Transcript for Episode 398: Sénanque Abbey and Gordes

Table of Contents for this Episode

Category: Provence

[00:00:00] Intro

[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode of 398. Bonjour I’m Annie Sargent and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France, everyday life in France, great places to visit in France, French culture, history, gastronomy and news related to travel to France.

[00:00:39] In today’s episode

[00:00:39] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a conversation with Elyse Rivin of Toulouse Guided Walks about the Abbaye de Sénanque and Gordes. This is Lavender Central, but there’s more to it than the beautiful flowers.

[00:00:56] Annie Sargent: Elyse was just there on vacation with her sisters, and she’ll tell us all about it with great tips about how to organize your visits, and of course, a little bit of the history of the Abbaye de Sénanque which is just beautiful.

[00:01:11] Podcast support

[00:01:11] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my itinerary consult service and my GPS self-guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app. You can browse all of that at my boutique,

[00:01:31] Bastille Day

[00:01:31] Annie Sargent: For the travel update of the week, let’s talk about Bastille Day in France. I know a lot of you would love to be in France around July 14th. I’ll give you some pointers on what to expect as well as firsthand experiences about how it happened this year and, you know, so you can take full advantage of the festivities, and not just in Paris, but all over France.

[00:01:57] Annie Sargent: I want to update everyone on the France bootcamp taking place in Toulouse, May 21st until May 27 . That’s going to be in 2023, but my contact at the language school is on vacation. There you go. So this is not going to be news to many of you, but in France, some things cannot get done in July and August because, what a thought, french people go on vacation and they do not respond to emails or voicemails while on vacation, which is, you know, good, I think. I’m going to take my own vacation , starting next Saturday and I really need a break, so it’ll be wonderful.

[00:02:39] Annie Sargent: Donc, on s’en occupera à la rentrée. Which means, we’ll take care of this in early September, when everybody gets back to work. Bootcamp peeps. You can be sure of one thing, it is happening. If this is the first you’ve heard about this, because you are new to the podcast and in that case, welcome to you, subscribe to the newsletter by going to That’s how I will update you as well as on the podcast of course, but give it time, July and August, we’re on vacation here.

[00:03:25] Sénanque Abbey and Gordes

[00:03:25] Annie Sargent: Bonjour Elyse.

[00:03:26] Elyse Rivin: Bonjour Annie.

[00:03:27] Annie Sargent: We are outside on my patio talking about the Abbaye de Sénanque, and we’re outside because I’m afraid Elyse is going to attack me.

[00:03:39] Elyse Rivin: Everybody out there please, understand what she is referring to. It’s not me, it’s those little bugs that you can’t see inside our bodies.

[00:03:48] Annie Sargent: Viruses.

[00:03:48] Elyse Rivin: Viruses, yes. Everyone out there hi, I’m coming off of a bout of COVID, yay.

[00:03:55] Elyse Rivin: I’m

[00:03:55] Annie Sargent: one Of those, and it’s still in my throat and it’s still hovering somewhere above me and Annie thinks she can see the viruses, so she wants to stay as far away from me as she possibly can. Yes, I do love you, but not that much.

[00:04:10] Annie Sargent: Not that much.

[00:04:11] Elyse Rivin: I don’t love me that much either, so it’s perfectly okay.

[00:04:13] You can stay at the other end of this very big table, really.

[00:04:16] Annie Sargent: Good. But hopefully, we won’t have too much interference from the wind and the birds and the neighbors. Hopefully nobody will start cutting down a tree or anything crazy like that.

[00:04:26] They shouldn’t, but who knows.

[00:04:28] Elyse Visited the Sénanque Abbey Recently

[00:04:28] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Who knows? So Abbaye de Sénanque. We wanted to talk about this because you were just there, right?

[00:04:35] Luberon and Vaucluse

[00:04:35] Elyse Rivin: That’s right. I was just there. I just had the privilege, actually really privilege of spending two weeks in a part of Provence called, the Luberon, which is a region really of Provence.

[00:04:47] Annie Sargent: It’s a department, isn’t it?

[00:04:48] No, the department is actually the Vaucluse.

[00:04:51] Annie Sargent: Oh, okay.

[00:04:52] Elyse Rivin: The, the V I remember the vs the VAR and the Vaucluse, right? It’s the Vaucluse, but the Luberon is actually a mini chain of mountains with a valley. So it’s kind of two stretches of low mountains running more or less East-West with a pretty, very pretty valley in between.

[00:05:09] Elyse Rivin: And that area, for reasons I honestly don’t really know, but that started quite a while ago, has become a very popular and rather chic place for people to go and stay. And it’s filled with ancient villages and it’s filled with interesting things to see.

[00:05:26] Annie Sargent: Right, and you were there early June.

[00:05:28] Elyse Rivin: And I was there early June.

[00:05:29] Elyse Rivin: I was…

[00:05:30] Annie Sargent: With your sisters?

[00:05:31] Annie Sargent: Yes. I had a wonderful time. It was a lovely, lovely vacation, and it was really thanks to my sister Barbara. I managed to visit some things that I’ve always heard about and wanted to see and discovered some other places, which I think we will be able to talk about sometimes soon.

[00:05:47] Annie Sargent: On different episodes. Yes. Because you, you really took a good look at all these Luberon villages.

[00:05:53] Elyse Rivin: Yes.

[00:05:54] Annie Sargent: That’s great because lots of our listeners want to go see all of that.

[00:05:59] May and June, best times to go

[00:05:59] Elyse Rivin: Yes, they do. And it is of course, an area that is filled with tourists. There are certain times of the year that I think are obviously more crowded than others, but it’s certainly a beautiful, beautiful part of Provence.

[00:06:11] Annie Sargent: Right.

[00:06:11] Annie Sargent: So early June, that’s when it would start with lots of visitors, I think.

[00:06:16] Elyse Rivin: Yes. Well, we showed up on the 27th or 28th of May and there were already a fair number of visitors. I would say that May and June are the best times to go, and perhaps September, the second half of September.

[00:06:30] When Can You See the Lavender Fields?

[00:06:30] Annie Sargent: Right. Although if you want to see the lavender fields, you need to go in July.

[00:06:34] Elyse Rivin: This is what’s so weird. So we were there, we were of course in the dead center of the area that’s known for cultivating lavender. So this abbey is one place we’ll talk about, but the whole region, when you drive around is just filled with fields that are just rows and rows and rows of lavender.

[00:06:52] Elyse Rivin: But, they were just starting to open up when we left, which was the 11th of June. So the prime time, if you really want to see the fabulous color, which of course is, you know, part of the whole thing, because you can smell it, even though the flowers aren’t actually open yet, you can actually, when you drive around, it’s neat, because you can smell the lavender, but the flowers basically open starting just about middle of June and goes through really to the end of July.

[00:07:19] Annie Sargent: Right. And then they get harvested and there’s nothing left.

[00:07:23] Elyse Rivin: And then there’s nothing left, but there’s still this after aroma, if you want to call it that, because it’s really permeated almost the soil there, the whole area smells so nice. I love the smell of lavender, so really nice, you know, I love it.

[00:07:36] Elyse Rivin: But the only thing that we were a bit disappointed by was the fact that when we left, you could see the flowers starting to open up and the purple starting to show. It was oh, just another few days, you know, but it’s, the bees were very happy, I must say, lots and lots and lots of bees.

[00:07:53] Cliché Images of Provence

[00:07:53] It’s interesting because this area is associated with and particularly this place, this Abbaye is part of one of the cliché images of Provence. If you have, I brought back a calendar, actually, I didn’t bring it with me today, but one of the pictures of course, is the classic cliché picture of the Abbaye in the distance with the huge fields of purple flowers.

[00:08:13] Annie Sargent: Oh yeah. It must have been photographed millions and millions of times.

[00:08:16] Elyse Rivin: Millions, millions. I’m sure. When people see that, they go, Oh yes, lavender. Oh yes, Provence. And of course, the thing is that there is lavender everywhere. It’s just that this particular Abbaye is so closely associated with the production.

[00:08:31] Commune of Gordes

[00:08:31] Annie Sargent: Right. For example, Abbaye de Sénanque is not far from Gordes.

[00:08:35] Annie Sargent: Not far. It’s in the Commune of Gordes.

[00:08:37] Annie Sargent: As you drive between Sénanque and Gordes, do you have lavender fields everywhere or is it a mix?

