Monday, May 8, 2017

Finishing up in Cremieu

Saturday morning. after getting the gite in order and feeding the cat, we left Nyons and headed off to our final stop, Cremieu, where we would spend our last night.  Cremieu is in the Isere department, near where we started  our trip. We knew nothing about Cremieu, but picked it because it was a short drive to the Lyon airport, where we would be flying home from on Sunday morning.  Cremieu turned out to be fantastic, and the hotel we stayed at, Auberge de la Chaite, was excellent, and had an outstanding restaurant.

The drive to Cremieu was tiring, mostly because it rained heavily most of the way.  It was still raining when we arrived in Cremieu, but that didn't keep us from strolling around the central part of town, although it did restrict my picture taking.  The town was absolutely spectacular, with an amazing number of medieval buildings, and I eventually did manage to take a few photos (see below).  We also stopped into a bar frequented by locals, where we had a couple of glasses of sparkling Bugey, and we discovered a great brewpup in a building that was once part of an Urseline convent. We eventually walked back to our hotel for dinner. The hotel had a beautiful dining room, and the dinner was outstanding. They also had an excellent wine list, which gave us one more chance to have some Savoie wines. We wound up ordering two wines from indigenous Savoie grapes; a red Mondeuse and a white Altesse, both from Domaine Ravier in Apremont.  The next morning we left early for our flight, and made the long and tiring trip home, where I’m writing from now.

Town Hall

Hotel Restaurant Dining Room

Friday, May 5, 2017

In the Shadow of Mont Ventoux

On Friday morning we took a long drive to visit a number of Provencal villages, most of them located in the valley below Mont Ventoux or otherwise having views of the mountain.  Mont Ventoux is the tallest mountain in Provence, and is part of the Tour de France.  We stopped at a lot of villages along the way, and rather than write about each one, I’ll principally post photos from each village, with occasional discussions.

First up was the village of Puymeras.

Our next stop was the nearby village of Faucon.

We then drove past Mollans-sur-Ouveze without stopping, since we had visited it the other day, and also skipped Saint-Leger-du-Ventoux because we couldn’t find a place to park in the village.  We then drove to the perched village of Brantes, which turned out to be spectacular and where we bought a couple of ceramic tiles at a faiencerie.

Brantes, With Mont Ventoux in the Background 

Chez Mathilde, Restaurant of the Faiencerie

Interior of Church in Brantes

After leaving Brantes we drove to the nearby village of Savoillans and stopped to take a walk around the town and pick up some bread at the small boulangerie in town.


We then drove towards Montbrun-les-Bains, which was spectacular from a distance. However, the village was fairly busy, and parking was a problem, so we continued on up higher on Mont Ventoux.  We eventually came to an extensive plateau that had lavender fields everywhere, but very few houses and even fewer people.

After we drove down the mountain, we came to the village of Aurel, which we knew nothing about. We stopped to take a stroll, and it turned out to be a charming village.


We then headed back in the direction of Nyons, stopping in Buis-les-Barronies. It was a much larger town than we expected, and didn’t seem that attractive on the outskirts, but we parked just outside the old center and walked inside, and it turned out to be quite lovely.  We walked around the entire center, including the beautiful arcaded central square and the tree-lined road that circled the center.

     After leaving Buis-les-Barronies we drove back to Nyons for the evening.  Eventually, our friendly cat, who we had not seen for awhile, showed up to have aperitifs with us.

Thursday Market in Nyons and a Visit to Vaison-la-Romaine

Thursday morning we walked into the center of town for the market. The market stretched throughout the center, along several side streets and in the large parking area next to the town hall.  There were lots of food vendors, but also sellers of cloths, pottery, clothing and other non-food items; hundreds in all. We bought cheese, snails with garlic, butter and parsley, raviolis, and vegetables, and also stopped at a socialist-leaning bakery in town to buy one of their whole grain baguettes.  On the way back to our gite we stopped at the butcher shop and picked up our roasted pintade.

Tower High Above Nyons Market

The cat greeted us as we approached our gite, and waited around for lunch.  It was a little too cold to eat outside, so we had our lunch in the dining room and gave the cat his plate of pintade in the courtyard.  He devoured it, so we gave him a second plate. With the pintade we had the Grand Cru Chablis that Ghislaine had given us at the start of our trip.

