Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Old Stuff in Provence Death March, Final Installment

Hi everybody. It's been ages since I've written you and here's why. We've been on holiday, gotten a new puppy, and have been seduced by beach days. The good thing about being so busy is there's loads of stuff to tell you.

Let's get on with the final installment of my wonderful Provencal holiday with K, Bestie extraordinaire. It's super long. And you may feel tired. But soldier on you old stuff wimp! We did it for reals.

Sénanque Abbey
We spent the last night in St-Rémy de Provence. It is a lovely, pedestrian friendly village oozing Roman and artsy stuff. Van Gogh was in a psychiatric hospital/monastery there and painted over 100 paintings including Starry Night and many of my favorite wheat field canvases. The Romans left an impressive arch behind along with a Gallic-Roman city called Glanum where you can still see pedestrian streets from the 1st century. And not to be forgotten, Nostradamus was born there; he of prophecies and 16th century healing to royalty.

All this was fine and good. But first we had to get there. We left Bonnieux, stopping off at Sénanque Abbey to check out the lavender and the 12th-century monastery which has been back in use since the late 1980s. We didn't go inside because I was foolishly wearing shorts. I knew better but having had my skirt blow up to reveal all the previous day in Bonnieux I thought I'd risk it.

It was beautiful from the outside, we got some great photographs and K bought trinkets at the gift shop. And then we headed out to Gordes, one of my favorite Provencal villages to be honest. There are two shops there that I could spend a fortune in and the views and honey from there are magnificent. (We said 'magnificent' a lot...must be the current replacement for 'awesome' in the U S of A.)
See. Beautiful from the outside.

No time to dilly-dally though because we still had Les Baux de Provence and Glanum to see before we reached our inner village St-Rémy hotel--more on this later, but keep in mind that I said the inner village was mostly pedestrian and then note that I said our 'inner village' hotel.

Les Baux de Provence is the old stuff lover's paradise, jackpot, happy dance inducing boon. It really is kinda cool. Mon Mari and I went there on our honeymoon too and I knew K, lover of all stuff old, would pee when she saw it. They've upgraded it with 'shows' since I was there 13 years ago and while this whiff of theme park could possibly distract from the unadulterated ancient beauty of it, I can forgive them for wanting to draw more crowds and sex it up a bit.

The views from the top walls reward you for the vertigo inducing climb up a narrow staircase whose cleaved stairs make it challenging and bring to mind all the thousands of years of feet that stormed up them to the lookout. You can see the Mediterranean and a glimpse of the horizon from up there but when the fortified village was alive and kicking the Med was much closer, covering more of what is now Southern Provence. In one of our honeymoon photos from Les Baux it looks as if a figure is looming behind me in an ancient stone doorway...this is one place you really can imagine spirits lingering.

Les Baux de Provence & pigeon keep nooks
Next stop, Glanum. We were roadworn, tired and thirsty when we arrived at the entrance to Glanum. We parked and walked across the street to tackle yet another super cool old thing but when we saw it was 7 euro and a huge, long walk to get in we stopped in our tracks. "Hmmm....what do you think?', K asked. "Yeah, sure I can do it. But I really don't want to.", said I. And the verdict, "Me neither. I've seen loads of old stuff today. Let's bag it.", said my wise and wonderful Bestie. I hope she doesn't regret not seeing it now but I sure did love her in that moment. A love so thankful and pure that I wanted to give her a smelly, sweaty squeeze.

This love sustained me through our next feat of tourism.

You remember how I told you about our St-Rémy hotel being inner village, right? Well. We were driving Mon Mari's fancypants with built-in GPS car and naturally I put in the address of the hotel as our final destination. And GPS lady did not let us down. She guided us right smack dab into the middle of the village to the dead-end narrow alley which housed the courtyard door to our hotel. Pedestrians were shuffling, glaring, 'run for your life!' and happy aperitif drinkers sitting at outdoor tables had a dose of diesel fumes as I bullishly, nonsensically, foolishly continued on. Following. The. G.P.S.

You know how I have this tendency to keep on with it even though I know it's probably not great just because I get all freaked out and glassy-eyed with terror. Need I remind you of the diesel/unleaded disaster?

Our stylish and groovy hotel lady came out to her beautifully weathered gray courtyard door in shock. Kindly shock. But shocked indeed. It was a horrible moment. I had only one option. You know what it is already don't you? Let me stress this: I Had To Reverse The Car Out Of The Alley. I nearly lost it. No lie. But I remained calm and steady. Texas girls are born knowing how to back up cars. Or at least all of them in my family are. We're like Mater in Cars the way we zip and zoom around in reverse, undaunted. I channeled the powers of all the Daniels clan and got on with it. It was terrifying. I had about a foot of leeway on either side of the car and the alley curved slightly making the navigation of it even more difficult. When I got out of the tunnel I had to deal with the sidewalk cafe with its smoking, pastis-drinking Frenchies looking on indifferent.

Two big green planters were my downfall. And I have to say that when the lovely French men came up and offered to help, I surrendered. I hope my Texas ancestors will understand. Monsieur Sympa got the car out by reversing out the other direction and going the wrong way on a one way street. At this point, this was the least of my worries.

We were out and then had to find our parking garage which was a complete ass kickin' that made us nearly stop speaking to each other for good. We each kept drawing on the love we felt over passing up Glanum and the promise of a cold beer at the end. Which we found immediately along with a lovely French couple who bought us a round.

The next day we headed back to the safety of the Languedoc but not before stopping off for one last hurrah in Arles. There is old stuff there in spades. And we saw it all. Luckily by tourist train because we couldn't be bothered to walk another foot.

Arles Coliseum snapped from tiny,white tourist train
When we got home Mon Mari was delighted to see us and kept us out on the terrace until way too late drinking cold, pink wine. This is when I realized I could drink wine with my toes while wearing my newly purchased cowboy hat.

It took me a week to recover. And poor K had to get on an airplane the next day, trudge through four airports and two connections with a hangover and not arrive home to Austin until I was getting up the next day. That's a lot of love folks. A lot of big ol' Texas Bestie Extraordinaire Stylee LOVE.


  1. That region is really interesting. Now let's hear about the new puppy!!!!

  2. It is always a pleasure to read your posts. Now I have got a kind of fever that pushes me to go and visit Provence: it is on my 'must do' list right now. But maybe without a Bestie Extraordinaire it will not be the same!

  3. 1) I'm super good at backing up too!! I think if you learn how to reverse in a pick-up, everything else is easy peasy.
    2) I'm hoping to see this wine drinking with your toes in person.
    3) I've told Fifty all about Clementine, he can't wait to meet her ;-)

  4. well, Glanum is not to be missed, really. I hope you go back.


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