Cats, Pottery, Spectacles and Chocolate mousse.

Trip Start Jul 02, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of France  , Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur,
Sunday, September 29, 2013

EM_TY have been spoiling ourselves:

There wasn't really a wild storm, but oddly there was a waterfall, ancient church and artist hub, the very things we were worried we would miss out on. We at last found Moustiers with barely a few hours daylight left. We pitched, finally showered and headed off to the town, looking forward to someone else cooking us dinner. The road in suddenly stopped forcing everyone to park and hike the rest, and it wasn’t until we dawdled further up that we understood why. It was like a giant finger had pushed down a section of land and then tumbled all these bricks and rocks into the gap, forcing the people to sort it out and make minuscule walkways, clever drainage and places to live. High up in between the rock faces was a labyrinth of stone paths and bridges leading to an ancient church complete with trees and a beautiful sounding bell. Hanging over the cavern was a single cable stretching over hundreds of meters from one side to the other, holding a huge single metal star, shining and watching over the town.

Tucked away in the lanes either side of the running river, were caves of restaurants and artist studios, the exterior stereotypically covered in ivy and coloured wooden shutters. As we strolled through we were simply overwhelmed with the exquisiteness; it was classy, passive and quaint. We saw incredible and professional pottery pieces and paintings, even watching the artists in action. Our heads were boiling over the side with creative inspiration but nothing was coming out our mouths.. We were actually speechless. In one single frame we saw all the things on our 'I heart _ ‘ list: Art, mountains, water, café’s and obscure laneways to explore.. Oh and gelato – My latest addition to my death-row meal.

As we sat for dinner and some wine, we felt in utter awe of the place and people, just watching as the town went about its very lucky business. It became obvious from this town that, just as the Spanish own bohemian, family and olives, France owns classy, pottery and spectacles (as well as the given cheese, wine and shutters!). That night at the tent we were wondering if they also own acorn-eating squirrels as it rained a single acorn every two minutes from the tree’s above. It was like a campers version of that mythological tale of Chinese dripping water torture.  

We left with a deadline of 1pm in Cotignac for Trace’s birthday accommodation booking, just making it after leisurely winding through fields of wine trees. We arrived at the studio apartment on the property of the lovely Christine and Jean-Mark. It was immaculately renovated, adjacent to their own home bounded by olive trees on one side and wine fields on the other. We settled in lounging by the pool in the heat, listening to silence occasionally broken with birds; and Tracey’s random out-loud-thoughts like ‘Do humans eat acorns?’. That evening we made a platter of local meats, veggies, cheese and wine, eating overlooking the grounds. Being the eve of the AFL grand final, we tried to log into our Tom Waterhouse account to put a bet on but was blocked. Trace began enquiries on the live help chat room and an hour later she was still chatting, occasionally telling me interesting tidbit’s like "My new friend Russel is hiking to Everest base camp". Trace, Russel and I just soaked up the view and sipped wine until sleepy took over.

For Trace’s special day we explored the town and galleries, sipped coffee, read books and just relaxed. Cotignac is a slightly untouched scruffy version of Moustiers; the home of more amazing artists, artisan food markets and even a network of stone paths and cave rooms high up inside the rock face hugging the town. These were shelters for locals to store their goods from looters in the 700’s! (Yes: 700 not 1700). As we walked along we found modern cave versions providing refuge for vehicles and all sorts.

That evening we attended a wonderful exhibition opening and stood quietly listening to harmonious tunes of a live jazz band, too scared to talk to the talented but Botox happy artist. In contrast, as we left, we were struck with the alarm-like sounds of a convoy of cars tooting their horns and cheering out their windows down the main street, noticing a bride and groom standing tall out the roof of a limo. The whole town whistled and clapped. I tried to tell Trace I had organized it for her birthday, but instead we celebrated with a traditional French meal at a restaurant under tall oak trees in the main square. We safely ordered the beef after our entre of brown fish soup, spending more time sipping wine and discussing our vision for this hidden secret of a town. Locals mostly filled the tables around us, cats moseyed through and there was a very cute little Italian boy next to us. An icebreaking magic trick later, and we were excitedly sharing stories and travel tips with his parents, and even giving pony-rides on the motorbike. All four of us were as hyper as the son. They left us to finish eating our divine deserts, adding chocolate mousse and cats to the list of French owned things. We headed for our comfy home with a long note of Italian tips, some gratitude of a random, interesting and fulfilling evening, and fear of running over a wild white pig in the dark.

Our host Christine had not only warned us of these mystical pigs, but of impending storms and rain for our leaving day, so we extended our stay and hauled up in our studio to listen to it in reality. There was no TV, radio or wifi sending us into little fits of restlessness. This was politely interrupted by an offer for coffee and cake in their home, spending an hour chatting in broken French and English – The word McDonalds taking some time to decipher sending us into the giggles. Christine and Jean-Mark are a humble, hardworking and genuine couple and we left them the next day tooting and waving all the way down their long drive. We zoomed off with a feeling of jubilation after our spoilt and inspiring few days, but also the certainty of tent-life looming over us again. To Italia we go! 
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Hel on

Fantastic photos. Xxx

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