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France - Uzes and Forcalquier - May 2014

Pauline

Forums Admin
Leaving Uzes on market day was chaotic. I had to drive through part of the Satuday market! Beautiful day - sunny and hot. We drove to the Luberon. First a quick stop in Goult where we spent 2 weeks in 2004. Saw the house we rented, had a coffee in the cafe. Then we drove to Bonnieux. The area is more beautiful than I remembered.

Had lunch with Kathy and Charley in their lovely apartment, which they rent when the are not there. They took us to a lovely small abbey nearby, then drove us up to a viewpoint where we could see the whole Luberon, that big mountain to the north and the snow covered Alps. Outstanding!

Visited the Pont Julian (on the Via Domitia) on the way out. Arrived at Forcalquier at 5pm. This is certainly not like Uzes! Or the Luberon. Not as pretty, but interesting. There is a fete going on tonite. We will go out to it when I post this.

The apartment is small but has a nice terrace. The wifi is barely there. It works best sitting in the common area beside the horribly fragrant laundry area (I hate synthetic fragrances and these are strong). I could not get my camera connected to my iPad so my photo of the day was of the flowers across from the terrace.

So no photos today.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
The fete in Forcalquier was a midway style area with bumper cars, shoot for prizes, punch for prizes, catch plastic ducks, candy floss - like the state fairs in the US. In the evening, the main square filled with people and at 10pm the fireworks started. They launched them from the church tower. They lasted for 15 minutes and were beautiful. They had background music which started with the 2001 theme (I know, it must have a name), then went to pop music in English that I didn't recognize and on to some opera.

We left as the band and dancing girls got going. Lots of fun.
 

Kathy

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
We enjoyed being part of the day yesterday with Pauline and Steve. We first met almost 10 years ago (in October 2004) when they were staying in Goult and we had come to live in the Luberon for 6-1/2 months. Although we've seen each other in several places in the USA and also in the Cotswolds, it was fun to meet up again here.

Since Pauline isn't able to post any photos from yesterday, I'll share a few:

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We took them down a small farm road to see a house where we housesat for two summers. The new owners have put in a big field of lavender. There's a beautiful view of Bonnieux above the lavender, grapevines and cherry trees.

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We thought they would like the Abbaye St. Hilaire, on an isolated hillside between Lacoste and Menerbes, backing onto a quiet part and beautiful part of the Petit Luberon. It's just a beautiful setting. This is a 12th century abbey, privately owned, restored over 50 years by a family. This is from the front. Now a few photos from the back, first the garden.

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Looking out to the Petit Luberon:

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Then we drove back to Bonnieux and up along the old remparts above the top of the village, then up the western flank of the Petit Luberon. We have a place we like to stop for the views of the valley. Yesterday was so clear! We could see the edge of the Alps to the east, Mont Ventoux to the north, Bonnieux just below, and many other villages this side of the Luberon (Lacoste, Goult, Gordes, St. Saturnin-les-Apt). From the other side of the road we could see the Durance River the Mont St. Victoire.

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Pauline

Forums Admin
Thanks Kathy! I am online now and have a couple more photos.

The cafe in Goult where we stayed in 2004. They have the name displayed FOUR times!!

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Pont Julien near Bonnieux. A Roman bridge on the Via Domitia. The last time we saw it cars were driving over it, but now it is pedestrian only. A lovely little bridge.

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Pauline

Forums Admin
A lazy Sunday and we needed it. We have been taking it slow on this trip (as usual) - short walks, not much driving, easy days - but I still get worn out when traveling. I think it is all the excitement, everything new, planning each day out the night before, trying to remember how to get places.

I have a 24 hour rule for vacation rentals. Always give it 24 hours before you decide if you like the house/apartment and if you like the town. It can be a shock arriving - and as you might have guessed from yesterday's post, I was not happy with the very fragrant laundry products here.

Today the apartment is cosy, not small. The kitchen is functional, not a unusable. The living room furniture comfortable, not odd. The terrace is lovely but is not private. You are about 10 feet from another terrace in the same complex, but the people in that apartment (who were very nice when we talked last night) have checked out.

The laundry smells in the apartment are better because I stripped the bed and used our sheets (as I always do) and aired the comforter out on the terrace. Also whoever was soaking something in the laundry room, has put it away so the laundry soap smell is less overwhelming.

