Saturday, June 7, 2008

Day 117 – Toujours Provence; the mistral

I woke up to the pitter patter of rain! Fortunately my little tent seems to repel rain very well, but I was shocked to find a dreary morning in “sunny” Provence. Of course I was not going to let a bit of weather stop me, but throughout the day I was happy I had not discarded my wind breaker. The strong cold wind from the east, the mistral, kept me company all day.

Today I visited the pretty town of Bonnieux (but then again, all towns here can be described as pretty), and took a walk through the famous Forest of Cedars. Cedars are of course not indigenous from Provence, but 75 years ago they were imported from the Atlas Mountains, in Morocco, and thrive on the high country of Haut Provence. Today they are a source of beauty, and an important timber resource to the region. The high country is also the home to enormous flocks of sheep, and I was lucky enough to cross paths with one of them. The sheepherder grunted “b’j’r” (thereby transporting me into heaven at finding the legendary crusty Provencal), and the sheepdogs gave me a perfunctory sniff, and after that I stood for 10 minutes seeing sheep go by.

A little later I had my chance of doing my good deed of the day, when I met a poor cyclist who had two flat tires. He desperately needed a cell phone, and I was able to provide it, but the poor man drew a blank when his two calls met with that nemesis of the needy, the “repondeur” or answering machine. I offered to take him down to Bonnieux, but he assured me that his wife would hear the message and come to pick him up, so I resumed my walk. He must have found a way out of his difficulties, because when I came back he was gone.

From there I backtracked to Lacoste, where I climbed to see the ruins of the castle of the Marquis de Sade, of sadistic memory. The ruins look like ruins, but surprisingly someone has bought the castle and built a living area within it. The house if off limits to tourists, and you can only imagine the rumors that run around the town about the “quirks” of the new owners.

My final stop was in the small town of Ménerbes, which must have been designed by a goat. The afternoon was looking really menacing, but somehow the weather held up (but it was still cold and windy), and I had a nice time nosing throughout the town.

I will allow myself a geologic observation, and mention that Maubec, Ménerbes, and Bonnieux have all been built on a minor ridge off the Luberon mountains, underlain by a late Cretaceous cross-bedded biosparite. The type of deposit that is being formed along the beaches of the Bahamas nowadays. The Luberon Mountains themselves are formed by middle to late Cretaceous reef and shelf limestones.

Let’s see, today’s dinner was an excellent casoulette avec confits de canard (a duck stew). I am not sure how old this casoulette was, but tradition is that a good cook keeps adding to the pot continuously, so it is with great pride that some brasseries announce that their casoulette is “45 days old”!

No comments: