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Entries about provence

Montagne Sainte Victoire: Round Two

by Ben

sunny 14 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Montagne Sainte Victoire: Part of the 18 Km length of the mountain

Montagne Sainte Victoire: Part of the 18 Km length of the mountain

There is a local shop that rents bikes in Cavaillon and we tried to connect with them by email and by going to the shop only to find it closed with an the alternate address printed on the door which we checked out but it was a bit of a dead end as it led us straight to the cemetery. Since our hopes of renting bikes and cycling one of the many velo routes in the area were not to be fulfilled we decided to return to our favourite mountain today.

All our leg work two days ago gave us most of the information we needed for a successful expedition up the mountain. A trail map continued to elude us as we could not find an information office that had the information we were looking for. I was able to determine the location of one of most popular trailheads for going up the mountain on the web. It is an hour drive from our apartment to the trailhead and we decided to let things warm up a bit before heading out (it can go down 2 degrees at night). We arrived at the proper location at 10:30 am and the sun was shining and only a bit of foggy haze was preventing an entirely blue sky. This mountain has dozens of routes around it and over it, many of them which don't go to the summit. It is a popular area but everyone is going off in all directions and quite a few don't look certain where they are heading so information as to our route was in short supply. We made two false starts which saw us expend about 30 minutes of walking in the opposite direction of our intended destination. It certainly got me a little rattled as I did not want to have another outing that would have no summit.

We finally got our direction and kept our eyes peeled for the small red paint marks on trees or stones that indicated the route. By the time I had relaxed and was enjoying the ascent Abby was having her misgivings about going all the way to the top--it was way too hot! Let me tell you something about the temperatures you see posted on our blog entries. They indicate the temperature in the shade. Between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm if you are out in the sun and there is no wind, a 12 degree temperature can be more like 18 degrees. Walking up a steep hill in 18 degrees was not really on Abby's top ten list. I said we would continue and re-evaluate later. Within 20 minutes Abby said, "I know I will appreciate you pushing me to go on by the time we get to the top." From a teenager that is high praise indeed.

Montagne Sainte Victoire: Priory

Montagne Sainte Victoire: Priory

Simply put, the weather was great and the views spectacular. We ascended the mountain in about 2 hours will very little stopping. Three hundred meters from the summit is a small priory that was established in the 1700s. It is a tremendous location but must have provided pretty harsh living conditions for its residents. Surprisingly, the chapel at the priory is still in use although I didn't see any notices as to when services are held. The Croix de Provence was our final destination although it is not technically the summit it is one of its key features with a 19 meter cross perched on top ( approximate elevation is 1000 meters but it feels a lot higher). I am not sure what it was when I got to the top, but I had this distinct unease with how close we seemed to the sheer cliff that makes up two thirds of the summit's perimeter. I have been on top of a good number of mountains and have never had a similar sensation. The kids went closer to the edge to find a spot out of the wind but I chose to stay at my spot and its good back rest. Later just before we left I scrambled down the ridge on the other side of the summit to get a better look at the cliff face. The drop from the summit must be 200 meters straight down and it looked to me that the kids had been sitting less than two meter from the edge on a fairly steep slope. I guess they are part mountain goat. I showed them the cliff after they had finished their lunch--they were a bit surprised by the drop but still felt they had lunched in an ideal location.

Montagne Sainte Victoire: Second Try

Montagne Sainte Victoire: Second Try

All of us were very happy to have made the trip in the end and found the descent quite pleasant. We were home by 4:00 pm and started our chores. It is pack up and cleanup time (last minute laundry etc) because we leave Provence and head to Menton which is near the border with Italy. Our stop on the way will be in Monaco.

Posted by KZFamily 13:03 Archived in France Tagged mountain provence montagne_sainte_victoire Comments (6)

Exploring Provence

By Hannah

sunny 13 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Provence: Rousillon (Ochre Village)

Provence: Rousillon (Ochre Village)

We travelled around Provence today, taking a tour around some of the towns not too far from Cavaillon. It was good to get a feel of our surroundings, as we haven't really been out and about these past few days. Abby and I started the morning with leftover pancakes and Nutella (a breakfast that I highly recommend), and I did an early morning milk run to the convenience store about a block away. This, of all places, is where I finally found skim milk (it's not common in Europe), and felt proud of my discovery as I sat it down on the counter in front of my dad. Turns out he's taken a liking to the half-fat stuff, and prefers it in his coffee as well. So much for that.

Provence: Rousillon (Ochre Village)

Provence: Rousillon (Ochre Village)

First we visited Rousillion, also known as the Ochre Village. It lives up to its name, as all the hills and cliffs are bright, rusty colours. The streets of the town were like a maze, twisting and meandering everywhere, so that you found yourself down alleys and under archways at every turn. Red-orange dust had collected between the cobblestones. Some of the views were really spectacular. Looking around sort of reminded us of the game Catan (some of our readers are very familiar with this game), because of the way the ochre cliffs met the forest, which was right next to the fields, which ran right up to the mountains. The weather was beautiful, not a cloud in the sky. It was quite the colourful place, and I highly recommend it if you're ever in Provence.

Provence: St-Saturnin-Les-Apt

Provence: St-Saturnin-Les-Apt

The next place we saw was St. Saturnin-Lès-Apt, where we discovered some ruins and an old church running up along a cliff overlooking the town. It was a happy accident that we stumbled across this picturesque site. After walking along the ridges for a bit, we decided to settle down next to one of the old stone walls for a picnic, a place that came with both a gorgeous view and an effective windbreaker. It was a virtually perfect spot, and a tough one to leave. We poked around the area for a little longer, going up and around the church and climbing the bluffs. Afterwards, we drove a bit further, admiring the countryside, quaint towns, and extensive vineyards. If Provence is this pretty in the winter, I can only imagine what it's like in the warmer months.

Provence: St-Saturnin-Les-Apt

Provence: St-Saturnin-Les-Apt

Eventually, we headed home, as there was grocery shopping that needed to be done. We've noticed that time spent at the supermarket, though not necessarily unpleasant, tends to suck up a lot of our evening. Abby and I played a game of Monopoly, which I won (again). Then we got to talk to our mom over Skype. We miss her! We're also jealous because she gets to drink the BC water.

Provence Style Cooking: Pork sausage wrapped in pork wrapped in bacon

Provence Style Cooking: Pork sausage wrapped in pork wrapped in bacon

For dinner, we tried something new. My dad cooked something that we found at the supermarket called paupiettes. They were thin pieces of pork filled with sausage, with bacon wrapped around the whole thing. So, meat stuffed with meat bound with meat. Really tasty, as you can imagine. As we were finishing up (this was around 7:30pm; we seem to have adopted the late European dinner hour to some degree), we got a call from favourite Auntie Helen. We've gotten to see a lot of her over Skype lately, which has been a treat. She showed us her snowy surroundings, and we in turn told her about our sunny afternoon. I may miss Canada, but I can't say I'm sorry about the weather we've been getting.

Posted by KZFamily 11:54 Archived in France Tagged provence rousillon saint-saturnin-les-apt Comments (2)

Beginning a Week in Provence: Welcome to Cavaillon

by Ben

sunny 15 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Cavaillon:7th Century Chapel At top of Bluff

Cavaillon:7th Century Chapel At top of Bluff

Unfortunatley for us we could not secure the apartment we booked in Provence unless we agreed to arrive by 11:00 am as this was the only time on the weekend that the agent was available to let us in. This meant we had to get on the road around seven this morning. The kids did great with getting up on time and starting off in the dark before anyone else in the village of Salisgne (where we stayed near Carcassonne) had started to stir.

I had decided the night before not to totally alienate my children (they weren't already alienated by the 7:00 am departure you ask?!) and accept the fact that I would need to take some toll roads rather than require the kids to be out the door by 5:30 am. I was feeling pretty good as we drove down the highway watching the sunrise on a cloudless morning while listening with Hannah to a CBC podcast (Abby was catching up on beauty sleep). That blissful state evaporated for a short time when we came to the end of our second toll road a couple of hours later.

