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A Traveller in the Drome

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
By Doug Phillips from Canada, Spring 2008
June 14-28, 2008. Two weeks based near La Begude de Mazenc, a small village in Drome Provence - with day trips into the Vercors, the Ardeche, the Luberon - several market visits - a GTG and meals in several restaurants.

This trip report was originally posted on SlowTrav.

Saturday June 14 - Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc

Almost a year ago, Ron, one of my two younger brothers, invited my Beautiful Wife (BW) and I to join him and his wife Mary Jane in sharing a three-bedroom rental house, La Petite Maison in a place named Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc, near a village called La Bégude de Mazenc in Drôme Provence. This was their fourth visit to the same village, renting two different places from the same hosts. Ron was renting for four weeks in June 2008; Mary Jane was staying for three, before returning to their home, and back to work, in Winnipeg. We had the option of staying for up to four weeks. We have been to France for each of the past three years - two weeks in Provence and four days in Paris in September 2005 (TR 798: Footloose in Provence & Paris); a week in Paris in October 2006 (TR 1135: A Traveller in Paris); 10 days in Provence and two days in Paris in September 2007 (TR 1417: Return to the Luberon). We like France ... a lot.

After some discussion, we decided to accept Ron's offer. It would give us the opportunity of visiting a different area in the south of France in a different season of the year and spending some time with close relatives whom we see infrequently. Besides, it would mean that we would be able to see fields of lavender and not just dried bunches in the autumn markets. However, since we were going in late June, BW realized that she would only be able to stay for a week because of work commitments.

By a happy coincidence we were able to invite another local couple to join us. Chris and Katie were in the process of booking a train tour in Switzerland and decided that a week in the south of France would be a great addition to their plans.

So the plans were for the four of us to fly from Canada on June 13 (Friday the 13th!!) to CDG in Paris, take the TGV down to Valence where would would pick up our rental car and following one of two sets of directions (one from my brother using the A7, one from our hosts using local roads) and arrive, by my best estimate, at Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc around 5:15pm. Since Chris and Katie were flying Air Canada from Ottawa and we were flying ZOOM from Montreal, arriving in Paris at different times, we weren't sure where we would meet up - but we spent an hour together at the TGV station at CDG waiting for our train.

Once at Valence, everything worked out according to my estimate. Following our hosts' directions, we pulled into our parking space a short walk down a hill from our house in Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc at 5:15pm. However, I forgot that my brother said he would be waiting for us on the road outside the Tourist office in La Begude de Mazenc - which we had avoided on the way there. Now, I said we pulled into our parking space but it was actually more of an inclined slot between a stone wall and some rubble of building stone and broken roof tiles - and I actually had to pull ahead and back uphill to get in. Getting out was going to be a bit tricky. Most fortunately, a guy showed up, evidently knowing who we were, and without introductions offered to direct me out of the parking space and lead me into the village. Nice guy - must be the owner I thought. Wrong again.

After meeting Ron and Mary Jane and stopping for un pression in the village, the six of us returned to Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc and our home for the next week or two. Our accommodations are excellent - three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two outside terraces, a very well-equipped kitchen. individual heating/AC units in each room, laundry facilities, and an unlimited supply of toilet paper. Our hosts are Ulrike and Andrew Wanié, a most agreeable couple. Phone calls to North America and Internet access are included from the owners' den a minute away.

The views from the terraces, especially the upper terrace off the kitchen, are excellent, but it is very evident that this is not the Provence of the Luberon with which we are more familiar. Instead of rolling hills of rows of grape vines and olive groves we look out onto flat fields of wheat and grain and corn and other crops familiar to us from our home surrounded by a dairy farm in Eastern Ontario. There is a row of windmills on the hills in the distance on the left and steam from nuclear power generators along the Rhone River on the right. In the evening, the lights of Montelimar and smaller communities glow in the distance.

