The nights are tough, guys. The Internet informs us that Eliza is undergoing a “leap” (yay?) after which she’ll be able to do all sorts of new stuff, and this means a “sleep regression” (nayyyyyy), more crying (nayyyyyyyyyy) and other delights. We are ecstatic at our daughter’s continued upgrading, but would love some sleep. I cycle through episodes of dramatic crashing when I inform Heather that I cannot have any more children because I hate my life when the baby cries, and episodes of cooing adoringly at her – sometimes these happen within minutes of each other. Heather is an actual real life saint.
Anyway, we awake in poor condition. Eliza is all smiles, yay, it’s morning. We discover that the electricity has gone in the rental house, and THERE IS NO TEA. This is actually shaking Hev to the core, so we decide to leave in search of tea and breakfast. All the guide books go on about the market in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, so that’s the plan. We drive there in glorious sunshine (finally!!! After this whole week it’s been beautiful in the North that we’d literally just left to find the sun, only to have the shit weather follow us all the way down the country), reveling anew in the beauty of the orchards in bloom and all the things that are located outside a darkened bedroom where a child is not asleep and soothing white noise plays.
We stop at the first bakery we see in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, which promisingly proclaims itself a “salon de the” (tea room) on the window. This turns out to mean that there are three sorts of tea (none of which are English breakfast, to Heather’s consternation), which come microwaved minus the sachets (presumably because they’re Lidl value ones). Nevertheless, Heather’s British core is refueled by the hot beverage, and we’re having slightly stale cakes from yesterday (Hev’s interjecting right now to make me insert the fact that this was VERY DISAPPOINTING). Anyway, we’re in the market town, let’s find the market. We stride into it not expecting that a busy tourist-filled market on a couple of hours sleep is not cool. It’s kind of awful actually. We’re not adequately prepared by the weird luke-warm tea, navigating the buggy in the narrow passageways between stalls is hard (the buggy is empty, by the way, as usual, as Zaza has insisted to be carried within ten minutes of waking up in it) and the market isn’t even that good.
We take revenge in eating our bodyweight in free samples – cheeses, sausages, tapenades and other pureed things, fruit leathers, all of it. Some stalls make us taste like twelve different things, and we say yes to all of them, ALL of them. It’s like a strange crystal maze game where you have to eat your way out of a labyrinth while carrying something heavy (which is eating your fingers and shouting). Slightly dazed, we return to the car having somehow purchased a good thirty quid worth of cheese, tapenade and cured pig parts.
Our next destination is the village of Roussillon, which is famous for producing ochre, a natural pigment that’s found in the sandy canyons the village is surrounded by. The drive to Roussillon is spectacular, it smells of pine and fresh air, in the distance we see the red and pink and orange of the houses, it’s all wonderful. We enjoy lunch overlooking the surrounding hills of the Luberon, Zaza is blissfully cooperative, and our spirits are soaring again. We enjoy a short walk through the streets which are picture-perfect, all warm coloured facades and contrasting shutters.
After lunch we depart on the ochre path, a fifty minute circuit through the pigmented canyons – what a place! The colours are astonishing: reds, oranges, yellows, even some greenish tinges and cream coloured layers with deep maroon running through them. It’s all offset by the green of the pines, we have the place almost to ourselves, it’s pretty fabulous. Due to the sunshine, Zaza must be shaded by an umbrella at all times, which Heather has to hold sort of in front of her own face and change it’s orientation constantly (we have somehow failed to bring any of the baby’s THREE sun hats).
Delighted by this experience, we peruse the map of the area and pick a destination at random – the Michelin map says it’s got three stars, which is as many stars as you can get, it must be amazing. Off we go, up the mountain roads of the Grand Luberon (totally glorious – full of lavender fields, which of course are not yet bearing flowers; vineyards everywhere, postcard villages perched on rocky hilltops, and the snowy Alps far in the distance). Suddenly we spot the sign we’ve been looking for – the “Mourre Negre” – it’s curious, on the map, the name sits sort of not on any of the roads… We park the car and depart up a steepish stone path in the sun (Zaza in the sling, me holding the umbrella above her head), eager to discover what this Mourre Negre is that sits at the top of such a middle-of-nowhere path.
We climb, and climb, and climb… The surroundings are sort of dry forest-covered / scrubland-covered hills, it’s pleasant enough but nothing spectacular just yet – the top is probably amazing! About an hour into the climb, we pass some walkers going down and ask them benignly: “Hi! Erm… What’s erm… What’s at the top of this, this path I mean?”. They look at each other, perplexed, “What do you mean, what’s at the top? The top, of course! Oh, and a big antenna”. A big antenna? The top of what? Turns out, it’s the top of the Mourre Negre, which is the highest mountain in the Luberon – and it’s another two hours uphill from where we are. We think not. We take in the view from a ruined chapel directly above us, and then get back down kind of sweaty and exhausted, for not that much result. So, folks, if you want to go up the Mourre Negre (and apparently enjoy breathtaking views from the top – and a big antenna), you have to prepare some good shoes and five hours of your time. Good drive, though. Oh and we see a really big fox who is really surprised to see us on the path.
Back in Goult, the village where we’re staying, we cannot yet part with the sunshine so we enjoy a drink at the Cafe de la Poste, where the locals are having an animated chat at one table, chilling with newspapers, and chainsmoking (all of them). It seems a few of the locals are actually British, too – it’s true that there are a good few British “expats” (or should I say, immigrants!) here in Provence.
Oh and by the way, Goult is gorgeous, too:
We settle for another challenging evening of “will Zaza sleep?” (no) and some much needed wine.