Sunday dawned grey and overcast, but with hopes for sunshine to come.
Jay made immediate friends with Patrick’s cat, Minou, who made a beeline for him, rolling on his back and playing with him. After some pastries and relaxing, we all decided that the day might be best spent with some local sight seeing rather than a major expedition.
Step one was to drive to the delightful nearby town of Maussane-les-Alpilles, about 30 minutes away. It has a town square filled with cafés and a ton of charm – a great place for lunch. We headed out in caravan to St. Remy-de-Provence, and then over the small pass through the Alpilles to les Baux and then on to Maussane. David first pulled into the parking area adjoining Aux Ateliers, a Maussane hot-spot for good food, but found they were closed for September, so headed into the center of Maussane.
As we crept into Maussane behind a huge tour bus, it suddenly stopped, put on its flashers, and slowly settled a foot or so towards the ground, a sign it was discharging passengers. In short order, everyone on the bus got off and crowded the sidewalk and road, apparently waiting to cross to the other side and go to a restaurant located there. You have to hand it to the French. In the U.S. there would be honking, people yelling, etc. Here on the main street of Maussane there was not a peep. We all sat until the bus rose again and headed down the road.
We pulled into the parking lot behind the Church and found a handicap space open. Having brought our handicap sign (which apparently is near universal) we pulled in and headed for the square. Anne and Jay found a place nearby and parked their car. We got a table for four in the Café de la Fontaine, right next to a gas heater, and settled in for a light meal. Jay ordered a local beer while the rest of us had our regular kirs. All of the cafés were now jammed with folks enjoying Sunday out.
David ordered a bottle of Mas de la Dame rosé and we made our selections from le menu. I had roast veal, Anne and David the boeuf tartare, and Jay the Thai tartare, which was boeuf tartare kicked up a notch with Thai spices. Nothing fancy, but perfect for the moment.
We spent some time watching people, dogs, and cars. We decided that Europe offered a wealth of choices in great cars that you cannot get in the U.S. – Audis, BMWs, and the “big-three” of France: Citroen, Renault, and Peugeot. All of the models were compact, sporty, and zipped around the small streets everywhere. Two issues prevent them from being sold in the U.S. – no real demand in a market were everyone wants an SUV, and they’re all diesel-powered and probably don’t meet the emission standards.
As lunch wound down, Anne and Jay decided to head down the road to Fontvielle and the imposing Abbaye de Montmajour while we would wind our way back to the mas. Montmajour towers over the road just a few kilometers outside Fontvielle, with a huge tower that gives views of all of the surrounding countryside. A fitting start to sightseeing in the area.
We headed back through the pass to St. Remy, now brimming with tourists and then down to the road to our home in Eygalieres.
My phone lit up a short while later. Anne and Jay were on their way back and wanted to meet us in town for a glass of rosé. We headed down the road to the Café de la Place and grabbed a table. Anne and Jay arrived, bubbling with descriptions and photos of Montmajour. They had gone all the way to the top of the tower, which is not for the faint of heart.
We people/dog watched for a bit, then meandered back to the mas for a light snack for dinner. Anne put out a plate of charcuterie: Jambon de Paris, saucissons, several cheeses including a delicious Brie with truffles, a baguette to make sandwiches… Life is simple and good in Provence.
Anne and Jay were still unwinding from jet lag, and we were all ready to turn in, so – with the dishes washed and dried – we headed upstairs for dreams of a beautiful day tomorrow.