April 25, 2018 Chateauneuf du Pape FR

The plan for today was to visit Roussillon which is another one of the most beautiful villages in France, but we also had to find a place to dump our tanks, add water, and we needed to get some propane.  Depending on when we had accomplished all of those things we would decide on the next step for the day.

We were up bright and early, so we headed over to Roussillon and were amongst the first arrivals of the day.  Roussillon is famous in France for it’s red earth.  It is another pretty village and very upscale, in fact Bradjelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) had their French house here.  It was once again nice and worth a visit, but frankly the most interesting thing was watching a truck driver maneuver a large delivery truck down a street with literally inches to spare on each side while shop keepers were pulling in awnings, and moving flower pots out of the way.  French truck drivers really earn their living here on these narrow streets and roads.

The buildings in Roussillon all have this red tint to them from the surrounding earth.  

We have been trying to visit an olive oil factory for about a week and thought we had found one on the way out of Rousillon.  After Ron and the GPS had several arguements about the best way we finally arrived at an olive oil factory quite near to where we spent the night.  It was one of our disappointments of the trip.  The staff was not very helpful, and the promised tour did not exist, so after a short walk thru we were out to François and deciding on our next step.

During the drive we passed thru a nice canyon between Gordes and Orange.

Ron found a winery in the Chateauneuf du Pape area that was a French Passion site, and we decided to see if we could stay there.  French Passion sites are provided with our rental, and are wineries and farms throughout France that let you stay on their property for “free” if you are a member.  The catch is that you are highly encouraged to sample their product.  In the case of our stay tonight for roughly the cost of a normal campground we purchased two very nice bottles of wine, and got to enjoy a beautiful warm  evening on a very peaceful winery in Provence.  It is worth every penny.

Some of the vineyard at Chateau Cabrieres.  If you look carefully you will see the incredible amount of stones in the vineyards.  This apparently is what makes Chateauneuf du Pape wines famous.

April 24, 2018 Gordes FR

Today we headed towards another one of the most beautiful villages in France.  Gordes is considered a must see stop in Provence by most of the travel writers.  

After an uneventful drive including a stop at a grocery store to replenish some critical items, and wine.  We headed up to Gordes.  As advertised it is quite striking, but has definitely been discovered by the rich and famous.  A lot of the old farm houses have undergone renovation to make them appropriately comfortable for the well off.  Ron was looking at a listing of homes for sale, and they were running 1.2 to 2.5 million Euro.  As we walked into town we passed a beautiful 5 star hotel that we later checked  and found out rooms could be had for around $500 per night.  

The view of Gordes as you approach on the main road.  The white umbrellas are the $500 per night hotel.

Having said that I can see why people are willing to spend that kind of money for Gordes. It really is striking and the town has an old world feel that is pretty magical.  We arrived just as the weekly market was packing up for the day.  We really enjoyed poking around town, and the views were worth the walk.  At the end we ducked into a coffee shop for a beer and a coffee and sat on a balcony about 100 feet above a gorge. We were really enjoying it until a couple of groups sat down next to us and about 5 people simultaneously lit up cigarettes.  There is a lot I like about the culture here and one of them is the abundance of outside dining, unfortunately smoking is still allowed in the outside dining, so Ton and I normally find ourselves inside to avoid the smoke.

A sample of the “roads” in Gordes.

We walked back to François for the night and enjoyed our free aire.  Tonight our neighbors are mostly British, and we had a nice conversation with a couple from Birmingham.  

Ton really liked these stone fences with the tops of stones set on end.  This one was near our aire for the night.

April 23, 2018 Saintes Marie de la Mer FR

Today was about Flamingos.  After some muddling about in the morning and doing some laundry we were off to the Camargue which is a large delta where the Rhone River empties into the Mediterranean.  It is a famous bird sanctuary.

There is an ornithological park as you drive into the delta, and we decided to stop and take a look not knowing what to expect.  It turned out to be a great walk where we were surrounded by many different kinds of birds but the star attraction for the average Joe (or Pierre) were the flamingo’s.  There were hundreds of them on display.  Ton wore her battery out shooting pictures of them.

The bodies are slightly pink, but the wings are quite striking as this bird is showing.  These are Rose Flamingo’s native to Africa, and Europe.