[00:08:44] If you want to go to visit the Abbaye of Sénanque, to get there, you have to go up basically the hills towards the center of the village of Gordes. It’s a big village, you know, this is a major village, it’s got about a thousand residents. That’s a fairly big village for that area.

[00:09:02] Getting to the Sénanque Abbey from Gordes

[00:09:02] But everything is hilly there, you know? And so, to get to the Abbaye, you first have to go all the way up almost to the top, you almost drive into the village itself, and then when you get there at a certain point, there’s a sign that tells you to turn to another road, because the Abbaye itself is down below in a very narrow little valley that is completely closed off, that’s half a kilometer wide and three kilometers long. It’s very special because it’s really isolated in that way.

[00:09:38] And the view you get driving from up above going down is spectacular. So you see both the valley down below, but you also get at certain points when the road turns, it’s one of these departmental roads, you get views over the Luberon, you get views of Gordes, you get views of a bunch of stuff going around.

[00:09:54] The same is when you come back up from down below, it’s the same road, but going, they made it one way in one way out going the other way, so that you don’t necessarily see other fields of lavender as you’re going down to the Abbaye because it’s woods, a lot of forest right around there.

[00:10:11] But once you get up on top and you leave Gordes, you get to an area where there are fields of lavender pretty much everywhere.

[00:10:18] Annie Sargent: Okay. Yeah.

[00:10:19] Provence Markets

[00:10:19] Annie Sargent: So there’s plenty of others, this just that this one is so iconic.

[00:10:23] Elyse Rivin: Oh yes, yes, yes. I mean, and let’s face it, one of the things that people do when you go to this part of Provence is go to the markets.

[00:10:30] Elyse Rivin: And of course, one of the staples of what they sell on the market is sachets of lavender, like the one I just gave you.

[00:10:36] Annie Sargent: You just gave me one. That smells really good. I can smell it from here because I didn’t have COVID.

[00:10:40] Annie Sargent: Yeah, she did have, right. I can actually smell again, I have to tell you. I had a week where I couldn’t smell. Does anyone, if anybody really wants to know why I’ll tell you the lured story, but I don’t know if you’d want to know how I discovered I couldn’t smell anymore, but anyway.No, we don’t want to know that.

[00:10:54] Annie Sargent: Has to do with my cat. Now, this is the thing though. Lavender, you can’t get fooled, okay? So if you really go to one of the genuine markets, there are people who are really people who harvest the lavender and make their own sachets and things like that. And it’s worth making an effort to see that you find one of those.

[00:11:12] Annie Sargent: If you go into one of these tourist stores, as opposed to the open markets, you’re going to get a lot of lavender sachets that probably aren’t even from Provence, they’re just, you know, was one of those things.

[00:11:23] Three varieties of lavender

[00:11:23] But the lavender is a production. And what’s interesting is that, it turns out there are three varieties of lavender itself.

[00:11:29] The one that’s produced the most that’s used in the perfumes, in the sachets, the one that’s actually in the fields where the Abbaye is, is called Lavandin.

[00:11:38] Annie Sargent: Right.

[00:11:38] Elyse Rivin: And it’s a variety of lavender. And I went online to understand like what the differences are. Well, the true, what they call true lavender, which is much more rustic, is harder to cultivate, but it grows higher up at a little higher elevation.

[00:11:54] Elyse Rivin: So what they’ve done is they’ve made a cross between the two. And so the product that we get, which is fine, as far as I’m concerned, smells great, you know, is this cross between the theoretical true lavender and the Lavandin, and that’s the one that’s used eventually for making the oils and the perfumes and the soaps and everything else.

[00:12:12] Parking at the Abbaye

[00:12:12] Annie Sargent: So what is it like when you pull up to the Abbaye de Sénanque for instance, what’s it like parking?

[00:12:18] Elyse Rivin: Well, so the thing is, you might wonder why even bother to go if you can see fields of lavender everywhere? Well, the Abbaye de Sénanque is really interesting for two reasons. One because it gives you an idea of what it must have been like when hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years ago, people lived in these monasteries, in these weirdly isolated places and were totally far from civilization and everything, everything that they did and made they had to do it themselves, they had to produce themselves.

[00:12:52] Elyse Rivin: So you go down this very narrow departmental road. You come to this big parking. It’s very well arranged, so there’s this big parking lot. This is what you need to know. You must get a reserved time ticket to get into the Abbaye. You can’t show up and take your chances that there are still places, because there’s a certain number of people allowed in. They only have two or three visits a morning and two or three visits in the afternoon. And that is because, there are still monks who live and work there.

[00:13:17] Product commercialization

[00:13:17] Elyse Rivin: And there are not many of them, six or seven, but they are the ones who actually do the harvesting of the lavender.

[00:13:24] Elyse Rivin: And now of course, it’s modern times, so they are involved in the commercialization of it. And one of the ways they make their money is by the huge, very good boutique that they have there that has all the byproducts you can imagine of, use of Lavender, including honeys and soaps and all kinds of things, and other products that are locally grown.

[00:13:44] Elyse Rivin: The benefits all really go to the renovation, continuous renovation of the Abbaye. But, so what you do is you come down and you’re in this, you realize you’re in this very narrow, almost oval-shaped valley.

[00:13:56] Annie Sargent: Mm-hmm.

[00:13:57] Get Your Tickets in Advance

[00:13:57] Elyse Rivin: And you have these big fields, and then at the end you have the Abbaye buildings themselves. And so it’s kind of cute because it’s just closed off. It’s a separate little world, you know? So you go in, I bought the tickets for all of us, because we were a fairly big group, ahead of time to make sure that that particular day at that time we had our tickets.

[00:14:17] All Visits are Accompanied

[00:14:17] Elyse Rivin: Now this is what everyone needs to know if you’re not French-speaking. Every visit is a visit that’s an accompanied visit, that is they don’t, you can’t just kind of walk in and wander. There are parts of the Abbaye that are visitable, and every regular timed visit has a French guide who gives a spiel and walks around and goes from room to room.

[00:14:39] Histopad for non-French speaking visitors

[00:14:39] Elyse Rivin: But when you are not French speaking, what you get as part of the price of the ticket is what they call a Histopad.

[00:14:46] Annie Sargent: Oh yes, yes.

[00:14:47] Elyse Rivin: And what they’ve done, and I liked it, except that we had a couple of glitches. We had a couple of technical glitches, so there are a couple of funny photos of all of us kind of looking like idiots, trying to figure out how to use this thing.

[00:14:58] Annie Sargent: Right, right.What they’ve done is they’ve done a very good narrative of all of the rooms you can visit explaining the architecture, but also they’ve added in virtual video scenes of the monks in ancient times doing their thing. So you see them like writing in the scriptorium, you see them cooking their food, you know, stuff like that.

[00:15:21] Annie Sargent: So it’s, it kind of enhances the visit, right? Yeah. That’s cool. I like that.

[00:15:25] Elyse Rivin: I liked that. It’s really nice. I was a little bit annoyed to be very honest, because we were, we had those, the group that was a French speaking group was fairly big. And even though she had one of those little microphones, everybody had their little buds in their ears, she was still talking a little bit too loudly.

[00:15:43] Elyse Rivin: So like you had to put your Histopad really close up to your face, you know, to

[00:15:49] Annie Sargent: Oh, so you had like a interference between what you heard in French and what you were trying to follow on the histogram.

[00:15:55] Elyse Rivin: Yeah. And of course for me it made it hard because I was, you know, I hear the French, so it’s hard for me not to sort of half listen to.

[00:16:01] Annie Sargent: Well, yeah.

[00:16:02] Annie Sargent: And also it’s a guide to, you’d like to listen to guides.

[00:16:05] But, we were walking around and it took a couple of minutes, I have to say it was really good, but it did take a couple of minutes of like punching things and figuring it out, like how to get from one thing on one scene and then seeing it go to flashback to 500, 600 years ago and stuff like that.

[00:16:22] Annie Sargent: But it was interesting.

[00:16:23] Elyse Rivin: It was interesting.

[00:16:23] Annie Sargent: Yeah. That’s great. That’s good to know. And did you have to pay extra? It’s included in the price of the ticket. It’s you just ask for it in whatever language, I think they have 8 or 10 languages.

[00:16:31] Annie Sargent: That’s great.

