30, FRANCE – AVIGNON AND CARPENTRAS
Nov 30, 2012,
I arrived Frankfurt and hardly makde short connection to Marseilles flight.
This time I decided to do something different. Instead of staying at hotels, I booked a stay at Sabine’s L’ombre du Palais B&B next to Palais des Papes – right in the center. I often book my clients with her and everyone raved about Sabine’s hospitality. The house has provencal design, very unique decorations and excellent food cooked by Sabine. She is a great host. Sabine was delighted that I will come as well! She sent a driver who picked me at airport, and one hour later he dropped me off at B&B. Sabine prepared breakfast for me and asked what I want for dinner. She called my guide, Lawrence, who is also friend of Sabine’s (that how I came across her B&B originally). Lawrence is experienced guide with knowledge of Jewish history. I took few hours for nap and then refreshed and we left with Lawrence for touring. Sabine and Lawrence both were concerned if I have enough warm clothes and Sabine prepared to give me hat and gloves but I assured her that I have all warm clothes. It was first time I was in Provence in winter and Mistral winds were blowing.
We went to Carpentras and toured synagogue built in 1367 and restored in the 18th century by architect Antoine D’Allemand. It is the oldest synagogue in France still in activity, but community is small. It stands as testimony to the Jewish community which sought Pope’s protection after being persecuted in the Kingdom of France, and settled here in the Comtat Venaissin in the 13th century.
The Jewish neighborhood, called carrière, was set up in 1461 in the heart of the city by the Consuls, and was abandoned after the Comtat became part of France. This Synagogue remains a testimony to past and present Judeo-Provencal culture.
We stopped at candy store where I tried Provencal specialty – candied fruit. It was delicious.
After Carpentras we went to winery The life of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it is French wine Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) . The surrounding countryside is all about growing and producing, with vineyards spreading across the hills, and wine “domains” everywhere, where you can sample and, of course, buy the wine. The earth is amazingly rocky, but that’s one of the secrets of the outstanding
Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine (one of the world’s best). The stones act as a storage heater, soaking up the Provencal sunshine during the day, and releasing the heat into the night, long after sunset.
A literal translation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, “the Pope’s new house”, is actually true. The Popes of Avignon built a summertime château (their summer palace) here to get away from the hustle-bustle of the Palais. Apart from the foundations, only two walls remain of the chateau, but they’re the ones facing the village, and they’re still high and imposing, giving a good feeling of what it was like here centuries ago.
It was very windy and Mistral was blowing but still it was great experience. The village had wonderful views at sunset. At winery I bought two bottles of wine, one to take to Sabine’s. We came back to Avignon and Lawrence showed me colorful Christmas market and beautifully decorate town hall. She left and I wondered market stalls on my own. Then I went to Sabine’s, and met her brother from Paris who will be staying overnight and will be our dinner companion. I gave her one bottle of wine and we agreed to use it tomorrow for fish course which I will be helping her to cook in my cooking class! She volunteered to take me for market to do shopping in next few days. I worked a little bit in the dining room while Sabine brought me aperitif and appetizers – chevre and prunes staffed with foies gras,. It is really nice staying at someone’s home! Later on, 3 of us had wonderful dinner of spinach, quail, roasted potatoes, cheese course with currant jam and bananas flambee. Of course accompanied by great wine and interesting discussions.