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Tedgale Photos and Trip info: Rhone delta, Aix en Provence, Uzes in Oct. 09

Tedgale Photos and Trip info: Rhone delta, Aix en Provence, Uzes in Oct. 09

Old Dec 1st, 2009, 04:09 AM
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On this trip, Menton will be base 1 for 5 nights and Lyon base 2 for 5 nights. Instead of hurrying back home, we'll stop in London for 3 nights at the end of the trip.
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Old Dec 1st, 2009, 04:13 AM
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ps-Beautiful pictures!
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Old Dec 1st, 2009, 04:31 AM
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What great pictures, Ted. Love seeing this through your camera.
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Old Dec 1st, 2009, 07:41 AM
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I aspire to be living your life someday, Ted. Thanks for sharing.
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Old Dec 1st, 2009, 11:00 AM
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3. St Victor la Coste: I knew nothing of this village except for having bookmarked a "lead" for a house rental. We found the house was already booked when I inquired -- but the town sounded so interesting that I wanted to see it.

One day we set off, via tiny twisty backroads that led us through a desert of garrigue (scrub) and pitted limestone, to St Victor, NE of Uzes near Tavel.

The town, which is hidden in low hills, is quite typical of the area -- pretty but unremarkable. The great draw is the magnificently situated ruined castle, far far above the village. The paths were not difficult but when I reached the summit, the mistral nearly blew me off the hillside. Doorways and windows act as funnels, so the force of the wind changes markedly as you walk around. My T-shirt was around my chin at one point. I suddenly thought "This is REALLY stupid of me. I should not be here alone." But the views and the atmosphere of the place compensated for any risk and discomfort.

St Victor is somewhat isolated in barren surroundings but within 10 miles there are lots of pretty towns, some of which have fine views east to the Mt Ventoux -- clearly visible on that day.

4. A day trip to N Vaucluse and the Dentelles de Montmirail: This is NE of Uzes and N of the more frequented parts of Vaucluse (the Luberon Valley -- Peter Mayle/ Year in Provence country). Great wine country -- the familiar names are Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Baumes de Venise, Cairanne. Chateauneuf du Pape is nearby. The hill-towns (Gigondas, Seguret) are pretty-pretty; the settlements on the plain are more work-a-day commercial centres. It is not unusual to have to slow down for farm machinery, esp those rolling hoppers of grapes. In Autumn, the smell of fermentation hangs heavy in the air, especially in the vicinity of the local Cave Cooperative.

Last year we stayed for a week in nearby Seguret and feasted at the Table du Comtat, whose dining room looks West, across a fertile plain to the Cevennes and South toward the limestone lacework of the Dentelles de Montmirail.

As I enjoy heights (but not X-treme sports) the Dentelles have been a fascination of mine. They are quite walkable for the reasonably fit and well-shod.

I'm unclear whether the name really comes from "dentelle" (lace) or whether this is a diminutive of "dents" (teeth). Either would be a fair descriptor. The long line of jagged spikes rises straight up out of a wooded hillside and runs for several miles. I have climbed them once but on this very very windy day, good sense prevailed and we merely appreciated their grandeur from below.
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Old Dec 1st, 2009, 03:17 PM
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I was looking for some shots of pretty, chic St Siffret, just outside Uzes. I found this rapportage on a restaurant that has always intrigued me but where I have never dined, L'authentic. Housed in a former school, it stands in the centre of St Siffret. Here is the local-news feature on the restaurant, when it first got into the Guide Michelin. Even if you don't speak French, check out the pictures of the food:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qba8gtX14OI

