A long long time ago, I paid my first and only visit to Provence and it really stuck in my memory and now 30 years late in ‘Buster’, our beloved Elddis Encore 250 we have returned, to see if I can share the love of the area with Karen. You may have noticed that we got off to a good start from Karen’s Blog last week.
She left us last week in St Remy de Province, a truly lovely town that I had not been to, but it was at great stopping point to visit one of the highlights of 1989, Baux-en-Provence and yes it seems Encores like ‘Buster’ can work. Baux is one of those ‘Most Pretty Villages in France’ very cute but all the shops are the same and pricey.
At the same time, it manages to get over that, by being perfectly set in the landscape add to that the sun, sky and land all seem to melt into a sublime beauty. You understand why Van Gogh lived and painted here. As we cycled around the area there would be signs featuring one of his paintings of the scenery we were looking at, and the beauty was timeless.
This was the feeling that had stuck in my memory all those years ago and was rekindled as we cycled along. We dropped into an olive oil producer and bought some more oil. We now have Turkish, Greek, Italian and French. When we add Spanish we will do a horizontal tasting and let you know what we think, they all say theirs is the best! We also managed to taking a wine tasting, at the vineyard there was a sign showing a painting by Van the man of the same vineyard over 100 years ago. So much changes but remains the same.
We stayed an extra night in St Remy so we could wander around and get a feel for a Provencal market, enjoyable, we bought cheese and some other supplies.
The weather had now changed, and we got a little damp. We have been staying on campsites a lot more now the summer season is over, we have a ACSI discount card and this gives substantial discounts on many sites. The one at St Remy was lovely simple with a great pool we could have stayed weeks.
But as it was raining the time was right to leave and we headed south. The whole of Mediterranean France is now a coronavirus red zone and our rule of not staying in large towns is more important than ever for us. We really wanted to see Arles but both the aire, and nearest campsite had poor reviews, so we stopped at an aire in a little town close by called Fontvielle.
We had not organised any dinner, so we walked into the village to see if we could have lunch, by the time we arrived the heavens opened and it was coming up to 2.00pm (end of lunch time in France), so we ran into the first place we saw. No books, no Trip Advisor just in we went and ordered, and for the first time we had a great French meal! In last weeks Karen blog had yearned for turbot like here brother would cook, and like magic here it was, for me local lamb and a shared Foie Gras as a starter.
Fantastic and it did not break the bank, every cloud and all that! We walked back to the van and the sun came out to greet us and were able to have a lovely walk around the village. Looking at the old windmill and seeing down the valley to our destination for tomorrow Arles. We slept well.
The next day we drove in and found a place to park our van close to the town, and explored the weather was still moody but we visited the Van Gogh Foundation an interesting museum normally focused on the works of Van the man and I have come to realise that impressionist art really is something I love and that is what Provence resonated so much. There was only one of his pictures on show but the exhibition of Photos by a Swiss Italian Donetta were very interesting and enjoyable.
There was one more place left from the 1989 tour so we continued on. Stopping at L’Isle De Sorgue a place I had not visited at the time, though the weather continued be annoying. The campsite was lovely, set right beside the river the mist covering the flow as people kayaked along or fished. We were able to walk along the river to the town but and it was a real find, a lovely atmosphere and very cute. We wondered around and had a quick drink before making our way back to the van to find that a party had started in the cabins opposite us that did not die down until past midnight.
A little annoying but not the end of the world but the next morning a fresh influx of young party goers arrived with 6 kegs of beer so we thought it best to leave and find another spot for us to stay.
We moved on to the last town from my 1989 tour, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, I had lovely memories of it, but it now seemed tired and lost, maybe it was the dull weather or maybe not all Encores are like ‘Buster’. The river Sorgue springs fully fledged out of the ground here and is extraordinary, it was not enough to endear the town for us. So back on the bikes to explore we found a tiny village called Lagnes and stopped at the Café de la Fontaine and watched the world go by for few hours, awesome.
We now were in the mood for new things and the next morning we set off for Aix-en-Provence, but as we pulled up to the campsite we realise it was just too big a town for us at this time, and we changed plans. Karen has been having seaside withdrawal symptoms so off to the seaside it is. but where should we go?
As I write this little missive, we have settled into another ACSI campsite at the top end of the price range, at €20 a night. Given that this is supposed to the most expensive place stay in France per night we are not doing to badly. St Tropez is not bad at all, and I have manged to get a ball marker from one golf club for my friend Barry and hopefully I will not get arrested for tying to get one from St Tropez Golf Club for him tomorrow.
The town itself is extremely cute and not as expensive as we thought it might be and there are cycle paths everywhere, so the area is accessible to us mere mortals. There are lots of restaurants and shops selling rediculs things at mad prices. But it is fun so we will be staying for a while.
I have always thought of Motorhomes as ‘Land Yachts’ and that feeling came back to me here while looking at the boats here, some costing millions of pounds packed together overlooked by us tourists while our beautiful van has lots of space around it, and much more private.
Encore translates to again so was Provence worth a visiting again after 30 years? Absolutely it does its beauty transcends explanation it just is. It has been a pleasure to share those memories with Karen and create our own precious ones, knowing that we would like to do another ‘Encore’ in Provence together.
As for ‘Buster’ our land yacht, for us it is also an Encore our second motorhome from Elddis, the Encore 255 we toured Spain and part of Europe in 2016-17 was fantastic, now again we are in the next generation Encore 250 and they have made it better, we would like to think some of the little things we mentioned after the last adventure have been added. But the new one is lovely and the addition of an automatic version is a masterstroke.
Just for the record Elddis have lent us the van for this trip, we are not paid and they do not control in any way what we write. We can say that this Encore 255 van is great, it is well built and a real home for us and a safe place to live during this Coronavirus tour we are on. Not what we planned but a home that takes you places and is a safe haven in troubled times.
Throughout the world there is real fear everywhere, but we feel that we are able to travel safely and see the places again that we would like to see while staying safe. It is what motorhome life enables, we will hopefully be able to have many ‘Encores’ going forward revisiting special places and finding new ones. Hope you our readers will join us and take your own.