After a great few days in Aix, we were headed back to Paris, but first stopped in Lyon for a day. As it turned out, we wished that we could have stayed longer because we were pleasantly surprised about what a fantastic time we had there. Lyon is located where the Soane river dumps into the Rhone, and the city is laid out on the river banks. In the photo above, the old city is in the foreground (behind the trees), and the Soane is the river just beyond it. The second oldest part of the city is located between the Soane and the Rhone (the green strip in the distance, parallel to the Soane). The city is known as the gastronomic capital of France, and we were looking forward to trying some of its traditional fare in a Bouchon (a small, friendly restaurant that serves regional food). Here are the photos:
After some incredible days in the Vaucluse hills, we headed to Aix-en-Provence. To be honest, it was tough to get used to being in a city after the countryside. We did some exploring around town, but were excited to head to Chateauneuf-du-Pape for a tour of some wineries there.
For those that don’t know, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, refers to both a town and a wine. The name translates to “the pope’s new castle,” and when the popes decided to move the church headquarters to Avignon, which is nearby, they built a summer home on the top of a hill here. The wine is a controlled appellation, meaning that in order for any wine to bear the name “Chateauneuf,” it has to be grown and bottled here, and has to follow certain production standards. Every bottle of it contains 13 varieties of grapes, but the most prominent are grenache and syrah. Wine grown just down the street cannot get the name, and is usually classified as Cotes-du-Rhone (as long as it follows the standards for that appellation). It may be confusing for Americans, who are used to ordering wine by the grape, not the region, but here it is a way of insuring that certain standards are maintained, and, basically, branding. One of the most important elements that makes the wine so special here is the soil, which is covered in large river rocks, deposited by the Rhone River thousands of years ago. They are large, eggplant-sized rocks that sit on the top of the soil, and help to insulate the roots. Obviously, the climate is pretty important, too.
Here are the photos:
We were sorry to leave the little village where we stayed in the Vaucluse hills, but we had to head on to our next destination, Aix-en-Provence. We didn’t have to return the car until evening, though, so we took our time getting there. In the morning, we headed to Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, which is often referred to as the “Venice of Provence,” although it’s more accurately the “antique furniture store of Provence.” We went for the Sunday flea market, and saw a lot of great things, all of which were too big to carry back in our luggage. We opted for one antique petanque boule, and headed on to two other hill towns, Lacoste and Bonnieux, before driving on to Aix.
After an eventful week in Paris, we set out for Provence last Friday. We made our way by TGV to Aix-en-Provence, from where we picked up a rental car, and headed to the hill towns of the Vaucluse. We first attempted the drive without the aid of a GPS, but after a 45 minute detour to Marseilles, we (Elizabeth) decided that we had to turn it on. This ended up being a great decision, because, to be honest, my much self-touted sense of direction would not have gotten us very far. Our B&B was in a small village that was centrally located for exploring the countryside. Here are the photos (click to expand on them):
Not to worry: there’s much more Provence to come. I just have to work my way through all the photos that I’ve taken. Up next: Apt, Rousillon, and Menerbes.
It’s been while since I posted, so I thought I’d update with some photos from a few days ago. Elizabeth and I spent the day at Versailles, and although we got a late start, and had to fend our way through almost unbearable crowds, we ended up having a great day in the gardens. I have recently become obsessed with French formal gardens (something about their willful artifice and exploitation of perspectives), and these, of course, did not disappoint. We’re in Provence now, and I’ll update with photos when I get a chance! Here are the photos and comments (click on them to enlarge):