We were deliberating where to go for a few days, as G had 4 days holiday from work. We decided Italy would perhaps be the best holiday destination, as it’s only a few hours away and a country I’m dying to explore. Then G had an idea – why not holiday right here instead. I could get to know the area better and we could save Italy for a month long train trip. I liked his thinking.
The first day of our French holiday we toured Provence, going back to my favourite village, Rousset Les Vignes. Driving through Provence is like driving through a landscape picture but as the light changes it becomes more beautiful. Winding roads take you up small hills where Medieval stone villages are found. In Provence, the countryside has a gentle ripple. The fields are packed with rows of vines and signs that let you know which grape for which wine is slowly being created in front of your eyes. I recognised quite a few that I’d tried already. Rousset Les Vignes is one of my favourite places because of the serene beauty which surrounds it. Leaving Montelimar and all that is urban and modern behind, we headed out past lavender, sunflower and corn fields, towards some tree covered stone-bearing hills in the distance. The landscape, complete with stone walls, cultivated land and colourful nature is exquisite. Rousset Les Vignes is nestled between an impressive stone hill and undulating fields of crops, and as you turn the corner there are olive trees and a small bridge to pass over before the road winds back to show you the impressive view of the fields below.
We continued to drive towards the direction of Avignon, on no fixed road. We took the long, scenic route through the vineyards. We came across the occasional tractor and the occasional camper van but apart from that the peace added to the idyllic nature of the place. Next time, we shall take a convertible through the countryside. Not only to be surrounded by the natural beauty but because with the windows wide open on our little car, G burned all of his left arm! I asked G about living here and he wasn’t sure whether I could cope with the solitude. The small communities which look so beautiful to visit, may be too lonely for a social person like me. He did reassure me that it’s not far away though and we can visit when we want. As we got closer, we took the Routes Touristiques, which I heartily recommend. Weaving towards the big cities, we had the impression to be alone on an adventure through Provençal France. If you have the time, always choose aesthetics over efficiency.
G pointed out that we’d almost arrived at our destination on seeing an impressive Roman bridge. A river ran alongside us and I could see that the water was a different colour to usual. It was emerald green. The algae, swaying within it, gave it it’s tropical colour. It was stunning. Entering the small tourist village centred around the shining green waters was like unwrapping a present. Tucked away, like all good French villages, the scene unfolded into a postcard place, begging to be explored.
At the top of the town, there’s a water source which gives the small department it’s name. We walked up towards the spring which fills up and empties with the seasons. Tourists before us had rebelled against the restraints and partially destroyed the safety barrier to get a better look at the basin of water. We had a quick look and then paddled our feet to cool down. The temperature was 36°C. The spring is a seemingly calm manifestation of water but in reality it is the river gushing up from underneath the rocks. The river’s current is visible with the frothy white spray it creates as it hits rocks. Further down, through the town, as the river deepens, there’s an opportunity to canoe and kayak over the clear, fresh water. An opportunity we will seize in the future. For now, admiring the emerald swirling mass was enough.
We visited the grotto and the paper mill and have planned to come back to visit the caves, which I’m very excited about. Here, even the loos were quaint, hosted by an old lady, shading herself from the hot sun. Ice-creams stalls were lining the pathways and I managed to resist a huge Italian ice-cream, knowing bikini season has arrived. There are many restaurants and cafés – even Michelin-starred places – but one in particular caught my eye, as an inside- outside restaurant.
We ate lunch by the green river side in a city close by. I had goats cheese in filo pastry followed by salmon and summer vegetables with a drizzle of basil oil, G opted for aubergine and basil mousse followed by asparagus and parma ham risotto. It’s a place I know my mum would appreciate and I look forward to bringing her to Provence for all of its sophisticated yet quaint charm. Provence is a place for people who like to indulge in good food, good weather and good scenery.
We had a wonderful, charming day out and on the motorway back home we arranged drinks on the terrace – the perfect way to wrap up our first holiday-day among friends.