Today our travels took us from Avignon to Aix-en-Provence, with a few detours along the way as we passed through beautiful Provence seeking out the first of our scenes from A Good Year, Gordes.
It as pretty easy packing the bike this morning as it was parked inside the compound next to the apartment. A concerned local put a sign on the bike a few days ago threatening to call the police if it wasn’t moved. As it was in French I asked the manager to translate it, guessing its content. He immediately told me to park in front of the apartment in the compound. It took us by surprise as we expected to have to pay for parking.
Our first stop was L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue or Sorgue as its also known, about 25 kms from Avignon. The town of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is based on the Sorgue river which runs through the centre of town. It’s best known for its sunday markets which spread along the river bank and through the old parts of the town. The markets have to be seen to be believed. Just about anything imaginable is on sale. Also along the Sorgue River are a few old water wheels which once powered the Silk and Paper mills.
After the cooler weather we’ve experienced lately, today was scorcher. Along the riverside the cafe’s and restaurants were overflowing with people drinking wine. It was such a beautiful place to walk around especially with all the lavender products which the area is famous for.
After a walk around Sorgues we followed the Sorgues river to its source at Fontaine-de-Vaucluse.
Situated at the base of the high Vaucluse mountains is the village of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. It’s built around the spring which gives the village it’s name. The spring flows from deep under the mountains and forms the Sorgue river.
Jacques Cousteau attempted to dive to the bottom of the spring to see how deep it actually was. It was in 1946, in the early days of underwater exploration. He and another diver almost died in the attempt. Whilst diving at 100 metres they discovered that the air compressor they used to fill their tanks had sucked in its own exhaust gas and filled the tanks with poisonous carbon monoxide. It wasn’t until 1985 that the actual depth of the spring of 308 metres was discovered by a robot.
The flow from the spring is massive with enough water spilling out to fill an Olympic swimming pool in less than two minutes in the drier months. In spring during the ice melts it could fill an Olympic swimming pool in 22 seconds.
Many of the stalls and restaurants along the river were closed for winter. In fact only two restaurants were open in the village, both of which were overflowing with people. Trying to make an order in them was impossible so we headed for the boulangerie. Luckily there was no line and a spare table. Surprisingly in summer Fontaine-de-Vaucluse is overflowing with people who come for the kayaking and to explore the mountains.
Fontaine-de-Vaucluse really is lovely with plane trees along the river and lovely stone buildings.
Leaving Fontaine-de-Vaucluse we wound up the mountain passing through pine forests and olive plantations. It was a fascinating landscape, almost Mediterranean with all of the olive trees and parasol pines. Once over the mountains we headed towards Gordes.
As we wound up the olive tree covered hill towards Gordes we caught sight of the town across the valley on the next hill. The town of Gordes clings to the side of a hill with buildings built from beautiful golden coloured stone. In the late afternoon with the sun really glinting off the buildings it was a fabulous view. It was the start of our discovery of filming locations from the movie “A Good Year” featuring Russell Crowe. We continued up into Gordes and parked the bike.
Armed with tips from the internet, we started seating for the locations. In the centre of Gordes, across from the Chateau, is the round about which Max (Russell Crowe) drives around and around in a little smart car looking for the Notaire.
The next location was a little harder to find as we tried to decipher the instructions. However, it was staring us in the face the whole time. Behind the Chateau is the square, fountain and restaurant featured in the movie. Hôtel le Renaissance was the location for Fanny Chanel’s bistro. In the movie it looks like a large al fresco area, however in real life it’s quite small. It featured in the movie a few times with Max waiting on tables and drinking wine whilst waiting on Fanny.
Walking around Gordes we discovered what a beautiful town it really is. With old stone buildings, small squares, tiny cafes and the most wondrous views across lavender fields in the valley below, it really is a place to fall in love with.
We found a cafe overlooking the roundabout and relived some of “A Good Year” watching cars zooming around it.
Late in the afternoon we descended down into the valley riding through fields and fields of lavender It was all trimmed back for winter and would’ve looked amazing in spring.
The last part of our journey took us up through Bonnieux where some of the panoramic scenes of the movie were shot. The town itself was equally beautiful as Gordes. Set on top of a hill it was lovely winding up through the tree lined streets and just gazing out across the countryside. Bonnieux had lots of lovely old buildings and looked really quaint. The road wound up through the tree lined hills before descending down through a canyon.
It was close to dark by the time we reached our accommodation on the edge of Aix-en-Provence. After checking in we quickly discovered that there were no restaurants nearby apart from the hotel next door which charged an arm and a leg. Remembering the shops we’d been told about we took a walk. Half an hour later we finally arrived just as the supermarket was closing. Here was just enough time to grab a few essentials before the shutters came down. Over the next few days we are going to explore more of the filming locations for “A Good Year” and visit nearby Marseille. Tomorrow we will travel into the centre of Aix-en-Provence to have a look.