A Day in Provence

Now I get it.

Kaitlyn and I spent the day yesterday driving to then through a slice of Provence. We’d gone with a friend and her 2 year old to see the lavender fields. The day was long. Very long. I fell asleep thinking of Provence. I woke up thinking of Provence. I slept so soundly in between; I don’t know if it was because 12+ hours in a car is tiring (I wasn’t even the driver) or if the lingering scent of the lavender helped me doze. lavender-field.jpg

Whatever the case, I came home understanding why Peter Mayle moved to Provence then wrote “A Year in Provence.” We drove through the area where he lives. Or lived when he wrote the book, I don’t know his current whereabouts. The sky was bluer than I’d seen it anywhere but North Carolina. The hills were gentle and rolling yet rocky at the same time. We drove insane winding roads on which you’d turn a corner and…. voila… there was a giant patch of purple blanketing the ground. Grand stone houses with the trademark purple shutters dotted the landscape. And the towns looked like they just grew up out of the cliffs.

Getting to Provence wasn’t easy. We went on a Monday, thinking that even though we went in the midst of tourist season, the traffic on the autoroute wouldn’t be too horrible. We didn’t count on an accident. And, I later found out, that when there’s an accident the rescue crews shut down the highway so they can get it all cleaned up… to prevent another accident. So we sat for about 45 minutes. Sitting in a hot car not moving is a real thrill for two little girls.

Once traffic started moving, we decided to stop at the next rest area touting bathrooms and have our picnic. I’m not good at the whole picnic thing. First: you have to pack something you’ll want to eat later, which means it has to hold up to being in a cooler for a few hours. Second: you have to find a table which will probably be dirty. Third: you are outside, so there are bugs. I did much better than usual and had a lunch worth eating, at a table, covered with the beach towel I’d brought in case we had to sit on the ground. It was even in the shade, so it wasn’t unbearably hot; I’d go so far as to call it pleasant. The girls wanted to play for a while before getting back in the car, but some genius decided to put the metal slide in the middle of the grassy area where not one speck of shade could reach it. And that was the only play equipment around.

We lured them into the car with the promise that the flowers weren’t too far away… only an hour to go to get to the lavender museum. kk-lavender-museum.gif I think Kaitlyn liked it, but she spent about as much time looking at the displays as she does any. Which is approximately .0000001 second per display. kk-sniffing.jpgShe did like the one where you sniffed the difference between lavande… what the Provencial French claims is the only “real” lavender because it only grows there… and the kind that grows just anywhere. Pretty much the displays were just different kinds of contraptions used to get the essential oils out of the flowers. kk-distilery-thingie.gif Kaitlyn mostly enjoyed the gift shop. I managed to convince her that she didn’t need the 18 Euro bottle of essential oil. And I convinced her we didn’t need to buy the bundle of dried lavande, when we have a giant lavande bush in our yard (yes, the real kind) and that we can go out some time when the bees aren’t all over it (I suppose that would be at night) and snip off a bunch to dry. She ended up with some lavande spray that I convinced her is perfume. She also bought soap, which I think she only wanted because it’s purple. I figure if it gets her to wash, it’s worth it. She can sit in the tub for an hour playing and not think to actually use soap to get clean.

From the museum, we headed out along what some website dedicated to lavender said would be a good lavender route. It took a little while, but when we finally got to the area with all the lavender, it was worth it. We found one spot where we could park at the end of someone’s driveway, and tromp through their lavender for pictures. Unfortunately, by that time Kaitlyn was sound asleep in the car. kk-sleeping.jpgShe did wake up a little later just as we were coming to an overlook from which you could see the entire valley below sprinkled with the purple blankets of lavender.kk-lavenderfield.jpg

Our last stop was a little town with its own spectacular view of the fields. We ate dinner in a bar… because the only choice was the bar for sandwiches or an overpriced fancy restaurant. The bar did include the bonus of having a cat that wandered around, hopping up on barstools or customers’ laps. cat-at-bar.jpgThe cafe with the tables that included a view of the fields didn’t serve food after 3pm. Naturally. That was where we wanted to sit… and enjoy the view of the fields and be able to watch an older couple play petanque in the dirt nearby.

We did learn one very important lesson. You may want to check the route your GPS has planned. On the way home it took us only along winding, narrow back roads through the mountains. It got a little scary. And took a really long time.

We left the house around 9:30 in the morning. Kaitlyn and I got back home around 11:45 at night. It was a long day. But now I’m converted to a Provence lover. I want to go back. Soon. And often.

2 Responses to “A Day in Provence”

  1. rachel says:

    finally reading and catching up!! Purviance was my mother’s middle name…in doing genealogy I finally figured out that it is a derivative of provence–probably Bill has distance relatives (very distant) here!

  2. D.A.D. says:

    What a pleasant day overall that must have been. Kids do devote such an amazing length of time to looking at displays. The scenery must be wonderful, as your pictures show (sooo handy to have pictures interspersed amongst your already vivid words). It has been years since I have played petanque in the dirt. For those poor readers unfamiliar with the game, here’s a description: a form of boules where the goal is, while standing with the feet together in a small circle, to throw metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet (jack). The game is normally played on hard dirt or gravel, but can also be played on grass or other surfaces. Sandy beaches are not suitable. Similar games are bocce and bowls.

    The problem is most won’t know what boules, bocce nor bowls are, either.

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