And so we arrive in the South of France, and settle into the stunning but sleepy town of Menerbes. This is one of a number of idyllic hillside fortress towns, with earliest remnants going back to Roman times. The town is better known for two events of different ages. Firstly, during the French Religious Wars in the 1500's the Protestants built a fortress on the site, augmenting an old convent and villas from around 1250AD. This was deliberately to antagonise the Pope, and lead to 5 years of siege over which a huge amount of ordinance was heaped opon the battlements.
Secondly, the book "A Year in Provence" is based in the same town, by Peter Mayle, and the Russell Crowe movie "A Good Year" also based nearby. Long forgotten are the thoughts of conflict here, with the area better known for fields of lavender, truffles, and wine. North of here are the famous wine regions around Avignon - namely Chateauneuf du Pape ("new house of the Pope", as the Papacy shifted to Avignon from Rome in the 1300's for close to a century), also Gigondas, Vacqueras and the lovely dessert wines from Beaumes de Venise. Contrary to the elegant reds of the Northern Rhone Syrah, here old Grenache bush vines sprawl like wizened and tortured stumps in stony soil making rich and spicy wines that stand up to a variety of rich southern comfort foods.
While English language seemed common in Paris, and German in Alsace, here in the South (and seemingly, even more so in the viticulture industry) French is the one and only language, with my dusty school French from more than 20 years ago getting stretched to the limit. As a result though, we get a vastly different reception at the local Bistros, a table of Australians nearby get cold and brusque service in stark contrast to the immediate warm welcome and jovial nature given to us. Tourist season is on its last legs now, with most towns virtually abandoned. Everywhere we turn there seems to be ancient Abbeys or towns from the 12th, 14th, 16th centuries. This photo is of the town of Gordes, about 10km away from Menerbes.
Local markets sport a wide array of fresh local produce. Many shops will be closing up for the "winter" this month, which makes us chuckle as we bask in 25-26 degree days. Crisp Cotes de Provence Rose with a large bowl of local olives dressed in Provencal herbs seems a good way to pass the late afternoon heat. That said, as we speak the famous Mistral wind is starting, which will drop the temperature by 20 degrees overnight. Again, with reluctance, we are on the move again tomorrow - shifting West to Languedoc, close to the Spanish border.