We have covered many miles over the last few days but most certainly the countryside has become more beautiful as we have headed into the hills – I never imagined that there was so much open space in France. Driving between Avignon and Apt we passed the most beautiful fields of red – Poppies and more and then further along fields of lavender (which unfortunately had been cut back) Apt was a little dead so we decided to head further to the next town – Sault and what a beauty!!! We had another romantic picnic drinking our last bottle of spanish wine in a French village eating Italian Pizza – we stayed in a very quaint hotel le Louvre and have been told that the little village was having a major market this morning after which we will head off to the hills again and hopefully our little Fiat will get us to Grenoble.
We checked out of our hotel early and headed for the Pont du Gard near the village of Remoulins. The Pont in is an aqueduct built by the Romans in about 50 AD to carry water from a spring about 70 km away to Nimes about 30 km away. One has to see the scale of the structure to believe it. The gorge it spans would be a challenge to modern bridge builders let alone Roman engineers who had no computers to calculate or cement to bind. The whole thing is put together out of precisely fitted stones some weighing 5-6 tons. How they got them up there and fitted them so precisely is difficult to figure. And then there’s the question of how the worked out the differences in elevation between the source and Nimes 90 km away without theodelites so that the water would flow as required.
From Remoulins we headed for Avignon which served as our first indication that it was best to stay away from the larger routes and cities. The most impressive thing that we saw was the huge wall built around the city but you can only marvel at huge walls for so long. After driving around for about an hour we decide to push on to Apt which is in the Luberon region which is extensively featured in the Tour de France Tv footage every year. The journey into the pre-Alps was pretty and got better as we went but Apt so that we became concerned (which had been highly recommended) turned out to be a disappointment: not bad but it certainly did not live up to my expectations based on a few short viewings of the Tour de France. After a cup of coffee we decided to press on to Sault which was higher up in the mountains.
We had not gone far before we started to doubt our decision. The landscape changed from rich soils and verdant growth to chalky ground and blackish scrub. The road narrowed to single lane and became dodgier as we went. Petrol and darkness became fleeting concerns but after about an hour we came upon a beautiful valley. I stopped for Sal to take pictures only to round the next bend and see a better view. We arrived at Sault at about 8 pm (but with at least 1 ½ hour of sunlight left) and set about finding a hotel. Faced with a choice of 2 we selected the Le Manoir hotel chiefly on the basis that it was on the overlooking the valley and the hotelier, one Jean Pierre (who could expect less) was the friendliest fellow we had met in France.
After checking in we went down to Bruno’s Pizza (he has a wood burning Pizza oven tin the back of a truck and seems to be the gastronomic sensation of Sault judging by the queue). We sat on bench with a magnificent view of the valley and chased our pizza down with our last bottle of expensive Spanish wine before retiring to bed.