View from the upper terrace at La Petite Maison

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gm0T8J9nGeM

While on the A7 (the Autoroute du Soleil - a toll road that sweeps into and across the south of France, with a maximum speed of 130km) over the next two weeks I noticed flashing signs asking drivers to reduce their speed because of local excessive pollution. Often, we could see the pollution from our terrace - a haze in the distance along the A7 and the Rhone moving down from Lyon in the north.

Dinner was a barbeque on the terrace with far too much rosé wine.

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Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Sunday June 15 - Dieulefit/Montelimar/Orange

Last evening, we were introduced to Kirk and Jacquie, two more Canadians from Ontario, who were also staying in Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc for four weeks - and also learned that this was their third consecutive year renting from the same owners. Kirk was the very helpful guy who helped me out of the parking spot and led us into the village down the hill to meet my brother.

A quick visit to the nearby town of Dieulefit ("God Made It") for some shopping at a supermarket before the noon closure, then over to Montelimar to confirm train schedules for our traveling companions on Friday. Aside from its association with nougat, Montelimar doesn't get much respect from most guidebooks as a tourist spot, but it appears to be a prosperous, progressive community with at least one attractive plane-tree-lined street with several restaurants on one side and a large community park on the other.

We stopped for a pleasant lunch along the Allées Provencales after which we decided that it was too late to start on a driving tour of the area - so we drove, via the A7, down to Orange to introduce our friends to the extensive evidence of Roman settlement in the south of France. We re-visited the impressive Arch de Triomphe and the Roman Theatre.

Roman Theatre in Orange

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byI5EB1rTjM

We returned to our home in the early evening for a second barbecue on the terrace, this time with much less rosé wine.

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The bakery in Bourdeaux
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Monday June 16 - Vaison-la-Romaine GTG / Chateauneuf du Pape; L'Escargot d'Or

The morning started cool but, as we drove south towards Vaison-la-Romaine over the hills through or by Grignan, Valreas & Nyons, the temperature rose as the clouds rolled in. We arrived in Vaison-la-Romaine early enough to cross the bridge, climb up the hill to visit the ruins of the chateau and stop in at an artist's workshop (ouch!) in the medieval part of the village before heading back to the Roman bridge for our noon meeting with Pamie Jo.

Vaison-la-Romaine from the ruins of the medieval chateau

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7X1goqF4NM

As the other five members of our group took some photos and milled around, I noticed a woman standing on the opposite side at one end of the bridge. After eyeing each other for a couple of minutes, I called out "Pamie Jo?" She replied, "It's Pam - I didn't realize you were bringing a tour bus."

Pam and her husband Clark, from Minnesota, are taking part in an Untours vacation, based near L'Isle Sur la Sorgue. After agreeing not to discuss politics, the eight of us had a long and enjoyable lunch at a very popular café near the centre-ville before going our separate ways. It is always great to make new friends on our travels and it helps to put faces and personalities behind the discussions on the Slow Travel forums.

Our original plan was to drive up Mont Ventoux in the afternoon, but it started to rain, making the trip up the mountain pointless from a viewing perspective. After saying goodbye, we parted company with both Pam and Clark and Ron and Mary Jane. My brother was going for a two-day excursion, originally planned over to the west near the Spanish border, but which resulted in getting no farther than the area around Marseilles, some distance to the east. And that's what sometimes happens when you're driving around the south of France.

With Mont Ventoux out of our plans, the four of us drove south and visited several caves in the area around Gigondas, Vacqueras and Chateauneuf du Pape. Nice drive.

In the evening, and on a recommendation of our hosts, we drove over to Dieulefit and enjoyed a very good dinner at L'Escargot d'Or restaurant. Of course our entrees included excargots. L'addition, which included kir aperitifs and a bottle of wine, along with four cafés at the end was €151.50.

