The trip from Corsica to Nice went without a hitch. The ferry was as per timetable and then we arrived and there was general mayhem as hundreds of cars and campervans were unloaded and a couple of thousand people. Somehow we got a free Navette to the outskirts of the port, saving us almost a kilometre of dragging our luggage. We knew there was a bus to the airport, the challenge was, to find the right bus and the bus stop and then be on the right side of the road to get the one going to the airport not returning. We still had to walk quite a distance but eventually found the spot and of course, the big clue was all the travellers with their suitcases.
Picking up the car at the airport seemed like such a good idea at the time. We worked out the correct terminal and were very pleased with ourselves getting out at the right stop. Next the car rental office. Nice airport is much bigger than I remembered. The multi-storey carpark covered hectares! We thought we followed the signs but the arrow pointing “UP” located just outside the lift actually meant to go straight ahead down a hallway. So, after some confusion, we finally arrived at the car rental office. It was massive! Of course, we had to take a number. There were three attendants and we were thirteenth on the list. I suspected it was going to take a while, especially when a couple of employees began handing out free bottles of water. Oh dear, this was really going to take some time. Just chill…
Finally, we had our car and were on our way. Brignoles was to be our home for the next two nights. John had been very selective. Our Bed and Breakfast was a mas, on the outskirts of the town. It was really beautiful and our hosts Lionel and Miriam were sensational. We arrived late and after showing us our room and depositing our luggage, Lionel suggested a restaurant in town. Driving a rental car at night along very narrow roads and into villages with even narrower roads is disconcerting. Thank goodness for the GPS on the phone.
The following morning we were treated to a wonderful breakfast on the terrace in the garden and Lionel and Miriam suggested places we might want to explore. We had a plan.
First stop was at Contignac an enchanting village where John found a delicious rose at the house of Mirabeau. It was great to have the young man from England explain how the vintner works. This particular house has no vineyards and instead purchases the juice from a variety of vineyards and creates the multiple prize-winning rose to their liking. It was all very interesting. He also gave us advice on where to go to hire canoes so we could paddle into one of the spectacular sections of the gorge.
Quinson: We drove there and were astounded by the number of people. It was amazing. I queued behind one fellow who was told that to hire the electric boat he would need to put his name down for a time, four days hence! Our position in the queue meant we would have to wait up to one hour or maybe even more, it depends on when the people bring the canoes back. After twenty minutes, we decided it was ridiculous and drove on.
The drive to Moustiers Sainte Marie was along the Gorge du Verdon, the largest gorge in Europe and the second biggest in the world and was spectacular. We were thrilled to see the star was still suspended above the gorge in the village. Legend has it that a young crusader from the village first hung the star as a sign of his appreciation for having survived and dedicated it to the Virgin Mary. The town has maintained the star through the centuries. The town is also very famous for fayenza, particularly fine glazed ceramics first established by the monks who lived here in the fifth century. The style doesn’t appeal to John or I but then we came across a showroom which had ceramics from all over France and it was a revelation. Some of these artisans had created amazingly beautiful works of art. We were taken with the work of one potter whose large pots would not be able to be transported to our home but we managed to acquire a small plate done by the same artist using the same colours.
We headed back to the Gorge de Verdon with the hope of hiring a canoe or having a swim. It was hot. We stopped at Pont du Galletas. The crowd was amazing. The antics of the young people defying death by jumping off the cliff walls were just plain disturbing. The queue for the canoes was just as long as at Quinson so we decided to just have a cool, refreshing swim before heading back to Cotignac for dinner at one of the innumerable bistros and restaurants framing the main street. We chose Brasserie Phil’s, as we thought it suitably low-key and were about to take a seat when the waiter approached us and asked if we had a reservation. Well no, we didn’t. The little town was packed and I could see that we might just need a reservation but I was a bit bemused. It was just seven but dinner would not be until seven thirty and we would need a reservation. We made the reservation and wandered around the town until we returned at the correct time and sat and enjoyed a delicious meal with a lovely bottle of Provence rose. Sometimes it is wise to go with the flow and just accept.