I have always been hesitant about visiting France, apart from a customary Paris stop-over during an earlier backpacking trip through Western Europe. Not because I didn’t want to, I’d read about and seen pictures of the vineyards of Bordeaux, the glitzy coasts of the Cote d’Azur, the Lavender fields of Provence and felt more than an itch, but the language barrier has always intimidated me, more so France than any other country (Italy comes a close second) where English is immensely frowned upon. Beyond a cursory Bonjour, I am left with nothing but a stupid smile while the waitress taps her feet impatiently and cocks an eyebrow at me indicating she is waiting to take my dinner order. Poisson I always say, the most pronounceable French word for my linguistic capabilities. The response is a further ramble of French characters and I am back to smiling idiotically.
So when Nic wanted to meet me for a few days during my trip to Switzerland, I knew I’d have to exploit every ounce of the Frenchman I had in my company, and Shiya and I decided to meet him for a short road trip in Provence.
Nestled in the middle of Provence is Luberon, and within that are little villages, some perched atop hills like cake tops and some set in the valleys. It was a thoroughly charming area and we spent four sun-drenched days exploring the various village within the “Golden Triangle of Luberon”, each vastly different from the other.
We started in Gordes, a village made almost entirely out of stone.
A postcard view of the Gordes village at sunset, and also where we sat for a long while after dinner hypothesizing what life would be if we lived here, “I wouldn’t mind that house with the pool.”. Also where I heard one of the loudest frogs in my life, the constant croaking seemingly coming from one of the houses at the foot of the village, which was quite a distance away! “Someone must eventually want to kill those frogs”
The next day we were in Roussillon, another hilltop village 30 minutes away but vastly different from the off-white stone structures of Gordes. The village was based on ochre-rich clay, and all houses and buildings are a mandatory ochre-tinted shade of red, orange or yellow.
Roussillon is also home to a former ochre-quarry-turned-tourist-walking-trail, Sentier des Ocres. It reminded me a bit of the sandstone cliffs of Colorado.
Also known as 45-minute-walk-on-powdery-clay-that-ruined-my-shoes.
The next day, we were due to be back in Marseille for our transits back home, but in the morning made a detour to the Gorges du Verdon for a spot of whitewater rafting. Side story: In our rafting group was a party of Germans, two of whom were due to be married LATER IN THE DAY. For me it was a moment of marvelling at German practicality. No fussing about catering, no make-up artist in sight, no dresses to worry about, simply “Ve do some white water rafting, und then ve go to get married.” Eventually we made the long drive down, and on the car ride I pondered about how splendid it was to be travelling with a local. Not only did I not have to gesticulate wildly and in a similar vein try to interpret the wild gesticulations of others, there were also subtleties in the local culture which I would not have picked up had it not been for Nic explaining it. I also massively appreciated having someone translate the menu for me, which led to me having my first (and subsequent) meal in France which did not involve fish. And of course he did all the driving!
For example, French children pluck leaves from a particular tree to use as nose clips as pictured.
Aside from Provence being an amazing place, travelling with Nic was great fun, and a fantastic way to catch up! If you’ve got a friend living abroad, book your tickets and pay a visit!
You get to enjoy views like these from the passenger seat.
Edit: After protests of unequal publicity coverage, Shiya would like it to be made very clear that she also contributed to the wonderfulness of the trip.