Monday, October 21, 2013

The South of France: Chateauneuf-du-pape


I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world,
 whose margin fades
For ever and ever when I move.
Alfred Lord Tennyson, Ulysses

After stopping at Fiona's in Paris I drove us down here in eight hours. 

We stayed in a village just outside Avignon called Bedarrides. We rented a 3 bedroom townhouse with a deep balcony and a roof terrace. It cost £500/$750 a week. The people were so friendly in Bedarrides that they shouted greetings up to us every morning and every evening. Bon jour! Bon soir monsieur!

The house came equipped with three bicycles. I may visit again next spring before I travel back to the Far East.


With Dolly and Fiona appreciating Avignon cathedral in the sun

Chateauneuf-du-pape village

The sun-drenched vineyards we cycled past every day

A Chateauneuf label

I have a couple of bottles of this Chateauneuf blanc, quite a rare wine, at home but I don't drink much these days so I have to keep them in my cellar I guess.

The rivers here serve as beaches for those happy to miss out on the congestion around the Cote D'Azur. The great thing is that the artifice of some environments is utterly absent here. There are no drinks stalls or ice cream stands. Just nature. That suits me. At the riverside you just blend in in your swimming costume and hope you can find some shade. The temperature was consistently in the mid-30s every day.

What I read in the south of France:

'The Map and the Territory' by Michel Houellebecq. Set in the contemporary artworld it details the rise and depressing plateau-ing of a successful artist. Michel Houellebecq plays himself in the novel to extraordinary effect. A brilliant read related to modern France. 

'Drive' by James Sallis. Set in a hard-nosed LA this book had nothing to do with France but is an excellent, easy read if you like noir fiction.

What I listened to in the south of France:

French pop phenomenon Sebastien Tellier. Find him below with his masterwork La Ritournelle:

It's a popular song on the Politics album 'La Riturnelle' is a string-led tune which featured Nigerian drummer, Tony Allen, an associate of Fela Kuti.

I also drifted into other worlds to the folk romance of Petru Guelfucci's 'Corsica':

The Giant of Provence

I went to Provence to cycle up the fabled Tour De France climb Mont Ventoux. A veteran of (parts of the Alpine climbs) Alpe D'huez, Bardonecchia and Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard/San Bernardino I drove up Ventoux and decided that it was impossible. In my state of fitness and/or absent athletic ability. Too long, too steep. You can cycle English roads for 100 km but an Alpe, even for 5km, is a world apart.

Cycling up Ventoux's moonscape

A Town called Orange

Fiona at the Roman amphitheatre looking out to Mont Ventoux

Dolly swimming in the Ardeche Gorge

Dolly and Fiona at the Roman amphitheatre, Orange.

As a repressed gourmand I did break out here and enjoy some extraordinary food in Chateauneuf and Bedarrides villages:

One lunch involved braised rabbit with mustard, a goats cheese salad. All produced so casually and, ridiculously gustatory.

An evening supper looked like this:
  • Snails in butter
  • Chateaubriand, sautéed potatoes and a julienne of vegetables
  • Lavender crème brulee

The lavender for the brulee comes from a field like this:

or like this:

The girls had some chocolate creations like this.

Toothsome, delicious and decadent. And all washed down with a white Chateauneuf-du-pape. Other days involved simple salad, local breads, cheeses and fruit.

Northern Provence is a great place to visit if you can find the time.


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