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Une Provence à la veille d’un confinement

As much as we started to be concerned about the progress of the pandemic, we continued with our local exploration of the Western part of Provence. On our fourth day, the region around Orange with the mythic Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine terroir, from the no less famous appellation of Côte-du-Rhône region would be dominating our itinerary. 

Donc il existe bien un château pour aller avec le nom Château-Neuf.  Construit sur les bases d’une autre fortification, le Pape Jean XXII, résidant à Avignon, en fait une “résidence d’été” en 1333 et décida de faire planter des vignes dans le sol rocailleux qui entoure le château. Pour ce qui est du château lui-même, il perdra de son importance et beaucoup de son intégrité après que les Papes quittent Avignon. Le coup fatal à ses ruines du 20ième siècle fut l’explosion du dépôt de munitions que les Allemands ont installé dans l’enceinte du château quand ils ont quitté la région en 1944. Aujourd’hui, seulement quelques murs sont restés assez solides pour faciliter leur restoration et en faire une attraction touristique avant d’aller faire une dégustation de vins lcoaux.

The second stop was the city of Orange and the show stopper is their impressive Roman Theatre. No wide angle of mine could give it justice.  Dating from the first century BC when the city was called Arausio (Orange in Latin) is so well preserved that on top of being part of the UNESCO World Heritage list, it is the perfect venue for Roman times historical reenactment festivals, music concerts and operas. 

Les autres jours de notre séjour ont été plus axé sur l’exploration de villages et musées locaux autour de notre base. Une des plus charmantes excursions fut pour Fontaine de Vaucluse.  C’est l’endroit où toutes les eaux accumulées d’un immense réseau souterrain des montagnes jaillissent pour donner naissance à la rivière de la Sorgue.

On our last full day, the restaurants and museums had closed country-wide already so we just drove around to enjoy outdoors spaces.  We stopped in Roussillon, a colourful village thanks to the ochre deposits surrounding it. The oxidation produces a variety of color nuances from yellow to orange, pink to red and also violet and they were used in construction from the end of 18th to middle of the 20th century. Unfortunately, even the trail known as “Le Sentier des Ocres” going through the open air stone-pit had been closed. I realized then and there than this covid-19 pandemic would impact most of our activities that we took for granted.

And finally, our own village had much to offer. L’Isle-sur-la Sorgue is where the river of the Sorgue (which started coming down from Fontaine de Vaucluse) splits in two arms so its old part is on an island. It has earned the nickname of the Venice of the Comtat.  We strolled many times along the various streets, gathering our food supplies at the local groceries and savouring the wine we had picked up in our drives in the region. In season (we were there too early in spring to fully enjoy), the town organizes weekly brocantes (flea market). A very pleasant town to stay in and explore the country side of Provence.

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