Markets and Hill Towns

On our second day in Provence, we headed to Apt to check out the Saturday market, and then spent the afternoon exploring the surrounding hill towns.  Here are the photos (click to enlarge):

A brownie for breakfast? Why not? This was the second “B” at the B&B where we stayed.

Elizabeth enjoys breakfast on the terrace, but says “no thanks” to the 8:00 AM brownie (she saved it for later).

Apt’s Saturday market seems to attract just about everyone in Provence.

More cookies at the market.

It’s strawberry season here, and the markets are flooded with them.

And asparagus, too.

These must be the famous “herbes de provence” that everyone keeps talking about.

The air is fragrant with all sorts of different soap around here.

We found a nice brasserie, where Elizabeth enjoyed the vegetarian plate (one of her favorite meals of the whole trip).

I went for the provencal plate.

Another clever coffee presentation.

After the market cleared out in the afternoon, we were actually able to look around at the town a little bit. Apt has a nice old cathedral, and this is the bell tower.

The interior of the Romanesque church is both dark and ornate.

It was about 15 degrees cooler inside the church, which was a welcome relief.

Some parts of the church were almost two thousand years old.  This is the lower crypt, and it was built on top of some earlier Roman buildings.

The upper crypt once contained some remains of St. Ann, but we could not figure out what is held there now.

Our next stop was Rousillon, which is famous for its ochre quarries, which have churned out pigments for centuries. The cliffs glow with the color.

The town is painted in the same colors.

There are plenty of little nooks to explore.

Nowadays, it doesn’t seem like there’s any kind of industry except tourism.

The doors are fantastic in this part of the world.

A pretty good view from the top in Rousillon.

The bell towers in this part of France always have an iron spire on top, which holds the bells.

The whole region of Provence was covered with red poppies, which were in peak bloom during our visit.

Nantucket red is the default color in Rousillon.

Buildings have been built upon ruined buildings here for centuries. One wall in our B&B dated back to the 1st century.

Our next stop was the town of Menerbes, which was much quieter, and seemingly less touristy than Rousillon.

The town sits on the crest of a hill, and has views in all directions. This side has some terraced gardens that overlook the valley below.

Similarly to the other clock towers that we saw around here, the bells are supported by an iron spire that gives the tower a lightweight finish.  The museum of wine and truffles was right next door.  Unfortunately, we were not here during truffle season, but we sampled some good wine with a group of Italian women who had just rolled into town.

Menerbes is famous for being the setting of Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence.” Although we didn’t spend much time here, I think it was my favorite of all the towns that we visited.

Both sides of the town have commanding views in either direction. The wind started to whip over the hill in the evening.

In sharp contrast to some of the other places that we visited, the streets were cool and quiet.

Even the downtown streets have switchbacks. 

Fortunately, we were able to find a little bakery before it closed. The old lady who ran it was sitting in the back room watching TV and folding laundry, and was delighted to see us. We were in dire straights since we had bought a lot of bread-dependant picnic items at the market that morning, and had neglected to purchase bread. We bought her last loaf.

As the sun began to set, we made our way back to the B&B, excited to dig into the meal that we had assembled, but sorry to leave Menerbes.

Back at our B&B, we feasted on the terrace as the sun set over the hills.  We had fresh strawberries, delicious cheese, tapenade, quiche, the bread that we bought in Menerbes, and a nice white wine that we bought in Roussillon.

Still life with Lonely Planet.

Our host, Serge, cut a fresh olive branch as a centerpiece for our table.

The delicious dessert that we purchased from the bakery in Menerbes – an apricot tart that reminded me of something my mother used to make. A fantastic end to a fantastic day!

3 thoughts on “Markets and Hill Towns

  1. More good food and more great scenery.
    Elizabeth, overall, which did you like better–Italy or France? I know France is probably way more enjoyable because you were with Tad, but try to be objective in you answer.

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