It was a really nice walk and in addition to the flamingos there were a lot of Heron’s.  In fact the serious photographers with the long lenses were ignoring the flamingos and shooting the Herons.  There must of been something significant over there, but we did not figure it out.

All of the serious photographers were concentrated around this area, we are not sure what the attraction was.

After a couple of hours of exploring and pictures we headed down the road to the sea to visit the town of Saintes Maries de la Mer.  Driving in it did not make much of an impression on us.  But when we pulled into the aire we figured there must be something  to the town as there were easily 70 or 80 RV’s in the aire.  We took a walk and it was a seaside resort, not a particularly fancy one, but pleasant.  We decided that we would have dinner tonight to compare French seafood with Spanish.  Spanish won.

The Mediterranean is apparently warm even in April, as the water was full of kids playing.

April 22, 2018 St. Remy de Provence FR

We decided to shift a little south to another part of Provence.  The town of St. Remy de Provence was highly recommended to us, so here we are.

St. Remy turned out to be a very nice but touristy town.  But it did have an interesting walk themed around Van Gogh.  He spent a year here in a sanitarium trying to clear his head, and did some really nice painting.  The walk had you follow a road out of town to the sanitarium where he stayed and periodically showed you sites where Van Gogh had painted pictures.  It was quite fascinating and at several of the stops you could really see quite clearly the setting he used.

We think this is the setting for this picture.

At the end of the road was the sanitarium where he stayed, and it is still functioning as a sanitarium today having been founded around 1200 AD.  The room where Van Gogh stayed is on display, as are the gardens that inspired some of his paintings.  We really enjoyed ourselves and found the place fascinating.  

Van Gogh’s room in the sanitarium.

On the way back we stopped at the ruins of the Roman settlement of Glanum. We poked around a bit and saw the Arch of Triumph, but decided to pass on visiting the Roman ruins.

Part of the Roman Arc, the Arc itself is a slightly more worn version of the one in Orange yesterday.

As we passed thru town we decided that this one of the more upscale towns we had been in, and it reflected in the price of the restaurants.  So we decided to postpone our Provence meal, and headed back to François for a very late lunch, and a siesta.

April 21, 2018 Orange FR

We had an adventure today that we did not at all anticipate.  Our plan was to shift about 40km’s from Pont du Gard to Orange to visit the Roman Theater in Orange.  Enroute we were going to stop at a Carrefour to get some gas.  Actually sounds like one of our easier days from a travel point of view.   

We were rolling along on nice wide roads when we came into a little village.  The roads were kind of narrow but we were used to the roads narrowing going into little villages. Then Ron missed a turn, the GPS reprogrammed and the roads were narrow but one way so Ron decided to follow the reprogram, and then we came to a point where the GPS wanted us to turn down a walkway…big problem.  Ron parked and since we had come down a series of one way roads we could just not turn around and go back the way we had come.  Ron on foot followed the one way road thru the village for 2 or 3 hundred yards and it looked doable, so back to François.  Ton backed Ron down the road for the 20 or so yards to the turn, and just as we were getting ready to head down the road a fellow jumped in front of us and in rapid fire French told us that the GPS was wrong and we could not go that way.  There was only one way out and he would show us, or words to that effect.  Just as he was turning us around in very tight quarters another car came up behind us, and we managed to let him squeeze past, but rather than carry on he got out and began to help us turn around and get pointed in the right direction also.  Ron was responding to commands of droit (right) and gauche(left), and a lot of vezzies (afterwards Ton and I decided it was the French version of come on, or keep going), we got turned around passing within inches of several parked cars, and liberally using the sidewalk (all two feet of it) when necessary.   We got pointed at an opening that was maybe four inches wider than Françoise with both mirrors folded in.  The two guys gave me a resounding Voila!, and a thumbs up.  We squeezed down the alley, and popped back out on our nice wide main road.  We shouted some Merci beaucoups (thanks much) at them as they were walking away, but without them our day may have been really a mess, so to the two anonymous French gentlemen, merci beaucoup.

This is about the width of the road we were squeezing François down.

We arrived at Orange 20 minutes later, and visited Carrefour which is turning into Ton’s favorite grocery in France.  Stocked up with food for a few days we were going to get fuel, but it looked like a tight fit and Ron was a little skittish so fuel is tomorrow.

