Leaving Lourmarin we decided that as we were fairly close and neither of had ever been – although we had heard many good things about it – we would head to Aix-en-Provence. As it is a fairly big city and there wasn’t a huge amount of choice we opted for another campsite, this time Camping Arc en Ciel which was 22 euros a night without electricity.
The campsite was like a little garden of paradise underneath a motorway, its difficult to paint the picture without it sounding awful but it was actually a really lovely place with lots of trees and flowers, a river running through it where you can fish as well as a swimming pool. We had chosen a spot closer to the entrance which meant the road noise was more evident but further into the site it was much quieter and it was only 2km from the centre of Aix-en-Provence…. it worked for us anyway, we both even had a swim in the outdoor pool which was refreshing at the end of the day, although my run was hilly and complicated to say the least… that’s cities for you!
Aix-en-Provence itself was lovely, with lots of restaurants, cafes and bars as well as boutique shops. Every time we turned a corner there were more interesting streets with more cafes and boutiques…. all of which appeared to be one offs which made it even more interesting. It has obviously had a large amount of money invested in it to maintain the buildings and make the centre look attractive.
After a couple of nights in Aix-en-Provence we headed on and although we loved Avignon when we visited a few years ago, we decided to give it a miss this time but instead stopped off for lunch in a little town called Orange. Although the town itself was a bit rough around the edges, when we stopped and walked around and saw some of the key sights….. all I can say is wow, what history and amazing buildings – although the photos doesn’t do it justice.
Orange of 2000 years ago was a miniature Rome with all the public buildings but on a scaled down level. The building at the back of the photo above is the Ampitheatre and obviously with restoration, is still being used today for theatrical and musical events. If you have a look at the following link you can see what it looks like from the inside … pretty incredible.
Although they have left the theatre with a slightly more rustic feel, they have completely restored the Arc Triumphal which did look spectacular…. thankfully Aldi let us park in their car park as parking for a ‘Hattie’ was complicated to say the least…. we did do some shopping so didn’t feel too bad about taking advantage!!
Feeling cultured up we worked our way towards our stop for the night which was a Pig Farm….. yep, all things pig and to be fair they had a few mischievous goats too!
The France Passion for the night was Domain Distaise in Grane (GPS n 44.75562 e 4.86749) and we had chosen it as we fancied somewhere to eat and they provided an Auberge a la ferme which in this case meant a small group of people eating a set meal together which mainly consisted of products produced on the farm and if they weren’t from the farm, they were from local producers.
We parked up amongst the cherry trees with about 15 other motorhomes who were a mixture of France Passion and Park for night (who paid 5 euros a night to stay) and headed out to have a look in their boutique. One pork loin, two beautifully large sausages (one with spinach and one natural), some goats cheese and some saucisson later we headed back to the motorhome already salivating about our dinner that night! The farm owners own all the land down to the Drone so we headed out to have a look at the ‘Porks’…. as they call them and it is fair to say that they were happy…. fat and happy….. just how we like them!
The meal was delicious. There were 14 of us, although a Swiss couple turned up at the end of the evening and they served them a plate of charcuterie as well. We started off with a plate of all the different types of charcuterie that they make on the farm – Saucisson, Pate, Caillette (which is a mix of onions, spinach and pork) and a cured ham accompanied by a home made onion marmalade and salads. To follow we had Pork Shoulder cooked with potatoes and carrot in a bread oven for 6 hours which was absolutely delicious, Cheese which were two different types of goat and then finally dessert for which Keith chose the local speciality which was sheep’s yoghurt with Sweet Chestnut purée and I opted for an apple crumble with ice cream. …. contented but not too stuffed!
It was well worth the visit, we ate well on the night, slept incredibly well as it was so quiet and have been contentedly eating the produce ever since…although last nights cassoulet and todays sandwiches finished off the fresh meat!
A short hop up the road and we arrived at Camping les Luc’s in Tain de l’hermitage …. one of our favourite little spots since we did the apricot and cherry picking here three years ago. It’s a great little campsite right on the Rhone and we got one of the best pitches… despite not fitting on it in any other way than parking diagonally!
Tain de l’hermitage is all about chocolate, wine, apricots and cherries to us…. and it delivered on all accounts! Michel and Teresa turned up on Friday afternoon with a bag full of cherries and two apricots …. disappointed as it was the apricots we were hoping for but the cherries were delicious and it was lovely to see them! We headed to the market on Saturday morning and stocked up with some delicious cheese amongst other staples and on Sunday went over to the farm where we worked for lunch with Michel and Teresa. They were nestled amongst the Apricot trees with their motorhome and although they weren’t ripe, we came away with a rather large bag of apricots …. which are currently in the process of being cooked up and smell delicious!
We managed to squeeze in a visit to the Cave du Tain to try out the different wines again on Saturday afternoon and on the way back a quick visit to the Valrhona chocolate shop which didn’t disappoint either. This year they had introduced some new chocolate for patisserie which were a burst of either Strawberry, Raspberry, Passion fruit or Yuzu…. absolutely amazing!
The rain has unfortunately caught up with us though and although Sunday was a mixed bag, yesterday and today have been fairly wet. The frogs – which appear to be out in their abundance – are definitely enjoying it, as are the farmers as it has been pretty dry recently.
We left Tain de l’hermitage yesterday morning and drove through the rain to get to Ferme des Couderies (GPS n 46.26874 e 5.21840) a France Passion farm where they had goats and vegetables….. and not to forget the donkey! The farmer was really busy and although he had had 40mm of rain in 24 hours he found us somewhere to park and this morning, having been woken at 5:30am by the donkey, we got freshly picked new potatoes, strawberries (which were more like wild strawberries as the flavour is immense), onions and you guessed it … more goats cheese! I think we are going to hang back on buying any more until at least the weekend as we simply can’t consume at the same rate as we are buying it…. despite trying!
The rain was slightly lighter today so we took a bit of a detour to find one of the beautiful villages that Michel recommended called Baume-les-messieurs.
Despite the grey clouds and rain the village was beautiful, nestled in between the huge limestone rock faces. We found a little parking spot and walked up through the village to the waterfall and the caves which are supposed to the one of the best in Europe but we had just missed a tour so can’t comment unfortunately.
Although the road was a little narrow at points there were ample places to park ….. at the moment – I dread to think what it would be like in the summer – and a lovely campsite right in the middle of the village next to the river!
We didn’t stay however, we decided to head slightly further north to Dole, where we found a place to park up just by the stadium (GPS n 47.089401 e 5.500006) and plan to stay a couple of nights with the hope that the rain may ease in the morning as the town looks pretty and there appears to be lots of cycle routes/ walking tracks to explore.
We have covered a bit more mileage this week and Germany is definitely within sight now….. you never know we may actually be there by next week!