We slept late, then lay on the very comfortable loungers on the terrace (not cheap plastic - but very nice wood with cushions) and enjoyed the quiet and the fresh air. It was warm but not sunny. There were clouds all day.

After lunch we did the tour of Forcalquier, walking around town and up to the Citadel. It is a very interesting town. There is an old/young hippie element which I like. Steve thought it felt more "French" than Uzes. It is not as upscale, but there are a few art galleries. Great views from the Citadel - similar to what we had yesterday with Kathy and Charley. I think I could see the Grand Luberon, the hills above Bonnieux. The Alps are closer. Very beautiful. I look forward to getting out and exploring the area.

Cafe on the main square in Forcalquier.

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Photo of the small lane beside our apartment. Our apartment is on the left, the window with the huge vine blocking the shutters.

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Marta

10+ Posts
I am glad to hear that the rental is better. I'm curious to hear about Forcalquier. It seemed a bit off the normal tourist track. This can have plus and minuses.
 

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
We enjoyed being part of the day yesterday with Pauline and Steve. We first met almost 10 years ago (in October 2004) when they were staying in Goult and we had come to live in the Luberon for 6-1/2 months. Although we've seen each other in several places in the USA and also in the Cotswolds, it was fun to meet up again here. ...
Oh Kathy,
It looks so lovely. I recognize those wonderful views. We must have missed the Abbaye. Mmm now I want to go back to the Luberon in October instead of Uzes or Nimes. Oh, I'm so fickle. Still haven't decided where we'll spend our last 10 days in December.
 
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Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
I hate "fragrant" laundry smells, too. I don't know about travelling with sheets although bedding( sheets AND pillows) are a concern for our 3 month stay in Oxford. I can make do for a week but longer can be trying. When we were in Nice last year, we ended up buying sheets but that was because we laundered the ones in the rental every other day to get the moldy smell out. I find most of the soap in rentals are very smelly so the new sheets may not have been moldy but were too "fragrant." When we moved to another rental, we didn't need to wash our bedding b/c no mold!l
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
When we traveled to Europe from the US, I brought pillow cases and allergy pillow covers. Usually the fragrance is not that strong and a good airing in the sun makes the sheets mostly okay.

But now I bring the pillow covers plus two flat sheets. They all fit into one of those Eagle Creek stuffit bags. I know it is a lot extra to carry, but the laundry fragrances really bug us both and I am always happy to take off the sheets and sleep on our own.

You should see the car when we travel in the UK. I bring our coffee machine, complete bedding, pots for cooking (way too much).
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
What a wonderful day we had! We woke up to sunshine and that lovely cool morning feeling when you know it is going to get much warmer. We went to the Forcalquier market - it is huge! Everything from vegetable, goat cheese, table linens (I think they are cheap made in China stuff, but I could be wrong) and baskets to household things, like a haberdashery (knitting and sewing things), hair brushes, knives, cooking things, hand made furniture - even mattresses!

We got some vegetables, two types of organic goat cheese from Banon (famous area for goat cheese), organic strawberries that are incredible. It was good for people watching too. We had coffee at one of the many outdoor cafes.

Kevin Widrow is a friend from my SlowTrav days. He is American, his wife is French, and they run a wonderful B&B in the Luberon (Le Mas Perreal) north of Apt, in St Saturnin les Apt. We have never stayed there, but we visited them there 10 years ago and have seen Kevin a couple of times since. Kevin helped me write some of the France pages on SlowTrav.

We met Kevin at noon, ready for a hike. We walked north out of Forcalquier towards Les Mourres. It was a steady uphill walk and after an hour we were there. Les Mourres is an area of very odd shaped rocks. The look like a stone circle (like Avebury) made by nature instead of prehistoric man. We had beautiful views towards the Luberon, back to Forcalquier and east to the Durance Valley. We had our lunch there.

We pushed on further, got a bit lost (the signs and trail markers are not as good as in the Gard or, Kevin says, as in the Luberon), but eventually found one of those old stone huts (Cabanon au Clot de Melly).

We came back on the other side of the valley, got a bit lost again but found the trail, and saw the remains of the medieval Forcalquier aqueduct (one small piece was visible showing where it ran underground).

