My second stop during my September séjour in Provence, France, was in a small village called Comps, in the Department of Gard. After a somewhat cool reception I experienced in Piolenc, the chambres d’hotes in Comps felt just like a real home for me. I stayed at a house of Muriel and Michel, a French-Belgian couple, musicians, artists and simply great people!
They offer not just bed & breakfast (both at their top!) but also give you this feeling of having an insight into the French house – moreover you actually experience this life! Their house is called l’Oustaou de Fanny et Marius, (oustaou = home in Provencal) after the famous characters of Marcel Pagnol.
Oh those breakfasts in the morning! Muriel makes her own confiture (see above all those small shots filled with jams) – and who would wonder that I made sure to try each of these jams … every morning 🙂 I think Muriel & Michel’s wonderful friends (who drove all the way down there from Belgium and asked me various questions on Russia) were quite surprised by me eating that much in the morning – while they just nibbled at a single home-baked waffle!
I wish I could make all my breakfasts so long and so pleasing, both in terms of what you eat and the people you have around you in the morning. I mean, mornings are made for this, to start off your day in a lovely way! And talking about mornings…
Running there and seeing horses grazing where the sun rises, listening to the nature awakening, I wouldn’t change that for any megalopolis at that moment!
There’s the river Gardon close by with a camping site. The beautiful early autumn turned my morning jogging (which at the moment I do in pitch darkness of November St Petersburg) into a little discovery each time – a sheer thrill of running and not knowing what awaits you there!
My third jogging was especially special 🙂 I actually climbed up the hill instead of running (hiking downstairs was easier – almost running), to get to that Abbey of St Roman (Abbaye de Saint-Roman). It was closed of course (I sometimes or rather often wonder at the French people who have opening hours and people manning such places as a monastery on top of a hill!) but that did not prevent me from enjoying the climb.
Because just opposite the hill with a monastery on it (which has a weird story by the way), there is le pic de l’Aiguille, a troglodyte sight which is carefully guarded by…
This wild goat 🙂 I found out later that the animal is there for years and years. At first I was hesitant and though I’d rather drop it and get back to the path (probably remembering my childhood encounter with a goat in Rossosh) but then I did it. And you know what? The goat disappeared when I got there – and then resurfaced again at the same spot as I was going back the path!
Standing there (153 meters above the sea level) in a pretty fine wind and with the rising sun just in front of me made me talk to myself out loud – and thank God for such a wonderful gift!
There’s a orientation table on top of that Aiguille (which is a needle or peak in French) and you can easily observe the Rhône river, the Mont Ventoux, Tarascon and Beaucaire (next stops on my list). Wikipedia cites the Michelin Guide, which describes it ‘a site of captivating simplicity’ – and I do agree! Going back was like descending from the sky.
The location of the house (between Provence and the seaside Camargue region) I was staying is enhanced with this Roman aqueduct which stands right there for years and years. I ‘discovered’ it on the first evening, after my day in super-cute Arles. And also learned that it stands on the way to St Jacques de Compostelle – there’s a shell sign on the map.
People have there houses right down there at the foot (feet?) of the aqueduct, there are some old home appliances rotting away and a path leading to various points, like that Aiguille and the monastery. There’s also the well-known Pont du Gard, a huge two-tire aqueduct, which can be reached from Comps by car. What I love about France is that they have all those walking routes making their nature and land in general accessible to people.
And there on top of the hill I had my simple French-Russian dinner that day. I had tasty rye-wheat bread, Cantal Jeune cheese, plain yogurt (fromage blanc, my substitute for kefir in France) and apples. With the sun setting down there in the Gardon river valley and me sitting on top of the world, that’s what I call memorable!
Thanks to my hospitable hosts I had a bike to my disposal. I shouldn’t even mention the quality of that track which was so much better than the most Russian roads I’ve seen… The bike helped me discover three new cities in the region which I will tell you about soon.
Comps itself is so tiny that I have only one photo of it – with some advertisement fading away on the corner house. But the vineyards around Comps are beautiful, particularly in the evening sun:
And of course I tried the grapes 🙂 There was also a farm at the other end of the village – with the path finishing in a dead-end cause too close to the river dam. By the way, as a true French village there was a tobacco / newspaper shop, a bakery, a cafe and even a pizza truck (which is not that authentically French but was just fun to find there). Comps is too small to make any checklists, I will just tell you that next time you travel in Provence, make sure to stay with these amazing people! Michel and Muriel are those in the foreground:
It was a pleasure talking to them – and not only because I could finally feel at ease speaking French! They have made the second part of my journey so much warmer and hospitable! It is something no hotel will ever give you. Also, I bought lots of pots of tastiest confiture, home made and 100% Provence!
We still have some of the pots left – to recreate the Provence at home during the cold winter days 🙂
Once again – the link to the hospitable house: l’Oustaou de Fanny et Marius