Thursday, May 29, 2008
We recently said good-bye to our fifth set of Canadian visitors this year. Amy and Steve Duncan started their French roadtrip in Normandy. They slowly wandered down our way, stopping to visit D-Day sights and museums, castles, and ancient cave paintings along the way. They spent three nights with us in Pau, getting a taste of our French lives.
While here, we took the Duncans on our favourite day-trip from Pau: a visit to St Jean de Luz for a beach picnic, then to San Sebastian in Spain for a walk through the old town and a sample of their famous (and our favourite) tapas.
After a few relaxing days, we packed up our car and headed off for Provence, new territory for all of us. I headed to this region with pre-conceived images in mind. Provence seems to be this mythical place that people fall in love with and choose to settle down in. I had visions of wonderful smells (this is where many sources for perfume extracts are grown), lavender fields, and bright, sunny colours. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. Provence is French countryside at its greatest. The prominent harvests are olive trees and grape vines. Both types of fields stretch on for as far as the eye can see. It always amazes me how much wine France produces. The amount of vineyards dwarfs those that I have seen in Canada (not surprisingly) and Italy. The next blog entry will detail our wine and olive oil sampling.
It was a little too early for the lavender fields to be in bloom, but we were lucky to see and smell a beautiful yellow bush that littered the countryside called ginestre, or scottish broom. Every time we stepped out of the car, we were greeted by a wonderful sweet and floral smell that ginestre largely contributed to. We wanted to bottle the scent and take it home with us.
We spent two nights in Arles, and three nights in Vaison la Romaine. Between these two towns, we stopped in many other villages and towns, and enjoyed some particularly scenic drives. The Romans inhabited this area 2,000 years ago, and we toured several of their remaining structures, including the Pont du Gard (aqueduct), the amphitheatre in Arles, and the theatre in Orange. We sang and danced (well, Amy and I danced) on the Pont d’Avignon, just as the song tells us to. We snuck into a poppy field to have our photo taken. We retraced Van Gogh’s footsteps in Arles, seeking the inspiration for some of his most famous paintings. And we laughed…a lot. Overall, we had a wonderful time.