The morning dew had not yet dissipated when we said goodbye to Côte-d’Or and headed south towards the Mediterranean with hopes of finding more adventure in a different part of France.
Our drive south was uneventful but still awe inspiring with beautiful landscapes and hillside communities around every turn. It was surprising to see so much open space. We had a preconceived notion that France would be dense, considering how old it was compared to North America, and thankfully this was not the case.
Our first stop would be Orange, a commune in the Vaucluse Department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France. Renowned for its Roman architecture, and its Roman theatre, the Théâtre antique d’Orange, is described as the most impressive still existing in Europe. There is some debate about when the arch was built, but current research that accepts the inscription as evidence favors a date during the reign of emperor Augustus. The arch also contains an inscription dedicated to emperor Tiberius in AD 27, when it was reconstructed by emperor Tiberius to celebrate the victories of Germanicus over the German tribes in Rhineland. The arch, theatre, and surroundings were listed in 1981 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
After a fantastic lunch at a local café in Orange, we headed toward the Théâtre antique d’Orange.
The theatre was built early in the 1st century AD. The structure is owned by the municipality of Orange and is the home of the summer opera festival, the Chorégies d’Orange. We were so upset that our visit was 1 day short of being able to watch an Opera in this ancient theatre, it would have been surreal to be sure, we’ll need to plan our trip better next time!
It was a great place to visit but a bottle of “chateauneuf du pape” was waiting for me in the very place it was born. We got back on the road and soon saw the vineyards that made “chateauneuf du pape” one of the best wines of France.
Brigitte was our Airbnb host and we were not disappointed. It took us a while to find her place because it was behind a small unassuming door on the main street.
Walking through the door was like walking into an Oasis of fragrant flowers and fruit trees, it was a wonderful place to lay down our heads after the long journey south.
We had a short rest before heading out for diner and visiting some wine cellar caves that were offering free samples of the famous wine.
The food in the restaurant we chose was exceptional…yet again. I don’t think we had a bad meal the entire time we were in France.
With a bottle or two of “Chateauneuf du Pape” in hand, we headed back for an early night at Brigitte’s.
The sun was shining the next morning. We were greeted by Brigitte and her husband and shown to an outdoor table filled with the most beautiful pastries and fruits you can imagine, most came from her gardens.
Croissants, French breads and cheeses topped off with tasty jams and juice, not to mention fresh brewed coffee I can still smell to this day.
We talked about what it was like to live in France and how proud they were of their heritage. She was so helpful and answered all our questions with lovely French hospitality.
It was going to be a hot day. We decided to start out right after breakfast and visit the vineyards, the grapes still on the vines. My wife and son and I sampled a few of the grapes and made a promise to each other that we’d buy a bottle from that vintage and toast to the wonderful time we shared together.
Not far from the vineyards we strolled up to a ruined medieval castle, which sits above the village and dominates the landscape to the south. It was built in the 14th century for Pope John XXII, the second of the popes to reside in Avignon.
With the departure of the popes the castle passed to the archbishop of Avignon, but it was too large and too expensive to maintain and was used as a source of stone for building work in the village. During the Second World War an attempt was made to demolish the donjon with dynamite by German soldiers but only the northern half was destroyed; the southern half remained intact.
We felt so relaxed in the commune of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It was quite different from the villages and towns we had visited in the north, not better or worse, just different. There was an almost tropical feel to this area. Almost all the cultivable land is planted with grapevines. Maybe it was the wine that was making us feel so relaxed.
I often think back on this part of our journey with great memories. Walking through the vineyards with our son, showing him all the wonders of the world and watching him soak it all up. No amount of money can buy these kinds of memories, for me, it was priceless.