Welcome back to my dive into my travel journal. This post is a continuation of the last post about my trip to the southern part of France which you can read here.
To continue with the tale, we woke up to another very warm day in the Provence with a little road trip planned. On this particular part of our trip, our hosts informed us that we would be going through some water where fancy camera equipment may be unhappy to say the least, so A. and I decided to leave the cameras behind. As a result, you’ll not find many photos in this post.
Mount Ventoux + Les Gorges Du Toulourenc
After two lovely villages, it was time to get out and stretch our legs in some new environments. First on the list was a mountain which is apparently legendary in the cycling world. In order to get there, we loaded into our big rental van and made a drive that lasted over an hour. Luckily, we chanced upon a massive market in a village, the name of which I have sadly forgotten.
Sensing a potential lunch in the area, we parked the van and followed the crowd to the heart of the market. At that point, I was getting used to farmers’ markets in Germany, but this French market still blew my mind. The foods that were being cooked fresh and on-site were astounding (and no, I sadly don’t know what any of them were called). We bought fresh bread for the house, some people grabbed some light meals. I ended up going for bread with some olives as a light lunch that held absolutely no heat on what promised to be another very hot day.
I have no idea which olives we got. I just pointed and did the sign language thing until I had the desired amount of several different mixes of olives. It didn’t matter that I had no idea what I got. These are, to this day, the best olives I have ever had in my life. (If another country would like to step up to the challenge, I’m happy to eat their olives, too!)
Olive fantasies aside, we continued on our journey to the top of Mount Ventoux. To give you a little context, the reason this mountain is so famous is that it has been included in the famous Tour de France bike race multiple times. I think it’s safe to say that cycling enthusiasts the world over would like to cycle up the mountain if they had the chance.
The group I was with for this trip was not exactly in extreme cycling mode, so we simply took our vehicle up. We were lucky to have an incredibly clear day that allowed for incredible views from every direction on the mountain. We had a few snacks, walked around a bit, and watched the cyclists making the final stretch of the ascent. After a while, we loaded up and rode the van back down the mountain.
We found our next destination only a short distance away from where we descended from the mountain. Pulling into a dusty parking lot, we started loading up on water-proof sunscreen, packing our bags with water, and hiding away the few electronic devices that we had brought.
We meandered down a small path to the river and started sloshing through the water, enjoying the coolness after being in a crowded van on a hot day. We followed the river to the gorge where the surroundings were incredibly beautiful. In some areas the water just covered our feet, while in others it was up to our waists. In a couple of places we even had to climb up and down some rather large boulders in the way of the water.
In the end, we arrived at a swimming hole which was smaller and shallower than usual since there had not been much rain recently. Regardless, we took a dip. That is to say, those of us who thought it was not too cold went swimming, and those like myself who are no so inclined to swimming in freezing water just hopped in and out quickly.
When we were tired, we followed the same way back out and loaded up the vehicle to head back to the house.
Fontaine de Vaucluse
For another day trip after our mountain and gorge hike we all ventured to Fontaine de Vaucluse. This small town is in a little valley with stone rising up around the town. A small river runs through town, powering the water wheel of a paper mill, where you can still enter and get an idea of how paper was made in the olden days. The mill is called Moulin à Papier, and also includes a shop full of paper products which should keep someone with deep pockets busy for a while.
Continuing past the paper mill following the stream away from town, the ruins of an ancient castle can be seen up on the rocky outcrop. The castle apparently used to belong to the Bishop of Cavaillon, but today it is more of a scenic element. I would love to have gone up to the castle, but I’m not sure that it’s possible to even do so.
At the end of the path we followed along the river, you come to a hole in the ground. Okay, it’s a spring, and the source of the Sorgue. We were there in low season when there wasn’t quite so much water flowing out. If you arrive when all the snow melt is in the water system, it is apparently quite impressive to see the water welling up from the subterranean depths.
Apart from these small wonders, this little hidden gem of a town also has quite a few shops, souvenir stalls, and restaurants which certainly smelled delicious. We didn’t eat there though, as we were more preoccupied with the thought of ice cream.
The Sorgue pours into the town of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. This was our next destination, and a very beautiful one at that. The water flows through the town in sorts of canals with some water wheels here and there.
We visited some of the shops. One can find many antiques and items from the region here. We bought some more goodies in jars to bring back to Germany and enjoy over the months after our return. After our shopping excursion, we hunted down our friends’ favorite ice cream place: Gourmand L’Isle.
The ice cream at Gourmand L’Isle was not only tasty, but it is also home to the biggest ice cream I’ve ever seen. Two of our friends ordered the biggest ice cream dish they have which probably had at least 20 flavors in it and multiple toppings to boot. If you fervently love ice cream, then put this place on your bucket list!
Concluding with ice cream seems as good a plan as any, so I’ll leave you all with your ice cream dreams now.
Next stop: Marseille.