Provence... Really

Friday, April 15, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Day #45:  Saint Julien to Moustiers Sainte-Marie, France

As we returned to the main road from Saint Julien, we were greeted by some stray sheep, definitely a sign we were entering an agrarian domain.  The curious little lamb wanted to know what kind of shiny black animal he was looking at, but his mother was more concerned about finding a source of water, and probably about why she had wandered off to see the world.
As we drove into Provence, where sheep are raised more for food than wool, we soon discovered how this lost mother and her little one had escaped. Since sheep often need to be moved from one patch to another as they "clear" the available forage, farmers here use temporary fencing for rotational grazing.  Because of their extreme docility-- their sheepishness, one might say-- sheep are often corralled with flimsy fences of string and stakes.  This system is effective with most sheep, except for an occasional rogue like the one above.
Forgetting that we once had sheep on the farm when I was growing up, Ken was amazed that the local sheep responded to my bleating when we stopped by the roadside to take some photos.  What he didn't realize was that they were all staring at me because I was bleating in English and apparently said what sounded like a baaad word to a French flock.  Another example of the cultural faux pas we make when we don't know the local language.

On down the road we found our first letterbox in the not so quaint town of Manosque, which was more of a city than a town.  Still seeking the country life, we moved on quickly to the next box in the Provence series, a nod to the Provencal lavender industry, hidden near the small town of Valensole.  As we traveled toward Valensole, we began seeing vast expanses of yellow fields.
It was like driving through oceans of yellow flowers.  Lavender won't be harvested until July and August, so it's just getting started in April.  But the rapeseed mustard was in full blossom.  Contrasted with today's cloud-dotted azure sky, this source of animal feed and oil for biodiesel was the belle of the flower ball and definitely helping us get the "beautiful Provence countryside" feeling.

After finding the lavender letterbox and taking a couple dozen photos of the rapeseed, we drove on to Moustiers Sainte-Marie, another small Provencal village.  As much as we enjoyed the flowers and Saint Julien, Moustiers turned out to be the star of the day.  But that's another story for another post.