[00:16:32] Elyse Rivin: Right. So you can do it in pretty much any, almost any language that I guess you’d think would be available. And it makes it much more interesting because otherwise, you’re walking around and you’re looking at these rooms, which are basically empty now, so this is a way of understanding what life was like for them.

[00:16:48] Cistercian monastery

[00:16:48] Elyse Rivin: And what’s so interesting, which of course I didn’t find out until the very end, was that the whole association with lavender is super recent. It’s 50 years old.

[00:16:58] Because in the past, the monks produced wheat. The fields were not fields of lavender, the fields were fields where they produced the crops, where they had vegetables and their crops and had cows and they had sheep.

[00:17:10] We go there now to see the lavender because it’s associated with lavender and it’s kind of a cool place to visit, but the reason why it’s a historical monument is because it’s a very, very good example, even though some of it’s been rebuilt, of what is called a Cistercian Monastery.

[00:17:29] Saint Bernard of Cito

[00:17:29] Elyse Rivin: And the Cistercian monasteries were created just about 900 years ago and they were at a time when in France there were like maybe a thousand monasteries all over the place, but monasteries had started to become very corrupt and they were no longer these places where people had taken these vows of poverty and simplicity and everything.

[00:17:54] And the corruption was such that there was this guy who was a monk, whose name was Saint Bernard of Citeaux, which is where the Cistercian word comes from, and that’s in Burgundy.

[00:18:06] Elyse Rivin: And he went, eh, I think we need to reform what’s going on here, this is just not working, it’s getting so corrupt. And so he took a group of monks and he made a new set of rules and he said, We’re going to go back to the basics, whatever basics were and the idea of being in a monastery in the early Middle Ages, which means, you live far from civilization, you live a very humble, poor life, you are completely self-sufficient in what you produce for eating and what you wear and, and everything. And you study and you pray and you work, and that’s what you do. And you don’t get in contact with the rest of the world. That’s it.

[00:18:47] Elyse Rivin: And so what happened was that over a period of about a hundred years, these new monasteries called Cistercian monasteries became very important and they grew, they were built pretty much everywhere, but they had to be in these weird isolated places.

[00:19:03] Elyse Rivin: So when you go down the valley and you learn this this about Cistercian Abbayes, you understand that this was like the perfect place. It was isolated, there was access to it, but it was really isolated. The land is fertile, there’s a little river, La Sénancole runs right through it, which is how they got their water and how they could fertilize the land.

[00:19:23] Elyse Rivin: And they were able to be completely self-sufficient and they had no contact, at least at the beginning, with the outside world. And one of the other things about Cistercian monasteries, and there are two or three others that are really interesting to visit in France, there are many of them still, but a few of them that are more famous, is that because they were supposed to be a reform of monasteries, there’s no decoration inside. There’s no decoration in the buildings, the dormitory space, the way they used to live, this is one of the things you see on the histopad, they’re all on these straw mats in this enormous dormitory space. They didn’t have separate cells or anything like that, it’s not like today where they all actually have their own separate little rooms.


[00:20:05] Acapella singing

[00:20:05] Elyse Rivin: The church has no ornamentation whatsoever, there’s no paint, there’s no color. The only thing that they had, and they still have, and of course at the time when we were there, unfortunately they were doing some work on the church part, so it was now possible. They became famous for having perfect acoustics because they would do acapella singing.

[00:20:26] Elyse Rivin: And the singing was the one thing that they were allowed to do that was, I don’t know if the right word is fun, I suppose fun would be incorrect. At least it wasn’t just, you know, praying and sitting and eating in silence, and working in the fields. And so Cistercian Abbayes are famous for their acoustics.

[00:20:44] Elyse Rivin: And that’s why they’re famous for having concerts a lot.

[00:20:46] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:20:47] Annie Sargent: So do they have concerts?

[00:20:48] Elyse Rivin: So, they have concerts here. And in fact, one of the things that happened is that over the period of centuries and centuries, like all these monasteries, it got destroyed during the war of religion.

[00:20:58] The Sénanque Abbey as a preserved monument

[00:20:58] Elyse Rivin: It got attacked again by the French Revolution. The buildings were half destroyed and then saved because believe it or not, it was actually sold to a private individual right after the French Revolution, and that person decided to try and make a commerce out of the building by turning it into a hostel.

[00:21:17] Elyse Rivin: And that actually helped save it. And by the end of the 19th century, it had turned into a place that people were having cultural meetings in.

[00:21:25] Annie Sargent: I see.

[00:21:26] Annie Sargent: For a time there were no monks.

[00:21:27] Elyse Rivin: There were no monks. Right. Yeah. I mean, you know, oh, if you look at the history of it over the 800-900 years, first, there were lots of monks, then there were a few, then there were none, then there were a few again. And then after the French Revolution, where it was taken over by the government as a kind of building, you know, just as a non-religious building, they allowed this private individual to buy it and he allowed monks back in. And then they decided to create a hostel. And then at the end of the 19th century, they decided to make it a kind of cultural center and it went back and forth and back and forth.

[00:22:03] Elyse Rivin: And it’s kind of weird, and then in 1921, the government finally said, this particular monastery is such a perfect example of this kind of architecture, we want it become a historical monument. So that’s when it got labeled preserved monument, 1921. And then in the 1950s and 60s, I have to admit that this is a part of the intellectual history of France I know very little about, but it became apparently an extremely popular intellectual center for conferences. Writers and poets and all kinds of people would go there.

[00:22:38] Annie Sargent: Nice.

[00:22:39] The Center for Lavender Growing

[00:22:39] Elyse Rivin: And it was at that time that they decided that they needed to add some kind of commerce to help get money, to keep up the constant renovation work on it, which is ongoing. I mean, you can see it’s in the church building, you know, and everything else. And they somehow made a decision to take out the crops and plant the lavender. And it was an immediate success because the land is perfect for growing the lavender. So from that point on, 53 years ago, it became the center of lavender growing, and at the same time famous for being this Cistercian Abbaye, and it’s so pretty.

[00:23:15] Elyse Rivin: And of course, it’s unfortunate from our point of view, perhaps not from theirs, but there’s an announcement made when your visit is over, it’s time to leave because it’s time for the monks to come in and pray, andjust, they don’t want you to see them.

[00:23:27] Annie Sargent: So, they apparently, you know, they shuttle people out, but you can stay in the store. The store part, which is huge, it’s really, I have to say, and I am a shopper, but it was really, having been on all the markets in the area, the prices were good. So, the products are wonderful, the prices were good. The shop stays open all day long without any closing time, you know? So if you show up and you don’t have a ticket and you can’t see the Abbaye, you can still go to the shop.

[00:23:52] Elyse Rivin: You can still go to the shop.

[00:23:53] Elyse Rivin: I mean, I suppose they close at six or seven.

[00:23:55] Exactly. Exactly. And you can still, now you can’t walk, unlike what people think, you cannot walk out into the lavender fields, even at the height of the bloom, but you can stand in a place where you can take your selfie with the lavender blooming behind you. But they won’t let you into the fields because that’s really where the monks work.

[00:24:13] Annie Sargent: Right, and you’re going to trample stuff.

[00:24:15] Elyse Rivin: You’re going to trample stuff, you know?

[00:24:16] Annie Sargent: Somebody’s going to trip and fall and crash and whatever.

[00:24:20] Help with the Lavender Production

[00:24:20] Elyse Rivin: So, you know, the last I heard was that there were seven monks, but I just saw something on television yesterday where they interviewed probably the person who’s the Abbaye, the Head Monk, I really don’t know. He said that they do get help from the outside, that they have people who help them work their fields.

[00:24:34] Annie Sargent: Oh, of even though, I mean, lavender, there’s no much to do. You just, I mean, I have a lavender bush on the other side of the house here. It’s glorious, I don’t have to do anything to it.

[00:24:43] Elyse Rivin: Well, they have, I mean, what they do is they harvest it with a machine and then they take it to a place where they crush the flowers to get the oil.

[00:24:52] Annie Sargent: I

[00:24:52] Elyse Rivin: oil

[00:24:52] Annie Sargent: I don’t do that.

[00:24:53] Annie Sargent: I mean, I could cut it off and dry it and make sachets like this, I guess, if I was industrious. That’s what I would do.

[00:25:00] Elyse Rivin: If you were, well you are industrious, but this is not the kind of stuff you’re industrious about.