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GTG in Vaison-la-Romaine
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Tuesday June 17 - Into the Vercors; Les Voyageurs

With overcast and threatening skies, we decided to follow Linda Jones' driving route north into the Vercors region. Off by 9:00am along the D538 up a series of hills to Bourdeaux, stopping for a brief walk around the quiet village streets before continuing up the D156 over the Col de la Chaudiere and down into Saillans where we stopped for coffee. We started talking to a young local man at the next table and he suggested, instead of our out-and-back route, that we do a long loop by driving west over to Mirabel et Blacon, almost to Crest ("Cree") and turning up into the Vercors. We took his advice and drove up the winding D70 past Beaufort-sur-Gervanne, Plan de Baix, over the Col de Bacchus, up past La Vacherie and over the Col de la Bataille, Col de Portelle, Col de Rama, Col de la Chau and into Vassieux-en-Vercors where we stopped for lunch.

Col de la Bataille in the Vercors

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLl0z_Nl7Xw

Just outside Vassieux-en-Vercors there is a Memorial Museum to the Resistance built onto the mountainside. The Vercors was a region of extensive Resistance activity and savage German reprisals in the months and year after D-Day.

And I notice something else in all the small towns and villages back in the Drome during the rest of our time in the region. In many places, sometimes outside the Mayor's office, but often just along a stone wall or on the side of a building there are memorial plaques to local citizens who died, not in combat, but by execution on that spot or deportation to death camps by the Germans in 1944 and 1945. Such a beautiful part of the world to have experienced such brutality.

After lunch and filling up our vehicle with much-needed diesel fuel, we continued on over the Col St. Alexis and the spectacular Col de Rousset and down into to town of Die ("Dee") where we stopped and purchased two bottles of the distinctive local dry sparkling wine Crémant de Die, which we planned to open at the celebration of the baptism of our first grandchild on July 6. The drive back to our house in Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc was uneventful and anti-climatic when compared to the spectacular views and experiences of the rest of the day.

Col de Rousset in the Vercors

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGk0HmlzixY

For dinner we drove over to the nearby (5km) village of Charols and enjoyed an excellent meal at Les Voyageurs - a hotel/restaurant operated by a young man and woman in a newly refurbished setting. Highest recommendation!!!

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In the Vercors PreAlps
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Wednesday June 18 - The Luberon; Les Voyageurs

Today we made a flying visit down to the Luberon in Provence to show our friends the area with which we are most familiar and also to conduct some personal business.

Off in the early morning under a warming sun and a cloudless sky, over to Montelimar where we drove down the A7 to Cavaillon - over to Lacoste, stopping for coffee before driving over to Bonnieux and a visit to some of its shops before continuing over to Lourmarin and lunch - then over to Cucuron and Ansouis in the afternoon, before visiting both Roussillon and Gordes on the way back.

"Wow!!", was Chris' reaction when he was rewarded with his first view of Gordes and its spectacular setting. Hardly a Slow Travel kind of day, but enjoyable for us to see our friends' reaction to a quite different landscape and bustling village life found in the Luberon.

Luberon Valley from the terrace of the café in Lacoste

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E583LacIZjQ

A return visit, this time including Ron and Mary Jane, back from their mini-holiday, to Les Voyageurs in Charols for dinner - another excellent experience!

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Katie & BW at the pond in Curcuron
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Thursday June 19 - Market Day in Nyons/ Chateau de Grignan

The weather in our first few days was unseasonably cool and damp; yesterday was very pleasant; today, and for the rest of our time in the Drome, it was HOT.

Over to Nyons for the weekly market, arriving shortly before 10:00am. Very good market, and quite similar in layout and size to the Saturday market in Apt. We bought supplies for our evening meal - including salmon fillets, and fresh fruits and vegetables for salads. A unique feature of the market at Nyons, compared to other markets I have visited, is a guy selling escargots in a variety of forms, including a tapenade-like spread. He has a photo album illustrating how the escargots are farmed. I bought a couple of jars of the spread - pretty sure I'll have them all to myself back home in Canada. The most entertaining feature of the market was the animated and vocal sales technique of a guy selling melons. We paused for a drink in Nyons before heading out in the early afternoon and driving over to Grignan for lunch.

