Le Diabline of Aix-en-Provence

Our impression of the city could have been more positive if it wasn’t so dull and chilly when we hit the pavement of Cours Mirabeau.

It was Monday and most of the galleries and museums were closed, therefore, not many people were out there. And also, a very turbulent weather system was causing a havoc all over the country and we had been very lucky not to be caught up in it so far.

While we sat in one of the cafes and pondered what to do next, mum complained how chilly she felt and was regretting about leaving her scarf in the car.

Mum, you do this all the time! One moment, she complains how boiling hot it is and next moment she changes her mind and starts piling herself up with layers of clothings.

Anyway, we decided to go back to our car which was parked in the car park at the north end of Rue Mignet so she would stop sniffing.

‘Ok, let’s find another Diabline ride!’

Le Diabline was similar to our favourite in Avignon, La Baladine, and like her counterpart, they circulated in the city centre, serving mainly for older residents who had limited mobility.

Here comes Le Diabline!

You raise your hand and it will stop for you if there is a space available – the car has only four seats. But not to worry because a troop of the cars are on road and you will be able to hop on the one before too long!

We hitched a ride on Circuit Ligne C (green one)…

Paying the fare was a little different from La Baladine. In Avignon, we paid 0.6€ for every ride but to use Le Diabline, we had to buy a card each and to stick the card into a machine – the blue one behind the rear seat. I can’t recall how much the fare was but it was around 1€.

Oh no, the rain starts to come down…

A view of the driver’s seat…

We were supposed to get off at Place Bellgarde but our Diabline pulled up at the beginning of Rue Mignet.

It started to rain harder and we didn’t like the thought of being thrown out from the car at that moment…

Are they terminating here? There was an old French madam with us and we all looked at each other quizzically? ‘En casse?’ I asked. The driver laughed and answered ‘Non, non!’ but whipped out her mobile phone and started to talk to someone.

‘Oh well, we will have to be on this a little longer.’ Eventually, the driver climbed back into a driving seat and started the engine.

These are the tickets we bought on Le Diabline…

While we headed back to Cours Mirabeau on another Le Diabline, we had an amusing encounter with a Corsican man. As we settled into our seat and exchanged bonjour, the man with a deep tan told us that he knew a very famous Japanese man. ‘I know Hirohito!’ Oh god, the Showa Emperor?! I felt rather uneasy because, you know, the history, WWll etc. So I just smiled back to him. He then beamed, ‘We had a great emperor too!’ ‘You mean Napoleon?’ He nodded enthusiastically and grabbed my hand for a firm handshake. Then, he started to rant how the French took over Corsica and he hated the French. And there was another passenger who was the French and she took an offence and started to complain. Oh my, the looks of disdain on their faces! We got off at Cours Mirabeau and the others, the Corsican and the French continued their journey…

At an Italian restaurant on Cours Mirabeau, we had pasta with cream and smoked salmon…

Since the rain has stopped so we can walk around the city centre!

Mum and I decided to explore the city…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

We love Carrefour

During our road trip, we used the French supermarket chain Carrefour often, and especially, We liked their organic range very much. Their readymade salads were a godsend when we became weary of eating out in unfamiliar places.

Thanks to free-roaming by O2, we could find branches of Carrefour on the road and replenish our supplies…

We made a detour to the supermarket before we arrived at Aix-en-Provence…

Mum bought boxes of Calissons d’Aix-en-Provence for her friends. We also bought milk, water, strawberries, a box of Kleenex and pastries.

We visited this Carrefour almost everyday while we stayed in Aix-en-Provence…

Regarding supermarket shopping bags, I thought the French were doing a lot better than the British. I bought this large reusable shopping bag at the Carrefour in Limoges and used it throughout our trip. Unlike the British chains, the French counterparts didn’t give out any plastic bag and the only alternative was paper bags. Why don’t they do the same in the U.K???

Even if the chains increase the price of the bag to 10p, it won’t encourage lazy people to bring their own bags. The only way to reduce the plastic waste is making single-use plastic bags UNAVAILABLE!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Lourmarin & Cadenet

The next place we visited before Aix-en-Provence was Lourmarin. The village was listed as “one of the most beautiful villages in France” and we were intrigued by the claim.

A carpark by the perimeter of the village appeared to be full so we proceeded further into the heart of the village and managed to find a space on the street lined with large trees.

The time was around half past two o’clock and the street was very quiet. We saw all the gift shops and cafes were open but they weren’t at all lively.

Lourmarin was famous for its castle. Apparently, the castle had an amazing stone staircase which resembled a fusilli pasta. ‘Mum, do you want to see the castle?’

She pondered for a while but in the end decided not to visit the building because her knee was hurting. ‘I am sorry if you are missing out on opportunities because of me.’, she apologised.

