Wednesday October 19, 2022
Avignon, Provence, France
Today, Day 4 of the Cousins 2022 Trip, Sidney, Sonya and I went hiking, visited the village of Gigondas and went to a Lidl, a shopping trip even Sidney enjoyed!
We drove to Gigondas in the morning, about 40 minutes from Avignon, and started hiking from there.
The Dentelles de Montmirail are a small chain of mountains in the Vaucluse area of Provence. The word “dentelles” is the French word for “lace” because of the shape of the top of the mountains. “Montmirail means “admirable mountain”. The whole area seems to be one big vineyard…there were grapevines and wineries everywhere possible, terraced onto stony hillsides, tucked into small and larger fields. We ran into a few very narrow tractors, which were small enough to fit between the rows of grapes. Rising behind the vineyards we passed on one side were the Dentelles, on the other was the Rhone Valley below. There were also a few olive trees, but the ancient olive trees were destroyed in the great frosts of 1929 and 1956. This is definitely a wine grape growing area, not an olive growing area. There is a Gigondas “appellation d’origins”, granted in 1971. Vineyards cover and area of 12 square kilometers (just over 4.5 square miles). The wines produced are all red wines.
The climate is basically Mediterranean and the plants and vegetation are similar to that of California down to the grapes.
We hiked for several hours, around 7.5 miles, up and down, amongst vineyards with beautiful views, and frequent stops for photos and to figure out if we were on the right path. Sidney used a paper map and followed the yellow and blue markers, while I finally pulled out google maps when some confusion ensued. Between us we didn’t get lost.
We passed one old tower which from a distance appeared to be part of the natural landscape, but Sonya was positive it was manmade (she was correct, it was “La Tour Sarrasine, a 12th century signal tower, looking over the southern part of the Dentelles de Montmirail).
After our hike we walked up to the ruins that dominate the small town (population is less than 600), then over to the cemetery before viewing the 11th century St. Catherine’s Church, which has a clock and a sundial on its facade, with church bells between the two. We walked past the pretty stone houses on the way down and drove back to Avignon…with a stop at Lidl.
Lidl is a discount grocery store chain which is great…I found the blueberries, carrot salad (a pound + for a dollar!) and chocolate I was looking for while Sidney and Sonya were amazed by the plethora of sub $4 wines, the nice produce and other items. We got items to cook for dinner and went back to Avignon to plan our trip for tomorrow (Pont du Gard and Arles).
The weather has been great so far but rain is called for Thursday-Saturday, though the weather should remain warm.