We finally made it to the Roman theater in Orange and it was really interesting and beautiful. It was built in the 1st century AD, and is incredibly huge for that era.  The grounds will hold 10,000 people, and the theater wall behind behind the stage is over 100 feet tall.  The scale is hard to describe and Ton had a tough time capturing it on film.  We followed the audio guide throughout and it was fascinating.  The theater is still used today for concerts and performances.  The facade of the theater is also grandiose but it is undergoing renovation and we did not get a look at it.

The wall at the back of the stage of the Theater in Orange, it was one of the few walls that have survived from ancient Roman theaters.
The seating area of the theater.  It holds over 10,000.

After the theater we passed by the ancient Arc de Triumph of Orange.  This Arch was built by veterans of Cesar Augustus legions who settled in Orange after they completed their service.  It is to honor veterans of the Gallic Wars around 24 AD.  We had actually passed it as it is in a roundabout on the main road in town on the way to the campground.  But this time we were on foot and had time to take some pictures.

The Arc de Triomphe of Orange, built by the legionaries of Cesar Augustus.

April 20, 2018 Pont du Gard FR

Today we needed to get serious about going east.  Our plan for the past few days has been to head to Provence, but we never quite got ourselves going that way.  So today we abandoned our backcountry roads and jumped on the motorway for almost 200km’s to get to Pont du Gard.

This site is one of the most famous Roman sites in France, and features on a lot of travel sites advertising France. We decided that this would be a good place to begin our visit of Provence and southeast France.   

We arrived in the early afternoon and it was unseasonably warm with temperatures in the high 70’s low 80’s.  After a nice lunch Ton declared it was siesta time and Pont du Gard could wait.

Around 4 pm we wandered down to see the site.  Pont du Gard is a three tier aqueduct that was built around  19BC.  It stands over 160ft high above the river Gardon and was used to supply the city of Nimes.  The aqueduct that the Pont du Gard supported was over 30 miles long.

The aqueduct at Point du Gard.

It is quite an impressive structure and very beautiful.  The French are certainly much more laid back about managing historical things like this, and the atmosphere was more relaxed and informal than we are used to.  People were swimming under the bridge picnicking on the grounds around it, there was not a policeman or ranger in site to keep order.  

We walked back in the evening to get some more shots as Ton thought the sunset would be pretty there.  She was right!
Sunset.

April 25, 2018 Chateau Neuf du Pape FR

The plan for today was to visit Roussillon which is another one of the most beautiful villages in France, but we also had to find a place to dump our tanks, add water, and we needed to get some propane.  Depending on when we had accomplished all of those things we would decide on the next step for the day.

We were up bright and early, so we headed over to Roussillon and were amongst the first arrivals of the day.  Rousillon is famous in France for it’s red earth.  It is another pretty village and very upscale, in fact Bradjelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) had their French house here.  It was once again nice and worth a visit, but frankly the most interesting thing was watching a truck driver maneuver a large delivery truck down a street with literally inches to spare on each side while shop keepers were pulling in awnings, and moving flower pots out of the way.  French truck drivers really earn their living here on these narrow streets and roads.

The buildings in Rousillon all have this red tint to them from the surrounding earth.  

We have been trying to visit an olive oil factory for about a week and thought we had found one on the way out of Rousillon.  After Ron and the GPS had several arguments about the best way we finally arrived at an olive oil factory quite near to where we spent the night.  It was one of our disappointments of the trip.  The staff was not very helpful, and the promised tour did not exist, so after a short walk thru we were out to François and deciding on our next step.

During the drive we passed thru a nice canyon between Gordes and Orange.

Ron found a winery in the Chateauneuf du Pape area that was a French Passion site, and we decided to see if we could stay there.  French Passion sites are provided with our rental, and are wineries and farms throughout France that let you stay on their property for “free” if you are a member.  The catch is that you are highly encouraged to sample their product.  In the case of our stay tonight for roughly the cost of a normal campground we purchased two very nice bottles of wine, and got to enjoy a beautiful warm  evening on a very peaceful winery in Provence.  It is worth every penny.

Some of the vineyard at Chateau Cabrieres.  If you look carefully you will see the incredible amount of stones in the vineyards.  This apparently is what makes Chateauneuf du Pape wines famous.

April 24, 2018 Gordes FR

Today we headed towards another one of the most beautiful villages in France.  Gordes is considered a must see stop in Provence by most of the travel writers.  