To be 100% honest, Lourmarin didn’t leave me with much impression. The landscape wasn’t as spectacular as Gordes or Roussillon – just didn’t possess the same “wow” factors of the aforementioned places.

After leaving Lourmarin, we drove past Cadenet…

I can’t remember why we pulled over there and then. But anyway, we decided to stop.

A vast vineyard!

We climbed back to the car and headed to our next destination, Aix-en-Provence…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Roussillon

Our next destination was a commune called Roussillon. A guidebook recommended the place as a “must-see” so we decided to lunch there.

What made Roussillon unique was its reddish rocks and soil which added rosy and orangish tones to the scenery. It was due to the earth in the area was rich in clay with ochre deposits – ochres were pigments ranging from yellow and orange to red.

Unlike Gordes’, Roussillon’s carpark and the vicinity were very quiet…

Ragged rock face was punctuated by openings and doors…

Are they some sort of storage, like railway arches? What the inside is like?, mum and I were very curious…

We didn’t came across a single soul while we sauntered towards the village centre. Where was everybody? Not even the sound of everyday life, such as the sound of TV or washing machine, was heard from the walls which lined a narrow street…

Heavenly scent of jasmine greeted us…

Psssss, it’s so quiet. We must keep our voice down…

Around Place de la Mairie, there were a plenty of eateries and we decided to have lunch at one of them.

We were ushered to a narrow staircase which led us to an outside seating area…

The terrace commanded a fine view of the valley…

As we settled into our seats, the weather seemed to be going south and the wind started to increase the strength. ‘Oh god, I hope it will stay dry…’, mum frowned while she looked on one of the staffs struggling to secure a canopy above the terrace which was flapping rather wildly.

For our lunch, we ordered their plat du jour, steak!

Mmmm, it was delicious. A couple, who were seated next to us, saw what we were tucking in and ordered the same dish!

After lunch, I left mum in Place de la Mairie and went to fetch our car.

‘Where does this path lead to?’ I couldn’t resist my curiosity so decided to do a quick detour…

The narrow passage led me to a higher ground…

And I found more cafes and restaurants…

There were small gates and passages everywhere. Very intriguing…

One of the stairs led me to an open terrace which offered another great view over the Luberon Valley…

It was so tempting to climb up another path to see if any hidden gem would await me…

However, I resisted the temptation because mum would be worried if I failed to return soon…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Gordes

Yes, the snow is here and it makes me feel like we are finally having a proper winter. And I don’t mind the weather as long as it won’t disrupt my journey to the ice rink tonight!

My entry today is going to be a perfect antidote against the present chill because it is about the little village in southeastern France where mum and I visited during our road trip last summer.

From Avignon to Gordes, our first village in the Luberon region of Provence, the journey didn’t take very long…

There were many pretty villages in the Luberon Valley and having to choose just a few was an agony for us. However, it would require at least another week of stay in the area if we wanted to explore it properly and we didn’t have that time.

Gordes was one of those “eagle’s-nest” type villages which were perched on the summits of boulders. As we got closer to the commune, a winding road leading to the place got narrower and steeper. Prior to our visit, we learnt from a guide book that parking in the village could be tricky so we decided to park in a public parking area by the entrance of the village. While we were getting out of our car, a fleet of coaches pulled up and poured out a herd of tourists. ‘I am so glad that we’ve managed to park before more crowds arrive!’, mum and I whispered to each other as we walked behind them.

A view from the roadside…

It was about five minutes’ walk from the car park to the centre of the village…

We wandered around the village for a while…

We strolled down a quiet street which was lined with pretty shops…

Oh, this was exactly I imagined how the village in Provence would look like! Honey coloured stonework and climbing roses. How idylic…

Time to time, we caught a glimpse of a the Luberon Valley between the buildings…

Luscious green of Provence!

These are the colours of Provence. How delicious they look. I really miss them!

Mum spotted a small studio which was selling hand painted plates and she wanted to see the inside…

There were loads of pretty earthenware on sale…

Mum decided to buy a small dish for olive oil. ‘This will remind me about our time together’, she smiled. Oh, thank you, mum!

After shopping, we walked to the end of the row of houses and saw this…

Isn’t it beautiful?

We walked back towards the village centre and came across a little cake shop…

Shall we buy some treat?

Ahhh, our favourite, Tarte Tropézienne! We couldn’t resist it.

Leaving mum with a box of the cake in the village square, I returned to the car park alone so she wouldn’t have to strain her knee.

I saved the best view of Gordes for you…

Upon leaving the village, we did have a little incident and it was hairy! For some unknown error, Google navigation displayed a cycle path instead of car route, and as a result, I drove into an impossibly narrow lane. I am not sure if I could reverse all the way without my mum’s calm navigation. She did save me from badly scratching a bodywork of my car. Thank you, mum!!!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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