A Travellerspoint blog

Beaumes-de-Venise: June 16

It is and became farewell day to the Welsh's. Their plans took them elsewhere including Holland.

We must celebrate Ingrid's observational powers. We were leaving Mme Badaroux to go to Avignon and she spotted it. What she spotted related to the fact that John and I were 2-2 in regards to hitting the kerb whilst struggling with the French tendency to drive on the opposite side of the road. It was like a soccer match. He scored the first 2 then I suffered lapses of concentration and scored my 2. We figured the hubcap came off the car somewhere around one of the kerb hits. No! It was probably loosened and then came off at Mme Badaroux's for some reason. Congratulations to Ingrid for a wonderful save.

We headed south and saw the Welsh's off at the TGV station in Avignon. Nice machines those trains. The way they pull out of the station with a steady acceleration. It's almost exciting if you get my drift.

Back to the old city of Avignon which we circled on the way, and parked near the Palais du Papes to check it out and the bridge. The bridge, which by the way is Pont de Saint Benezet, not the name you think of. Also to correct another falsehood of history the true lyrics for the famous "Sur le pont d'Avignon" are reproduced here for your edification along with some background:

According to legend, it was a divinely inspired young shepherd called Benezet who caused the bridge ("le pont") at Avignon to be built in the twelfth century.
First made of wood, it was the first bridge spanning the Rhone river, dividing line between France and the Holy Roman Empire. Its reconstruction in stone dates from the end of the thirteenth century. Several times mistreated by wars and the flooding Rhone, it was continuously under repair until the seventeenth century when it ceased to be restored. Now only four arches survive of the original twenty-two.
The bridge ended on the Avignon side at the Chatelet tower (fourteenth century), and on the opposite, Villeneuve side at the tower of Philip the Fair (end of the thirteenth century).

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L'on y mange (danse), l'on y mange (danse)
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L'on y mange (danse) tous en rond
On the bridge of Avignon
We all eat there, we all eat there
On the bridge of Avignon
We all eat there in a ring
First Verse
Les beaux messieurs font comme ça

Et puis encore comme ça.
The handsome gentlemen do like this (chew not bow)

And then like that
Second Verse
Les belles dames font comme ça

Et puis encore comme ça.
The beautiful ladies do like this (chew not curtsy)

And then like that
Third Verse
Les militaires font comme ça

Et puis encore comme ça
The soldiers do like this (chew not salute)

And then like that
Fourth Verse
Les musiciens font comme ça

Et puis encore comme ça.
The musicians do like this (chew not play violin)

And then like that

I'm glad I sorted that out for you.

The bridge is higher than I expected, worth a 4.5Euro visit. The river was streaming fast perhaps due to the floods in the north east?

View from the old city to the pont:

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The Palais du Papes was interesting but I had had my fill of insides of old buildings so I gave the residence a miss. We sat outside and soaked up the sights of the square a little.

Palais du Papes:

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South of the square the crowds intensified. You know how it is. Shops, cafes, shops and cafes. However one stall holder was worth the visit. Karen procured another painting from the artist she likes and collects from.

On our return home however we suspect Missy was missing John and Ingrid. She didn't wake until we were passed the hardest part of leaving the city even though we spoke nicely to her and consoled her. Lucky our sense of direction worked. Bloody miracle or sheer luck I reckon. The spooky part was how quickly Karen began anthropomorphising as well talking to Missy with compassion and respect. Ooooooooooooh!

Missy took us the back way home. Pleasant variation it was. We just chilled out at Les Castelet, a local bar and grill run by some young Spanish looking people, pretending we were young and trendy again (like last week) and pastis'd and Baileys'd the hour away. We were contemplating our trip so far and doing a little bit of people watching.

We found a local boucher, purchased a pre-made ground beef and tomato meal and discussed our thoughts for part 3 of our trip.

Oops, here are a couple of photos of our house I forgot to post:

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Our house as seen through the gates:
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I am such a klutzstumble, I think I should be writing "bonne nuit".

