Sunday, May 30, 2021

Our Last Day in Beautiful Sablet in Provence

We could never have imagined that it would be more than a year and half before we might return to Sablet when we awoke on Sunday morning, October 13, 2019. Like the rest of the world, we couldn't imagine that a world-wide pandemic was about to strike that would change lives forever. 

So as is our routine on the last day of a sojourn in Sablet, we had breakfast on the terrace, returned our personal belongings to storage, emptied  trash cans and refrigerator and tidied up so the housekeepers wouldn't have to when they come to ready the house for the guests who follow. 

Shirley at Front Door

We never leave Sablet without going to pay visits to our friends who are propriétaires d'entreprise (business owners) to say good bye and fais la bise (kiss on each cheek) before we head to the TGV train station in Avignon. I snapped pictures at each stop that day.

Le Pain Medieval Boulangerie

Our first stop is at Le Pain Medieval Boulangerie to say au revoir (good bye) to the young baker Julien and his mom Jeannine. We usually have to wait in line because there is often a line out the door and cars double-parked in front with motors running while the owner dashes into the bakery to get a freshly baked baguette or some other baked treats.

Julien and his Mom

Next stop is at Votre Marché which is owned by dear friends Alain and Mimi.  Over the years we have owned our house in Sablet, I can say without a doubt, no business has undergone a more substantial and positive change than Votre Marché. 

From the previous store, with largely empty shelves, the Marché is now stocked with a large assortment of items, canned goods, wines and spirits, dairy products, cheese, charcuterie, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.   

Chez Mimi et Alain Market

Dear Mimi does her best to encourage Shirley to "speak French Shirley". While speaking is still a challenge, especially when put on the spot, Shirley understands a great deal of what is said during conversations. I can say that she can now se débrouiller (handle herself) when she goes shopping on her own.  

Shirley and Alain and Mimi at Votre Marché.

From Votre Marché, we head to Café des Sports for a final café before we head to the train station. Unfortunately, on many Sunday mornings, including this day, the proprietor, our good and larger than life friend Bruno, is not manning the bar. So we said our "good byes" earlier. 

Shirley and Alain at Café des Sports

We have set an appointment to meet our friend Alain for coffee before we head out. Alain and his wife Danielle have become friends and we always look forward to spending time together at the bar. 

A Final Coffee at Café des Sports Before Departure

Having said our good byes, with sad hearts, we head to our car and the trip to Avignon. If we had known how long it would be before we might get back to Sablet, I am sure we would have been a lot more sad, more likely in full depression.

We are thankful that Shirley and I have been able to avoid become infected with COVID-19 and we are vaccinated and hope to return to Sablet in July. I can't put into words how much I love Sablet, our home there and all of our very special friends who have opened their hearts and homes to us interlopers. 

So we will remain optimistic, and say a bientot (see you soon). 😘

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

A Visit to Uzès is a Great Idea After a Visit to Nearby Pont du Gard

Loyal readers who follow my musings about Provence know that visits to the Pont du Gard are a regular part of our annual visits to the South of France. However, after you have walked out to the Roman acqueduct and walked across the bridge and hiked to the top of the hill on the other side to marvel at its beauty, the question inevitably arises about what are we going to do for the rest of our day. Visits to the Pont du Gard do not require a full day unless you are going to paddle a kayak down the Gardon river which by the way is great fun.

Many times, we head to nearby Uzès, a short 15 minute drive. Uzès is a well-preserved medieval town in the Gard department set on a promontory above the Alzon River. The old town is encircled by boulevards shaded by plane trees that have replaced the medieval defensive walls. Inside, there is a maze of small streets and shaded squares lined with beautiful old houses and mansions from the 17th and 18th century.

Cobblestone street to center of Uzès with Bermonde Tower in background

In the mid-16th century, many citizens of Uzès were Calvinist and the town was the 5th largest Protestant town in the kingdom. Religious wars resulted in the destruction of all the churches and of the temple that Uzès had at the time. In 1685, the revocation of the Edict of Nantes caused many to leave for Protestant countries in Europe, or their colonies.

Clock and belfry on top of the St-Etienne church tower

Starting in the 15th century, Uzès produced woolen, twill and cloth, then stockings and finally silk, until a mulberry tree disease deprived the town of its textile industry, which provided employment for 2000 people. This decline took the town with it, despite the development of the pottery industry and the licorice factory at the end of the 19th century.

Clock and belfry on top of the St-Etienne church tower

In the 20th century, Uzès gained a new lease on life when its town center was classified as a “protected zone” in January 1965. Ever since, Uzès has been upgrading and improving the town: roads have been paved, electricity cables hidden, facades renovated and the “protected zone” has been enlarged from 29 acres in 1965 to 101 acres today.
Pretty Uzès Shop

The Duché is the defensive feudal castle standing in the center of Uzès old town. Uzès is the "First Duchy of France", France's oldest and most-important ducal peerage. Uzès was made a Duché in 1565. The current owner of the castle, Jacques de Crussol, is the 17th Duke of Uzès. He grew up in the castle but these days, he actually lives in Paris but makes a point of coming to Uzès once a month, and spends most of the summer at the castle. Just like the Queen of England, his family’s flag flies over the castle when he is in residence.

Bermonde Tower (castle keep)

The Saint-Théodorit Cathedral seen below, was formerly a Catholic cathedral, but is now a parish church, named in honor of Saint Theodoritus. It was the seat of the Bishops of Uzès until the diocese was abolished under the Concordat of 1801 and its territory passed to the Diocese of Avignon. 

The cathedral was destroyed during the Albigensian Crusades, rebuilt, and destroyed again in the 16th century Wars of Religion and rebuilt again in the 17th century before it was gutted during the French Revolution. In the 19th century, a new west front was added. 

The Fenestrelle Tower avoided destruction in 1621 and is the only part of the cathedral which survives from the Medieval structure. The tower is built in the style of the Medieval Italian Lombard towers, and is the unique example in France of a round clock tower.

Saint-Théodorit Cathedral and Fenestrelle Tower

Uzès passageway to Place aux Herbes

Saturday morning, a huge traditional Provençal market fills the Place aux Herbes to overflowing with fruits, vegetables and flowers, but also jams and honey, ceramics and linens, pots and pans, clothes and shoes. There’s another, smaller version on Wednesday mornings too. 

The square itself, large and asymmetrical, is planted with plane trees around its central fountain and surrounded by medieval houses transformed in the 17th and 18th centuries, perched above stone arcades housing shops, restaurants and cafés.

Place aux Herbes

If you are looking for a place to have a tasty meal after the market, we really like Les Terroirs which is located off of Place aux Herbes.
Les Terroirs - 5 Place aux Herbes