Provence

A short week in Provence during a record-setting heat wave.

I joined the family for a three-day visit to Provence, outside Avignon.  We rented a villa in a tiny village surrounded by pastoral beauty, giving us a good base for exploring the area and plentiful opportunities for early-morning bike rides through the countryside.  It  quickly became my habit to hop on a bike shortly before sunrise, cruise randomly along narrow lanes through ancient fields of lavender, sunflowers, wheat, apricots, and more.  I concluded each of my outings with a stop at the Boulangerie in the village, arriving home with fresh-baked pastries and bread.  Not a bad way to start the day.  Read on for more – and don’t miss the photo gallery.Church in the center of Maillane, Provence.

Indeed, as it turns out, our visit coincided with a record-setting heat wave. The temps topped out over 100ºF every afternoon, and a nearby village set a new French record of 116ºF on Friday afternoon.  oof!  Despite the heat, we were out exploring every day, as follows.

Tuesday morning we drove to a remote farmhouse where two brothers celebrated their family’s agricultural legacy by offering cooking classes… we prepared a fabulous three-course lunch we enjoyed al fresco with a series of local wines.  Below: les Alouettes, which are round steak stuffed with chopped pork belly and pesto.  These were then seared and stewed with tomatoes and caramelized onions.  Other dishes included stuffed peppers and a delicious dip made from crushed sardines, almonds, olive oil, and garlic.French cooking class, at an old farmhouse in Provence.

Wednesday we headed into Avignon to explore its old cobblestone streets and Palais des Papes… though I admit to giving in to the 105º heat and spent most of my time nursing a cold beer in a shady cafe.  (Below: sunrise on a quiet road outside Maillane.)A country lane at sunrise, in Maillane, Provence.

Thursday we strolled through the amazing clifftop town of Les Baux de Provence before spending the afternoon in the pool.2019-06-27-67398.jpg

On Friday we briefly explored Aix-en-Provence – and Roquefavour, the largest stone aqueduct in the world.  I wish we’d had time to explore one of its outstanding restaurants.2019-06-28-67485

Late on Friday we headed to another remote farmhouse to hunt for truffles and taste why fresh truffles are so coveted.  I didn’t realize that most truffles are now farmed (by planting and watering fields of oak trees), but still require the expert nose of trained dogs to actually find and dig them up.Truffle hunting at Les Pastras truffle farm, Provence.

The intense heat cut short most of our afternoon city strolls, but fortunately the air was dry and the temps dropped overnight to 65-70º.  (Good thing too, because our bedroom had no air conditioning!)  Below: the Maillane boulangerie.Boulangerie in Maillane, Provence.

Don’t forget the photo gallery.  Here’s one of my favorites: Butterflies in lavender plants - Provence.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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