After an uneventful drive including a stop at a grocery store to replenish some critical items, and wine.  We headed up to Gordes.  As advertised it is quite striking, but has definitely been discovered by the rich and famous.  A lot of the old farm houses have undergone renovation to make them appropriately comfortable for the well off.  Ron was looking at a listing of homes for sale, and they were running 1.2 to 2.5 million Euro.  As we walked into town we passed a beautiful 5 star hotel that we later checked  and found out rooms could be had for around $500 per night.  

The view of Gordes as you approach on the main road.  The white umbrellas are the $500 per night hotel

Having said that I can see why people are willing to spend that kind of money for Gordes. It really is striking and the town has an old world feel that is pretty magical.  We arrived just as the weekly market was packing up for the day.  We really enjoyed poking around town, and the views were worth the walk.  At the end we ducked into a coffee shop for a beer and a coffee and sat on a balcony about 100 feet above a gorge. We were really enjoying it until a couple of groups sat down next to us and about 5 people simultaneously lit up cigarettes.  There is a lot I like about the culture here and one of them is the abundance of outside dining, unfortunately smoking is still allowed in the outside dining, so Ton and I normally find ourselves inside to avoid the smoke.

A sample of the “roads” in Gordes.

We walked back to François for the night and enjoyed our free aire.  Tonight our neighbors are mostly British, and we had a nice conversation with a couple from Birmingham.  

Ton really liked these stone fences with the tops of stones set on end.  This one was near our aire for the night.

April 23, 2018 Saintes Marie de la Mer FR

Today was about Flamingos.  After some muddling about in the morning and doing some laundry we were off to the Camargue which is a large delta where the Rhone River empties into the Mediterranean.  It is a famous bird sanctuary.

There is an ornithological park as you drive into the delta, and we decided to stop and take a look not knowing what to expect.  It turned out to be a great walk where we were surrounded by many different kinds of birds but the star attraction for the average Joe (or Pierre) were the flamingo’s.  There were hundreds of them on display.  Ton wore her battery out shooting pictures of them.

The bodies are slightly pink, but the wings are quite striking as this bird is showing.  These are Rose Flamingo’s native to Africa, and Europe

It was a really nice walk and in addition to the flamingos there were a lot of Heron’s.  In fact the serious photographers with the long lenses were ignoring the flamingos and shooting the Herons.  There must of been something significant over there, but we did not figure it out.

All of the serious photographers were concentrated around this area, we are not sure what the attraction was.

After a couple of hours of exploring and pictures we headed down the road to the sea to visit the town of Saintes Maries de la Mer.  Driving in it did not make much of an impression on us.  But when we pulled into the aire we figured there must be something  to the town as there were easily 70 or 80 RV’s in the aire.  We took a walk and it was a seaside resort, not a particularly fancy one, but pleasant.  We decided that we would have dinner tonight to compare French seafood with Spanish.  Spanish won.

The Mediterranean is apparently warm even in April, as the water was full of kids playing.


April 22, 2018 St. Remy de Provence FR

We decided to shift a little south to another part of Provence.  The town of St. Remy de Provence was highly recommended to us, so here we are.

St. Remy turned out to be a very nice but touristy town.  But it did have an interesting walk themed around Van Gogh.  He spent a year here in a sanitarium trying to clear his head, and did some really nice painting.  The walk had you follow a road out of town to the sanitarium where he stayed and periodically showed you sites where Van Gogh had painted pictures.  It was quite fascinating and at several of the stops you could really see quite clearly the setting he used.

We think this is the setting for this picture.

At the end of the road was the sanitarium where he stayed, and it is still functioning as a sanitarium today having been founded around 1200 AD.  The room where Van Gogh stayed is on display, as are the gardens that inspired some of his paintings.  We really enjoyed ourselves and found the place fascinating.  

Van Gogh’s room in the sanitarium.

On the way back we stopped at the ruins of the Roman settlement of Glanum. We poked around a bit and saw the Arch of Triumph, but decided to pass on visiting the Roman ruins.

Part of the Roman Arc, the Arc itself is a slightly more worn version of the one in Orange yesterday

As we passed thru town we decided that this one of the more upscale towns we had been in, and it reflected in the price of the restaurants.  So we decided to postpone our Provence meal, and headed back to François for a very late lunch, and a siesta.

