Monday, August 18, 2014

Summer Vacation 2014 – Provence

I left Nice by train to Draguignan to where I met friends in the village of Tourtour up in the mountains.
Tourtour is a small village of 500 people that kept a lot of the old architecture so is popular with tourists, especially French tourists who like the scenery and how Tourtour looks like what you would want an old French village in the mountains to look like.

It’s a beautiful place: old homes nestled together, a town square with a number of cafes and restaurants, fountains fed by a spring (the water being cold and drinkable), and because the town is near a national park and a military base the surrounding countryside is mostly forested and does not have a lot of development. We had a picnic up by the church on the hill.

My friends have a summer home there so we spent a couple of days in the village where I got to meet some of the locals (at least as best I could, my French is maybe slightly above tourist level). We also attended a village dinner in the square.

Took a small hike out to an abandoned monastery a few kilometers from the village. It originally dated to the 12th century but most of it was built later, then finally abandoned after the French Revolution. We could even see evidence that maybe 20 or 30 years ago someone tried to upgrade the place but then abandoned it back to nature.

From there was a day trip to Les Salles de Verdon to swim in the lake but the bigger draw is to rent a paddleboat and wander around the famous Verdon Gorge. Definitely go there if you have the chance. (The photo of the Gorge is from the internet, I didn’t want to risk my phone getting wet on a small paddleboat so I didn’t have it with me).

Finally on the way back to the airport in Nice we stopped for a couple of hours at St Paul de Vence, a medieval walled city just outside of Nice which was popular with artists and writers.

How is it that I’ve never heard of this place before? Very cool place, the layout of the town was kept relatively intact so is full of narrow, winding streets and alleyways. Bigger than Tourtour and, I’m guessing due to its proximity to Nice and Cannes, a lot more crowded with tourists. I would have liked to have stayed longer but had to catch a plane.

And thus ended the Eid vacation. Countries like France, Italy and Spain are so full of cool towns and sites I love going to that part of the world.

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