The Melon guy at the market in Nyons

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8ldbper8BY

Grignan is the most attractive and interesting village in our area, with the Chateau de Grignan its most interesting feature. Partly destroyed in the years after the Revolution, the chateau was restored in the late 19th-early 20th centuries, thanks in part to a U.S. robber baron's fortune. Anna Gould, whose father was railroad tycoon Jay Gould, married the owner of the chateau, Paul Ernest Boniface, the Comte de Castellane, in 1895. She divorced him in 1906 on grounds of infidelity, but not before he had spent $10 million of her money, at least some of which went to restoring the Chateau de Grignan.

Historically, the significance of the Chateau de Grignan is due to its connection to Madame de Sévigné, the prolific letter writer of seventeenth century France. Madame de Sévigné's daughter married the Count de Grignan and her correspondence with her daughter as well as letters she wrote during three lengthy visits to the chateau provide an intimate view of life - styles, fashions, opinions and much more - in seventeenth century France.

I was so impressed by the chateau that I convinced my traveling companions to sign up for the guided tour, which lasted over an hour. Our guide was efficient and knowledgeable (we think) and tried to answer any questions - but there was one problem. He spoke entirely in rapid-fire French. Non-French speakers were given a booklet which condensed a three-minute talk to a couple of lines - not very satisfactory. Audio guides are the obvious solution. In spite of the language issue, I am glad we took the tour - interesting building.

Back to Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc around 6:00pm for an enjoyable meal with the fresh produce from the Nyons market followed by a relaxing evening on the terrace.

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Grignan, with the Chateau dominating the skyline
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Friday June 20 - Return to Grignan/ Lavender Route from Valreas to Vinsorbes; Auberge des Brises

Katie and Chris left early this morning. I drove them over to the train station in Montelimar where they caught a train to Lyon, then over to Neuchatel and another eight days in Switzerland. BW and I returned to Grignan - our visit yesterday had been mainly limited to lunch and a tour of the chateau. We spent some time in the lower part of the town, visiting some of the stores and pausing for a cafe mid-morning. There are several artisan shops and a wine co-op with the very good local Coteaux du Tricastin wines.

Grignan, centre-ville

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVA7Om-2XLM

After a couple of hours in Grignan we headed over to Valreas where we eventually found the D190 and drove along a hilly and winding route over to Vinsorbes. As in a lot of travel excursions, the journey and not the destination was the highlight of the trip. We drove past more lavender fields than I ever imagined existed and also past several fields of grape vines with red rose bushes at one end of several rows. Spectacularly beautiful scenery! Highly recommended.

Lavender fields between Valreas and Vinsorbes

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YZAyBV6bpU

Lunch at Le Bistrot in Vinsorbes - the only business that appeared to be open in the village.

Friday evening we returned to Dieulefit and a visit to another restaurant recommended by our hostess. We had an excellent meal at Auberge des Brises. Our main course featured rouget (a fish) and pipardeau (guinea fowl). When we returned to our car in the parking lot across the road from the restaurant, we noticed a vegetable garden and a fenced enclosure that included a pond, and several guinea fowl and ducks moving about (magret de canard was also on the menu).

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Field of Lavender between Valreas and Vinsorbes
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Saturday June 21 - Grand Rue, Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc

Our original plan was for both of us to stay for two weeks, but before we made our final arrangements my wife realized that her work schedule would only allow for a one week stay in the latter part of June. We got up in the early morning and drove over the to TGV station in Valence for her 6:50am train back to CDG and a flight back to Canada in the early afternoon. I dropped off our car and waited for my brother to pick me up after taking his wife to the airport in Lyon and her return to work after three weeks in the Drome.

In the late afternoon my brother left for the French Grand Prix. An hour later I was walking down the Grand Rue, one of the very few streets in Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc, when I met Kirk and Jacquie outside their apartment, which is part of Ulrike and Andrew's large building. They invited me in for a glass of rosé wine - which turned into an invitation for a dinner of cheese, salad, freshly-caught trout from a nearby fish farm and an enjoyable evening on their terrace. A most fortunate encounter on my part.