[00:25:04] Annie Sargent: I don’t care about that.

[00:25:05] Elyse Rivin: No, you really don’t. And I once tried to do that and you know what, then all of a sudden the lavender dries and you have forgotten that you’re supposed to get all the lavender seeds and grains before they fall apart, and they’re all over the place and you have gather them together. And it’s easier to just go out and buy your lavender saches from someone industrious. And I’m definitely not making soap. I mean, I love lavender soap but I’m not making it.

[00:25:29] Elyse Rivin: So do I actually, yeah.

[00:25:30] Origin of the Word, Lavender

[00:25:30] Elyse Rivin: So this is interesting, okay? So, talking about the Abbaye, which I think is really neat to visit because it really gives you an idea of what it’s like, this whole idea of a Cistercian Abbaye.

[00:25:39] Elyse Rivin: But then I went and I was reading about lavender and it’s like, okay, lavender. Well, lavender comes from the same root as the word in French laver, which means to wash. Because the ancient Romans already knew that, how they knew I don’t know, but they knew that lavender was an antiseptic. And so they would crush lavender grains and use it when things were washed.

[00:26:04] And so, the origin of the word lavender and laver is the same.

[00:26:08] Annie Sargent: Huh? Interesting. Yeah, Isn’t that

[00:26:10] Annie Sargent: it? Yeah. Yeah.

[00:26:11] Elyse Rivin: It really comes from the fact that the, and of course it became in French lavandière was a woman who was a washer woman.

[00:26:18] Annie Sargent: Is true. lavandières, they were the women who would take your basket of clothes and go wash it at the river.

[00:26:24] Annie Sargent: Right.Or at the lavoir.

[00:26:26] Elyse Rivin: Or at the lavoir, exactly.

[00:26:28] Annie Sargent: Yes. Most French old villages they had, well, all of them, they had a lavoir. Whether they still have it today or not, that’s just a matter of conservation. Right, But a lot of French towns have a lavoir.

[00:26:40] Tickets and Pricing

[00:26:40] Elyse Rivin: So the tickets are €8.50 a person, and there’s a reduction of, I think it’s 5 euros for children and under a certain age, I can’t remember exactly if it’s eight. I think there’s, it’s free for children.

[00:26:52] Elyse Rivin: only thing I would suggest is, if you want to go at that particular time of the year, definitely reserve ahead of time.

[00:26:58] Elyse Rivin: Especially if you’re more than two people, because, we were a group of eight people and I was very happy that we had reserved and bought the tickets ahead of .Time. So we knew that we could get in that specific time, because they limit the number of people that go through.

[00:27:12] What Can You See at the Sénanque Abbey?

[00:27:12] Elyse Rivin: You get to see the dormitory rooms, you get to see the ancient kitchen, you get to see the scriptorium where they used to write. You see the cloister, which is very beautiful, and the church. And the Chapter House. And one of the other few things that I thought was interesting, having visited lots of different monasteries, is that in the case of a Cistercian monastery, aside from the fact there’s just no decoration, the acoustics in the church are perfect. The Chapter House, which is where the monks would meet daily for a short amount of time to read a chapter of the Bible and discuss the day’s business, in the case of a Cistercian monastery, it’s always down below, that is you step down three or four steps into it. Unlike any other monastery where it’s kind of level with the floor of the cloister building. And that is again, one of these weird symbolic things that it had to do with the idea of being humble. So you had to go down below to sit in this Chapter House, which is just basically this very pretty gothic arched room, where everybody sat around in a circle.

[00:28:17] When Was the Abbey Built?

[00:28:17] Annie Sargent: When was When was this Abbaye built?

[00:28:19] Elyse Rivin: In 1148.

[00:28:21] Annie Sargent: 1148.

[00:28:22] And part of it is actually the original, but only part of it, because it got sacked a lot during the war of religion.

[00:28:29] The Protestants came through and did a lot of damage to it. And then, during the French Revolution, it wasn’t so much that it was destroyed, it was just neglected.You know, they just kind of like, it was like, eh, you know.

[00:28:40] Annie Sargent: Well, if there weren’t monks there all the time, then yeah, lots of people just, they let things go.

[00:28:45] Elyse Rivin: They let things go, you know.

[00:28:46] Annie Sargent: It takes maintenance. These very old buildings, it really takes a lot of work to keep them in good condition.

[00:28:53] Not Wheelchair Accessible

[00:28:53] Elyse Rivin: And one of the things they’re doing now is making it wheelchair accessible, which it is not for the

[00:28:57] Annie Sargent: moment. You have to go up and down lots of steps all over the place. And it’s very clear, they make a big deal about it. It’s a sign that says, this is not wheelchair accessible at this point, you know.

[00:29:08] And it says, even if you have trouble walking up and down steps, you have to be aware of that ahead of time.

[00:29:12] Annie Sargent: Yeah, that’s a problem.

[00:29:14] How long is the visit?

[00:29:14] Annie Sargent: How long did you spend there?

[00:29:16] Elyse Rivin: In the actual, so inside of the monastery, I think we were there about an hour and 10 minutes.

[00:29:22] Annie Sargent: Okay.

[00:29:23] That’s about it.

[00:29:24] And how much, how long is the visit on the histopad, how long would it take you?

[00:29:28] Elyse Rivin: If you go quickly, you can do it in less time than that, you know. We were all sort of taking our time and waited. Because we went in on the 10:30 visit, which is the second one of the morning. And we got shooed out at a quarter to 12. You know, the French guide was giving her last thing. And then, and it was an announcement it’s time for everybody to leave. You can go to the store, the monks are now going to use the room to go pray, and they don’t want you here.

[00:29:53] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:29:54] Visit Gordes Also

[00:29:54] Annie Sargent: Is there a restaurant on site or cafe?

[00:29:56] No, you have to go back up to Gordes.

[00:29:59] Elyse Rivin: So, so the thing to do is, unless you’re staying in Gordes, which we were, we were in a house that was really in the commune of Gordes, but if you’re going to go specifically, the best thing to do is to do a visit of the Abbaye and of Gordes.

[00:30:13] Annie Sargent: Right, at the same time.

[00:30:14] Elyse Rivin: At the same time. And Gordes is a spectacular village.

[00:30:17] Annie Sargent: It’s really one of the most dramatic-looking of all of these perched up on top of a hill, you know, villages. It’s a big one. It’s much bigger than some of the others. It’s got lots and lots of restaurants. It’s got hotels. Yeah, it’s very touristy, so going to have Airbnbs and all sorts.

[00:30:33] Elyse Rivin: It has all sorts of things.

[00:30:34] Annie Sargent: I wonder how many people really live there in the middle of the winter? Like in January, how many people are there?

[00:30:39] I don’t know. I thought that I had read that it was something like 800 in the middle of the winter, but in the summer, it’s got to be several thousand. Of course, because it’s got lots of people. The thing about Gordes is that it’s a commune as well as the village.

[00:30:52] Elyse Rivin: So we were in a house that was below the village, but all of that was still the address was Gordes.

[00:31:00] Annie Sargent: Yeah. It it still in Gordes because it’s like a

[00:31:02] Elyse Rivin: A big area, you know.

[00:31:03] Annie Sargent: Like all municipalities in France, they don’t necessarily use up all the territory with houses, you know, there’s plenty outside.

[00:31:11] You can Visit a Chateau

[00:31:11] Elyse Rivin: So there’s a Chateau you can visit, although I have to admit that I did not go in to visit it because it’s been turned into a,had to do with other reasons, but it’s now a Contemporary Art Exhibit Space, but it’s part of this very beautiful Renaissance Chateau.

[00:31:24] Annie Sargent: What? Skipped the contemporary art?

[00:31:27] Elyse Rivin: Contemporary art for once, I skipped. I didn’t go into any museum at all on this trip. I was not in the mood.

[00:31:32] Markets and Shops

[00:31:32] Elyse Rivin: On Tuesday, there’s this big, really good market at Gordes. That’s the big day.

[00:31:37] Annie Sargent: On Tuesdays, Tuesdays Morning? Tuesday morning, always. You know, they all end at one, basically. Otherwise, of course there are, you know, shops and. A big supermarket, pharmacies?

[00:31:46] Elyse Rivin: Everything’s down below, like basically, you know, because Gordes includes the areas down below.

