Just in case anyone is thinking we were harsh in our judgement of the town of Beaucaire yesterday, today the owner of the place we’re staying in now was very dismissive. When we told him we had come from Beaucaire his mouth gave the sort of distasteful look of someone who knows his awful towns like so much foulness. It would be like if someone told me they had come from Aldershot. Or Blacktown. Or…well, I’m sure it’s obvious.
Fortunately our exit from Domaine de Clos did not require us to go too close to Beaucaire. We drove towards then away from it with great delight. Possibly too much delight though we did get a whiff of something decidedly unpleasant as we drove through the final roundabout.
It made us realise that while we always leave something to see for when we return, Beaucaire has nothing to entice our return. And that is even with the wonderful meal we had courtesy of Madame Cecile! Sadly, some things just go beyond good cuisine.
Anyway, skirting Beaucaire, we headed for Luberon, a small area of France characterised by a tiny mountain range covered in cedars. The fact that it is under two hours drive from where we were meant we drove really slowly and had a stop off which Mirinda suggested this morning. It was the almost deserted village of Oppède Le Vieux.
What an extraordinary place.
It was once a thriving little village with a massive threshing floor established sometime in the 12th century, but then, for reasons that seemed to be connected with the long shadows, dampness and humidity of the summer months, the inhabitants decided to leave to set up in the corresponding village of Oppède down in the flatlands of the valley. You see Oppède Le Vieux sits on the rock face of a mountain. It clings like a cicada on a tree branch. It defies gravity and all known sense.
Because of this, the place is now almost a ghost town with just a few people living there and lots of tourists visiting. Including us. The tiny population possibly explains why we had a 45 minute wait for lunch (we didn’t) and a 30 minute wait for a drink (we did). Both eating/drinking establishments in the village seemed to have one person doing everything in them which explains a lot.
Not that we were particularly bothered. it was just lovely sitting and watching everyone else get short tempered and angry.
To get the village in the first place, there is a compulsory parking area. From there it’s a bit of a hike up to the village. Once there you realise that while you have to park your car at the bottom, the only way out of the village is by driving through the middle of it anyway. I guess it makes some sort of sense. At least the narrow roads are one way.
It was a long, steep haul up to the top of the village but you really have to do it. At the top there’s a ruined chateau which, sadly, you can’t go into (because of its ruinous condition) but there is the loveliest little church. It is still an operational church and really quite a delight…though I’m really not sure of the congregation size given how difficult it is to reach. Still, it looks lovely.
Unusually for churches, this one still retains a lot of the frescoes on the walls (yes, churches weren’t always boring on the inside) mostly consisting of patterns and many colours. It really brightens the place up and makes it feel warm and friendly. Though, to be fair, the little lady sitting at the desk welcoming everyone was also very warm and friendly.
The village really was a lovely little place and an excellent way to eat up the few hours we had before checking in at our next accommodation. In fact, we were so taken with the car park at Oppède Le Vieux that we ate our lunch there.
It was the remnants of our market day purchases at St Remy (sausage, cheese, olives, avocado) eaten off paper plates while sitting in Celine with her top off but we thoroughly enjoyed it. Okay, the cheese was a bit sweaty from having been in the boot for a bit but hey, that just makes it creamier if you ask me. And I know cheese.
Eventually, though, we had to leave the car park and continue on our way off the hill and onto the next one. The rest of the trip should not have taken very long except Linda did not allow for the numerous cyclists and one incredibly bad driver. He drove at less than 20kph and kept wandering all over the road in front of us. And this is on a road that is barely wide enough for two cars as it is.
We managed to accumulate quite a few irate drivers behind us as we all twisted and turned and drove through the foothills of the Luberon. It would have been quite scenic if it hadn’t been so annoying. Eventually he pulled over (sort of) and let everyone go by. I looked as we passed and I think he was about ready to shuffle off and go join the invisible choir. I could be wrong but at least he had the sense to stop first. Regardless.
And so, free from the shackles of this strange little old man, we headed up and over Bonnieux and started heading down to our next bed. The only thing was that the bed was situated at the end of a very long, dirt and rutted driveway only wide enough for three quarters of a car. It was not fun driving down it but Mirinda managed very well and eventually we were welcomed by our host for the next few days.
After the full on guided tour (which included finding out all manner of things about our host) Mirinda wasted little time in getting into her swimmers and taking in the Infinity Pool, ably watched over by Niagara the dog.
And it’s a little slice of heaven this place. Perched inside a vineyard (eating not wine grapes) and surrounded by an orchard of its own, it is ridiculously quiet and isolated and…well, just perfect.
Then, as if the day couldn’t get any better, we went to dinner in nearby Goult, at La Terrasse. What a superb meal. The tempura prawns and gazpacho soup was incredible. And the wine…but I must not go on.
Tomorrow we shall explore the area a bit but in the meantime, here’s a pretty bad video of Oppède Le Vieux.
And I feel I really should finish with this wine. We had it with dinner and it was well and truly delicious.