The video below of the Grand Rue was taken near the end of my two weeks in the Drome, as a mistral was imminent. You can get some idea of the wind involved with a mistral from the video - but the actual wind gets much stronger. The open door on the left about 30 seconds into the video is the entrance to our Petite Maison.

A walk along the Grand Rue, Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68CbUKH1eSg


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A table in Drome Provence
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Sunday June 22 - Quiet Sunday in the Drome

I have the whole house to myself; even the owners whose house is a short walk down the road have left for the Grand Prix at Magna Cours. In the afternoon I go for a drive around the area, stopping in the nearby oddly-named village of Le Poet-Laval, perched atop a hill, to have a look around. Once a centre of the Knights Hospitaliers, the village is in a state of recovering ruin, with some businesses and residences - but it is still very small, very quiet with very winding pedestrian pathways. The only sign of life in the village is at Les Hospitaliers, a well-regarded restaurant. In fact, the restaurants are the main hive of activity in the other villages I visit this afternoon. The French tradition of a long Sunday lunch is still part of the weekly life everywhere I go.

I stayed a short walk up a steep hill from a village called La Begude de Mazenc. From a North American perspective, if one wanted to be uncharitable, it could reasonably be said that there is not much apparent economic reason for its existence. It is basically a single street of under half a kilometer at the intersection of two highways in the area, the East-West D540 and the much less busy D9. The population of the place is likely only a couple of hundred. If you blink a couple of times as you are driving through (not recommended anywhere in France), you could almost miss it. And yet there is a large Mayor's office, a Tourism office, a local park and swimming pool, a gas station, a weekly market, a mini-supermarket, a boulangerie, a boucherie, a fruit and vegetable store, a couple of cafés, a tabac, a hotel and a restaurant, even an ATM and financial services centre, as well as other retail stores and services available along the main street. You don't have to be much of a scholar to understand how important the preservation of the traditional way of life is in the French national and political consciousness. Just look at La Begude de Mazenc.

Dinner on the terrace with a salad and a veal cutlet purchased yesterday at the boucherie in the village down below. The boucherie is small, with the owner behind the counter, and all the produce available is tempting.

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Street in Le Poet-Laval
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Monday June 23 - Into the Ardeche; Le Jabron

My brother returned from the Grand Prix late last evening, accompanied by Adriano, a friend from Winnipeg. Adriano was spending almost three months traveling around Europe - mainly in Germany, Italy and Slovenia - but for now he was spending a few days in the south of France.

I left the house by 7:30am, walking down to La Begude de Mazenc to buy a baguette at the boulangerie and an English-language newspaper for my brother at the tabac next door. Last week when BW and Katie made the same trek they took the wrong way back up the hill. I was determined not to make the same mistake, mentally checking off markers down the hill to the road and a short walk beside the highway into the village. However, I missed the first important turn off the road coming back, and was confidently strolling along until I realized the road was sloping downhill. I had missed Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc completely and was walking toward Charols.

Late in the morning we headed west, through Montelimar and over the Rhone into the Ardèche. For the next several hours we drove around an area bounded by the communities of Privas, Aubenas and Viviers, turning off the main road at St. Vincent de Barres and taking a narrow, winding and very scenic road up into the hills of the region. Just past Privas we again left the main road and enjoyed more spectacular views over to a quiet village of St. Priest, where we started to look for a place to stop for lunch. We were directed toward the main road and about 5km later came upon Auberge de Chauliac, where we enjoyed a very long lunch highlighted by several conversations with Roland, the friendly and interesting owner.

After lunch, we drove over to Alba la Romaine - a small village with some interesting Roman remains. But we only stopped for a visit at the Caveau des Vignerons. On my next visit to the area, I told myself, I'll visit the cultural highlights of the village as well as return to the caveau.

Back to our house in the early evening. Around 8:30pm we walked down the hill into La Begude de Mazenc where we had pleasant dinner on the terrace of Le Jabron Hotel/Restaurant.

