Monday, July 4, 2011

Old Stuff in Provence Death March, Second Installment

Back to Provence. Bonnieux to be exact. We woke up on Friday, too late for breakfast but just in time for the weekly market.

French markets are written about, photographed and tucked away in memory files from vacations abroad. Each village has a market day and they're usually year round, not just in the height of tourist season so while it may feel a bit like they've rolled out the lavender carpet and displayed their best stone fruits, ribbed beef tomatoes, jars of thick, white honey and horseshoes of pungent sausages just for you, the tourist, they really do this every week. Rain or shine. Of course the produce changes, the linen dresses and straw hats either aren't on show or are moins cher and you may find a stall of mattresses in the place of the amber jewelry. But it's still a market and the real French people who live in the village or nearby come to buy their goods; flowers, pumpkins, celeriac and yes, sometimes mattresses.

that's lavender down there by golly!
Off to market we went. Except we couldn't find it. Or maybe it wasn't so much that as we got distracted by the old stuff. There is a beautiful old church at the tippety-top of the village with a windswept cemetery for a neighbor and old, cobbled pedestrian streets from back in the day. We meandered and I took pictures of doors and shutters. One in particular that had stairs leading to it caught my eye. And caught my eye again as we wandered back up and past it after our second loop around looking for the market, prompting a sarcastic, 'Oh, what a pretty door.'
pretty door in Bonnieux, the 1st time
We saw an elderly man sitting on a low stone wall with his dog--a fluffy, tear stained eyes sort of gal--and after searching the map of Bonnieux on a placard as he looked on, I got up the courage to ask him for directions. You see, directions are easy to ask for in French. It's the following of them that gets tricky. Add to that, Msr Mur avec Chien was verbose. He told us how to find the market. At length. In a stream of monters, continuer, tout droit, tout droit, tout droit, sous and then some descendres down the escaliers to a Tabac and then, voila! the market.

We found it and it was a good one. A lavender stall was choc full of bunches of freshly-cut lavender that K wanted to buy but decided against because of US customs. A shame. And then there was the jam, freshly made and jarred with an orange plastic ring sealing rhubarb and rosemary in along with the more typical cherry and strawberry. K bought a bouquet of fragrant homemade soaps especially because her daughter gave her the eye roll for suggesting excitedly that she could bring her back some good smelling soap. Eight year-old girls don't really care much for soap. But she got plenty.

giant trees by the cemetery
I bought the third of four dresses and the first of two hats. I don't really know what came over me but my purse strings got loose and I settled for full price like a good American tourist.

After all this spending and excitement we were hungry. Or I was. So we set off in search of a restaurant that was sunny and perched on the cliff so we could have a view. My hungry crankiness nearly made us miss out on Les Terrasses but thanks to K and her persistence that we should take advantage of the view, we found it. And had a delicious lunch of salads, pizza and a small pitcher of red wine while we laughed and made mean faces at each other and bad jokes like, 'you're getting on Ménerbes' and enjoyed the view. What a view.
mean faces'

jokes, just jokes
After spending a good, French stylee two hours at lunch, we made our way to Rousillon. It is the village that sits in the ocre mountains that were formed when the Mediterranean receded from Provence...something about the limestone and sea water or salt or something scientific like that that usually goes in one ear and out the other for me, combined to form brilliant red, orange, melon and neon yellow hues. It is breathtaking, truly. I've written about it before and showed you a lot of photos but if you are in the area you really should see for yourself.

We did the mountain path walk, hid from a gang of very loud talking American teenagers, a lot of girls and just a few guys, one of which was the obvious love interest of nearly every girl in the group. He was making a show of himself, running up and down the ocre hills and talking loudly in bad fake English and Australian accents. What is it about teenage girls that love this type of teenage boy so much? In any language.

smiling in lavender
K smiling in lavender, as promised
We shopped some more, walked some more, ate some ice cream and had a beer while we decided what to do next. We still wanted to visit the towns of Ménerbes and Gordes but could only do one more that day. We decided on Ménerbes for dinner because it was closest to our chalet and we wanted to make it back in time to sit on our little porch and chat like the old days.

lavender field on the way to Rousillon
rousillon gorgeousness
smaller bell in Ménerbes
Ménerbes church bell

Ménerbes mairie set up for concert
Cassis in Ménerbes
Those of you who know of Peter Mayle know that Ménerbes is the village he wrote about in his books. It too has a large, old church at the top of the hill, along with ancient cemetery, stone ruins and breath-taking views. There was a concert on that night and it was fun to watch the bejeweled French women decked out in dresses and heels making their way up to the top on cobbled streets. We ate our dinner and met a beautiful golden retriever, who is apparently the village dog--maybe Fifty knows him?, named Cassis who ate leftover steak and harumphed at my offer of frites. After seriously considering bundling him home with me, we were ready to head back to the chalet and a good night's sleep.
pretty for pretty's sake
Sweet dreams day two. You were swell.


  1. Yep, I'm pretty sure Cassis and Fifty are buds. And you totally should have taken him home. If you wear a cowboy hat, you can get away with anything ;-)

  2. Lovely!! Don't lavender fields smell heavenly? France is soooooo magical!! :)

  3. Sara,
    Cassis pushed me right over the edge on our dog getting. I took it as a sign. And now we're set to bring our newest little girlie home on the 17th! So thrilled.

    Lovely...and haunted? ;)

  4. Such a pleasant reading, thank you.

  5. I love Bonnieux and Menerbes; both are just "down the street" from my beaux parents. Great post; great photos!

  6. What a great trip Aidan. I've done it a million...okay 8 or 10 times, with my visitors but it's all so beautiful. You're getting a dog??? I can't wait to see pictures.


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