Sometimes sightseeing goes differently from the sunny, postcard sort of picture in your mind's eye...
Sunday morning we opted to stay in and listened to the new Hillsong album and then an excellent John Dickson message he gave at Wheaton College. Feeling edified and rested we decided to take a trip to a well known town only half an hour from here called L'Isle-Sur-la-Sorgue. Sunday is its huge market day, but these generally close down around lunch time so we thought we would be able to park -the constant challenge- and enjoy wandering beside its waterways and famous water wheels, find some lunch and enjoy the local colour. That was the plan.
It was another beautiful drive. By putting in the ‘no tolls’ on our maps, we end up on some amazing back routes, down tiny winding lanes barely a car width wide that join the better roads and completely losing our sense of direction. After four weeks here, we still can’t get used to the sun being in the South! We were rolling along nicely when something moved at the side of the road and slithered across - it was a snake, and a big one! It was
Looking at the list of snakes in SOuthern France, this looks most like the one we ran over. It is not poisonous but grows to two metres.
wider than our car, so probably two metres long and it curled across the road as we approached. With nowhere else to go at speed we drove over it and there was an awful thud under the car. We were quite shocked, but both looked in the mirrors and there was no sign of it on the road..
Oh no! I had memories of when I taught in the country and the farmer where I boarded told me if I ran over a snake, to be careful getting out of the car because they curl up underneath... Could that have happened today, 50 years after his advice?! We kept driving and Peter took a second look at something up winding up over the back window which turned out to be the seatbelt! When we parked I said that he would have to get out of the car first because I have a dodgy heart! There was no sign of the snake. I even asked him to lie on the ground and check underneath, poor man.
L'Isle (for economy of typing!) is known as Venice of Provence, dating back to the 12th century when the fishermen built little huts
on stilts over marshlands. Six centuries later, it had developed into a town criss-crossed with canals and 70 water wheels that powered the silk and paper industry. Today it is a pretty town with a wonderful market, with the wheels adding to the photogeneity.
And picturesque it was as we drove down the Main Street; people everywhere, a thriving market, food and colour all interwoven with moss covered water wheels. We parked, checked out the snake situation and began to wander beside the pristine canal overhung by fig trees laden with fruit. With iridescent ducks in the water, it was a little paradise. People sat with their feet in the water, reading and eating. That was the extent of our pleasant Sunday afternoon.
We had barely gone 100m when the lightning flashed, thunder rolled and the skies opened. And I mean opened! It just bucketed down. Peter raced back to get our raincoats and we tried to shelter, hoping such a sudden storm would blow over. As we walked up the lanes, I realised that these houses have no eaves, no verandas - just straight walls and there is absolutely no shelter. It didn’t seem prudent to shelter
under the tall plane trees. We hopped from one front door to the next for a little protection but were saturated and trying to protect cameras.
So what to do? We had planned on buying lunch but when we made it to the Main Street it was completely empty - not a soul. Then we spotted a little shelter beside the canal where we could stay dry, and Peter gallantly went off to find a bakery. So we had a wet picnic with the ducks and a water wheel or two, and watched the water level rise. Soon we were surrounded by rising water, but trusted that the water wheel would take it all away in due course.
We didn’t want to hit the road in such an intense storm, but eventually headed for home. The challenge was not quite over, as Google took us inexorably into the old town area of fishermen's houses, which is indescribably narrow, full of one way streets and dead ends. When the directions took us the wrong way down a one way street, Peter expertly did a few turns and we finally got out of the town.
Sometimes a day just
isn’t what we plan, but it was quite high adrenalin! We may have to return to do justice to L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Is it going to rain again tomorrow?
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