Monday 6th April Tournon-sur-Rhone 45.07337 4.82163.
We left St Etienne this afternoon after a weekend of celebrations. My eldest grandson celebrated his 18th Birthday and my eldest granddaughter celebrated her 15th. All our family and an aunt and uncle came over from England and we stopped the weekend at a boarding school with access to the kitchens and dining room and once we had finished decorating the room we had a superb dining room/dance floor. My French son-in-law is a great guitar player and the birthday boy plays bass, together with the singer and drummer they play regularly with,we had a great band. There were over sixty guests from all over France and England and a great time was had by all. If you told me I would be going to bed at 3.30am after dancing for a couple of hours to a mix of heavy rock and Russian techno I wouldn't have believed you but the challenge was on to outdance my grandson's friends and we nearly did it. Nearly. But those kids had 50yrs on us so it was no disgrace to leave them to it in the wee small hours.
Today we travelled from St Etienne along the D8,D2,D82 and D86 which was a beautiful drive through some lovely countryside. Rising to 1000m where there was still some snow and then down to follow the Rhone to Tournon-sur-Rhone where we are parked up for the night. Our plan for the next few days is to head further south to Provence and then follow the Mediterranean coast around to Italy. We have a couple of weeks before we leave Ancona on the ferry bound for Igoumenitsa. Today has been a beautiful sunny day although the wind is chilly but the forecast is for sunshine for the next week or so and we should be hitting 20deg in a few days time.
No scenic photos today but here's one of the family.
Wednesday 8th April. Banon 44.03980 5.62969.
We stopped here in Banon in August last year and had a delicious meal at a Bistro, Les Vins au Vert and as we were heading this way decided to stop and sample the menu again. The establishment is also a Cave a vins and the proprietor, Pierre Edouard, knows his wines. The plat du jour is served on a large slate and today comprised of truffle flavoured ham, Lyon fennel flavoured saucisse, corn soup, a vegetable flan, sardine pate, two types of goats cheese, pannacota with raspberry coulis, chilled creme anglais flavoured with apricot and pineapple and a mini gingerbread cake, mmmmmm!! We let Pierre choose our wines and he didn't put a foot or a glass wrong. Pierre and his wife remembered us from our last visit and when we got chatting they told us they had sold the Bistro and were looking to buy a vineyard a little further south in Le Luberon. Lovely people and we wish them well in their next venture.
Last night we stopped at Saint-Paul-Tres-Chateaux, just on the edge of the medieval town (44.347512 4.770146) and overlooked by the Alps. We arrived just as the weekly market was packing up but managed to buy a rotisserie'd chicken and then wander around the old town and visited the Cathedrale Notre-Dame which was possibly the smallest Cathedral we've visited but all the more impressive as although it was built in the C12th and C13th it still had some mosaics and frescos from an earlier church and reused some Roman building materials. It was a simple but majestic cathedral with a human scale; a building in which you could pray and worship and, I think, all the better for the absence of the ornate decorations usually seen in the larger cathedrals which I think serve not as a tribute to God but as a reflection of the wealth, power and arrogance of those who commissioned those buildings.
Cathedral Notre Dame.
The plan today was to drive along through the vineyards of the Cote du Rhone and then up and over Mont Ventoux. The first half of the journey went according to plan and we enjoyed some fantastic scenery with the vineyards sloping up to small villages and buildings in a honey coloured stone but as we left Malaucene and started our ascent the signs informed us that the road was ferme. A quick five point turn and we retraced our route before skirting the mountain to the north along the D40. The vineyards gave way to lavender fields and the scenery screamed Provence!! This region is probably our favourite in France, the mountains, rivers and gorges together with the fields of vines and lavender are just so beautiful and the smaller towns and villages beg to be explored. Of course the weather helps and as we've travelled further south over the last few days we've enjoyed blue skies and sunshine. I think tomorrow it might be time to get the shorts out of the wardrobe.
Cote du Rhone vineyards with the Alps in the distance.
Maybe the white stuff on top is why we couldn't go over the mountain today?