5. Okay -- with that introduction -- my number 5 on my Top Ten list is the villages around Uzes:
St Siffret, whose charms are extolled above
Le Pont St Julien: A staggeringly beautiful bridge crosses a huge chasm. Often there is only a trickle of water bathing the scrubbed flats of river-stone below. But in the autumn some years ago, this chasm housed a wild torrent that rose to the height of the bridge. Uprooted trees served as battering rams and smashed the upper parts of the bridge. In true French style, the bridge has been restored in luminous golden stone, just as it was. Outside the town, the road climbs sinuously amid limestone hills -- breathtaking.
Collias: To approach Collias from the SW, you pass through an inferno of garrigue and overhanging limestone cliffs -- then swoop down to a narrow early 19th C suspension bridge. Lots of kayakers here ...and assorted holiday-town riffraff.
Castille: Not a town, just a crossroads. The half-completed Chateau was the fantasy of the late 18th C Baron de Rohan, who wanted to build something like the Piazza and colonnade of St Peter's in Rome, here in the Gardois countryside.
Half the pillars of the colonnade are fallen; the work was never completed.
Around 1950, the property (some of whose floors were mere dirt) was purchased by Douglas Cooper, sinister one-eyed ex-Aussie British art collector. It held his peerless collection of Picassos, Braques, Miros, etc. Picasso visited often.
Badly beaten by a rough trick he picked up near Nimes, Cooper was later victimized by burglars (an inside job, apparently) who got away with many of his treasures. Read all about it in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, by his patrician and censorious ex-lover John Richardson.
Aureilhac and Arpaillargues: discussed above. Tiny and atmospheric. Beautiful too are the long, long plane-tree avenues that line the roads around these villages. Only a few are double avenues -- as elsewhere in France, one side of the avenue has generally been axed, when the road was widened.
Montaren: If you are looking for an "Hypermarche" (big-box food store) you will likely be directed to Montaren. Beyond the store (which is great, BTW) is a charming village in the familiar golden stone. A glitzy renovation is being performed on the local chateau -- the locals contend it is being made way too flashy. The rest of the village is sleepy but full of nice architectural elements.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2009, 11:42 AM
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6. Cassis and the Route des Cretes: We descended from Aix to the vicinity of Cassis in about 30 minutes on the motorway. The scenery is splendid as you slice through the mountains.

It was Sunday when we visited Cassis and we were prepared for weekend crowds on this brilliantly sunny day. Crowds there were, so finding parking was a ghastly, gruelling experience. Eventually we found a spot in a residential area high above the harbour.

Cassis is not architecturally amazing -- it is a wealthy, clean, "tasteful" community, mostly of lowrise modern buildings. But the crescent of the harbour, with an ancient fort or chateau standing guard above, is a lively scene. The harbour front is wall to wall restaurants and bars. We wandered at length and compared the charms of each; finally we settled for a small crepe place called Huit et Demi. Brilliant choice! We each started with a huge and generous salad, to be followed by buckwheat crepes -- mine was a medley of seafood.

After lunch, drowsy from the sun and wine, we headed by a corniche road to the "Cretes" -- the wild rocky hillsides, jutting headlands and deep ravines east of the town, in the direction of Toulon. This is one of my favourite spots in all France. You can park all along the route and wander over to a cliff-edge that drops a sheer 400 - 500 feet to the sea.

In the distance, you can see the calanques -- limestone fingers that define a series of fjords. They are arrayed one headland behind another (I imagine you can see to Marseilles on a clear day). The effect is very like a Japanese woodcut, with the headlands growing steadily paler and mistier toward the horizon.

There are crowds but they are not obnoxious; I think everyone is rather struck dumb by the majesty of the place.

There are climbers, though -- it was quite weird to see 2 middle aged guys, one poised 20 feet above the other on the sheer golden cliff-face, no rope, millimetres away from oblivion. They were resting, I guess -- just holding onto their handholds and chatting back and forth. Lots of shots of this site on my FB album above.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2009, 12:01 PM
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Nice!
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Old Dec 3rd, 2009, 01:03 PM
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I liked Cassis better than St Tropez.
In Cassis I tasted my first sea urchin out of its thorny
"shell?" I love driving on the Corniche and i like your description of the calanques.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2009, 03:32 PM
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As they say in Provencal:
"Qu'a vist Paris, et noun Cassis, n'a ren vist"

"Whoever has seen Paris but not Cassis has seen nothing"
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Old Dec 5th, 2009, 06:41 PM
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7. A day trip to the Drome: In a minute, I will outline an attractive itinerary in the southern Drome but first I will explain our association with the region.

We have often stayed in this region -- first at a now-closed B&B, Les Hautes Tours near Marsanne, later at at a fine B&B, La Roche Colombe, about 20 miles E of Montelimar.

The appeal: great visual beauty -- rich agricultural plains backed by mountains; almost no tourists in evidence; good provencal food and local wines; smooth, open roads, unclogged by cars (though with the occasional lumbering farm vehicle); the brightest sun and the clearest air in the south.

