Saturday, October 21, 2017

Ahhh ... Provence

Pt 1 - The Summer Trip  see here    
Pt 2 - The Summer Trip  see here
Pt 3 - The Summer Trip  see here

Pt 4 - The Summer Trip, on into June

You may recognize this trip as my hardy perennial Lavender Provence tour, with a few changes. One of the co-leaders, Lisa has retired, and Beth has now partnered with her husband Guille (roughly pronounced Gee-Zhay, with a hard G like Go). They label the tours Lavender & Vine. I'm attending the 10-day first session, and will travel immediately afterward to Paris to a college-sponsored tour led by my French teacher for another eight days. In 2018, Lavender and Vine will present the 10-day lavender tour, followed by two 8-day sessions "to paint the beautiful sites" (art work, not home improvement).

But back to this year, and the official start day, which begins a bit hectic, as would any tour involving 10 people arriving at different times in planes, trains and automobiles from various points in the US and/or earlier arrival in France, to a small town in France. I wake up early(ish), as directed, and, after breakfast, park myself in the chair in the lobby, looking through the familiar étagère into the dining room while awaiting my ride. It's turning into a jumble in my mind. Beth delivers me to the villa in Ste Cécile and later I go with her to the train station in Avignon to collect Willi, my friend from French class who has come here too before we both go on the next half of the journey.

Meanwhile, Guille is also ferrying new arrivals from the Marseille airport and the Avignon TGV station. Two couples who know each other arrive, as do a pair of sisters, traveling with huge suitcases and wardrobes worthy of a grand cruise. Beth shuttles as well, between forays for me and Willi. We are ten with our leaders, just two cars full for our daily touring.  We stroll into downtown Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes that evening for a scrumptious Italian meal. (When asked about my favorite French food, I always answer "Italian," thinking of l'Angelus here.)

Sunday morning I open my eyes to the glorious view out my bedroom window. I've stayed in this room several times. It's not completely en suite -- the shared toilet is in a room off the hall. My room has a shower and wash basin, a cabinet, rather than a dresser, and a weird closet. But it has my favorite view out the window, the quintessential cypress, a symbol of Provence in my heart.

There's the big building that glows yellow in the morning sun (is it the school? On weekdays I hear the shouts  and squeals of children playing in a schoolyard).

A church steeple joins with three cypresses, like spires midst the mass of shorter trees.

I'm sitting out this day's itinerary while the rest of the group goes to market in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. L'Isle is known world-wide for its enormous market. The Sorgue river creates an island, bordered and criss-crossed with narrow roads which are lined with market stalls. Many upscale shops on the island are also open. Music fills the air and lookers and buyers cram the streets. Many stock up on the week's supply of fruits and veggies and salamis and sausages and fish and meats. Locals and tourists buy gifts for families left at home: lavender soaps, hand towels, jewelry, scarves, every manner of clothing, souveniers. There are barkers hawking the handy kitchen gadget that will make your life easier, or allow tying of scarves in fantastic arrangements, or selling their latest CDs. There are flowers. There are cafés that expand out of the buildings to platforms across the narrow road and along the river, serving espresso and beer and Perrier and Orangina until lunchtime when they convert to lunch service. There's a carousel and a park, and a lavender vendor who will also sell you salt from Timbuktu (Toumbouctou). (Yes, really. And it's iodized, even though it's not harvested from the ocean.) There's the big water wheel by the park, and another one farther around the bend. There's paella steaming toward readiness from an early boil since the morning, and shoes of every sort for sale.

L'Isle market is also the home of a flea market and used book market and antique market, as well as a number of brick and mortar antique stores across the busy street outside the island.

There's a plaza in front of the prominent church mid-island, jammed with vendors of veggies and spices, and pottery and baskets, in every color and size for market shopping and toting extra purchases home on the plane.

And at 1:30 or thereabouts, a clatter of metal pipes begins, there's a rumble of engines as the vendors thread a parade of white trucks from a parking spot somewhere else through the crowds along the streets to their stalls again to pick up their repacked merchandise, the struts and awnings of the disassembled stalls, their electric cords and barriers and clothing racks and when the trucks are filled, they must back out along the same narrow streets, through the same oblivious crowds, mostly in the same order they all drove in.

Tomorrow they will do all this somewhere else. And the day after.

I love the market here. It's a beautiful spot as well. I've been here many times. But today, I have nothing I want to buy. I'd rather not face heat and crowds today. I'd rather sit back in the shade ... although I will miss having a fabulous Café Liégeois at La Bellevue, cooled by the breezes off the little waterfalls that drop off the basin into the river in two (or maybe more) directions.

But here, under the tree, back at the villa, I can pretty much visualize how my fellow travelers' day is proceeding.

There is a stroll, early this evening, into Sainte-Cécile. I've walked past this building without particularly noticing it many times, but this time the light is shining on its stone walls, emphasizing the color in its stones and its angles and I must take its picture. I'm a fan girl of old stone walls. I wonder whether this building is still in use.

The small sign posted above the spigot proclaims that this is potable water. I'm tempted, but have never stopped to try it.  My understanding of the other writing on the wall is that it is forbidden to post notices here. That's not what Google Translate says. Nevertheless I believe that's what it means.

I'm well-rested when I go to bed after my day of leisure, and ready for lavender fields tomorrow.


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