Subject: South of France - 3
Our first full day in Provence, and we're headed off to Fontaine de Vaucluse. Before walking the path to the source, we hiked up to the ruins of an old chateau, and enjoyed the views of the town and the valley. We kept looking for an area to actually see down to the source from there, but it wasn't visible from the trails. Just us up on this pinnacle - and a lovely spot it is. Back down in the town, we followed the well-touristed track to the source. The rushing river was beautiful - but the source was almost a let-down to me. I was expecting water gushing from the cliff, but, paradoxically for this unending and thriving river, it comes from a quiet, still pool. The secret is that the pool is so deep that it took centuries (and even attempts by Cousteau!) to discover the bottom - the true source. This quiet pool IS the source of the rushing, mighty torrent below - fascinating! On to the Abbey of Senanque, where we, along with several classes of school children, toured the empty rooms. Wonderful bookstore - found some books on Provence, and the Cistercians, in English that I haven't seen in the States. It was getting close to 2:30, when there was a mass, and we couldn't find the small chapel where it would be celebrated. Asked at the bookstore and were directed outside and around back on the right. Glad we found it - a quiet spot, where the 6 monks who live there chanted a 10 minute devotion, then returned to their work. Then to beautiful Roussillon - even more gorgeous in the evening light. The colors in the quarry are fabulous - vibrant hues of every color of ocher - from pale yellow to deep brick red. An interesting remnant of the mining was a huge tower of ocher that looked like a gyro in a Greek sandwich shop - the circular method of retrieving the ocher left a giant-sized shaved multi-hued column. The lovely hues continue through the town - houses of every shade from the quarry. Our shorts , sandals, and feet were also ruddy. That dust didn't want to leave us! Decided to head east to a farm outside of the end-of-the-road village of Sivergue. The few cars ahead on the narrow lane came to a stop - a traffic-jam out here in the middle of nowhere? No, just time to move the sheep to another pasture. The wooly flock, bells jingling, fill the road, and we just have to wait while their shepherd moves them to the next field. We sit in the car and enjoy the tinkling bells and the twilight - we're not in a hurry! We wave as we pass the weathered brown shepherd, crook in his hand. There's a road sign in Sivergues. A big T, indicating that this is the end of the road. But off to the right is a little wooden post pointing down a dirt road to Le Castellet- a farm/ hostel/ restaurant. We had no phone number, so couldn't call ahead, and found that only the goats and sheep were home tonight. The ancient stone farmstead was quiet and empty. We sat on a wall and looked out over the darkening valley, and discussed our dinner options - planning to return another day for a meal. After a while we heard voices - a couple of hikers were spending the night, and were up on the terrace. They told us that the owners had gone for a walk, and were taking the night off. They'd been to the area before, and shared stories of the ancient Waldensian Protestant sect that had settled here centuries ago. After a while Gianni, the owner, and his wife walked up the hill, and we talked with them about coming back another night.