Beaune is an ancient and historic town on a plain by the hills of the Cote d'Or, with features remaining from the pre-Roman and Roman eras, through the medieval and renaissance periods and up to recent history and modern times. It is a walled city, with about half of the battlements, ramparts, and the moat, having survived and in good condition, and the central "old town" is extensive. Historically Beaune is intimately connected with the Dukes of Burgundy. There is a comprehensive "traditional" shopping area clustered around the central square with a focus on gourmet food, fashion, and wine. The Saturday market is perfectly French - there are major fine food stalls supplying a broad selection of products and specialties from Burgundy and the surrounding regions. For example, Bresse chickens, cheeses, bread and pastries, mustards, small goods, spices, produce of every variety as well as seasonal specialties such as truffles. I had enjoyed Raymond Blanc's TV programme 'The Very Hungry Frenchman' on TV earlier this year - he visited Beaune and I remembered him showing us an exceptional cheese shop - I made a mental note to seek it out later.
|Breakfast in Beaune|
|Bread stall - Beaune market|
|First sight of Mont Ventoux|
As we enter the Vaucluse region of Provence our momentum increases as our expectations rise. Look right or left and it's vines.... and olive groves.... and cypress trees. There are honey coloured stone-built houses dotted around, all with narrow windows and blue-painted shutters to protect against the heat of summer and the cold of winter. The landscape is dry and dusty, streaked with yellow ochre and raw sienna. And then, suddenly, we spot it; directly ahead, rising up from the earth like a vivid, monstrous souffle. It is preposterously large, tearing into the blue sky, vast and aloof, its naked summit white as monumental alabaster, the bloodless white of death and topped by a radio mast that looks like a steeple or possibly a lighthouse. It is far away but dominates the horizon - from now on I am barely able to avert my gaze, I feel transfixed, hypnotised. This is Mont Ventoux. It looks to be impossible, beyond me, but I have to keep such thoughts at bay - I know it will be hard and steep.
We follow the instructions to our 'villa' for the week, past more fields of vines and cherry trees, finally turning onto a rough unmade track to our destination. It is a restored 'mas' with a large open plan lounge with cool limestone floors, a kitchen, three bedrooms all with ensuite facilities, a garden terrace with a large table and chairs and a small swimming pool. There are olive trees in the garden and a good view of the mountain. We unload, unpack and open a bottle of wine. The travelling is over. Next will be cycling up the mountain.
|al fresco supper|
|villa - lounge area|
|villa ` bedroom|