Posted by lesnkaren 02:41 Archived in France Comments (1)

Beaumes-de-Venise: June 15

sunny 23 °C

The night before we planned to rise in good spirits to go to Vaison la Romaine. We had heard of markets, intact roman ruins, a famous patisserie and fromagerie.

It was an unusually not-sunny day for Provence and an easy drive in the steady rain. We walked to centre of town to be confronted with the market throng. We quickly hid in the patisserie to deal with an inadequate breakfast. We later reckoned the patisserie deserves its fame. And we need to return one day.

John and I located the fromagerie and discovered the owner has won awards for her shop and cheese. Like kids salivating in front of the lolly counter we considered and desired. How do you choose 4 au lait cru (raw milk) cheeses out of a lineup of over 100. It was cruel! We did our best nonethless.

Cheese with noble mould:
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From the same shop:
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Whilst the girls were doing girly shoppong stuff we tried a beer. The day was wet and we decided it made more sense to be dry. A coffee and beer allowed us to watch the wet passersby.

In France to date we have found the tourist information centre staff to be well trained, very helpful, have adequate English and are always busy. Yes! Anyway they and we know they can't recommened restaurants, cafes, lodgings etc but we did notice her finger rest upon an entry. Apparently fingers are allowed to do the talking there. Well, clever finger, damn clever. We lunched where the finger said we should.

Again very good food. Sorry, no photos.

Les finally surrended to the pressure from the menus he encountered over the weeks. At four places "ris" was offerd. Ris de veau or ris d'agneau (calf sweetbread or lamb sweatbread) and three times he declined. This time he lost. It was time to try a local preferred dish of sweetbreads. Jean-Marc warned us he does not understand this local passion even though he was raised here.

Karen chose a souffle with truffle. It looked magnificent when served. You probably know Karen does not like runny yolks. I tried to feel sorry for her when she realised the yolk remained lukearm with bits of white truffle and she would not be able to have it all but all I could think about was me having the rest.

I had the sweetbread which had a soft knobbly texture and presumably took on some of the flavour of the kidney in the dish. In conclusion, I am happy I tried the dish, enjoyed it, but once is enough. If any restaurant can do a good job with ris, this one should have.

With the serious side of the day completed it was time to wander through the ruins of a Roman villa. We had a very enjoyable time over two hours and this visit the audio guides were very helpful. It's fun to try and gain a sense of the daily lives of these people. In principle not much different to ours but different enough to wonder.

A walk in time. Hadrian the Emperor got around. He liked walls remember:

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View of the old Vaison la Romaine:
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Back home for the Welshes to pack as they are leavng tomorrow, and for Karen and I to retrieve some email. We finally found a local cafe doing the free wifi thing. Guess how the French prounounce wifi: "weee-feee".

Hi Mum:
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After some weefee a walk in the French provencal rain toward home and some unwinding and preparation a simple meal of salad and fromage and local 'Gigondas' wine.

It is fun hitting the hay and deliberately reviewing the day so as to ensure the memories don't leak out overnight.

Bon nuit.

Posted by lesnkaren 04:18 Archived in France Comments (3)

Beaumes-de-Venise: June 14

Today is the day we visit the local wine cooperative with our host. She and her husband grow grapes along with many other growers. The French appellation system is tightly controlled. On their small acreage some grapes at the status of being cru and must be grown under strict conditions without variation and a blended with other cru grapes to make better quality wine. Remaining non-cru grapes may be used for brandy or table wine and last but not least vineyard compost.

Before leaving we made some delicious baguettes with our leftover goodies.

At Balma Venetia, the cooperative, we went on a personalised guided tour of the facilities and the wine making process. At Beaumes de Venise the famous muscat is grown and made. This is not to be confused with a fortified wine it is a very drinkable floral wine with some made to go very well with food we don't like(?) such as Roquefort and pate etc. Mme Badaroux passed the comment that you often do not see French workers working very hard and asked if it was like that in Australia.