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Ron, Roland and Adriano at Auberge de Chauliac in the Ardeche
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Tuesday June 24 - Market Day in Vaison-la-Romaine; Welcome Dinner

Up at 7:30am, coffee and fruit out on the terrace in the most beautiful part of the day. It really is a delightful way to start each morning - out on the terrace looking over the valley towards the Rhone.

My brother had some personal business over in L'Isle sur a Sorgue, so we decided to combine that with a visit to the market at Vaison-la-Romaine. I have been to several markets in Provence but the one in Vaison-la-Romaine on Tuesday certainly appears to be the largest.

Vaison-la-Romaine market on Tuesday morning

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqfUG5z6CNY

In the early afternoon, we drove down to L'Isle sur la Sorgue where we stopped for lunch at one of many café/restaurants along the river. I have been to the town a few times in previous visits. I had the impression that it was a small village that only came alive on Sunday, market day. This time we approached the L'Isle sur la Sorgue from a different direction and I was very surprised at the size of the town and how busy it was on a hot Tuesday in late June.

From L'Isle sur la Sorgue we drove over to the area around Robion and Maubec, stopping at Domaine Faverot, a most pleasant looking property surrounded by vineyards, including a cave with oak barrels and a tasting area, and several vacation options with a pool. The owner, Francois Faverot, is perfectly fluent in English, although with a decidedly British accent, thanks to his English mother.

Back to our house by 5:30pm. For dinner we had an unexpected and most enjoyable experience. Our hosts, Ulrike and Andrew, had invited the three of us, along with Jacquie and Kirk, to dinner earlier in the day. We had a memorable evening in a picturesque setting on their stone patio, with excellent food and wine and good conversation. A highlight of my time in the Drome.

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Andrew and Ulrike, our hosts
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Wednesday June 25 - At Home

Very quiet and very hot. The three of us sat on the terrace drinking coffee and reading most of the morning. Early in the afternoon we drove over to Montelimar for Adriano to check on train/bus schedules. He had to return to Canada for a few days before continuing his European sojourn well into August. His plane trip began in Nimes and he had to figure out how to best get there.

From Montelimar we drove over to Dieulefit where we sat at a café each enjoying a pression, as the life of a small French town passed in front of us. We must have made a pathetic sight - three lonely guys sitting outside a bar in France each sipping on a small glass of draft beer.

Grocery shopping for dinner in La Bégude de Mazenc at a Petit Casino - one of a ubiquitous chain of small food stores, that nevertheless include a butcher. Also in the village is a small store, La Petite Jardiniere selling fresh fruits and vegetables. What makes this store notable for me is that the three owners grow as much as their produce as possible at their small farm/greenhouses just outside the village of Le Planas a few kilometers away. Instead of a seasonable fruit and vegetable stand at the side of the road, which is common in Canada, they operate a small store year-round in the village. Smart.

Dinner on the terrace, including fresh salad, barbecued lamb chops cut from a rack by the butcher, delicious Saint-Agur cheese and both white and rosé wines.

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From the garden of our hosts' home
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Thursday June 26 - Nyons/ Grignan; Hamburgers a la Drome

The weather feels a bit cooler today and there is a very refreshing breeze in the air.

After dropping off Adriano in Montelimar at 8:00am and pausing for a café, Ron and I drove over to the Nyons market, arriving before 10:00am. The apparent cooling trend of the early morning had disappeared by the time we arrived in Nyons. It was very hot. We left by noon and drove over to Grignan, where I wanted to check out a few places for a return visit with BW, sometime in the future. We enjoyed a very good lunch in a beautiful setting in the garden of Le Clair de la Plume Hotel. Ron and I didn't linger very long, but with the right companion it would be ideal for a long, leisurely lunch on a warm day.

