Friday, September 18, 2009

Day nine Provence

Today we got out of bed late to find the sun shining and the sky blue! It was already warm and we could feel the moisture in the air. Fresh bread and jam for breakfast and reclining on the terrace reading and enjoying the sunshine was the go for the morning.

We organised with Hertz to swap our new Vauxhall two-door for a new car with four doors. We were given a little grey Ford Festiva with a diesel engine and a turbo - the best of the three cars we have had so far, very easy to drive and, now that we are getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road, quite enjoyable!

Our new Ford!

We decided to have an easy afternoon due to our aching bodies from yesterday's car crash and headed for the summit of Mont Ventoux - an imposing sight standing at 1900 meters above sea level with its iconic white tower and gleaming white limestone cap which you can see from much of Provence. The mountain is the dominating landmark on the skyline view from the terrace at La Louche. The peak is the very famous mountain top finish of a very tough stage of Le Tour De France, its snaking road crowded with spectators.

Zig Zag.

We slowly made our way up the slope stuck behind the inevitable cyclists and motor homes. The summit's tangle of narrow roads was packed with cars and people. We opted to park about 500 metres back down the hill just below a radio telescope where there were virtually no cars.

The heli-pad near the summit.

Iain, who rides mountain bikes, was lamenting loudly that he had not brought his bike. The uninterrupted downhill was almost too much for him...

While we were up there (another) hire car smashed into a stone barrier that barely prevented it from plunging down a steep slope to the ascending road about 50 metres below. The sun was shining and barely a cloud to be seen - the view was spectacular. The bald hilltop offered unobscured views of Provence. The walk up to the highest point was comprised of a loose track made of large pebbles with a steep incline on one side and a steep decline on the other.

Brown trousers!

"I can see my house from up here"

At the highest point there was a large sign with a queue of triumphant cyclists waiting to pose for a photograph in front of it. There was also a man with a van, his huge trestle tables laden with sweets of every kind - jellies, glace fruit, fruit leather pastilles, boiled lollies and musk -vital sugar for exhausted cyclists (and not a wrapper in sight). Professionals have died on top of this mountain in the past which gives you an idea of how tough the ascent is.

The highest point!

The road back down was a matter of slow and steady, bikes whizzing past. We stopped at the bottom of the mountain in Malaucene to pick up the ingredients for dinner. A beautiful corn-fed chicken from Bresse, potatoes, artichokes and shallots.

From the summit looking back towards our car.

We roasted the chicken along with the potatoes, shallots and garlic. We also made up some eggplant caviar using both white and black eggplant, basil, lemon juice and lots of garlic. When it came time to cut the chicken, its golden fat ran out onto the board. We sauced it with the pan juices combined with finely chopped shallots and reduced white wine.

Our roast chicken.

For pudding, we enjoyed a fruit compote that we had made earlier in the morning using all the fruit from Velleron earlier in the week that was starting to go too far - yellow peaches, figs, plums and strawberries. The compote was accompanied by whipped cream.

For those who are interested we got a bit arty with the camera on top of the mountain and here is the result. Didn't want to bore you with them through the rest of the post!

The radio telescope.


The Summit tower.

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