Sunday, June 7, 2015

Mini Cooper Road Trip, Day Four to Montbrun-les-Bains

French village Diaries Mini Cooper road trip France Nimes Provence
Tree lined avenues of Provence

It was a hot night in Nimes and as we both awoke early we decided to take a morning walk before breakfast and see the things we'd not had the time for last night, when beer and food were calling. We joined the street cleaners, dog walkers and Lycée students out and about before eight and although warm, it was pleasantly cooler than the night before. I think the gardens and water canals were my favourite sights and I'd return just to spend more time there. The Nimes flag shows a palm tree and a crocodile which we learned came from Roman times when the returning soldiers who served Julius Caesar in his Nile campaign were given plots of land around Nimes to cultivate. This explains why the square where our restaurant was last night had both a palm tree and a huge crocodile fountain.

We set off and soon found ourselves driving through the most beautiful tree lined avenues that I can only describe as being stunning. They went on for kilometre after kilometre and honestly took my breath away, especially when I looked up. If there hadn't been so much traffic I would have loved to stop and hug them, I am a bit odd, I know. The plan was to have morning coffee in St Rémy de Provence, however it was market day, the bars were packed out, the traffic was stationery and just as we arrived so did a group of thirty plus touring cyclists who were also looking for somewhere to park and a quiet spot for coffee. We left them to it and carried on our way. We found our coffee at a small restaurant at the side of the road, that was much calmer and gave us the strength to battle more traffic in Cavaillon. Oh Provence, why do you have to be so busy?

French village Diaries Mini Cooper road trip France Gordes Provence
Gordes, Provence

Thankfully we found a quiet and shady spot overlooking Gordes for our picnic, which included an olive fougasse we had bought in a boulangerie in Nimes. After lunch we decided to return to our preferred back roads and headed up into the hills and away from the crowds and began our search for the lavender fields, which we found. Some even had their first blush of colour, which made me very happy as I've only ever seen them looking stick-like in early spring. It was a little cooler up on the plains as we made our way to Sault at the foot of Le Mont Ventoux and the air smelt herby. The best thing about driving with the windows down is smelling the scenery as well as seeing it. Our final stop before heading to the hotel was to tackle Mont Ventoux, although it wasn't a cycling challenge for us this time. This was no bad thing as I found even driving up Ventoux to be very moving, especially when we watched lots of cyclists rounding the last bend and being cheered home by friends, family and strangers. There was something about the size of it that really made my stomach wobble, so I'm not sure I'll ever get to the top by bike. 

French village Diaries Mini Cooper road trip France Le Mont Ventoux Provence
Le Mont Ventoux

After a patisserie, which was unfortunately a supermarket purchase and not particularly exciting despite eating it on the stark white rock of Ventoux, we left the Vaucluse and entered the Drome. Our home for the night was Montbrun-les-Bains, a small spa village with medieval cobbled pathways rather than roads and where we could have done with a donkey to carry our bags from the car. It was a beautiful place, with a friendly hotelier who served us a fresh pressed apple juice on arrival and where we found a perfect shady spot to enjoy a beer, with a welcome breeze and a view. Tomorrow we will be turning around and making our way back to the west by the Cevennes.


French village Diaries Mini Cooper road trip France Montbrun-les-Bains
Montbrun-les-Bains
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