Back at La Petite Maison by 2:30pm. We had tentative plans for dinner in a nearby village, but we received a much better offer from Kirk and Jacquie to join them for dinner at their apartment, the Sunflower Residence. We were invited for hamburgers and "anything else that you have to eat up before Saturday." Preparing hamburgers presented a bit of a challenge. You don't walk into the local boucherie and ask for a couple of pounds of "lean ground." Instead, Jacquie bought a piece of sirloin and had the butcher grind it up. The patty problem was solved, but the buns were another issue. The local boulangerie doesn't have a package of eight hamburg buns enclosed in a plastic bag sitting on a shelf beside the hot dog buns - there aren't any of those either. Instead, we bought a couple of wide baguettes and sliced them thickly. Another problem solved.

It was still so warm in the early evening that we enjoyed our dinner in air-conditioned comfort in the dining room.

This could have been a very long week with just Ron and I to keep each other company. I feel very fortunate that Kirk and Jacquie are staying here at the same time.

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Jacquie enjoys her own creation - Hamburger a la Drome
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Friday June 27 - Mont Carmel/ Dieulefit market ; Les Elephants

Up at 6:30am and out the door before the heat of the day sets in for a short hike up a flight of medieval stone steps to the top of Chateauneuf de Mazenc; then along a dirt pathway through a forest area; and finally along a paved road up to Mont Carmel, where there is a large wooden cross, a church and a cemetery at the very top of the hill. If I had continued down the hill along the paved road on the other side, I would have come into the village of Souspierre, from where it would have been a long walk back around the base of the hill and a climb back up from La Begude de Mazenc. Instead I retraced my steps (only losing my way a couple of times - not bad, I told myself), and arrived back at the house by 8:30am. I drove into La Begude de Mazenc to get fresh bread and an English paper and enjoyed some time alone on the terrace.

Later in the morning we ventured into Dieulefit for the last time. Ron wanted to search for a couple of pottery places that came up in our discussions with Jacquie and Kirk last evening. Dieulefit has a large, and apparently thriving, number (approximately 60-80) of pottery workshops. The town has been a centre of the pottery trade since ancient times. A lot of the pottery found in the markets throughout the area is likely to have been made in Dieulefit. I never saw anything in any of the stores or markets in my two weeks in the Drome that was made in China. Amazing.

By coincidence, we discovered that Friday morning is market day in Dieulefit. Modest by comparison to the others we had visited in our time in the Drome, the market is mostly confined to one pedestrian street, stretching the from the main road, the D540, that passes through the town to just past the tourist office. It features little in the way of food. Nevertheless, because of his pottery purchases, Ron spent more money at the market in Dieulefit on our last full day in France than at any others.

Shortly after noon we drove around the area, visiting some of the smaller villages and stopping at Cleon d'Andran to make dinner reservations at Les Elephants, a restaurant/pizzeria recommended by our hosts. There is a roundabout beside the restaurant featuring a fountain with three stone elephants in the centre. The fountain and restaurant are making reference to a perhaps dubious historical connection to the African elephants of Hannibal. According to the local version of times past, Hannibal MAY have crossed through the area on his way through southern France before crossing the Alps into Italy - and maybe not. But the elephants remain.

At 7:00pm Jacquie, Kirk, Ron and I entered Les Elephants, fully intending to have a modest pizza dinner. However, when the owner/chef explained the special dishes that he had prepared for that evening our pizza plans were abandoned and we feasted on a large serving bowl of a variety of fishes and a board piled high with beef, chicken, duck and veal. Seldom has so much been consumed by so few. As we looked around the restaurant almost every other table had ordered one or both of the specials.

There was a strong sign that the weather is about to change. While it was still very warm, the winds had increased in force, indicating that a mistral was about to sweep through the area. We have experienced a petit mistral on a couple of our previous trips. Too bad we wouldn't be there on the other side of the mistral. It will likely bring cooler temperatures and a fresh clean smell to the air.

Ulrike and Andrew had earlier invited us to stop by for a farewell drink on their terrace on our return - another very enjoyable time with our most congenial hosts. When I commented to Andrew how impressed I was with their hospitality, he replied, "But, Doug, you are our entertainment. We enjoy meeting and talking to our guests."

Off to bed by 10:30pm, ready for a long day tomorrow.

