On Friday after dropping JP at the Avignon TGV we returned to the Camargue. This time we visited a new area where the saltworks and the mouth of the Rhone dominate the scenery. It was a fitting end to our stay in Provence with magnificent sun, scenery, flamingos, horses, bulls, the vast salt works, and of course the Mediterranean Sea.
Yesterday we packed up early, said goodbye to Marie-Noel, and drove up into Les Alpilles for the last time. It took us over an hour to go the first ten miles. We drove on the old road to Les Baux, which we hadn’t tried in our month in St. Remy. It is spectacular! The views of the mountains are wonderful and when you reach the crest Les Baux sits across the canyon on its mountain. This required mandatory photo stops every few hundred feet. (Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating but Jean doesn’t think it is.)
Of course, we had to move on. We attempted to go to Aigues Mortes in western Provence. We had seen this walled fortress two years ago and hoped to spend a few hours exploring on our way to Collioure. How were we to know it was the day of one of their festivals, many streets were blocked with barricades, and they were running bulls? It took a while to find our way out of the bedlam, but eventually we got back on the road to Collioure.
Upon arrival in Collioure the first task was to find parking. Our house is on one of the narrow medieval streets in the lower old city. Parking options include street (chancy) and parking lot (expensive). The parking lot closest to the apartment said “Complet” but we entered anyway. The entry gate refused me six times before it finally gave me a ticket to enter. We found a spot and then found an attendant to purchase a week parking pass. This does not ensure a space, but it does ensure a significantly reduced rate.
We then had to negotiate these sometime unmarked medieval streets without a map and with only our GPS to guide us. There were a few wrong turns because we couldn’t tell which way Suzie (our GPS) wanted us to go or she lost satellite reception. Eventually we found what appeared to be the right address, but there was no key box visible. A woman coming up the street asked if we were English and lost. We smiled and explained that we were looking for our rental. She smiled and pointed out that we were standing in front of it. The house has two apartments. The lower one (which was by the house number) is not the rental. We climbed the adjacent stairs and found the key box as directed.
After exploring our apartment we headed out into the old town for some exercise, aperitif, and dinner. After wine and nuts at Les Templiers we settled on The Safran Bleu for dinner. Les Templiers is a hotel, restaurant, and bar decorated with an extensive collection of 20th century art, mostly Fauvist in nature. The owners collected throughout the century hung their collection everywhere. It’s a great place to have a drink and take in the art on the walls. At Safran Bleu we split a single prix fixe dinner and added an entree of anchovies and wine. It was wonderful.
Today began with a trip to the bi-weekly town market. We walked to the square and meandered among the stalls. After some vegetables and cheese found their way into our bags, we came home to unpack. Then we packed our pleinn air sketching materials and went out to explore the town. After a circuitous walk through much of the old town we ended up on the quay where the old church sits. We each settled into our chosen spots and sketched. Although the air temp today was only in the upper 60′s there were many folks sunbathing on the beach and swimming in the Mediterranean. I was sitting on rocks against a rock wall, facing the sun. It was hot! When the temperature in my nook reached 90 I was sweating profusely and decided to leave.
Jean had made some friends in her spot so I stopped to chat and took their picture. Lia came to look at Jean’s painting then her father joined her. After that Arnaud’s parents joined them. Jean (John in English) and Monique (happy grandparents) are vacationing in the area and their son Arnaud and his family came down for the weekend to visit. Notice Jean is holding her sketch/painting in the photo. It is so much fun to meet people on our artistic travels. They love to see people making art and enjoying their country. We love to share the French love for the good life.
Along the way back to our house we found a Russian artist painting a harbor scene. Ilya Komov has a colorful style that suits the bright landscape here.
After making lentil stew for dinner, I was ready to settle down to share this post with our friends back home. We will be back in the US in 10 days.