Wait what? Did I doze off? How is it over a week ago that I posted my last update? Let's get this thing online!
In this part of the series, I am still stuck in the south of France. (Just to warn you, there are a few more updates up my sleeve.) To summarise the road travelled so far: I did the long drive from Amsterdam all the way to the Provence. I drove on an alleged very dangerous road that was far from scary. I saw my first lavender fields but not the main tourist spots in this part of France yet. I had a surprise encounter with the galaxy that I was eager to experience again. I slowly started to get used to the heat and I even found a fantastic "private" lavender spot in the hills not far from my apartment.
I felt that this trip had only just begun. It was day 5 now and I was about to start my car to get some lunch and visit the Luberon area to the south of my apartment. One of the spots I was planning on seeing was a tourist magnet according to my research. If you wouldn't arrive before 7AM it would be crawling with people and no way would you be able to get a nice peopleless photo.
Thanks but no thanks for the tip. I am NOT getting up at 5AM to be there before the crowds!
I would photoshop those people away. And really, how bad could it be? Up until this day, I didn't really see large groups of people near the lavender fields anyway. Only near Grignan (the castle/palace on the hill) at the worst lavender field to this point. The rest has been quite a lonely trip! (No complaint here, I love lonely trips)
Day 5 route
The day before, I was too late to check the lavender festival in Ferrassières. But since I had to pass that town anyway, why not check it out for lunch? The town turned out to be a bit of a ghost town when I arrived. The only reminders of the festival were some purple party flags at church square. I found a very fun and colourful spot to have some lunch and left soon after. There was no reason to keep hanging around there.
Click to enlarge. Source
My drive of this way was inspired by the purple section of this map: The route between Ventoux and Luberon. I didn't feel like driving around the city of Carpentras, but Roussillon and Gordes were a must on that day's list. The hills near the south (Lourmarin) should be the cherry on top.
You get used to this landscape after a while
Did I teleport?!
I haven't had wifi for some time and the 4g was mostly non-existing. The evening before I wasn't able to prepare for this day, but I was lucky enough to have saved all the ideas and route in a Google Mymaps brainfart. The first next city would help me download that plan on my phone. But it just didn't work. In hindsight, I think I ran out of data and that is the reason that nothing would load anymore. I saw a dot on the map but had no clue what that dot was all about. Clearly, it was something interesting or else I wouldn't mark it. But my internet connection (or lack thereof) didn't help me answer it. All I could do was just drive past it and see for myself.
I was on my way to Roussillon. Not so much for visiting the town, but more to see the red ochre rocks. I thought it could be a nice change of scenery for a bit after seeing all those lavender fields. I was getting closer to the mystery spot but somehow took the wrong turn. Lucky for me, that wrong turn made me drive my car just past the entrance. When I drove past it I immediately knew why I marked that spot. The mines of Bruoux!
You can see part of this from the road
No way was I not going to stop. So I parked my car, took my camera and went to the entrance. There I saw a sign saying photographs aren't allowed inside. Also, a guided tour looked like a whole big thing. I didn't have the time to walk around a mine when I had a massive drive ahead of me (and no photos... come on!). I used the "claustrophobic" excuse to not join the tour and just walk around the outside a little. That excuse didn't really work that well, since the ceilings turn out to be around 15 meters high. It is just super spacious inside 😉. But nobody argues with nonsensical fears so they let me. I walked around the area that was in active operation for about a century (from 1848 to the end of WW2). Inside there is about 50KM of carved out galleries. And all they used was pickaxes and dynamite, can you imagine?
It was way too warm so I got myself an ice cream cone and went back to my car to get to Roussillon. Fifteen minutes later I arrived there, not having a clue where the "impressive" ochre actually was. So I parked in town first, walked around a little and decided it was way too crowded with people. Roussillon was a sudden very typical tourist hotspot and I didn't know where the rocks were. But it felt most obvious I wasn't going to find them in the town centre.... I was wrong. After driving around and asking I returned to the town to visit the rocks. And if you see my photos below... can you imagine that this was just minutes away from the town centre?
Man... the hike around the ochre trail took about an hour. It was HOT and I didn't think about bringing a water bottle. I wasn't wearing proper walking shoes which was a tiny bit of a mistake. But I also saw people in sandals walk around there. So it wasn't completely disastrous.
The trail that starts in Roussillon guides you through old ochre quarries that have been sculpted by the weather since. Ochre was not only used as a permanent and non-toxic pigment, but the stone also served as building material for the houses of Roussillon. If you walk around this red-rock landscape, it doesn't feel like quarries at all. And it doesn't feel like the Provence. It was just like someone teleported me to the US.
I got out of the trail alive, desperate for some water. After I had cooled down a little I got back into the car for the next spot of this day: Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque.
So how about those lavender loving crowds?
This was the abbey that photography websites warned me about. It is in many lavender photos, but it is a tourist disaster, they say. It was impossible to get a photo without people in it. I imagined everyone walking through the lavender fields, going for that perfect selfie. When I parked the car, I was convinced the websites were right. So many cars and even busses!
Just one photo and then I'll be gone
Reality was very different. I have no clue where all these people had gone to. They must have joined a tour around the abbey, learning about the history of the abbey founded in 1148. And yes, it is well worth learning more about it with all the religious fights and changes going on in this area. It has been abandoned, almost completely destroyed, turned into a farm, and now monks actually live there. You are not supposed to walk through the lavender, since the monks actually use it. It's not there for show!
There were walls, fences and gates guiding tourists around the abbey. All towards the souvenir shop. It wasn't the tourists that were ruining my image though. It was a giant white van parked in front of the abbey! Those things I find so annoying! You know you park right in the middle of people's holiday photos! For quick (un)loading I get it. But it was there for some construction work. Just park around the corner.... sigh. Instead of having to photoshop people out, it was a van that I had to make disappear. Hope you like the result anyway:
What else is there to see?
So I got my shot and that was all I cared about. It was almost 6 PM and there was so much more I wanted to see! For starters the mountain/hills down the south. I drove past a lovely view of Bel-air on my way to the mountains.
An hour later I was at the entrance of the mountain park. This was so not what I expected! It was clearly a road meant for 4WD cars and not for my Fiat 500. Also, the road was closed by the fire brigade. Imagine my disappointment when I had to drive all around the park not seeing one bit of it...
I just continued driving. Because of my detour, it was getting pretty late and I was still very far away from my apartment. The sunset was there around Les Marronniers, where I just walked into a field to photograph some more lavender (you can't get enough of that stuff...really). Shortly after that, I decided to give up being adventurous for the day when I nearly tipped over my car trying to park it beside the road for a nice "car lights with lavender" photo. Time to go to the apartment!
Also in this series:
- My lavender week in France part #1 : ...too bad French people live there...
- My lavender week in France part #2 : ...A very dangerous road?...
- My lavender week in France part #3 : ...Will my tiny car (and I) conquer the mountain road?...
- My lavender week in France part #4 : ...A slow day photographing my lavender world...