We then were treated to a tasting of the red wines of the cooperative and the muscats. Needless to say we bought some.

We then decided on a flying visit to Chateauneuf du Papes and behave like the Brits sitting in our car in the car park eating our baguettes. After a well needed coffee the boys went on to Ogiers to taste their muscat, a white and their famous red. Needless to say we bought some. We thought these wines were tastier and more complex.

Part of the grand plan today was to move on to nearby Orange to check out the Roman amphitheatre, apparently one of the most intact. It was mind blowing and we spent quite some time there as the photos and a movie will show.

The town itself was not all that inspiring however my driving up one way road was quite. Luckily I was tooted before too much damage was done.

Various photographs of the ampitheatre:
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Unusually, we found our wine required an excuse to be consumed. Some home cooked pork with champingons and a salad provided the excuse.

Inspired by some of the food at the many restaurants we have visited we decided to produce a pretty entree.

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Pretty entree.
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John also bought himself a delicious cake from the local patisserie juice celebrate his birthday again two days later. I wonder if he was trying to tell us we should have bought him a cake? He said no, he just couldn't walk past it. I think he is right.

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Cake lovers.
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He was a busy and fun day so once again we earned our sleep.

Posted by lesnkaren 01:04 Archived in France Comments (2)

Beaumes-de-Venise June 13

We planned to set out to L'Isle sur la Sorgue for the famed market but we could not find the bank to pay Mme Badaroux a bond. Well we did find the bank it turns out but the ATM was broke.

Cut a long story short we decided to drop the girls at a local trash and treasure sale and they found some delightful bargains. If you are late to L'Isle sur la Sorgue the market is too full of people to be remotely pleasant. Next weekend maybe!

The men did the menly thing of shopping for food as the supermarche was to close at 12 and will close for Monday.

After another small lunch Karen and I decided to walk the to the old Notre Dame church and then climb the ridge to get a great view of the region.

Well two wonderful things happened. We surprised ourselves as to how fit we were for the walk and we figure the walking in Paris helped strengthen our walking muscles. The walk was considered dangerous in that the terrain was rocky and some pathways were 45 cms wide against steep drops. The other wonderful thing was the view we saw.

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One of the views. We just want to show you how high we got.
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We reckon Jackson and Heidi should be proud of the pace we kept through the climb. We were!

The vines here are grown in rocky dry ground. If they are cru status no watering is allowed. this concetrates the flavour of the grape:
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After that I discovered the best tasting beer ever. Well, you know, it was a hot sunny day, we climbed and walked over 4kms and that's when beer is brilliant. All Karen could manage was a second rate gin fizz. John joined us for a beer as well.

The walk was exhilarating. Lots of scrubby bush about 1 - 2.5 meters high and now I can understand how Provence is a bushfire prone area.

Back home and Les hit the pool at the house. Cool, wet, refreshing. Cooled down.

Later a home cooked meal began. We began with a warmed camenbert with garlic wine and herbs.

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Warmed camenbert of the yum kind.
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We had retrieved from M. and Mme Badaroux some pine cones and grape vines. A corn fed chook and some sausages were charcoal cooked on the BBQ to be finished off inside. Beetroot and onion and cheese salad. Small potatoes. Baked mushroom and a simple salad followed with the wine from Patrick's St Puy vinyards. Went down well and the chook skin was lightly and perfectly smoked.

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The crowd somewhat pleased with themselves.
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Another free French champagne to he/she who identifies this rare speckled eel.
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Rarely do we watch TV in France and rarely does Les watch TV sport but Germany vs Australia at the World cup was on so we watched Australia get trounced.

Ah well, we slept anyway.

Posted by lesnkaren 00:55 Archived in France Comments (3)

Mirepoix to Beaumes-de-Venise (Provence) June 12

We woke early and happily paid our hotel. Please note: the French are weird. They don't like their shower roses to be set high. Since 1789 we know they do not like to be reigned upon. As we travelled either the shower rose could not be positioned above our head because the fixture was broken or just not there. Mostly they use those flexible hoses. These low showers and these hold the shower rose in your hand arrangement tells us they do not like to be rained upon. We haven't had a good old fashioned shower head above our own heads since arriving except maybe one place.

