May 17-19 2007: Mini-Vacation in Provence
Among the many benefits we love about living in Biot in the Cote d'Azur is
how close we are by car or plane to so many incredible places. The
possibilities are endless. This weekend we traveled by car to Provence.
This time we chose Orange, Vaison la Romaine, Chateauneuf du Pape and Mount
Ventoux where we indulged in our passions for archaeology, wine tasting and
John and I hopped in the car at 10:30 am and by lunchtime we were in Orange
for lunch. Orange, 20 minutes north of Avignon, is famous for its Roman
Theater built around 1 ad. It is the only remaining ancient Roman Theatre
in Europe with the wall intact making for astounding acoustics. In fact
today it is the site for many a show with top artists.
After Orange, John and took off for our hotel in the foothills of Mount
Ventoux in an unbelievably charming and small village and hotel called
"Crillon le Brave." The accommodations are listed in "1001 Places to go
Before You Die" a book given to me by my dear friend René Rodman and we are
glad we made it this place of rustic elegance with superior service. We
highly recommend it as a base to explore the region.
This town was popular with the retired Roman military and is today popular
with Parisians' for second homes. Archaeologically, it boasts some nicely
excavated villas, a bridge and a museum. There is an upper medieval
village but we concentrated on the lower regions where the Romans had
settled. As usual one can see evidence of the sophisticated water systems
that gave Roman's such a good standard of living wherever they colonized.
Since in France the site closed down at lunchtime we had one of our more
memorable French meals at a restaurant called "Le Brin d'Olivier."
The drive back to our hotel from Vaison la Romaine features many charming
wine villages. We chose to stop by Seguret a medieval village based on the
top of a hill with narrow winding streets and fortified with narrow gates
leading to and from the village. The village had a cozy and communal
feeling with many communal basins and water sources. Of all the little
villages I have visited and once stayed in, (6 months in college at nearby
Lacoste with pop. 100) this one, with all its basins and water, gave me the
strongest impression of community.
Reading that 2005 was a stellar year for the region's wine I wanted to load
up our car before our return home. The two vineyards I wanted to go to:
Vieux Donjon and Rayas are closed on weekends so always call ahead or you
might be disappointed! Unfortunately only the 2005 whites have been
released so far but we were able to do some tasting at "Le Verges des
Papes" located near the Pope's Chateau which is now in ruins.