[00:31:51] The village itself is very, you know, much this perched on the top of this cliff, and it’s incredible to see. There, there’s like a pharmacy, there’s, you know, one little Superette and bakery and stuff like that. But,if you need to do real like supermarket shopping, basically you a car, you know, you go down below, there’s a super U down below somewhere, you know, and that kind of stuff.

[00:32:14] Because the commune includes all of that, that’s what most people do, you know?

[00:32:18] Next Village Over?

[00:32:18] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And to drive to the next village over, how long is that?

[00:32:22] Elyse Rivin: It depends on which village. Probably, I would say everything is like 15 minutes away, you know?

[00:32:29] Annie Sargent: Okay. So it’s not like here where the next village is like one kilometer away.

[00:32:33] Elyse Rivin: No, no, no, no,

[00:32:33] Elyse Rivin: it’s further than that, but you know, you need a car.

[00:32:36] You Need a Car to Travel Around the Area

[00:32:36] Elyse Rivin: Okay. I mean, you need a car.

[00:32:37] Elyse Rivin: These are things you really can’t do. I mean, I suppose there’s some kind of bus that goes from Cavaillon or something to Gordes, but basically, this is an area where if you’re really going to visit and do things, you need to have a car.

[00:32:49] That’s the thing that I tell people all the time, because they often hear us talk about how nice it is that in France, you don’t need a car everywhere.

[00:32:55] Annie Sargent: Like, if you’re in Paris, you don’t want a car. But really, other places in France, you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you’re trying to do it without a car. Not that it cannot be done, but you have to be mightily patient. Because you have to wait for these regional buses. And regional buses, you know, sometimes they’re like a bit capricious, because regional buses are really meant for people who don’t drive, and elderly people who live in those villages very often, to be able to get to the city, to go to medical doctors and things like that. And so that’s like a public service that they have to maintain.

[00:33:30] Annie Sargent: So almost every village in France will have some sort of, but perhaps there’s just a bus in the morning and another one late at night. And that bus probably goes through a bunch of other villages, picking up and dropping off people. And if one day the bus driver is sick, then…

[00:33:48] Elyse Rivin: Then that’s it.


[00:33:49] Annie Sargent: It’s not like they’re going to go and hurry up and post a notice on all the bus stops or whatever.

[00:33:54] Annie Sargent: You’d be waiting there for a long time, figuring out that the bus isn’t coming and, you know. So don’t plan on that. Like, unless you have all the time in the world and you just don’t mind if things go different than you expected, then that’s fine. But yeah, public transportation to villages is minimal.

[00:34:13] Elyse Rivin: I certainly in a region like that, I can’t imagine, unless you just go to one spot and not move, you really do need to have a car.

[00:34:21] Annie Sargent: Right. Or, I mean, you can get around with bikes.

[00:34:24] Elyse Rivin: I mean, it’s hilly. You have to be really in good shape. I mean, you can, it’s very, as the French would say, sportif. It’s very, it’s really sportif.

[00:34:32] Elyse Rivin: This is very much up and down and curvy roads.

[00:34:35] Weather

[00:34:35] Annie Sargent: Did it get super hot while you were there?

[00:34:37] Elyse Rivin: We were really, really, really lucky. 29, 30 degrees.

[00:34:41] Annie Sargent: Which is perfect.

[00:34:42] Elyse Rivin: I think it got to be 31, one day. Right now, it’s almost 40.

[00:34:46] That’s when it’s not so perfect, is it?

[00:34:48] Elyse Rivin: No, it was really, I must say, May, June, September.

[00:34:53] Annie Sargent: July and August are also probably very nice, but they’re much more crowded.

[00:34:57] Elyse Rivin: Much, much more crowded, much, much more crowded, and often very, very hot.

[00:35:02] Eating Out

[00:35:02] Annie Sargent: Did you eat out in Gordes at all?

[00:35:05] Elyse Rivin: Yes, we ate out several times in Gordes.

[00:35:09] The Napoli Pizza

[00:35:09] Elyse Rivin: We had a couple of nice lunches. I actually had, believe it or not, a delicious non-cheese pizza.

[00:35:18] Annie Sargent: How did they make that?

[00:35:20] Elyse Rivin: It’s called, the Napoli. It’s apparently classic from Naples and it was this one restaurant. When we went in, I didn’t even realize we were going into this, it’s a big restaurant, but I honestly, I don’t remember the name of it. They had this huge menu with lots of Italian food and then these pizzas, and there was this one that saidfresh tomatoes, anchovies, capers, and basil, blah, blah, blah, and no cheese.

[00:35:41] Elyse Rivin: And I, you know, me, I don’t like melted cheese very much, so I went, hmm, it was so delicious. It was really good. I was so happy.

[00:35:50] Annie Sargent: And it’s called a Napoli, you say.

[00:35:52] Elyse Rivin: It’s called a Napoli, yeah. And one of my brother-in-laws, he kinda went Elyse, wow, you ate the whole thing. You know, I was like, I’m the one that never eats everything, you know?

[00:36:01] Annie Sargent: And so this was at a pizza place.

[00:36:03] Elyse Rivin: This is a big restaurant, yeah. I can go back to my notes and find it. There’s like a big central open space, it’s not really a big square, but it’s right across from the Chateau, and this was one of the several restaurants there.

[00:36:12] The Outsider Restaurant in Gordes (Elyse says the Outlander but she made a mistake)

[00:36:12] Elyse Rivin: But what we did have, the best meal, it was actually, we didn’t eat out in dinnertime a lot, but we did this two or three times, and this one meal was unbelievably wonderful, and it’s in Gordes and it’s called The Outlander.

[00:36:28] Elyse Rivin: And, you have to reserve ahead of time and it doesn’t have a very big menu, but it’s really delicious food. So they have, it’s very simple because they have three or four starters, three or four main dishes, including, you know, lamb and fish and meat, and three or four desserts.

[00:36:45] Elyse Rivin: I always trust a restaurant more when it’s like that.

[00:36:48] We tried getting reservations for a few nights and finally, it opened up because we were a group of eight.

[00:36:56] Annie Sargent: Ah, yeah, that’s hard. That makes it harder.

[00:36:57] Elyse Rivin: Yeah. And so it was the second week we were there, we had a wonderful meal there. It was just absolutely wonderful.

[00:37:03] Annie Sargent: So how were you reserving these things? Were you using a website or?

[00:37:08] We called directly.

[00:37:09] Elyse Rivin: But there was also a website that you could contact.

[00:37:12] Annie Sargent: Okay. Okay. Okay.

[00:37:13] Elyse Rivin: And because the website, one of my sisters, is much more adept like you are at, you know, all those website things. But I have the French phone that, so I said, you know, we were having trouble figuring out if we could really make a reservation.

[00:37:26] Elyse Rivin: And I said, let me just call. And that’s when I found out that you had to book five or six days ahead of time, because they’re so popular. It’s kind of half inside, half outside, right across practically from where the big castle is, right in the center of Gordes.

[00:37:41] Annie Sargent: But it’s called Outlander in English.

[00:37:43] Elyse Rivin: Yes. Yeah.

[00:37:45] Elyse Rivin: Called the Outlander.

[00:37:46] Restaurants in Gordes

[00:37:46] Elyse Rivin: How many restaurants would you say there are inGordes?

[00:37:49] Annie Sargent: Gordes? Gee, that’s a good question. For a population of 800, I mean, anywhere else in France, you might have one restaurant.

[00:37:56] Elyse Rivin: No, oh no, no, no. This is a really touristy town.

[00:37:58] Annie Sargent: Right, so in a really touristy town, they have how many more or less?

[00:38:01] Elyse Rivin: I would say there were probably six or seven at least.

[00:38:05] Elyse Rivin: Yeah. I mean, we had, now that I realize it, no, we ate three different lunches in three different places in Gordes, and this was a dinner. and then there are two others that I know of that we didn’t go. They’ve got to be about seven or eight, at least.

[00:38:16] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Okay. Okay.

[00:38:17] Elyse Rivin: Plus, you know, Cafe, plus a couple of ice cream places, you know, and stuff like that.

[00:38:22] Cave for wine

[00:38:22] Elyse Rivin: And there’s a very famous cave. That’s for wine, by the way.

[00:38:25] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, cave. It’s interesting because it sells the products of the local producers in the area, the Luberon area, but what’s famous is because it’s underground, like there are these windy little passages, you know, that take you from one part of the village to the other, because it’s all very steep. It goes up and down all over the place.