We were out walking for four hours, in beautiful sunshine, but some of that time was dawdling about and having lunch. Still, I feel the hike now!

We ended up at a cafe and I had a Panache, which is a French shandy - half beer, half lemonade (Sprite).

Does anyone remember at the Savannah SlowTrav big GTG that I won 3 nights at Kevin's B&B? I have that coupon still and look at it each year thinking I should use it, but it has never worked out that we are in the area. Kevin now has a gite!! So I am trading in my coupon for a stay in the gite next year!

Only three days left (we leave Friday morning). I think two days exploring by car, and one more walking day. Tomorrow we are going to seek out remains of the Via Domitia which went right through this area.

Photo of Steve and Kevin at Les Mourres.

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Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
When we traveled to Europe from the US, I brought pillow cases and allergy pillow covers. Usually the fragrance is not that strong and a good airing in the sun makes the sheets mostly okay.

But now I bring the pillow covers plus two flat sheets. They all fit into one of those Eagle Creek stuffit bags. I know it is a lot extra to carry, but the laundry fragrances really bug us both and I am always happy to take off the sheets and sleep on our own.

You should see the car when we travel in the UK. I bring our coffee machine, complete bedding, pots for cooking (way too much).

Too funny, Pauline,
We travel with coffee even in France. You can't count on finding a good dark roast for at least several days, filter and small kettle. We've never traveled with bedding but I'm a little concerned about pillow quality as I have a special large very firm one. I'm now considering taking our hypo allergic covers. We are also debating whether to schelp along our stove top espresso makers as we are so addicted to having our morning cuppa this way.
It wouldn't be a problem if we were going directly to Oxfore but we have 10 days before tootling around The Loire and 10 days after as well.

Enjoying your ongoing reports immensely. I'm pretty sure we hiked around Forcalquier our last trip to France. The square looks familiar. We overnighted at Kevin's B&B and he generously loaned us his hiking maps.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
I'm now considering taking our hypo allergic covers. We are also debating whether to schelp along our stove top espresso makers as we are so addicted to having our morning cuppa this way.
I say yes to the hypo allergic covers. These are great barriers to anything that might be lurking in the pillows (I always use them) and are light to carry.

I don't know about the stove top espresso. I used to travel with a good small pot for cooking rice, but have stopped lately and been lucky with how kitchens are equipped. When we traveled in Italy we frequently bought a stove top espresso thing (Moka I think they were called) and ended up having quite a collection at home. Instead I now carry a plastic Melita filter thing and a few filters - Shannon taught me that. Much lighter. I use it all the time when I travel.
 

Chris

500+ Posts
Shannon has converted me to the Melitta filter holder as well. It's easy, lightweight and doesn't take up much space.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Sunny mostly and not as hot today. It gets quite cold at night - colder here than in Uzes, probably because we are higher up.

Morning coffee and croissants from the bakery at a cafe on the main square today, sitting in the sun. Lots of shops are closed today. Maybe they are open Monday, so close Tuesday. Or maybe like Marta said this is the downside to a less touristy place. Although there are a lot of tourists around.

Today we drove to the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Ganagobie. I am using some pages from Dana Facaros' Provence guide that I found doing a google search (I have the book, but it is packed away in New Mexico). I was able to print out the few pages about the Durance Valley (thanks Dana!). She highly recommends this abbey and Kevin also suggested it.

Cadogan says it is open afternoons only. The tourist office information says it is open in the morning until noon, then again in the afternoon. We got there at 11:30 but all the signs said it was only open in the afternoon, so we spent 20 minutes in the excellent gift shop (lots of books in French, and the plants/herbs extract they make - I got a book in French on the Via Domitia and a better looking hiking guide).

Then, as we were checking out, we asked the Monk when the church was open and he said it was open this morning until 12:15. So we hustled up the long path to the church and went in, but all the monks were gathering around and we didn't feel like pushing past them to see the mosaics. But we hung around and they were having one of those short services where they chant (memories of Sant'Antimo in Tuscany). We stayed and listened - lovely. I tried to see the mosaics (at the top of the church, around the alter) in the confusion of everyone leaving but those monks are on top of things and dragged me away explaining that we should go have lunch and come back at 2pm (even though every sign on the property says they open for visitors at 3pm).

