Piolenc, a small village in the Vaucluse department close to Orange, was the first place where I stayed during my recent visit to France. I chose to stay in small villages and at chambres d’hôtes as a much more insightful and hospitable alternative to the faceless hotels. This is a very sure way to experience living in a French house with French hosts and… French breakfast!
I’ve noticed back in 2006 during my first ever trip to France that you can eat so much of this crispy white bread and the homemade confiture at one go in the morning only in France 🙂 By the way, that crazy bus trip that I ventured on 9 years ago was also triggered by my desire to see David Gilmour live. That’s how my all travelling addiction started.
Those who stayed in France for some time will understand – you somehow adopt their national food clock and start feeling hungry inevitably around noon! Parce qu’on mange à midi 🙂 So thanks to the substantial breakfast I had in the morning, I could at least ‘operate’ in my natural mode.
Anyway, travelling to France almost equals food discoveries. Just walking past the windows at the lunch or dinner time in the south of France will give you a clear idea that you’ve entered the garlic realm. The garlic is what you first detect when you ‘put’ your nose close to the restaurants too. Garlic everywhere! They even have a festival of Provençal garlic at Piolenc and call themselves the garlic capital 🙂
And rosemary too. This grew next to the wall of the medieval abbey in Piolenc. So beautiful!
The abbey is something that I would advise you to visit just for the sight of it. I did not get inside but what I saw outside was enough to make me come back to that weird place several times.
First of all, there was hardly anyone around. And then these walls reminding me of the semi-abandoned villages on Santorini, Greece, and the tall walls with the characteristic bell towers and the metal pinnacles of Provence…
The Piolenc abbey is one of the numerous abbeys belonging to the order of Cluny. It used to be quite a place of power and there is something that is still lingering out there I suppose. The evening I first saw it there was the ever present (strong) mistral which added to the feeling of being in an absolutely deserted place.
The town is also used to be more ‘powerful’ as it was more frequented thanks to the national route 7 (RN 7) celebrated in a song and with a museum dedicated to it. This ‘highway’ used to be the only way for the French to get to the south of the country, the ever popular destination for the patriotic citizens.
Now I would rather say that the town (or rather, village) is tiny and super-French, making you almost fall for it and believe that the entire France should be like that. I also liked this green stuff growing on the walls of the old-old houses:
and these recycled windows which created a wall:
But what I liked even more was this super rural house close to the place where I was staying (Au Jardin des Oliviers, if you’re interested). It immediately captured my attention when I was passing by.
I somehow felt I was in one of those fairy tales about the sisters Delphine and Marinette by Marcel Aimé. There were also some vegetables scattered right in front of the house plus a sign telling me they grow and sell lots of vegetables and fruits there.
I was first met by a grandpa who redirected me to Bernadette who led me into their caverne d’Ali Baba! (if you ever pass by their small farm, look for the house of the Berard family). Oh that was a very tasty melon and apples that I bought there! It was one of those moments when you wished you were actually not travelling alone – simply because you cannot eat all those fresh and mouth-watering fruits all by yourself!
A sudden glimpse of spring…
In the ‘center’ of Piolenc there were more places with fresh veggies – already attractive as they are, no need for extra marketing! These two food-related photos were taken on the day of the concert when it was raining fiercely in the morning. Will tell you all about it in my next post.
I will not make my usual checklist for Piolenc – because it is one of those places which you just savour detail-by-detail. It’s no Marseille or any other big city. And just because such towns and villages are charmingly small, they leave you time and space to discover them very slowly. This is probably a very French way to discover new things – try the local food, appreciate the vine, read all the signs in front of the few monuments (there always IS something), walk and feel the mistral on your face!
Adding this post to my Travel series.