Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Abbaye de Silvacane, and the Vidauque road again

One thing left on my to-see list was the Abbaye de Silvacane. Located on the other side of the Luberon in the Durance valley, it was one of the “Three Sister of Provence,” which also included the Abbaye de Sénanque that we hiked to and the Abbaye du Thoronet, which we will not see as it is really in the French Riviera. To reach the abbey, we would have to drive through Lourmarin, the very first town we went to when my parents arrived. Mom wanted to stop there again as it had lots of nice artist shops, and she wasn’t sure she remembered it well due to the jet lag!

I can't help throwing in another photo of our valley.
The leaves are just so nice!
 So off we went to Lourmarin, which was just as nice as we remembered. Many shops were closed, either for the season (which many do – the Café de France here in Lacoste is closed till the spring) or because it was only 10 o’clock in the morning and the French, while punctual about close right at noon or before for their two hour lunch breaks, are not always so exact in their morning opening times. But we enjoyed the mostly empty streets, which for part of the time echoed with my hiccups; as many of you probably know that when I get the hiccups, I get them extremely bad and they are almost impossible to get rid of. Alan finally made me hold my breath, put my head between my knees, and swallow – and it worked! I’ll have to remember that one.

Statue in Lourmarin
Driving up to an abbey is not nearly as fun as hiking to it – you just don’t get the same feeling. There are no monks in the abbey now, so we just paid our entrance fee and got to wander around the restored buildings. The location, so close to the river, was originally a “forest of reeds” (Sylva cana) and that is how the abbey got its name! The church is interesting because it is built on a hill, so has different levels to account for the slope of the land. A few deviations are made from the normal bare Cistercian style: they have decorations on the top of the columns, and they even indulged in a few colored windows.

In the church
The only fireplace
Many old abbeys are used for music events and art shows.

The dormitory; monks slept on the floor on
straw pallets, fully clothed (remember: no fireplaces!).

A picnic lunch was packed and ready to eat when we reached out next stop at the Gorges of Régalon. But on the way there, Mom had us keep our eyes open for what was marked on the map (but not mentioned in the guidebook) as an “ancient suspension bridge.” We did have to look very hard, as it was right next to the new (non-suspension) bridge over the Durance. A pull-off next to it had some picnic tables, so we stopped to get out and have a look. We aren’t sure how “ancient” it was, but it did have a wooden floor.

The gorge was just up the road, but the signs pointing to it had been covered with tape. We didn’t think much about it, but parked our car in the empty lot and ate our lunch at one of the stone picnic tables. After we had finished, Alan and Dad wandered over to a small build which looked like it was at some point an information center. They soon found out why it wasn’t open; a sign posted on the side informed us that the whole gorge was closed, and had been since February of 2009! Now why does my 2010 guidebook still have it listed as a place to go?? Apparently, the cliff edges were not stable, and the whole gorge is deemed unsafe. They had a little map posted as well with an alternate suggested walk, but we decided it didn’t look very exciting. During lunch we had been discussing if you could see the Vidauque road which Alan and I drove before Mom and Dad arrived (Alan had wanted to go back at sunrise but we never made it), so I suggested that maybe we should drive the road again instead and walk around on top a little. Alan again had to be back at 4:30pm for class, and we absolutely had to stop at a grocery store on the way home (remember when we tried to go on Sunday? Yeah, still hadn’t made it to one and we were seriously running out of food!), but we figured the road would take just about the right amount of time.

The views, with the color in the valley, were very nice. One of the fast trains went flying through the valley, adding romance to the scene as only a train can. We didn’t see birds like we did before, but we did see the sea! It was brilliantly lit by the sun, with the shadows of boat lined up by the port, probably still left over from the strike. We walked along the top for a few minutes and remembered again that we wanted to hike up to here (or close to here) from Oppede-le-Vieux. But it was time to go, so we descended to the valley again, filled up on food and fuel, and returned Alan to his class work.

The highest ridge in the distance is the Dentiles (sp?),
yep, because it looks like teeth - don't know if you can see it,
the photo might be too small.
Remember this rock from before?
Can you see the sea?
This truck is along the D900, our main road to everywhere.
It's a neat old thing. much better than just a sign : )

No comments:

Post a Comment