Day 4 – Villes-sur-Auzon, Sault, Mt. Ventoux

23 June 2009

Today, we’re meeting a my friend Richard, who I previously mentioned, and his wife Pat. Richard and Pat have a little cottage in a town called Villes-sur-Auzon, which is about 40 miles from St. Remy.

We gave ourselves 90 minutes to get there and we needed all of it. The Garmin Nuvi, which has European maps, tooks some novel approaches to get over the river Durance and around Avignon. We love getting lost and seeing out of the way places and the Nuvi certainly accommodated us. In the end, though, it got us within 200 yards of their cottage.

After a leisurely repast of croissants, coffee, and fruit preserves, we set off on our adventure with Rich and Pat. They are about 20 years older than us and their kids are all grown, but we found plenty of common ground to pass the hours in pleasant conversation as we drove along.

Our first destination was an area between Villes-sur-Auzon and Sault called Le Gorges de la Nesque. This area is a canyon that runs about 20 miles. Along the edges of the canyon, several hundred feet up the sheer cliff face, were pock-marked with caves where our ancestors, many generations removed, sheltered themselves and cowered from the forces of nature. It’s amazing to think how they survived when every trip away from their secure home could be met with death from predators, other humans, and an easy fall.

After the Gorges, we had a traditional 2 hour French lunch in Monieux (pronounced Mon-you). Monieux sits over the valley that comes out of the Gorges and the view from the restaurant is lovely.

From Monieux, we traveled to Sault, which is another town situated on top of a hill. When you consider that these valleys have been fought over for 2500 years between different groups of Gauls, Franks, Romans, Germans, Austrians, Italians, Moors, etc., it’s no small wonder that they fortify their towns as much as possible. In Sault, we stopped in a little park and took photos for a while. Pat and Jackie did some shopping while Rich and I talked about camera gear.

From Sault, we drove along precarious roads to the top of Mont Ventoux. Along the way, we passed dozens of bikers. I sucked my breath in a few times as Rich passed slower cars on the twisty-turny roads. Keep in mind that Rich is from England, where their cars steer on the other side (I won’t say the “right side”, no matter where the wheel sits). Even though Ventoux is a small mountain by Alpine or Rocky standards, it still dominates the landscape for many miles and is a popular destination for tourists. Atop the mountain, several hundred people rested with their bikes, took photos, drank coffee, and sold trinkets.

Back into Villes-sur-Auzon in the early evening, we walked around the town for 45 minutes before finding a nice little family restaurant. I can’t remember what I ate, but everything was tasty. Especially the Chimay beer.

We left for St. Remy around 10 pm with the agreement to meet in St. Remy the next morning. The drive back to our B&B took only about an hour, now that we knew the “right way” back home. Slept hard from sheer exhaustion.

Tomorrow – Market day in St. Remy, Gordes, Roussillon. If you want to skip all the talk and see the pics, just browse over to my Picasa site.

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