Then we obtained coffee and pastries for breakfast in Mirepoix just after the gang of French Harley-Davidson riders left ahead of their throaty-warbling wake.

We were in and out of car between 8:30 am and 5:30 pm.

Lunch was a spontaneous affair pulling up for a toilet break to find their was no toilet but there was lunch. A fruit and vegetable shop was found in a disused garden supplies place which looked like a garden supplies place. We purchased some bread fruit and cheese and ate on the outside tables of the neighbouring cafe which refused to open. After lunch, onward and eastward.

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Lunch à la elegance.
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We later paused as we crossed the Canal du Midi. The idea of canal boating appeals for a week or two. There was a really cute barge we would have liked to spend time on. The more boring looking ones would be more functional though. Boating on the canal is a slow affair. I reckon you either go nuts or your whole being slows to this pace.

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So cute, spunky boat.
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Idyllic view.
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We stopped at Uzes knowing we would be late for the famed market but we gained a sense of just how extensive it is. Uzes is an old town but a large one and a busy one. Has a great old castle in town as well. Great town if you like big towns and cities.

Just 16 kms from there is the famous Pont du Gard. A Roman aqueduct still largely intact. Awesome! To contemplate the size, design and planning and effort to construct it boggles the mind a little. The strength and value of the design is clear from the fact it remains so intact.

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Pont du Gard
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dapper_gen..du_gard.jpgOld guard.
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Eventually Missy lead us onto the motorway to Orange to then reach Mme Badaroux, our host, at Beaumes-de-Venise east of Orange and north east of Avignon. We agreed with Missy that we should give the town a nickname and called it "Beaming Denise". It seems to work.

Here, lovely Mme Badaroux spoke in pretty good English and lead the way to the gite in the town. A lovely two storey home, her Grandmother's, and we immediately fell in love with the house. The town is small and we like it.

We discovered that she, and she discovered that we, are into wine and food. She recommended a couple of restaurants, wineries, and also towns to visit. On trust we agreed for her to book one in nearby Gigondas (15 minutes away), Les Florets.

However we had to deal with some important business first. It was John's birthday today so he shouted us some French champagne which we had to taste. We also gave him a couple of birthday presents which were fun to find.

At 8pm we headed to Les Florets with anticipation and some unexpressed expectation. Well! Once we walked into the courtyard we were blown away with the venue. Think of a converging valley with a miriad of plane trees and a slowly sinking sun maintaining a pleasant 19º. A stunningly beautiful location.

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Les Florets. The photo does not do justice to the locale.
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What followed was some stunningly beautiful food. To summarise, the menu sounds better in French than in English but that did not matter. Not all the food worked real well but there were some standouts!

The first amuse bouche was cold, meaning it didn't really grab us. The second was yummilient. A lobster soupy thing. For entree I chose the trilogie of foie gras. Not at all heavy but yumm again with a foie gras glacé and froth and some real stuff.

trilogie_fois_gras.jpgTrilogie in three parts.
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For mains I choose beef and a bone marrow ravioli with a bone marrow sauce. More conventional ravioli such as spinach and fetta never really grabs me even when really well made. This ravioli is now my all-time favourite. Magnificent tasty combination.

The third course was a choice of cheese from their fromage plate of 24 different cheeses including local cheese. Yee hee. We chose only four. Don't get it, could of had more. However a blue and a ripe Normandy Camembert lead the charge to be followed by a ripe smelly cheese and, again on recommendation, the local chevre was last. Stunning again was this last cheese with an unexpected lingering of something spicey like the way pepper can linger on the lips and something lingering on the upper taste buds. Desert was very pleasant.

The absolute standouts were the foie gras, bone marrow ravioli and the last local chevre. PS: the wine was good too.

Home, replete and complete.

Posted by lesnkaren 00:48 Archived in France Comments (2)

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