Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Off the Beaten Path

It was a challenging day.   We researched La Sallette, Thought we had a general kind of handle on the directions from the computer map but when we entered it into the trusty GPS several hours were added to the timing.  So I went to the local library and with my bad French and their non-existent English I was able to figure out that it was considerably further away.  The tourism office at the next community was a great help explaining where the location was, how it was up the mountains and that it was very far away and perhaps there were things in the local area that would be of equal interest.  He then proceeded to give us a really good line up of local sites (religious) that were of note and definitely worth going to.  So our co-ordinates were plugged into the trusty GPS and we were off. 

I have control issues and trust issues with the GPS!  We reached the intersection in the road and the GPS says go left, I see the sign for the community that we want and it is definitely pointing right.  However, I am not driving so we go left!  And yes the GPS is right it just took us to the same place via a different road (a familiar road though as it is also the road to our favourite winery)!

We arrived at Blauvac.  This community has a Cistercian Abbey of sisters.  And what a place!  We easily spent 3 hours here today.  First we went to the top of the mountain to the community of Blauvac.  City centre was the church and across the road a restaurant that overlooks the valley below.  

 What an incredible view as we looked out at Mont Ventoux and all of the orchards below.  Vineyards and orchard have been present on the south side of Mont Ventoux since the time of antiquity.  There is a popular wine from this area called the “cotes du ventoux”.

The Vineyards below the mountain

A cross at the city centre dedicated to those who  fought in the wars

 There are fountains pretty much everywhere and this city centre is no different

A row of lavender, no blossoms left but the perfume is wonderful if you run your hands through it

The church at the city centre

 The valleys below

High Altar of the church

a more "panoramic" view of the church

We then turned around to go back down the mountain and to the abbey which is perhaps three quarters of the way up and only a very short distance from the community of Blauvac itself.  The serenity of the place was evident as soon as you stepped out of the car.  We stopped first at the chapel.  Like all Cistercian monasteries, the chapel here was the same.  Bare of ornamentation but breathtaking in its simplicity.  The Altar is very unique it is small and round.  The chapel itself is stone and wood the windows clear glass.  The furnishings are also very simple, 2 candles, presiders chair and lectern.  Over the altar there is a cross that looks like it is suspended in the air and give the illusion of such as you sit in the boy of the chapel.  There are no decorations or ornaments here to distract you from the focal point of the worship.  Simplicity at its best! 

Here you can see the cross hanging in the sanctuary.  Looking suspended

 The Altar that is so unique

Some of the buildings on the grounds

Around the grounds in various places there are picnic tables and a lone chair or perhaps 2 chairs are placed under the shade of a tree for quiet contemplation.  The peacefulness of this place – certainly off the beaten track and not a tourist magnet—is unsurpassed.

A cross placed along one of the paths

Part of the Abbey

A lovely statue of Joseph holding Jesus

And grapes growing wild


We also thought a repeat visit to Venesque was in order.  Two years ago the day was cold and dreary and the wind was howling through the streets.  Today was a different experience all together and it was quite a different feel after having come from the monastery.  Again the views were spectacular and while not in any way crowded there is a more tourist feel to the place.  Stores are open for business and people are wandering through the streets and alley ways.  The church was our first stop and it was just as beautiful as we remembered.  Keep in mind we have come from a bare chapel where the ornamentation is non-existent and this church is very ornate.  It has its own beauty and peace when tourists are not walking through taking pictures.  In the quiet you can hear the wind blowing outside.  

The inside of the church of Venesque.  This is of the high altar but there are 5 altars in total and lots of artwork and decorations. 

Venesque Baptistry

Venesque is best known for the baptistery.  It is traditionally acknowledged that this building was originally a  pagan temple.  It might have been a temple dedicated to Venus, Diana or Mercury.   The baptistery must have been used and restored during roman occupation as evidenced by the columns.

The Columns and Arches typical of Roman influence

Marble font, supposedly from and old oil press

It has fluting and interlacing designs which might date back to Merovingian construction

the vault in this apse have holes so as to improve the acoustics.  During roman times pieces of pottery would be inserted in the hole to improve resonance

 Some of the artifacts

 Again a view of the arches and columns.  six columns support five arches, one arch for each of the five senses
 Reuse of vestiges from pagan temples would help explain the location of the font.  the location of the font is ancient and you can see two water inlets.

 The font, where the newly baptized stepped down for baptism and up once baptized stepped up to a new life with Christ

The rocks from which many medieval villages are hewn

 Look closely for the openings

An interesting mosaic on this weather vane, part of the roof of a home

Outside of the church at Venesque

Roque Sur Pernes

Our humble abode is in this community and we have done no exploring at all.  Roque sur Pernes is a medieval village from around the eleventh century.  To get around you really have to walk up all of the hills (no roads)

the stairs going up the the top where there is a grand hotel. I did not include that picture in this posting!

Nestled in it looks like a secret door!

We were well off the beaten track today.  It was rewarding to experience the suggestions that the tourist office made and we are glad to have left the tourist hot spots to enjoy the quiet serenity of the countryside.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day! 
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

Robert Frost

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