[00:38:44] Elyse Rivin: And at one point, you go into this thing and then you see these ancient vaults made out of stone and everything and it’s from the 14th century or something like that. So it’s famous, it’s a store, I mean it’s a cave, you know, it’s a place where they sell wines.

[00:38:57] But it’s famous because of the architecture. We had some wonderful rosés.

[00:39:02] Annie Sargent: Yeah, I bet.

[00:39:05] Elyse Rivin: Yeah. Had a lot of rosés actually.

[00:39:07] Annie Sargent: A lot of rosés.

[00:39:07] Rosé in Provence is really good.

[00:39:09] Annie Sargent: Yeah, It is. It is everywhere.

[00:39:12] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, It is.

[00:39:12] Restaurants and Stores Prices

[00:39:12] Tell me about the prices of these restaurants and these stores that you saw. Was it more like, did it seem inflated compared to regular old Toulouse area, which is not touristy?

[00:39:24] Elyse Rivin: Mm. Okay. So a little bit.

[00:39:28] Annie Sargent: Mm-hmm

[00:39:29] Reasonable, except for one, one night we went to a restaurant that was outside of the actual village of Gordes down below, that’s actually listed on a lot of sites, and I have to say, I don’t want to mention the name of it, but I thought it was extremely overpriced and overrated.

[00:39:48] Annie Sargent: So, and that was a restaurant.

[00:39:49] Elyse Rivin: It was a restaurant that was part of a big hotel spa complex that was outside the actual town of Gordes. And that I thought was outrageously overpriced. I hate those kind of places where you look at the dish and you go, where’s the food? It was like, really? Thank you very much, you put a couple of streaks of red paint on the plate. Yeah. It’s like, but the place that we ate that I liked so much was I thought quite correct in the pricing…

[00:40:16] Annie Sargent: That’s The Outlander one.

[00:40:17] Elyse Rivin: That’s right.

[00:40:18] Elyse Rivin: I mean, the starters were all less than 10.

[00:40:21] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:40:21] Elyse Rivin: The rest, the desserts were all about that price, you know. It was perfectly correct in terms of the price.

[00:40:27] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah.One day we had simple salads in a place that was totally modest and absolutely non assuming. The places when we had the pizzas was fine, the prices were totally correct. So I would say that it’s a little bit, maybe on the edge, some of the places are a little bit more inflated, but we did really well.

[00:40:47] Annie Sargent: It didn’t seem like you were getting ripped off.

[00:40:49] Elyse Rivin: No, except for that one place. And that was not my choice, and I certainly would never have chosen it.

[00:40:54] Annie Sargent: Did it have like a Michelin star or

[00:40:57] Elyse Rivin: It didn’t have a Michelin star, but it was listed as one of these places that’s supposed to be one of the best restaurants in the area.

[00:41:04] Elyse Rivin: And I thought that was phoo, you know. And besides, I don’t like restaurants that are pretentious.

[00:41:09] Annie Sargent: Yeah, that’s a problem for me too, the last few months we’ve had visitors and we went to two-starred restaurants actually, with our friends.

[00:41:17] Elyse Rivin: Good for you.

[00:41:18] Annie Sargent: And one was for my birthday and it was a very nice, pleasant, leisurely lunch. It wasn’t a ton of food, but it was enough for all of us, you know, bigger people that eat. But it was enough. It’s not like we were like, that night, we’re like, oh, I’m so full I can’t eat tonight. Nothing like that. And then we went to another one in Toulouse, what was the name?

[00:41:43] Michel Sarran

[00:41:43] Elyse Rivin: You went to Sarran?

[00:41:45] Annie Sargent: Okay. This one was very fun. It was a lot more money because this one has two stars and this was a treat from our friends, who were visiting. And it was a real treat. It was not a ton of food, again. It was just enough, just barely enough. And Michel Sarran came out and he comes out and he greets every table, at end of the meal, he was very pleasant.

[00:42:05] Une Table à Deux

[00:42:05] Annie Sargent: And then after that was our anniversary, and so I picked a restaurant on the Michelin Bib in, Toulouse, I can’t remember the name of that place. Let me see. I gotta tell you, because people are going to wonder, you know. Don’t talk smack about them without naming them.

[00:42:22] Annie Sargent: So it was Une Table à Deux, is what it’s called. It’s in Toulouse and it’s not a star, but it’s Michelin Bib. And that was a disappointment.

[00:42:31] Elyse Rivin: Yeah. Oh yeah?

[00:42:32] Annie Sargent: It was. First of all, it was not enough food. They give you the choice. They say, you want 3 courses, 4, 5, 6, whatever.

[00:42:40] Annie Sargent: And I didn’t want to take too much, so I just said three. And so he followed, you know, the three and it wasn’t enough. When we got home, he made himself a dish of pasta.

[00:42:50] Elyse Rivin: Really?

[00:42:50] Elyse Rivin: Literally. Oh, wow.

[00:42:51] Annie Sargent: Literally. Yes, literally. So, I was okay, but he wanted more. So there are some of these restaurants like that, that have quite a reputation. You have to book in advance and all of that.

[00:43:02] Annie Sargent: And you don’t get that much.

[00:43:03] Food Budget around Gordes

[00:43:03] Elyse Rivin: No, I have to say, all things considered, knowing that Gordes is the heart of the Luberon and is very, very famous and really very touristy. Now there may be a couple of other restaurants there that are more expensive and more pretentious, but we did not go to them. That’s the choice you have, isn’t it?

[00:43:23] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, we had, the first day we were there, we joined up, we got there in time to join up with my family for lunch and they were in another place and it was really quite reasonable.

[00:43:33] It was like a main dish and dessert for 20 euros. it was a full plate, you know, that kind of thing. So you could get, you know, there were places I could see, you could just go and get yourself something even simpler than that, or you know. Let’s just say that most of the people who go to Gordes and places in that area are not people who worry about whether they’re spending 10 or 15 Euros. They may not want to spend a huge fortune on the food, but they’re definitely not going to worry about whether they can afford to sit down and eat.

[00:44:05] Annie Sargent: Right, right. Yeah. They have a budget and.

[00:44:08] And there really were a couple of places that were quite ordinary, and you could have your salad for 12, 13 Euros and that would be fine, you know?

[00:44:16] Elyse Rivin: I found that that was true in a few of the other places we went to as well. It’s just for another conversation, but there are some of these villages that are gorgeous, but they just have one restaurant or one commerce, you know, some of them are teeny-weeny. Yeah.Whereas Gordes is not, Gordes has really a lot of business and a lot of people coming through. And so it’s, it’s got enough.

[00:44:36] Annie Sargent: It’s one of the most beautiful villages, right?

[00:44:38] Elyse Rivin: It’s absolutely one of the most beautiful and spectacular villages in France, to be honest. I mean, I’ve had my favorites for a long time, but this is really up there.

[00:44:48] Elyse Rivin: In terms of how incredible. Oh yeah. It’s a really, it’s a really good.

[00:44:52] Check the Opening Times and Number of Visits

[00:44:52] Annie Sargent: So, that’s good because I’ve been recommending people go to Gordes for a while, and I remember going to the The Abbey of Sénanque years ago. I’m sure we went to Gordes, but I have no memory of it. I do remember that we could not get into the Abbaye because we arrived too late. It was 4:30, it was in the winter too. They have a shortened day. So if you go in full season, they have five, six, whatever number of visits.

[00:45:14] I believe they have two in the morning, three in the afternoon.

[00:45:16] Annie Sargent: There you go. And then if you go off season, I’m pretty sure it was November when we went, because there was no lavender, no nothing. But we got there and it was closed.

[00:45:26] Annie Sargent: Everything was closed, the store was closed. So you do have, even though this is a very touristy area, depending on the time of year you go, you need to check the time, the opening and closing times and things like that, because it would be terribly disappointing if you couldn’t see it, like that’s why you go.

[00:45:42] Elyse Rivin: Well, absolutely, which is why it’s best to confirm and reserve your tickets online, which is very easy to do.

[00:45:47] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And, you know, at least in Paris, this June, we’re back to the almost a normal number of visitors at the Eiffel Tower. So even though there are still not a lot of Asians visiting France, it’s really, there are a lot of people in Paris in June 2022.

