After an early morning flight to Marseille, we picked up a hire car and made our way to our base for the first part of the holiday. As the keys to the house weren't available until mid-afternoon, it was the perfect excuse to have a long, relaxed lunch at La Terrasse restaurant and reacquaint ourselves with the local rose wine...fine dining at a very reasonable price!
When we finally got hold of the keys (a long walk down the hill...and back up again...) it was lovely to unpack and settle down in the house we had fallen in love with on our first visit to the area, and to spend our first evening sitting on the little roof terrace with another bottle of wine and nibbles, watching the swifts swooping overhead as the sun went down.
Over the next few days, we explored the local area. We enjoyed the Art and Architecture walk through the vineyards of Chateau La Coste finishing with iced tea at the sleek, modern pavilion to cool us down after our long walk in the hot sunshine.
One of the few places I know where you can sit on, walk inside and play with the works of art!
We headed east to the Valensole Plateau where we were lucky to see fields of lavender AND sunflowers out at the same time, although the visit was cut short to escape the bees which took a fancy to Steve - just a few snatched shots...
Rather than go into Aix en Provence as planned, we decided instead to visit the weekly market,
then tour the local hill villages on our last day based in Goult, including a clamber around the cobbled streets of Lacoste (best known for its most notorious resident the Marquis de Sade who lived in the castle overlooking the village)
We also visited Menerbes, which some of you may have read about, or seen the film of, Peter Mayles book "A Year in Provence"
and Lourmarin, with its vibrant cafe life and yet another castle!
We would have happily stayed longer, but alas the rest of the week had been booked by another party so it was time to move on...
We took the hire car back to Marseille airport then caught the train to Arles, arriving in time for another long leisurely lunch before checking into our base for the second part of our trip, a small flat in Rue des Porcelets (Piglet Street!) right in the heart of the historic centre of the city.
After settling in, there was enough time to go walk about and take in some of the historic sights including the Roman Arena and Ancient Amphitheatre.
The next day we visited Arles Museum of Antiquity- a great place to learn about Roman Arles and look at the artefacts discovered in the town, including a complete Roman boat discovered in the Rhone.
As well as Roman remains, Arles is also famous for Vincent Van Gogh. Having visited the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in June, it was fascinating to look around the newly opened Fondation Vincent Van Gogh in Arles where Van Gogh's painting are on show, along with other modern artwork inspired by his paintings, all in a rather fine building.
I don't know whether it was the build up of heat and humidity, the amount of walking/activity over the previous few days or the generous portions of food and wine consumed, but Steve lost his appetite and felt exhausted by Sunday. As a result, rather than join friends for another big meal out as planned, we had a quiet morning at home. Our friends Richard and Alison (who live in France) came to our little flat for a get-together the afternoon, which turned out to be perfect timing as it was then that the storm which had been brewing all morning decided to break and the heavens opened....It was lovely to see them and catch up with their news!
Steve was feeling better by our last day, so we took it easy with some gentle sight-seeing and had a light lunch at the Hotel-Dieu, originally a hospital built around a courtyard garden, where Van Gogh had voluntarily admitted himself when his mental health deteriorated. The garden has been recreated based on his paintings at the time.
By late afternoon, we had collected our bags from the flat and caught the train back to Marseille airport in good time for our evening flight back to Gatwick, arriving home in the early hours of the following morning. An exhausting but enjoyable trip....And we are definitely thinking about a return visit to our favourite house in Goult!
We don't seem to have stopped since our return from France, which is why this blog post is so late. More of what we've been up to since then, next time.