In the afternoon we headed off to Vaison la Romaine again, which looked very different without the market occupying all the streets in the center of the village.  As the name implies, Vaison was a Roman settlement, and its Pont Romain (Roman Bridge) actually dates from Roman times, having been built in the 1st Century, as opposed to the Pont Roman in Nyons, which was built in the Roman style in the 14th Century.  We spent a lot of time wandering around Vaison, starting at one of the Roman excavations and the ancient cathedral in the lower town, then crossing the Pont Romain to the upper part.

Views of Vaison-la-Romaine

After leaving Vaison, we headed towards Nyons and stopped at a couple of little villages that I had wanted to see.  First up was Entrechaux, with an ancient tower and church high above the town.  The church was abandoned in the 1800's when a newer church was built in the lower part of town, which is where we parked.  We walked up the hill to the upper part, which had great views of the surrounding hills and the lower part of town.


Our next stop was Mollans-sur-Ouveze, a small village on the Ouveze River.  Once again we parked in the center of town and walked up to the top of the village.  The chateau at the top of the village was privately owned, and clearly included a residence within its walls.


After leaving Mollans we drove back to Nyons, and parked at the parking area near the river so that we could stop at the ice cream shop connected to the lavender distillery. We picked up some rosemary ice cream, left the car in the lot for the night, and walked back up the hill to our gite., where we had aperitifs (no cat this time) and then dinner.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

More Provencal Villages and a Winery Visit

Tuesday evening we had a late dinner at the gite, then took a walk up into the medieval center again a little before 9 p.m., shortly before it got dark. The cat that had greeted us in the dark the night before was again around, this time in the daylight, and he followed us around his “domaine” for awhile.

The next morning we got an early start to try and visit one village on the way to the 11:00 appointment I had set up with Christelle Coulange of Domaine Coulange in the Ardeche departement, on the other side of the Rhone from the Drome.  On the way we stopped at the village of Saint Restitut and took a stroll around town.

Saint Restitut

We then continued on to Bourg Saint Andeol, the town where Domaine Coulange is located.  There was a market going on in the center, and also some construction, which made it a little difficult to find our way, but we finally made it to the winery.  Domaine Couange has been in the family for several generations, but until 1996 it sent all of its grapes to the local cooperative to be vinified and bottled.  That year, Christelle and her father Maurice decided to start bottling their own wines, which have the appellations Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages.

Christelle greeted us, opened the tasting room, and poured their entire range of wines. We tried the white and rosé Cotes du Rhone, a red Cotes du Rhone, and 2 red Cotes du Rhone Villages, the last of which is the only oak-aged wine they make.  The white is a blend of 4 grapes, including the Viognier and Roussanne that are so prevalent in the northern Rhone; the rose and reds are Grenache/Syrah blends, except for one red that was all Syrah, All were very good, but we especially liked the reds, and bought the 3 reds we had tried. They also make another red Cotes du Rhone, called “Mistral” after the fierce wind that often blows here, which is imported into the U.S. by Ansonia Wines and which I had previously ordered from Ansonia by advance purchase. After the tasting, Christelle gave us a tour of the winery, which was having work done to expand it to add more room for ageing wine and a bottling facility.
Garden at Domaine Coulange

Domaine Coulange Vineyards

After leaving Domaine Coulange we drove to the village of La Garde-Adhemar, where we had stopped about 10 years ago.  La Garde-Adhemar is one of the designated Plus Beaux Villages de France (Most Beautiful Village of France), and it definitely deserves the designation. We spent some time wandering around the village, and took a walk through the spectacular botanical gardens.

From La Garde-Adhemar we drove back to our gite for a late lunch, continuing to try and make a dent in all the cheese we bought earlier in the week.  Our wine collection, on the other hand, continued to expand. We had a bottle of Apremont from Le Cellier du Palais in the Savoie with lunch, but having purchased 3 wines at Domaine Coulange, our cellar increased by two.

In the late afternoon we took a walk down to the Eygues River in Nyons, and walked along the adjoining path for a bit. We then headed back into the center of town, and stopped at the butcher shop we had been frequenting to see about getting a pintade for tomorrow.  They have a small rotisserie, and the butcher said if we bought the pintade they’d roast it for free.  So we ordered one to be picked up late tomorrow morning.  Thursday is market day in Nyons, and it’s possible there will be a rottiseur there, but pintades seem to be in demand, and we might not be able to get one at the market, so it made sense to order one from the butcher.
Pont Roman from the Riverbank
When we returned to our gite, we encountered our friendly cat down the street, and shortly after we got to the gite he joined us.  We had aperitifs in the courtyard, and the cat joined us, sharing the cheese with us.  He also hung around for the next course, and he seems to be waiting for dinner.