Return to Provence! (Pt. Un)

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In what is now an established Thanksgiving tradition for us, we journeyed abroad on vacation. Over the years we’ve found it is fairly easy to travel internationally during this time. Flying domestically can be quite a hassle with packed airports, but flights headed to Europe can be half-empty.  We like traveling in the off-season and since we promised ourselves a long trip after the farmer market season ended, we headed back to Provence.

You may recall we were there last year, but only for a couple of days. This time we planned to spend a week exploring the villages of Luberon.  We were staying in the village of Bonnieux, which sits atop a mountain with fantastic views and since it was the off-season we thought it would be very easy getting around and seeing things. Which it was. However, we didn’t figure on one small detail…pretty much all of those picturesque Provencal villages shut down at the end of November and reopen in March. Ha!

This didn’t bother us too much. I mean, we did wish there was more than one restaurant or cafe open in the village but it wasn’t horrible. We basically followed the market schedule and popped into the villages on market days, where we’d pick up fresh ingredients for dinners.

Of course, not everything was closed. We did have a small grocery store, two boulangeries, a wine cave, and one butcher shop which were open in Bonnieux. Not much but just enough! We were correct in our assumption of the ease of getting around. No people meant we could drive right into the middle of all the villages and park. Which, if you were here in the summer would probably be difficult. Kinda nice.

First stop was in Fonteveille, which was kind of out of the way but there was a market the day after we arrived, and since everything was closed on Sunday we needed dinner. It wasn’t just any market though, the festival is called the Foire au Gras, which I think is loosely translated as Fair of Foie. As in foie gras. Pretty much a big food festival. Delicious start to vacation.

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View from Bonnieux. The Giant of Provence, Mt. Ventoux is in the background. Very famous Tour de France climb.

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Village of Lacoste across the way. Apparently, Pierre Cardin has bought up half of the village.

The next day, we noticed there was a market in Bédoin, which is a village at the base of Mont Ventoux and is where one of the more famous climbs of Le Tour begins. It was going to be a clear and calm day so we drove through the countryside watching Ventoux get bigger and bigger. We hit the market before starting the drive up. Unfortunately, the summit was closed so we could only drive up halfway. Nevertheless, spectacular views.

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On the way home we stopped in Gordes. I can’t imagine what it must be like in summer with tour buses clogging the roads here. Lucky for us, it was not summer. Had the place to ourselves, which was pretty much the theme for the week!

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Bit of a foggy morning in the valley down below.

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Despite the lack of open restaurants, I’d say we did pretty well with our market strategy. Duck, endive with a sun-dried tomato tapenade, herb sausage with apples and petit épeautre, and the big score from Bédoin – rabbit legs. Plenty of good wine too.

…More coming in Part Deux!

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