[00:46:08] It’s comparable to before COVID. So keep in mind that you need to reserve things that, unless it’s a place that’s pretty small. You know, if you want to see the Orangerie, probably you can just, you know. I mean, if you go at 2:00 PM, it’s going to be busier than at 9:00 AM, obviously, you know? So just, you can play it by ear in some places, but if you’re going to The Abbey of Sénanque, make sure you reserve it.

[00:46:33] One thing is, at least if you go to the website and you reserve, you know what time it closes.

[00:46:39] Elyse Rivin: You know what time it closes and you know whether you have your ticket or not.

[00:46:43] Elyse Rivin: And it’s actually exchangeable, believe it or not.

[00:46:45] Elyse Rivin: You can actually, like if you say, oh, I made a mistake, you can go back online and see if you can change it for another time or something like that.

[00:46:51] They want people to show up at the right time and not be upset.

[00:46:54] Elyse Rivin: But it was really a lovely combination of a visit between that, the Abbaye, the lavender And Gordes.

[00:47:00] Annie Sargent: Thank you very much, Elyse!

[00:47:01] Elyse Rivin: You are welcome, Annie.

[00:47:02] Annie Sargent: Au revoire!

[00:47:03] Elyse Rivin: Au revoire!

[00:47:05] Thank You, Patrons

[00:47:05] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for supporting the show and giving back.

[00:47:16] Annie Sargent: Patrons get several exclusive rewards for doing so, and they even get them going back to since I started the Patreon page, which is a long time You can see them at P A T R E O N. Join us, no spaces or dashes. Thank you all for supporting the show. Some of you have been doing it for many years now. You are fantastic.

[00:47:41] Shout out to new patrons

[00:47:41] Annie Sargent: And a shout out this week to new patrons, Aidas Nathan, Sean Canady, Nicole Morin-Scribner and Andrea Lauletta. Thank you so much for becoming patrons and making this podcast possible.

[00:48:00] Thank you, Maureen Kelly as well, for editing your pledge up. That’s very kind of you.

[00:48:06] No Itinerary Reviews for a Couple Weeks

[00:48:06] Annie Sargent: I won’t be working on itinerary reviews for a couple of weeks. Patrons, I’m hoping to catch up on video rewards. That’s my plan, anyway. My thanks also to Jessica Wallans, Kalen Stark and Anonymous for sending in a one-time donation by using the green button on any page on Join Us in France, that says Tip Your Guide.

[00:48:35] Itinerary Consulting

[00:48:35] Annie Sargent: If you’re preparing a trip to France and listening to lots of episodes to get ready, keep doing that. It’s a wonderful way to get ready, but you can also hire me to be your itinerary consultant. Let me tell you how it works. You purchase the service on Then you fill out a document to tell me what you have in mind. Then we make a phone appointment and we chat for about an hour.

[00:48:59] Annie Sargent: And then I go to work and I tell you about the things I think you need to concentrate on, because it’s always about making good choices, isn’t it? And then I send you a document to recap the plan that we discussed. And usually the document is pretty long, because it also recaps all of the things, all of the tips that I’ve shared with you. Well, not just me, that lots of people have shared with you, on the podcast.

[00:49:25] Now, the only problem with the itinerary consult is that this time of year anyway, my time is booked up several weeks in advance. If you’re going to do this, get started six months before your trip. It’s best.

[00:49:40] Annie’s GPS Self-Guided Tours on the VoiceMap App


[00:49:40] Annie Sargent: But if you don’t have that kind of time, no worries. You can take me in your pocket. Through the VoiceMap app. I’ve produced five GPS self-guided tours of Paris. They are designed to show you around different iconic neighborhoods of the beautiful city of Paris, tell you some about the history, point out things that you probably would’ve missed otherwise, and also give recommendations of, you know, restaurants, museums, things of interest for different people. Give it a try, I think you will love it. And you can find those at

[00:50:18] Travel Question of The Week: Bastille Day in France

[00:50:18] Annie Sargent: Okay. The travel question of the week. This week, let’s talk about Bastille Day in France, which of course, some of you probably know, we don’t call it Bastille Day in French.

[00:50:28] Annie Sargent: So July 14th. Or we could call it Fête Nationale as well. It’s a big, big deal in France.

[00:50:35] Annie Sargent: So I’m pretty sure a lot of you want to know where the fireworks or, you know, the best fireworks are. So, let me tell you, in no particular order, here are the ones that are really popular.

[00:50:47] Annie Sargent: Paris, of course, with amazing fireworks around the Eiffel Tower. Then you have Marseille where they do the fireworks around the Vieux Port, so that’s the old port of Marseille. Toulouse does fireworks around the Prairie des Filtres, also by the river. Cannes does its fireworks on the Bay of Cannes, beautiful. In Angers, they shoot the fireworks from La Maine, from the river.Saint-Jean-deMonts, in the Vendée. This one I saw on the list, I don’t know about this place. But they show up the fireworks from the beach in the Vendée. Carcassonne of course, that’s super popular around the medieval city, beautiful, beautiful, but very, very busy.

[00:51:30] Annie Sargent: Etretat has great fireworks. Biarritz also, in the Basque Country. La Baule in Brittany, oh yes. A beautiful place and beautiful fireworks. Nîmes usually has a great show of fireworks, but I think this year they canceled it because of a fire risk. I’m not sure if Nîmes was one of the cities that canceled it.

[00:51:53] Annie Sargent: There are fireworks over the Lac d’Annecy in the French Alps. Strasbourg in the East gets a great celebration. And Lyon,it’s on the hill of la Fourvière.

[00:52:04] Annie Sargent: So large cities and areas that attract a lot of visitors, all have fireworks every July 14th with the caveat that they can get canceled due to weather. So around Provence this year, Provence and the Mediterranean, they canceled a lot of them due to dry conditions and windy conditions and things like that.

[00:52:28] Annie Sargent: And you know, all the cities I listed earlier, they also have other festivities that go along with the fireworks. It’s not just fireworks, it’s lots more.

[00:52:38] Military Parade in Paris

[00:52:38] Annie Sargent: In Paris they do a great military parade and it normally starts around 10:00 AM. I must be getting old because you know, 20 years ago, you wouldn’t have caught me dead watching the parade, but I enjoy it now.

[00:52:53] I think it’s really fun to see all these different divisions of the French military with their, their different costumes, their different history, you know, it’s, it’s wonderful. And also, you know, I mean, we have a war in Europe right now, and so, in Ukraine and so I like seeing that there’s plenty of military totake care of us.

[00:53:15] So that’s usually between, you know, 10:00 AM and noon, a little after noon, and there’s some singing and there’s like lots of marching bands. And it’s just fun and you can watch it. This year, I posted links to it on the Facebook group. Nowadays, you can watch this on social media, which is very good.

[00:53:35] Annie Sargent: But if you want to see it in person, you can watch it all along the Champs Elysées and around Place de la Concorde.

[00:53:43] Air Show

[00:53:43] Annie Sargent: And of course, there’s planes and helicopters that do a show overhead, and you can see that from anywhere in Paris. As a matter of fact, they start doing this, they practicea day or two before. And so even if you’re in Paris, the week previous, you might see, I mean, they won’t do the whole thing with the colored smoke and all that, but they will practice.

[00:54:01] Classical Concert

[00:54:01] Annie Sargent: So it’s a very fun show, and then they do a giant free classical concert around the Eiffel Tower. And I think that’s been going on for at least 10 years. So it’s popular and it’s bound to continue. They usually start the music around 7:00 PM and they stop right before they shoot the fireworks, around 11:00 PM.

[00:54:23] Annie Sargent: But you know, you need to be prepared because there’s lots and lots of people as you’ll see in just a minute, or if you can’t get close, you know, you could go up to Montmatre or the tour Montparnasse or anywhere that you have a good view on the Eiffel Tower. And there’s quite a few places like that in Paris.

[00:54:42] Rooftop Parties

[00:54:42] Of course, there are rooftop parties organized by different hotels, restaurants, bars, whatever. The Bateaux Mouches and other cruise companies, all have special dinners. But most people, you know, they didn’t plan this, so they just walk around until they find a good spot. And I guess that’s OK.

[00:55:00] Crowd Control on Bastille Day

[00:55:00] Annie Sargent: Now for the purposes of crowd control, it’s a big crowd. Metro stations and streets are closed. The Eiffel Tower of course, is closed on July 14th, because they have to set all this up, and several people in the Facebook group have posted beautiful photos and, you know, they just put on a wonderful show in Paris for July 14th.