The abbey is at the top of a hill on the edge of the River Durance. It is 10 minutes up a narrow, but well paved, winding road. The hill top is more of a plateau - with olive groves, fields of lavender, woods and the abbey (still a working abbey). The church is 11th century and has the original tympanum relief (carvings outside, over the door). Inside there are three color mosaics (red, black, white) on the floors in the area near the alter. The abbey where the monks are is attached to the church (and you don't get to visit that area).

We walked around. There is a beautiful view point from the western side where you see Forcalquier. There is a hike here where you walk on the plateau from the abbey to the village of Ganagobie. The current plan is to go there again tomorrow, do the two hour walk, then visit the church in the afternoon.

Since we were so close to "home" we went home for lunch. Then we drove west, towards the Luberon and the way we came when we arrived, to search out a couple of Via Domitia remains. These are well signed off the main road. One was boring - Borne de Tavernoure - a short stone marker at the side of a road. The other was more interesting - Gue du Reculon - a stone ford across a small river. There is a Roman bridge near Cereste, but we will see that next time. There is also a Roman bridge near the Ganagobie Abbey which we did not find today, but I think I know where it is now.

The main road going west from Forcalquier, once you pass through the village of Mane, gets narrow and is lined with big plane trees. There are a few beautiful stretches.

Today we noticed that someone scratched the front passenger side of the car. I don't think it was us. We would have noticed. Maybe where we are parking now in an area outside the city walls where the parking is a bit messy and someone scratched us as they parked. Now I get to try out our excess coverage insurance.

Photo of the church at Abbey of Notre-Dame de Ganagobie.

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Photo of the view towards Forcalquier.

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Pauline

Forums Admin
Photo of the cafe where we have morning coffee. Again on this trip, we have not had many meals out, but we have not lacked for sitting in the sun drinking coffee. Chris taught me to love Cafe Creme, but I don't usually drink much milk, so have switched to a Noisette - like an Italian Macchiato - with less milk. The coffee has been very good on this trip!

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Pauline

Forums Admin
A quick post since the internet really is hardly working at the apartment today. Hot and sunny! We have had great weather this week.

Today we drove back to the Ganagobie Abbey, first stopping at a small Roman bridge near the abbey, on Via Domitia. This is the last of my Via Domitia things in this area. It is still in use and is a single arch over a small stream.

Back to the abbey to do the 2 hour walk to the village of Ganagobie and back. Half way into it we are descending on a really ugly forest road, so we turned back and instead walked more up on the plateau where the abbey is. There was a trail to the remains of an old village (must look this up - not sure how old). In the end had a nice easy walk.

Went into the church to see the mosaics. 11th century I think. They are fabulous. A story of Evil, then Good and Evil side by side, then Good triumphs!! Yeah! I took some photos and will post later.

In the late afternoon, after the abbey, we drove up to Sisteron. I love the look of the rock up there, but what an odd town. We did not go up to the fort, the main attraction, but walked around the town, looked out at the river and the rock face, then drove home.

After dinner tonight (lovely artichokes and pasta), around 9pm, we walked more around Forcalquier. This is a beautiful town. From a view point towards the Durance Valley we saw a big rainbow over the mountains. And I found a table linen shop. Tomorrow the shop and then a drive out to Banon (Marta likes this town) and Siminone (guessing at the spelling - is this where Jonathan is staying this summer?).

Signing off now because I am choking on the fumes from the laundry soap in this little area that has some sort of internet connection.

One more day. We leave early Friday morning.
 

jonathan

100+ Posts
Yes, Simiane-la-Rotonde. Actually, my place is a little ex-farm cottage a few km to the W of Simiane, just off the D30. But any reports of Simiane itself will be read with interest!

Forcalquier sounds lovely - I'll have to pay it a visit.

(OT: our time in Venice draws close to its end; leaving Sat Eve. Rowing lesson with Nan this morning!)
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Anyone remember that South Park episode where they run out of internet in Colorado so they go out California way, lookin for internet? Well they are out of internet in Forcalquier so we are heading to England early tomorrow. Bringing back brochures for the town I call simon for Jonathan.
 

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