Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Roussillon or Bust

We headed out toward Roussillon to check out the vestiges of the ochre quarries.  Instead we stopped at Maubec to see if we could get into the church to take a look.  It was, alas, closed.  Out of a wall grew a single fig bush, and as I looked around, I saw more of the same.   The fig is ubiquitous in this part of France. 

Approaching the Luberon Mountains from the north, high above the valley we came upon Oppéde les Vieux, the old town of Oppéde.  We climbed up toward the old town, entering into an open plaza with cafés/restaurants and shops—only one café open.  We moved in the direction of the old city gate, and from there emerged a few dozen children walking hand in hand by twos and accompanied by a few teachers.   The children appeared full of enthusiasm about what they saw.  It was a comfort to see such excitement by five-and six-year-old children expressing real excitement about the early years in their magical country. 

Path up in Vieux Oppéde
Through the gate we went—almost like walking through Narnia’s wardrobe into cobbled paths leading up and up and up toward the top of the town virtually destroyed in an earthquake in a previous century.  As we neared the top, we found the occasional car and doors marked with a number indicating an address—29 Oppéde les Vieux Street maybe.  Aside from the door, the remainder of the façade on the street—or cobbled path—looked almost like rubble.  Above the street, however, there were window boxes, potted plants and trees, lace curtains.  I wonder what it might be like to live on the side of a high hill dotted with ruins, accessed by a very steep cobbled street, and traversed by tourists by the numbers—especially in the summer. 

Near the top
We climbed close to the top reaching the intact church, but just couldn’t climb any farther up toward the ruin where sat the castle of Jean Maynier, Baron of Oppéde, who was instrumental in the destruction of many Luberon villages in 1545.  With a fabulous view of towns clinging to hilltops on the other side of the valley we could see the limestone mountaintop of Mt. Ventoux farther away to the north.  Across the gorge came the bleating sound of a child.  We looked into the distance and saw what looked like a woman standing on a rock.  The child’s cries sounded pitiful.  I saw the shadow of a rope and thought that likely the child was being encouraged to belay on the rope up the rock.  It was very steep, and it made me very anxious.  Before we turned to go, however, the child stopped whining, and I presumed he had taken the plunge and found it not nearly as bad as he thought.  
Down we trodded being careful not to slip on the smooth rocks.  Back to the car sweaty and tired but not sorry for the walk.  Glad we went.

On down toward Oppéde—the not-Vieux town—to find something to eat.  Parking was tricky—or I thought it was tricky.  Cindy and Phil had a good laugh about which space was larger and whether or not I should have parked face in or face out.  Oh well. . .

Again, we were very late for lunch—dejeuner.  By the time we entered the one open restaurant in town, it was already past two.  Our daily vacation schedule includes lolling about in the morning, which makes finding our midday meal dicey.  The waitress invited us to sit inside as the outside patio was totally occupied, so we moved into the bar—empty but for bare wooden tables intended to be used by drinkers enjoying the late afternoon “pression” (beer).  We sat for a bit with no menu, no attention.  And finally the waitress returned to say that we could be seated outside (as several diners had already left).  We moved to two small tables shoved together and too much in the sun.  But it was at the edge of the patio and closest to the fork in the road that marked the center of Oppéde so it made for a good view.

We were well past the 2 p.m. closing time and by the time we were able to order, we were told that there was only one “plat du jour.”  The waitress left us to consider what other meal we might order.  I retired to the "facilities" and overheard the waitress in the kitchen having an animated conversation with, I presume, the chef.   She returned to sing another song.  There were, she said, in actual fact, three “plat du jour,” and she explained that the chef was a problem, rolling her eyes to emphasize this last point.  So we all three ordered the chicken, which was sliced and sautéed and accompanied by a nicely presented ratatouille and “frites.”  Delicious, I thought.  Phil and Cindy both considered some of it a little too rare, so I ate more than I meant to, but I enjoyed it.  And for dessert, we had warm figs and ice cream and a chocolate cake with cream.  Both delicious.  Plus coffee.

We drove through Ménerbes without getting out.  And on to Lacoste, former home of the Marquis de Sade (now owned by Pierre Cardin) and one of our favorite eating spots on a terrace cantilevered over the valley at the foot of the Luberon mountains and directly across from Bonnieux.  The last two times we have passed this restaurant, the outdoor dining area has been closed, so it was a wonderful coincident to find it occupied and available.  We stopped for a beverage and discovered WiFi, so stayed for a while to communicate with friends and family.   

We returned to Lagnes with a stop at the pharmacy about one minute from the house.  Lagnes is no booming metropolis, but it’s perfect for us.  We pieced together a dinner and enjoyed our evening of BBC’s crime t.v.  

We never made it to Roussillon’s ochre-colored buildings.  Events have a way of moving at their own pace in Provence. 

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