[00:55:21] Crowds aroud the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day

[00:55:21] Annie Sargent: But the crowds, oh, the crowds. Okay. So I asked April Erikson to report on her experience, because from her photo, I could tell that she watched it from the Champs de Mars, which is a big, long field, right by the Eiffel Tower. I asked, what time did you get there, and how were the crowds?

[00:55:40] Annie Sargent: And this is what she said.

[00:55:41] Annie Sargent: ” I arrived at 6:00 PM. I would go earlier next time. I’m solo, which made it easier to navigate, not worrying about losing other people or finding a spot in the grass.”

[00:55:54] Annie Sargent: Which is .True. If there’s five of you, it’s harder than one. “The crowds were extreme. I entered off avenue Joseph Bouvard, which is the next avenue after the Eiffel Tower. The lines were very long and compacted at most other entrances.”

[00:56:12] Annie Sargent: So what happens is that they filter the crowds, so they put up barriers and they have security. And so people just like pile up to get to that uh, security kind of bottleneck.

[00:56:24] So the lines were too long other places, so she went to the entrance at avenue Joseph Bouvard. Security had fencing up to enter all the locations, women and men separated to search and no alcohol or glass beverages allowed in.

[00:56:41] Annie Sargent: There was a lot of wine and beer left behind. This is very important because if you let people, you know, drink all night until the fireworks at 11, well, it’s not going to go well. She says, “It took me about 15 minutes to locate a tiny spot of grass to share, there is no personal bubble space, so prepare to enjoy your neighbors.”

[00:57:04] Annie Sargent: This is an important warning. The grass was covered with people before I arrived, leaving only the path. So there’s the stabilise so, this is like a gravel, compacted gravel kind of path.

[00:57:17] Annie Sargent: “The dust was very high for the first few hours, but once on the grass and sitting down, it wasn’t bad.”

[00:57:24] Annie Sargent: “Leaving was an entirely different event. I walked to the line 1 atFDR.”

[00:57:32] Annie Sargent: So that’s the Franklin D Roosevelt Metro station, which is like 1.8 kilometers away from where she was. “And the crowd was packed in the stairs, out to the sidewalks shoulder to shoulder.”

[00:57:47] Annie Sargent: So even almost two kilometers away from the Eiffel Tower, the lines were that long to get into the Metro. Okay, be warned!

[00:57:56] Annie Sargent: So she decided to walk to the Champs-Élysées station and it was less compacted on the stairs until the ticket area. She easily passed through the exit gates at the right time when the Metro opened the gate to decrease congestion. Oh, geez. Okay, “I rode a packed train until Châtelet. I will bike or take a petty cab to my next best station location at the next big event. ”

[00:58:24] Annie Sargent: So this is how it works every time there’s a big event, you know, people just pack in and you just have to be very patient and you have to be okay with having that many people around you. I’m not , but, but, yeah, you have to be okay with it or you won’t, you won’t put up with this.

[00:58:43] Annie Sargent: Now Tony. he was also there, and I’m not using his last name because I didn’t ask him for permission. He was on the Bateaux Mouches for dinner. The boat docked about 20 minutes before the fireworks started. He said he also got great photos. I mean, he was in a great location, but he’s a photographer. I mean, he’s a professional photographer, so he knows how to do great photography of fireworks.

[00:59:07] Annie Sargent: So if you’re in Paris, plan on big crowds and plan to walk back to wherever you’re staying, or at least walk part of the way to where you’re staying, because they close the Metro stations. The ones that are right around the event are always closed because too much mess, too much trouble. So just, you need to plan on that.

[00:59:30] Annie Sargent: Now I know that in Toulouse, they had a concert, it started at 7:00 PM this year, and my daughter says there were 283,000 people attending that concert. It was followed by the fireworks as well. In my village, they canceled everything because they were worried about fire.

[00:59:46] Annie Sargent: So I don’t know how many people were attending in Paris, but it’s in the hundreds of thousands of people every single year. So, don’t go if you don’t like crowds. I know it sound like I’m telling you not to go. You can go, but just be warned.

[01:00:01] Annie Sargent: And I bet lots of people will test positive for COVID in a week, which seem to be happening anyway.

[01:00:08] Annie Sargent: But, you know, at least most people are not getting deathly ill from COVID and they heal reasonably fast, without ever going to the hospital. So, you know, at this point, it’s not a question of if I catch COVID, but when I catch COVID.

[01:00:20] Personal Update

[01:00:20] Annie Sargent: So for my personal update this week, I started physical therapy on my knee. The physical therapist was very rude, he put heavy weights around my ankles and made me do all kinds of things with my legs that I don’t normally do, and I’m still sore. But it’s okay, I need to do this, so I will keep doing this.

[01:00:38] Annie Sargent: Now, I talked about COVID a second ago. Well, my husband just tested positive for COVID. He has zero symptoms, we just tested because somebody told us he was positive, and so we tested and sure enough, yeah. I’m still negative, but I don’t know how long I’ll be negative. Time will tell, you know, we’re both fine. We both had three doses of the vaccine. Eh, we might get a little sick, but hopefully nothing too bad, I’m hoping.

[01:01:02] Annie Sargent: Now we’re supposed to go to Spain on vacation next week and I’m not changing the plans yet, but we got to see how things shake out. So oh, we can still go, like I said earlier, I just need a change of pace and just, yeah. We had plans for the weekend, but we canceled them because we don’t want to spread this thing anymore than we have to.

[01:01:19] Heatwave in France July 2022

[01:01:19] Annie Sargent: Now the other thing that’s happening is that we’re having a big heat wave again this week. The Southwest is particularly hard hit. They think it’s going to go on for 10 days, you know? So again, I’m going to warn you if you don’t like, you know, a hundred, 105 temperatures, the Southwest is not good. And if you do come to the Southwest this time of year, and most of France, really, you should have air conditioning in your hotel, because it can get stifling hot.

[01:01:49] And this is the second heat wave we’ve had in July this year. So this morning, I was out with my dog at 6:00 AM and we were back indoors by 7:30 AM. And you know, when you’re visiting a place, you can’t do that, you can’t be indoor all day, that’s not how it works. So, you know, the Southwest, maybe not in July and August. I maybe like from middle of June until late August, eh, not a good idea.

[01:02:14] Annie Sargent: Although we haven’t had big heat waves in August that I remember. I remember some in June and in July, but not in August.

[01:02:22] Annie Sargent: Maybe my memory is bad, but. Now the one place where it’s still fairly cool, but lovely is Brittany, Bertagne. And that’s where Elyse is going next week, lucky her.

[01:02:32] Annie Sargent: Over there, they’re like eight degrees lower than we are, and in a couple of days we’re supposed to get to 104 in Toulouse in evening.

[01:02:40] Annie Sargent: And how this works is that the temperature builds up all day, and by the end of the day, it’s 104-105. It doesn’t cool off until like two or three in the morning. And it’s really, you know, it’s really hard and you know, heat is no joke. It can ruin your vacation. It can also kill people, sadly.

[01:03:00] So, you know, Bretagne, Brittany , if you don’t like the heat, go to Brittany. I mean, it’s still like 30 degrees, which is what, 90, but that’s pleasant. Like 90 is pleasant. 105 is like, ah, so yeah, Brittany maybe.

[01:03:16] If you enjoy the show share it with another Francophile!

[01:03:16] Annie Sargent: Show notes and full transcript for this episode are on And please help your friends who are francophiles or planning a trip to France, by sending them to Click on the share button on the side and tag your friend. They will be very grateful that you sent them to some good information about France.

[01:03:39] Next week on the podcast

[01:03:39] Next week on the podcast, a trip report about introducing your partner to France with Megan McKay. It’s a great trip report in Paris and La Ciotat. Lovely places.

[01:03:52] Annie Sargent: Send questions or feedback to Thank you so much for listening and I hope you can join me next time so we can look around France together. Au revoir.

[01:04:05] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France Travel Podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and copyright 2022, by Addicted to France.

[01:04:15] Annie Sargent: It is released under a Creative Commons, Attribution, Non-commercial, no derivatives license.

On a walk around Gordes: Sénanque Abbey and Gordes Episode

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Category: Provence