Wednesday, May 18, 2011 – A trip To Gordes and Senanque and dinner with friends

Today we decided to venture further from Eygalieres and visit the “perched village ” of Gordes and the nearby Abbaye de Senanque. The latter has been in countless photos of Provence with its rows of lavender in front that bloom in July. While the lavender would not yet be in bloom, we thought it would be nice to visit it and shoot some photography. The last time we were there, they had closed for lunch within a few minutes of our arriving, so we did not see much.

We headed out for the 40-minute drive, and arrived at Gordes, which is “perched” on the side of a bluff, overlooking a valley. Driving up it is very beautiful with buildings built of the gold local stone on top of, and overhanging, the bluff. Just before reaching the town center, we headed off to the left to go to Senanque. As we wound around towards the valley it is located in we remembered that the road to it clambers down a cliff side, and is so narrow that there are wide spots every 100 meters or so (called refuges) to allow cars and buses traveling in the opposite direction to pass. Shades of the road to Beauregard. The trip down was uneventful, and we stopped part way down so I could shoot some photos of the Abbaye from above. On reaching the floor of the valley we found the reason we did not encounter any tour buses coming up – the road is now one way, only handling traffic coming down. To get out of the valley you take a road that winds up the opposite hillside.

We meandered down to the parking area, stopping once to shoot some photos down the valley, then walked down a long path to the Abbaye. It is all very scenic and very impressive, even without the lavender being in bloom. Unfortunately, the only way to tour the Abbaye is on a guided tour (French-speaking), and the next one did not leave for an hour, so we looked around for a bit on our own, bought a book on the “three sisters” (three Abbayes in the area), and then headed back to the car for the drive to Gordes.

The road out of the valley and back to Gordes is fairly lengthy, but goes through some pretty country. When we reached Gordes there were houses and walls all built in a similar style from flat stones that have been cleared from the land over many years – very pretty. We remembered that the last time we were here we had eaten at le Bastides de Gordes, a very nice hotel and spa that is built overlooking the valley with great views, so decided to head back there. David dropped me off and parked the car, then we headed down to the dining room.

The staff was very gracious, the views terrific, and the menu very appealing. We were seated at a table on the terrace, ordered our kirs, then ordered lunch. We both ordered the entrée (appetizer) du jour – a crab and avocado dish. David followed with the poisson du jour (cod) while I ordered an entrecote. When I told the waiter I wanted it bleu, he said “parfait,” as the French feel that good meat only needs to be cooked slightly – further cooking destroys the taste.

The food was excellent, and a bottle of rose from Ventoux was right on the mark, very refreshing. An American woman sat down at the next table. She was at the spa, and when asked what wine she would like with lunch said (very haughtily) “I’m at the spa, so do not drink alcohol.” Her loss. We relaxed and took in the views, watching a few clouds march over the valley. There were swallows playing in the air in front of us – all very pretty. Then, it was back to the car, and back to Eygalieres to get ready for entertaining our friends from Les Baux, Christine and Philippe Theme and Jean-Pierre and Claire Novi.

We stopped at Domaine Valdition on the way back, and picked up some anchoide (anchovies, green olives, and garlic), aubergine caviar (a minced eggplant with herbs), rosemary flatbread, and some black olives from their groves. We topped off our wine supply with a bottle each of white and red, and were all set.

Christine and Philippe arrived a bit after seven. We set out the food and wine on the table in front of the house, as the weather was ideal. Jean-Pierre and Claire arrived shortly after, and we spent an hour or so chatting and enjoying our wine before heading off to dinner.

As almost every restaurant in Eyglaieres is closed on Wednesday, we decided to go to Sous les Micocouliers where we had already had two nice meals. The head waiter, Fabian, was very nice, as he had been on previous visits, and greeted us graciously. While the company and wine was excellent, there was obviously a different chef in the kitchen, as the food was astoundingly bad. Couple this with a server with only three days experience on the job who had no idea what he was serving, and it was a disaster. While disappointing, it didn’t dampen a wonderful time with people who have become such wonderful friends. Well after 11 pm, they headed back to Les Baux and we returned to the mas.

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