April 21, 2018 Orange FR

We had an adventure today that we did not at all anticipate.  Our plan was to shift about 40km’s from Pont du Gard to Orange to visit the Roman Theater in Orange.  Enroute we were going to stop at a Carrefour to get some gas.  Actually sounds like one of our easier days from a travel point of view.   

We were rolling along on nice wide roads when we came into a little village.  The roads were kind of narrow but we were used to the roads narrowing going into little villages. Then Ron missed a turn, the GPS reprogrammed and the roads were narrow but one way so Ron decided to follow the reprogram, and then we came to a point where the GPS wanted us to turn down a walkway…big problem.  Ron parked and since we had come down a series of one way roads we could just not turn around and go back the way we had come.  Ron on foot followed the one way road thru the village for 2 or 3 hundred yards and it looked doable, so back to François.  Ton backed Ron down the road for the 20 or so yards to the turn, and just as we were getting ready to head down the road a fellow jumped in front of us and in rapid fire French told us that the GPS was wrong and we could not go that way.  There was only one way out and he would show us, or words to that effect.  Just as he was turning us around in very tight quarters another car came up behind us, and we managed to let him squeeze past, but rather than carry on he got out and began to help us turn around and get pointed in the right direction also.  Ron was responding to commands of droit (right) and gauche(left), and a lot of vezzies (afterwards Ton and I decided it was the French version of come on, or keep going), we got turned around passing within inches of several parked cars, and liberally using the sidewalk (all two feet of it) when necessary.   We got pointed at an opening that was maybe four inches wider than Françoise with both mirrors folded in.  The two guys gave me a resounding Voila!, and a thumbs up.  We squeezed down the alley, and popped back out on our nice wide main road.  We shouted some Merci beaucoups (thanks much) at them as they were walking away, but without them our day may have been really a mess, so to the two anonymous French gentlemen, merci beaucoup.

This is about the width of the road we were squeezing François down.

We arrived at Orange 20 minutes later, and visited Carrefour which is turning into Ton’s favorite grocery in France.  Stocked up with food for a few days we were going to get fuel, but it looked like a tight fit and Ron was a little skittish so fuel is tomorrow.

We finally made it to the Roman theater in Orange and it was really interesting and beautiful. It was built in the 1st century AD, and is incredibly huge for that era.  The grounds will hold 10,000 people, and the theater wall behind behind the stage is over 100 feet tall.  The scale is hard to describe and Ton had a tough time capturing it on film.  We followed the audio guide thru out and it was fascinating.  The theater is still used today for concerts and performances.  The facade of the theater is also grandiose but it is undergoing renovation and we did not get a look at it.

The wall at the back of the stage of the Theater in Orange, it was one of the few walls that have survived from ancient Roman theaters
The seating area of the theater.  It holds over 10,000.

After the theater we passed by the ancient Arc de Triumph of Orange.  This Arch was built by veterans of Cesar Augustus legions who settled in Orange after they completed their service.  It is to honor veterans of the Gallic Wars around 24 AD.  We had actually passed it as it is in a roundabout on the main road in town on the way to the campground.  But this time we were on foot and had time to take some pictures.

The Arc de Triomphe of Orange, built by the legionaries of Cesar Augustus.

April 20, 2018 Pont du Gard

 Today we needed to get serious about going east.  Our plan for the past few days has been to head to Provence, but we never quite got ourselves going that way.  So today we abandoned our backcountry roads and jumped on the motorway for almost 200km’s to get to Pont du Gard.

This site is one of the most famous Roman sites in France, and features on a lot of travel ads for France. We decided that this would be a good place to begin our visit of Provence and southeast France.   

We arrived in the early afternoon and it was unseasonably warm with temperatures in the high 70’s low 80’s.  After a nice lunch Ton declared it was siesta time and Pont du Gard could wait.

Around 4 pm we wandered down to see the site.  Pont du Gard is a three tier aqueduct that was built around  19BC.  It stands over 160ft high above the river Gardon and was used to supply the city of Nimes.  The aqueduct that the Pont du Gard supported was over 30 miles long.

It is quite an impressive structure and very beautiful.  The French are certainly much more laid back about managing historical things like this, and the atmosphere was more relaxed and informal than we are used to.  People were swimming under the bridge picnicking on the grounds around it, there was not a policeman or ranger in site to keep order.  

We walked back in the evening to get some more shots as Ton thought the sunset would be pretty there.  She was right!