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Roundabout in Cleon d'Andran
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Saturday June 28 - Return to Canada

Away shortly after 5:00am. Ron dropped me off at the Valence TGV station around 6:00am and continued on to the airport in Lyon for his Lyon-Munich-Toronto-Winnipeg flight home. I had a 2+ hour train ride into CDG, a five-hour wait, a 7 1/2 hour flight back to Montreal and a three-hour drive home from the airport.

The TGV from Valence was the same one BW took a week ago. But whereas her fellow passengers consisted mainly of adults, mine were family groups of mother and father and two or three children. The school system in France was now out for the summer and the French love their holidays. I assumed that most of my fellow passengers were heading off to Paris, via Charles de Gaulle airport. Wrong again. A few minutes from of the airport, the TGV made its only stop, at Marne-la-Vallée - Chessy, and all but two of my fellow passengers in the car got off the train. Of course! They weren't going to Paris. They were going to Euro Disney.

Back to Montreal and a cool, rainy, grey, late Saturday afternoon; a long wait for customs clearance; a lost ticket experience at the Park 'n Fly lot; a wrong turn on the 520 that took me towards, instead of away from, Montreal; arriving home to find that our new HDTV wasn't working.

Welcome home.

Sigh.

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The belfry in Chateauneuf-de-Mazenc
 

Doug Phillips

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Summary / Resources

Summary:

My two weeks in the Drome was a novel experience in a number of ways - the revolving cast of my traveling companions, the variety of landscapes visited, the time spent with our hosts and other guests, as well as staying in a new region and living with one of my brothers again after a gap of over 40 years. Of course, I would have much preferred it if my wife had been able to stay for both weeks. It would have added another week to our shared travel memory bank, but it was not to be. By the end of my two weeks I had a much greater appreciation for the Drome than at the beginning.

On a future visit, we could spend more time over in the Ardeche driving along the gorges, visiting one or more spectacular caverns in the area, and perhaps going over to Le Puy en Velay, as recommended by Kevin Widrow. We could return to the Vercors more than once, perhaps taking along a picnic lunch and hiking up to the Alpine meadows. Maybe even venture across the Rhone into the area north of Valence. Les Hospitaliers in Poet-Laval beckons, as do other other restaurants. There are several markets to revisit and others to be experienced for the first time. Grignan is always worth a visit, especially for lunch in the garden at Le Clair de la Plume. Of course, I should follow up on Linda Jones' advice to spend some time in Buis-les-Baronnies and Brantes, as well as go for lunch at Auberge de la Clue near Plaisins. Linda's suggestions have always been excellent. And some days when we feel like not doing much of anything, we could do that, too.

Would I recommend Drome Provence to others? Yes, with the proviso that they should not expect to find Peter Mayle's Provence. That area is a bit farther south and over some hills in the Luberon. Although the life that Peter Mayle described 20 years ago can be a bit hard to discover among the tour buses in Gordes and the throngs in Roussillon. And it costs a bit more. Life in the Drome is a bit slower; the distances are a bit farther; the villages are quite a bit less busy; and the landscape is a bit flatter. But your money goes a bit farther; tourism is more than just a bit less-developed; other areas of southern France such as the Ardeche and the Vercors are a bit more accessible. And most of the reasons that attract so many of us to the south of France - the quality of life, the good food and wine, the beautiful countryside and landscapes, the positive interactions with the people of the area, are also found in abundance in the Drome. It, too, is a beautiful part of the world.

Would I recommend La Magnanerie as a rental accommodation? Of course. It was a very good place for us to stay. There are three rental options for groups of various sizes, but what makes these properties exceptional are the hosts. Ulrike and Andrew are just friends you haven't met yet.

In addition to the resources listed I would recommend the following book and map:

  • Rhone-Alpes by Philippe Barbour, Cadogan Guides, 2007
  • Michelin Map #332 - Drôme, Vaucluse
Finally, the last heading under Resources is a link to my travel videos on Youtube. Most of the videos are from our time in Drome Provence in June 2008.

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My dog is English. I am French.

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