Welcome to my final blog on Provence. This is my final travel blog before I hit the U.K. and I will be doing some writing about Oxfordshire and London.
So this week will be relatively short and sweet. I have repeatedly talked about Maison Lambot’s food. There was so much else as well in the surrounding area, especially memorable for eating out and an adventure was the town of Cotignac. It appears to be a beautiful sleepy town tucked into hills and valleys, emphasised by their police station the size of a hobbit house, and closed early morning and Sundays because crime only operates Monday to Saturday 9-5, or maybe at least in the sleepy villages and towns of Provence. With that in mind, you would imagine not much happens here. However, you’d be wrong, a lot is going on here, just a more relaxed going on. Markets for trinkets and food markets spring up on a weekly basis. The trinkets reflect the rich French History, from modern art to Regency chairs and even a Napoleonic French Officers hat.
All shaded under huge trees on a raised pavement. For an early morning stroll and some hat wearing under a strong early morning sun its a pleasant way to start the day. If you head up the hill, you will find plenty of decent cafes as well as the lovely bakery on the left-hand side, which sells beautiful croissants and pain au chocolat the size of my fist.
As we ate or French breakfast, we strolled up the hill as was taken to the ancient caves where people used to live. I was slightly hoping to see ancient cave dwellings full of artifices and maybe even a skull 💀 or bones. Alas, as not to see this but instead, beautiful cave homes that would make the Flintstones jealous. Although empty some of the caves clearly had the amenities of running water, gas and electricity as well as tiled walk-in showers. Although empty, you could imagine with some elbow grease this could make for a beautiful, comfortable and very unique abode. There were metal staircases that reached up at least three stories above where we were, and it would not have surprised me if there are people still living there. Quite an incredible lifestyle and views if you did live there.
Once more we headed back the Maison Lambot, but we did return Friday night, and the town had been transformed. Street vendors were selling mussels and chips, and our beer seller from the farmers’ BBQ was there. I was curious to try the mussels to compare with Sicily. I was honestly blown away by the flavours. They had been cooked in onion and garlic and thyme but as the beef stock had been added. My initial thoughts were that the beef would have been too much for the delicate mussels. I was so delightfully wrong. Two portions were had as a result. I honestly could not have asked for a more different and delicious dish.
The town had another interesting twist to its weekend, as well as the food, there was a DJ set up where the market had been, on a raised stage, where the DJ could happily look down on the people dancing below. Who needs a club when you have a mini-festival with some good music, beer, wine and mussels and chips!
We danced until midnight and then returned to the olive grove. Eating, drinking and shooting the breeze to the early hours, sat under a blanket of stars, in very comfortable sun loungers, set next to the white mini marque. Alex and Kat would regularly sleep outside in this weather, especially if the BNB was full. I awoke the next morning to quite a surprise, a warm feeling between my legs. As it was very early in the morning, I was most confused, and as I awoke, I sleepily struggled to figure out what it was resting between my legs and started to think it was someone’s head. It was better than that, it was a kitten who had decided to adopt me as a bed!
For our final day, we had decided to go to the nearby Provence lakes, a place called Bauden. I had some fond memories of being teased on the lakes as Alex and I, with friends and his dad had visited them in our teens. His Dad had hired us all water pedalo bikes. Part bike, part surfboard.
All I can remember is trying to sit on them and peddling like mad, hoping to go so fast that gravity would be too slow to pull me down. Unfortunately, as with life, gravity always got and gets her way, and so I would be seen peddling furiously, holding onto the bars, reluctant to let go, even at a 45-degree angle, and slowly falling sideways into the clear blue lake. While my friend Vicky sat there going, “Look, it’s so easy mate.” Then removing her feet and placing them up in the air, and finally lifting her hands attempting to teach but really to tease while perching on her saddle. If only someone could have sneaked up, and pushed the bike over.
This adventure would be different, Alex and Kat had acquired a boat for free, fixed her up with fibreglass, an emergency kit the size of a suitcase, wooden planks and cushions on top and a rather large and powerful motor attached at the back.
The lake is deceptively massive, the water clean and a beautiful shade of green and blue. We travelled with the aim of getting to the other side, we didn’t reach it, but the journey was more enjoyable than getting to a destination. Being able to just sit, in the sun and sleep on a gently rocking boat with beer and friends is pretty satisfying in its self.
If you want a day of being in a calm environment and near water, you’d be hard pressed to find somewhere better. Be warned stay away from people trying to reverse their boats into the water that is one of the few points in the lake area that can be stormy, but also entertaining.
The lake (Lac de Sainte Croix.) was man-made and built to feed a hydroelectric plant, which powered Provence. So if you fancy some scuba diving into old villages look no further. Some of the communities were lucky and now reach the tip of the lakeshore and have had man-made sandy beaches installed.
The final day had arrived, and we decided to head to the beach for the last hurrah before my 4pm flight.
We drove down towards Marseille and a small picturesque town called Cassis. We bypassed the town and parked in the neighbouring national park. Parc National des Calanques. A spot of well-kept beauty, with small harbours and beaches scattered throughout the coves. Not wanting to break from crazy adventures, we skipped down along the harbour and boats only to then be told to get to the beach without too much of a rush, we would have to swim across the harbour and in between the boats coming in and out. It was totally worth it, ships floated and drove past, and at one point I was sandwiched between the two, but as adrenaline rushes go, it was fun and stimulating to dash across a shipping lane.
It did become a trek, through the hills and was well worth it just to see the beaches and swim in cold crystal clear waters, as well as walking past all of the coves hiding couples and sunbathers.
All in a day, from Cassis to the airport to London and finally Oxfordshire, not bad to see all of that in a day.
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Until next week.Au Revoir Provence.