It was with some regret that we bid farewell to our gracious host and hostess at the Hôtel des Voyageurs. Before hitting the road we checked out the local farmers market right in front of the hotel and picked up some dried figs, apricots and prunes. The figs were particularly hummy.
Driving north the terrain became rocky and the vegetation rough as we climbed up the Luberon plateau towards Mont Ventoux. We traversed steep canyons of white cliffs until finally emerging into a high valley filled with farmland. Our first stop was the cliffside town of Montbrun les Bains.
We walked the steep lanes of the old village to the small Romanesque church and views of the valley and towns around.
This part of France feels particularly untouristed. We did meet a few hearty souls but it feels a world away from big bus Provence. From Montbrun we turned west up the long valley in the far shadow of Mont Ventoux. The scenery was magnificent! Low brush gave way to pine forest. The valley floor filled with lavender fields, The gray-blue rocks of the mountain looming above.
For lunch we visited the tiny hamlet of Savoillans – one café, a church and a handful of ancient rock dwellings. We shared the café with some German travelers. Once walking the little allies and stone stairs of the town we were completely alone.
Satisfied with our lunch of melon and ham for me and a quiche for Kay we returned to the road. After a few kilometers of beautiful country we found the town of Brantes clinging to the steep terrain.
Children played in the school yard across from the dirt parking lot. Up we walked through the medieval gate to the old town. More tiny lanes and rock stairs. We wanted some coffee. It looked like the only café in town was closed. Just before we gave up I said “Let’s check out the church down these steps.” Beyond the chapel we found a small stone hut with a rock terrace serving as a café. The view was spectacular – the valley below, Mont Ventoux rising high beyond. The proprietor was a young dreadlocked fellow who spoke pretty good English. As we looked around we realized that he lived in a tiny loft in one corner of the place. I asked how he liked it here. He had spent most of his life in Lyon and Paris until moving to this remote corner of Provence six years ago. I don’t think he’ll be going back anytime soon.
The remainder of our journey was lovely and uneventful. We landed in Vaison la Romaine and hit the TI where a charming woman behind the desk found us a room. After the villages of the last three days this town of 6000 felt like a big, crowded city. We had definitely experienced La Provence Profonde!