Cavaillon:Catus along the walk up the bluff

Cavaillon:Catus along the walk up the bluff

All the toll booths we have encountered in France are fully automated and on today's journey nearly all of them were exclusively credit card payment. That was not a real concern since I had paid numerous tolls already using my North American cards. I slipped my toll ticket into the machine to see what the damage was. The last 50 kilometers had cost me just over five euros. I slipped in my credit card and it was immediately spit out. It was rejected. I inserted my second card and it was rejected as well. Fortunately, it was early in the morning and no one had slipped in behind me so I thought I would just back up and go to the one automated booth available where I could pay by cash--not a good idea. I backed up a few feet and realized that I needed my ticket for the next booth. I pulled forward again to see if I could retrieve it. The machine was not only not going to give it back, but it wasn't even going to acknowldege that I had even given it a ticket--oh great! Fortunately there is a button you can push by which you can talk to a live operator located somewhere in France. My French was not up to the challenge when someone finally did answer. Hannah leaned over and started to translate for her helpless father. The first question Hannah was asked was where she came from, to which she naturally answered Canada: an answer the attendant was neither expecting or knew what do with (it was quite funny actually). The information she really wanted was regarding where we had entered the toll road.This is where it got a bit complicated. I know we came from Carcassone and had gone through Narbonne, but then we exited our first toll road and travelled some distance before entering the next toll road. I had no recollection of what the originating city or direction was (it could have been any city up to a a couple of hundred kilometers back). The person on the help line kept on firing city names at me to which I kept replying Narbonne. She finally decided we had come from Marsailles which meant a cool 22 euros. At about this time a car pulled up behind us and the agitated driver started yelling that I just needed to put in my ticket and credit card. Meanwhile the online attendant said she would send a real live person to our location. The driver behind us continued to yell at us and despite us motioning for him to try one of the other half a dozen empty booths he stayed hoping his angst would somehow make our credit card machine work.

Cavaillon: Top of Bluff Overlooking Town

Cavaillon: Top of Bluff Overlooking Town

If you need to know, I was no longer at a place of inner harmony. The kids were quite aware of this even though I wasn't congnizant that I was givng them a tutorial in some colourful language that I had stowed away in my deep subconscious for such an occassion. Oh well, my kids have known for quite a while now that the elementary school teacher-librarian persona never fit their dad.

Eventually the driver behind us gave up in disgust, leaving us with one last tirade punctuated by a honk and chirping of tire rubber as he backed out of our toll line. A few minutes later a person did actually show up. We ended up with the same list of questions and a puzzled look to why we would be reluctanct to pay 20 euros. She finally pulled open the toll machine and retrieved our ticket and understood the problem in an instant. I provided the cash (unbenownest to me, I was spending some of the coinage associated with Abby's birthday present--but Abby can speak of that later). It was with great relief that we finally got moving again. It became clear why I had budgeted an hour or so of buffer time to make our 11:00 am rendez-vous.

The rest of the trip was made entertaining by our portable GPS (you may recall our car's build in GPS is on the fritz) which seemed to be suffering from short term memory loss as it would forget to tell us about a roundabout and then mention it a little later, only to stop to recalculate again. Fortunately the beautiful landscape, brillaint blue sky and sunshine more than compensated for the several u-turns required.

Finding our apartment in the small town of Cavaillon was a breeze and Isabelle, the rental agent, was there when we arrived. The apartment was exactly as we had viewed on the Internet--it will be a wonderful home. We are in the centre of the old village and only a few hundred meters from a bluff that abruptly rises 180 meters above the town. After we settled in we walked up the stone steps built in the 15th century to reach the seventh century chapel at the top. The weather was warm and the view fantastic.

Cavaillon:Bluff Overlooking Town

Cavaillon:Bluff Overlooking Town

We picked up some bread on the way home and decided to relax. Since our change of life circumstance over the past several days the kids have developed an affinity for nostalgic activities of earlier years. They came across a French monopoly board and the game brought back memories of playing with their grandpa, so we sat down and played a game (as in the good ole days Hannah won handily--Grandpa taught her well). After dinner we looked through the DVD collection available in our apartment and watched Catch Me If You Can, a movie that the kids had never seen and is one of my favourites.

We were happy to Skype with Muriel this evening even though it meant getting to bed a little late. It was quite a bit later for me, as I had gifts to wrap for Abby's birthday and a whole whack of balloons to blow up and hang in preparation for the next day's twofold celebrations.

A little extra

I had added a little video a few days back about driving the through the Pyrenees that you may have missed. Always look for links in the blog in the form of coloured words. Here is another little clip from that day.

Posted by KZFamily 08:45 Archived in France Tagged provence cavaillon Comments (5)

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