Monday, August 7, 2017

Castles, lavender, and a concert in Provence

Way back in November, David bought tickets for a concert at the Théâtre Antique d'Orange. Orange is a small town near Avignon. We decided to make a weekend of it and also do some more sightseeing in the area.

Our first stop was Les Baux-de-Provence. Our GPS liked to pronounce it 'The BOO of Provence' instead of Baux (sounds like bo). That resulted in David learning a new slang word. Now he won't stop calling me his boo hahaha.

It should have been 2 hours away from Cannes, but it ended up being more like 3 after a bad accident caused traffic to completely stop on the highway for 45 minutes. A car flipped over and burst into flames inside a tunnel!!

Thankfully we made it safely to our destination, but things stopped going well the second we got out of the car. It has typically been in the mid to high 80s in Cannes, which is HOT when you don't have air-conditioning. However, that's nothing compared to the 105 degrees we felt when we stepped out the car in Les Baux.

Silly me, I honestly thought it would be cooler in Provence since it's a few hours north of where we live. Nope. I guess we have the sea breeze to thank for keeping it cooler in Cannes.

We still persevered and walked into town from the parking lot. This town has officially been named one of the 'most beautiful villages of France.' The awful weather made it harder to enjoy, but I was still happy to see the quaint little village and amazing views.

View of Les Baux de Provence

It might have been a mistake, but we also paid to go explore the castle ruins. It was definitely impressive but unfortunately we didn't last too long. 

Castle ruins in Les Baux de Provence

The last straw for us was climbing up a tall tower for the view. We never recovered after that and had to start making our way back to the car before we DIED. We bought water bottles at the exit and both finished ours before reaching the car. I honestly don't know how I made it through 8 hour field trips in heat like that during my Jerusalem study abroad days. Probably because back in 2013 I was still in my youth.

View of fields from Les Baux de Provence
                             The view that almost killed us.
After about an hour of happily blasting the AC in the car, we reached Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This town is surrounded by vineyards and is famous for its wine. We weren't really up for more walking, but we did get out to snap a picture of this castle. The Château des Fines Roches is both a winery and a very fancy hotel.

Chateau des Fines Roches in Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Our own, much less cool hotel, was about 10 minutes away. After checking in we headed to Orange to pick up our tickets. With almost 3 hours to kill before the concert, we had one mission: find a restaurant with air-conditioning. 

It was harder than it sounds. The vast majority of restaurants in southern France are open-air. Everyone except for us seems to love eating outside. Even when we finally found a place with an indoor section, several people CHOSE to sit outside on the terrace. Crazies.

Although classical music is not really my thing, I enjoyed the concert of Holst's 'The Planets.' Sitting in an ancient Roman theater made it more exciting for me. They also projected NASA images of space during the show.

Before heading out on Saturday morning, we stopped to see the Triumphal Arch in Orange. This was also built by the Romans during the period of Caesar Augustus!

Arc de Triomphe d'Orange

David had to comment that the French medieval castle in Les Baux was crumbling while the Roman theater and arch that were built 12 centuries earlier are still going strong. I think that's his dad's Italian pride coming out. 

If you read my last post, you know that I've been on a quest to see the lavender fields of Provence. We tried last week in Valensole but we were too late. I scoured the internet and found a town called Sault that has a higher altitude, and therefore has lavender that blooms later in the season.

Sault, France

It was a beautiful hour-long drive in the mountains, and we were rewarded at the end. I finally got to see my lavender. There were swarms of bees but I still managed to get some pictures. And it smelled great! 

La Ferme aux Lavandes in Sault, France

Dancing in the Sault lavender fields

Sault, France

As were were driving, I was convinced at first this was snow on top of the mountain! As we got closer I was proved wrong- it's just dirt.

Mount Ventoux en été

Our next stop was the Abbaye de Sénanque, about an hour south. It is a 12-century abbey surrounded by lavender. It wasn't nearly as in bloom or purple as Sault, but it was still a beautiful setting.

Abbaye de Sénanque in August

Abbaye de Sénanque

Before making our way home we drove through a town called Gordes. If we'd had better weather we probably would have walked around, but it was still nice to get a feel for it and stop for a picture.

View of Gordes

Despite the heat, we both loved our weekend- me for the sightseeing, and David for his concert.

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