Our host, Maurizio, recommended Billy’s Trattoria, a cavern built into the rock wall next to our accommodation. We were not disappointed. The food was locally sourced and exceptional, the local wine quite pleasant and the staff extraordinarily friendly. With complimentary homemade grappa, limoncello and mulled wine to finish the evening it was just as well we didn’t have far to walk home! I nominate this as the most memorable meal of our trip.
On leaving Italy it was time to train it across southern France. After an overnight stay in Nice where we found a crepêrie that served gluten free crepes for Garry, we travelled onto Avignon on the Rhone River in Provence. Avignon was the seat of the Catholic Popes from 1309 to 1377 and a tour of the Palais des Papes gives a great insight to the local history. The Pont D’Avignon (Saint Bénezet Bridge) built in the 12th century, once boasting 22 spans, now only crosses half the Rhone. With our B&B situated inside the old town we had lots of opportunities to walk around and explore the charming narrow streets inside the fortified walls. One evening we attended an historic art house theatre. We were fortunate enough to see a film in English – the subtitles were in French!
We acquired the services of a private guide for a couple of days to explore some of the provincial areas. The atmosphere of these small villages is so welcoming – the markets are amazing as well. The cobblestone streets in the village of Bonnieux were a series of mazes, whilst the village of Roussillon is a “must-see”. Situated in the heart of the largest ochre deposit in the world everything is a striking shade of orange, red or yellow. The other villages we visited were all quaint and each had its own unique qualities.
We walked the Theatre of Orange in Roussillon and the Pont du Gard, an ancient aqueduct across the Gardon River, both built by the Romans in the 1st century AD and both well preserved. The three tiers of arches on the Pont du Gard stand almost 50 metres high and the engineering shows great precision. Each day we had lunch in family run eateries in small villages – delicious local fare – très appétissant.
Of course, no tour of Provence is complete without visiting vineyards. In Luberon we tasted the fruits of labour from Domaine de la Citadella. On our final day we enjoyed the delights of the Chateuneuf de Papes wine appellation at Domaine Ogiers tasting wines from grapes grown in very different soils – limestone, red sandstone, sand, and pebbles. This was a great way to complete a couple of days with an exceptional guide.
A relaxing last day in Avignon saw us strolling down the Rue de Teinturies (Street of Dyers), a cobblestone tree-lined street following a canal with many water wheels. We then wandered around the Les Halles food market – a real treat. Here we purchased cheeses, meats, fruit and breads for a picnic lunch on the Ile de la Bathelasse, an island in the middle of the Rhone River. I also managed to stumble upon an awesome Chocolatier – amazing how we ladies are good at that!