of which Cindy introduced her forehead. 

Roman port in Manaz
On toward Mont Ventoux, we stopped in Mazan for a look around the old town in the hopes the cloud cover to Mont Ventoux would dissipate.   We walked through some neighborhoods and saw homes built into the walls of the old city.    

Alas, the clouds were not leaving the mountaintop, so we opted for a U-turn and headed back toward Carpentras to look at some sights we had missed at the last visit. 

Outside Chez Serge
Our high points were lunch at Chez Serge—recommended by Eyewitness Guide and without reservations we were lucky to be seated.  Lunch was lovely and worth it.   

We then headed toward the 14th-century synagogue--the oldest in France, which we’d discovered on our previous visit but which was closed.  This time, while it wasn’t yet open, we were willing to wait until opening time along with another couple.  So we sat in a sidewalk café watching the door for a sign of activity.  

A few minutes after the alleged opening time, a woman arrived at the door to allow us entry along with the other couple—five people in all.  Upstairs, the men were handed yarmulkes and we were escorted inside.   The worship space is small and humble.  The torah is kept behind a large embroidered satin curtain.  The upstairs balcony was used by the men in earlier years but is no longer safe.  The chandeliers were donated by members over the last several centuries—some long ago and some as recently as the 19th century.  In the balcony were three menorahs, two of which were from the 16th century and the third from the 19th century.  The woman who let us in and showed us around was easy to understand and happy to respond to my requests for clarification.  A small child’s chair was located high above the seats and was alleged to have been associated with Eli at the time of his circumcision.  We were told that on the ground floor was a boulangerie for making matzo and other ceremonial breads; but it was currently being refurbished so not open to the public. 

L'Eglise Saint Siffrein Rose Window
Carpentras’ L’Eglise Saint Siffrein is a conglomeration of styles that the guide book claims is a mish-mash and “no great beauty to behold.”  Indeed, it was undergoing some repair and cleaning and much of it shrouded in gauzy protective strips behind which we could hear much stone-chipping activity.  Inside, the sanctuary was more visually appealing than the guide book would have one believe with some very nice windows.  Someone was practicing the organ, which was a grand sound. 

We drove through Le Thor on the way back in search of a theatre where we plan to attend a concert and where we had hoped to visit the Pierre and Poppy Salinger Museum in the next week (reported previously). 

All told and like many other days, though we didn’t do what we had planned, we discovered new places, ate new food, drank good wine, and learned unknown facts about unknown surprises.  It’s a privilege to fill my head with it all.  

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