The iconic hill town of Gordes in Provence


Roussillon is quaint and famous for its predominately pink houses

Sorry that this second instalment has been such a long time coming. Unfortunately Brian has has been suffering major tummy problems, in all probability the gift of a nearby hotel where we'd "enjoyed" a long and leisurely Sunday lunch. He has also developed a chronic throat infection as well. Under the circumstances please forgive us for not including too much detail in our narrative. Nevertheless we hope you find our photographs interesting and a worthwhile diversion in your busy day.

We last left you in the village of Fontaine de Vaucluse where we stayed for 5 days. Some of that time Brian wasn't up to travelling but we did get to undertake most of our planned excursions to various historic or iconic towns in the region. Many of the photos appear on this page


Another shot of rustic village houses in Roussillon 

Lynn surrounded by wines, preserves, pates, vinegars, oils & herbs

Incredible ruins at Les Baux de Provence

Another scene from the ancient fortified village of Les Baux de Provence

Our friends John and Rita spent several months in France last year and reckoned that the highlight was a visit to "Cathedrale D'Images" located well up in the hills near Les Baux de Provence. Well a wrap like that is not to be ignored but I guess we had some doubt as to whether it could live up to such a huge build-up. But first let us set the scene. The Cathedral of Images is an abandoned stone quarry high in the hills. Some years ago a group of entrepreneurs built a one metre thick concrete roof over the entire quarry to create what became an underground theatre, complete with shallow side tunnels, protruding abutments and so on. The walls of this completely dark cavern are about 12 metres high and the entire space is massive.

The incredible multi-media "show" we experienced was generated from 50 or more projectors and many massive loud speakers strategically located around the cavern. This year the images were all based on the work of the artist Picasso. These images merge, transform, move and morph on the walls, ceiling and floor of this massive underground cavern and do so in conjunction with well chosen music and dynamic sound effects. As one strolls around the blackened space you are completely surrounded by sound and images and you can't help but be awe struck. It's absolutely unbelievable.

The taking of flash photos is prohibited and besides such photos would be completely ineffectual in capturing the grandure and creative nature of the experience. We were carrying Lynn's $300 digital camera and Brian suddenly remembered that it theoretically had a video capability, not that either of us had ever explored the feature on this camera or any other. Anyhow we stood in the dark trying to muddle our way through the camera's menu system, eventually found the video feature, then worked out how to start and stop a recording. This all used up an unfortunate amount of battery power. Finally Brian was ready to attempt his first very video recording ever and although he's unlikely to receive any offers from Hollywood studios we nevertheless offer the two brief clips below which we were able to capture before battery power ran out. We also thank our son Luke for his work in getting our massive video files down to a size which could be run on this webpage.

Most of you should already have the necessary software installed on your computer to view these videos. If not just download the software when prompted by your system. As to hearing the sound, many of you may not have speakers in or attached to your work computer but almost surely have speakers on your home computers. Make sure you have your sound turned on as it really does make a big difference.

Click either of the "arrow" buttons below to view each video clip. The better of the two videos is the one on the right. Depending on the speed of your internet connection the video clip may stop and start several times during the first viewing. If you then hit the Replay button the video should then play without any pauses.


A really ancient church on a hilltop above Bonniere in Provence

Vivid fields of an unidentified flower. The pic doesn't do it justice

The main street in St-Chinian near our apartment

Living statues are a very popular artform practiced by some French buskers

Waterwheel, mill and crystal clear water at Fontaine de Vaucluse

The Sunday market beneath our apartment window in St-Chinian

After 10 days in Provence we moved westwards several hundred kilometres to the region known as Languedoc-Roussellon. All the cherry orchards have disappeared and now we are in mildly hilly countryside covered by thousands of small vineyards. Opportunities to sample the local wine are offered every couple of kilometres but so far we are being discreet. Firstly, Brian is driving, secondly Brian is still not feeling too good in the tummy department, thirdly we would feel obliged to buy a couple of bottles even if we thought the wine was crap and fourthly.... we can't really buy three or four bottles of wine daily if we are drinking them at the rate of only one per day. Finally, we think it would be pretty awkward and uncomfortable being on the receiving end of a whole lot of sales talk in French which we wouldn't really understand and being unable to have any comprehensible discussion with the vineyard owner. Take Brian for example, he's pretty good at speaking French provided that the entire conversation is constructed of nouns and adjectives and provided the other party speaks exactly the same as his former high school teacher.... who happened to be a Hungarian by the way.

Incidentally, talking about wine, we have been extremely surprised to note that the vast majority of people in the Provence and Languedoc regions are drinking rosť wines rather than whites and reds. There are scores and scores of different rosť wines and most are extremely cheap as well.

We arrive in the 2000 strong village of Saint-Chinian here in the Languedoc and easily find the apartment we have rented for 6 days. It's going to be wonderful to have our own kitchen, dining room and loungeroom. We're looking forward to cooking the kind of meals we prefer and badly in need of an Asian fix. Garlic was no problem and oyster sauce wasn't too hard to find if you know where to look. Ginger isn't all that easy to find but we eventually succeeded. However, the biggest challenge was sesame oil, such an essential ingredient to really get that Asian taste. Eventually we saw some in a market stall. There was about 50ml in a tiny little scent size bottle at the outlandish cost of about four dollars!! Still beggars can't be choosers so we swallowed hard and handed over our cash. We ate asian style for our next three evening meals.... stir fry meat and veg with fried rice never tasted so good. We also found some sweet and sour sauce to go with some chicken(?) wings. The "rooster" wings proved to be tough and tasteless but the sweet and sour sauce tasted ever so nice. We tossed most of the wings in the bin and cleaned up the sauce on plates and pot with greedy little index fingers.

We are so happy with our choice of accommodation here in St-Chinian. We're right on the town square in the centre of town. It's a very rare leafy green one with lots of trees. There's also an adjoining park cum garden which is favourite gathering place for old folks who sit around all day batting the breeze. Within 100 metres there's a small supermarket, an outdoor wine and oyster bar, several bars and restaurants. A couple of bakery and patisserie shops are not much further distant. On top of this we have never failed to get a parking spot right outside our front door. Unbelievable!! The apartment itself has fulfilled our every expectation and given that a number of couples receiving this newsletter have plans to visit France in 2010 we really recommend this place for up to a week's stay whilst exploring all the local sights. Check it out at www.languedocaccommodation.com  Oh, and we almost forgot to mention that there's an outdoor market in the square every Thursday and Sunday morning. It's pretty much right at our door and you can see a few photos below.


The oyster stall at St-Chinian market. Good variety and cheap prices

An amazing array of cheeses on sale in the St-Chinian market

Many villagers prefer to buy all their meat from itinerant Butchers

An archetypal Gallic countenance wouldn't you say?

The paella man had a cooking dish over a metre in diameter! Full to the brim with rice, mussels, chicken & a highly aromatic tomato and saffron broth. Yummy!

Elderly gents gathered outside the park in St-Chinian every day to dream and reminisce. Our apartment is in background about 60 metres further on.

We are getting rather badly behind with this newsletter project but we shall try to get another instalment to you within the next few days. Expect to find some more photos of towns and scenery around St-Chinian and lots of photos taken along the famous Canal du Midi.