The owners of La Roche Colombe have become friends. They recently converted all their space to spacious, well furnished rental gites, so they do not need to do breakfasts and dinners. The view alone is a reason (and it's certainly not the only reason) for staying there. Check out the website, if you ever think of staying in this area. Here is the link:

http://www.larochecolombe.com/

On my birthday, I decided I wanted to have lunch at a restaurant near La Roche Colombe. We drove from Uzes for the day. Did not warn our friends in advance (we had seen them in Uzes 2 days before). Turned out they were not at home. Not a problem though, as we had lots to see and do in the region.

On our way up: We got off the motorway around Bollene and made our way by small roads thereafter: passing by Allan (with its huge ruined chateau above the village) and La Begude de Mazenc (nearby is a wonderfully chic "perched village", Chateauneuf de Mazenc.

The area where La Roche Colombe is located is a broad, verdant plain, totally flat, at the distant edges of which dramatic mountains spring up (to the S, E and N).

To visit:

Marsanne, Cleon d'Andran (I just love the name), Pont de Barret

Saou, huddled between two pillars of rock -- you imagine this provencal Scylla and Charybis will spring together, to crush whatever passes between them.

Bourdeaux, whose humdrum village centre sits beneath an ancient hillside community that is slowly being restored into drop-dead smart houses for rich expats (I assume). The local name for a hill town, I learned, is "viale", which this definitely is.

A few miles on you can take a twisty side road up to Comps, where there is a perfect Romanesque church (several photos in my album) unlocked and accessible to visitors. You may be studied by a herd of cows in the adjacent field -- or be tracked, as we were, by 2 rather scary dogs from the same farm. The view of smooth green hills goes for miles ...and you are alone, quite alone (except for the cows etc)

You descend toward Dieulefit and, nearby, Le Poet-Laval, one of the most picturesque of local hill villages. This was a former centre of the Knights Templar (hence the name of the celebrated hotel and restaurant, Les Hospitaliers). The village, surmounted by a stone tower, has its share of picturesque ruined buildings -- though these are so well preserved, signposted and landscaped as to be more like follies on a gentleman's estate.

There are lots more places to see in the vicinity, so this is just a tiny sampler.
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Old Dec 5th, 2009, 06:46 PM
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We love Les Hospitaliers with a great view and a superb truffle salad (my first)
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Old Dec 5th, 2009, 11:19 PM
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You describe things with intensity and precision, tedgale; your reports are always a pleasure to read.

We did get as far north as Dieulefit on a day trip from Nyons, but we hardly did it justice.

Anselm
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Old Dec 6th, 2009, 03:12 AM
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Here is a link to a Facebook album from 2008, showing Poet Laval, Nyons and La Roche Colombe. (Hope this link still works -- with older Facebook albums, people have sometimes reported they get a message "This link has expired")

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?ai...5&l=fae914dc09
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Old Dec 6th, 2009, 06:37 AM
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Meandering through the French countryside is a fantasy I nurtured for the twenty or so years that I couldn't travel much, and reading about it is a great pleasure now, even though I have had the opportunity to do some of it myself in recent years.

Thank you.
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Old Dec 6th, 2009, 06:57 AM
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Link worked for me. More, please!
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Old Dec 6th, 2009, 07:49 AM
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Worked for me, too. We also climbed up to that frothy chapel at the top of old Nyons.
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Old Dec 6th, 2009, 02:04 PM
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Nice photos, tedgale, and of course I am partial to anything about Le Poët-Laval.

What was the difficult and dangerous road?
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Old Dec 6th, 2009, 03:14 PM
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The tricky road is north of Ales, which is north of Uzes. You wind through river valleys, which means a lot of changes of altitude and a generally snake-y course. I've done worse. However you do need to keep your wits about you -- especially when the other vehicles are huge trucks carrying a bunch of 40 foot logs.
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Old Dec 9th, 2009, 06:50 PM
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Tedgale: Le Poet-Laval looks a bit like La Couvertoirade to me. Have you been there? It is in the Aveyron, just southwest of the Cevenne National Park. We went many years ago with friends who lived in Logrian-Florian, and it was an uninhabited village, restored, but empty, or almost so, a walled village, as I recall. Hauntingly beautiful.

Your photos were marvelous.
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