Vaison and Around

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Tuesday morning is the big market day in Vaison-la-Romaine. We got up early, and wore light jackets and scarves against the morning chill. The temperature was in the mid 50’s, and everyone else was dressed as if they were planning on a hike in the Arctic. As we passed by the ruins, we saw a woman feeding the many stray cats–and I will say, these are the healthiest looking strays I’ve ever seen, plump and with shiny coats. There were even kittens basking in the sun. (Larry had to remind me I can’t take one home)

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The Market stretches through Vaison’s main streets in the center, with loads of housewares, and some tourist stuff like pottery, Provencal tablecloths, soaps and lavender. The central street is the important one, with stands selling produce, cheese, fish, meats, olives, honey, bread, and spices. We loaded up our shopping bag with some cheese, vegetables, gorgeous figs, pate, olives, and sausage. We stopped in at the pastry shop Peyerol, and shared a flaky croissant.

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After putting the food in the apartment, we went over to meet up with Janet Henderson, a British ex-pat who runs historical walking tours of Vaison. We first spent a good amount of time putting the Roman ruins into perspective, hearing about the people who were here before the Romans, and then they why and how Rome established the city here, and how they interacted with the established culture. We then walked alongside the ruins (running into our landlord along the way, so more handshakes and chatting), learning about the Roman city.

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From there, we walked over to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, a Romanesque church with with the foundation of the earliest part built from Roman columns and parts of structures. There’s a lovely interior cloister. (the door is usually closed, look for it or you’ll miss the cloister). Janet talked about the Medieval period, the later developments when the area was under the control of the Pope in Avignon, and the Revolution.

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We crossed the Roman bridge, and walked up the steep cobbled streets of the Haute-Ville, the medieval area at the top of the hill the population would retreat to during stressful periods.

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This area was largely abandoned when the “New Town” was built in the 18th and 19th centuries, and left to crumble. Now it is becoming a popular place for people to refurbish vacation homes, and there are a few restaurants, B&B’s and galleries popping up. It’s a beautiful, evocative place, well worth the climb.

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By the time the walk finished, it was 1:30. The streets were clogged with trucks moving the market stands out, and many of the restaurants were closed. We decided to just eat our leftovers for lunch and relax with some wine at home. Later, we got in the car and drove the short distance to Seguret, a village perched on another hillside. Seguret is another beautiful stone village, and has two restaurants we’d like to try on another day.

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We crossed over to Sablet, the next village, which is more workaday in appearance, with local gentleman hanging out at the Café Sport and kids playing in the quiet street, with older stone buildings tucked in back..

We picked up a baguette and a bottle of Sablet wine, and headed back home for a dinner of cheese, pate, salad, bread and wine. The most flavorful figs I’ve ever had. A glorious sunset, too!

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