Monday, September 21, 2009

Day twelve Provence

No rain at all! Today was dry and the sun was out in a big way! We woke late and lounged for the morning with the intention of a lunch in the nearby town of Crillon la Brave.

The fete that is taking place in Caromb at the moment has a daily boules/petanque competition with a prize of 100 Euros for the best player each day. There is a boules area set aside at the other end of the town. Basically a large flat area with a dusty surface of finely crushed white rock. A lot like the Australian version where old people roll heavy black balls down the ground towards a smaller coloured ball, boules is also played by old people, only the heavy balls are steel and are thrown instead of rolled.

Because the competition attracts so many people the boules court is full so some of the players are sent to the large area just behind our house to play. They fit about four games there with four players in each. Each of the four players throws two boules per end. They measure the boule closest to the jack and that player wins.

Being French and old, the players (mostly men) get quite animated and there is a lot of shouting and loud conversation. Spectators all want to have their say about each shot too. Add a cash prize and the pride of the players from Caromb emotions are high! They are able to throw the boules with an underarm action with great accuracy knocking others out of the way and spinning the boule so it curves back towards the jack. The games being so close to the house make it hard to find peace and quiet.


We decided to walk the three kilometres to Crillon La Brave for lunch. There is a very nice hotel located in the hill top town with a classy restaurant. They also offer a more simple lunch menu on the terrace above the deep, green-tiled pool. The walk leaves Caromb through acres of vineyards and olive groves with the occasional almond or apricot tree thrown in for good measure.

Across the fields there were huge swarms of little flying insects. The swarms ebbing and flowing like schools of baitfish. Every now and then we had to walk through one of these swarms getting insects in the ears and nose.

Leaving the farmland we entered the shade of a dense oak forest. As we walked through we discussed how many truffles there would be just off the road in a couple of months time. The shade was a welcome relief from the midday sun. The road slowly wound upwards to the crest of the hill where Crillon La Brave is located. A lookout just in front of the hotel looking back towards Caromb showed how close it is.

The oak forest.

Out the other side of the oaks, hot and dry again.

The town is very pretty with beautifully presented houses and a perfect little church. The hotel is lovely too. We sat on the terrace under broad white umbrellas and were offered a menu of salads, sandwiches and some things off the grill. We ordered a tomato salad and a bean, foie gras and truffle salad. Then we had a croque-monsieur and a club sandwich with a side of pommes frites. We also had a bottle of Ventoux rose.

The arch as you enter Crillon La Brave

Caromb from Crillon Le Brave.

The meal was probably the first disappointment we've had in France, the service was very slow and the bill came to 100 Euros. The salads were great, the tomatoes were finely sliced and fanned around the plate with beautiful olive oil and basil. The beans were tiny and best quality with a crumble of foie gras terrine and a little truffle oil. It was sitting on top of a fantastic mesclun leaf mix. Nothing like the mesclun mix at home that's bitter, sour and tough - the leaves were delicate, sweet and tiny. Most of the mix we could not recognise but there was roquet, spinach, mizuna and nasturtiums with three or four other leaves.

Beans, foie gras and truffle oil.


The sandwiches arrived looking very nice but cold. Even the frites were cold. The club contained chicken breast, mayonnaise, bacon, cucumber and tomato on nice grilled sourdough but so cold the bacon had congealed. The melted cheese in the croque was cold-set.

Bread service at Crillon La Brave

The club.

The croque-monsieur .

We sat on the terrace and admired the spectacular view of Mont Ventoux, and wished we could slide into the pool. Then we settled the bill and wandered back to Caromb through the forest and across the flat vineyards. The rain from the previous days still clinging in the air but the ground once again baked and cracked.

Back home on the terrace hearing the fete's sideshows and the shouts of the 'boulers' as the day's competition reached the business end.

At dinner time we walked back up to the main street and placed an order at the window of the pizza van that parks in the square every night. With the fete in town, the guy manning the truck was under the pump. He had a bluetooth earpiece and was continually taking phone orders and dealing with constant faces at the window.

We ordered the chef's special with tomato, cheese, chorizo and egg; a ham and cheese; and a mushroom and garlic. They took about an hour because his oven was very small, but the pizzas were very good. Thin bases rolled to order with minimal, good quality toppings. We had a pear juice and pear vodka and a couple of unusual beers.

Three pizzas.

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