Tried to contact Julian Hollick on the phone but could not get through. So I sent him an email. He immediately called back and we arranged to go to Vaison the next day and have lunch together.
I had visited Julian and Martine three years ago and stayed with them in Vaison, a medieval Roman town called appropriately Vaison la Romaine. To those of you who
have received my journal sent from there during my visit in 2010, my description will seem familiar. Priya had not been there but the ancient town of Avignon is well known to tourists and Vaison is not far away. It took us less than an hour and a half to get there, once we got off the autoroute, we drove through small villages almost all of them homes of some wine “domaine” or another – for this is wine country. Vineyards, all with the fresh green of new vine leaves and large billboards announced the name of the wine of that domaine. Here and there were “Caves” offering sale of wines, and offering wine tasting “degustations” for those interested. The wines here are the famous Cotes du Rhone variety, mostly white or rose’ We stopped for a while at a small café in one of the towns and had an excellent cup of coffee.
We reached Vaison by noon as arranged and found a parking place in the central square, which looked very different from my last visit. The new Mayor had cleared all the encroachments of restaurants and stalls catering to tourists, and made space for parking and a clear road for driving around; benches in the park under the plane trees, and the fountain in clear view adding to the picture. There were many shops around the square selling souvenirs, jewelry or clothing, and some prominent real estate offices with pictures of property for sale – at astronomical prices, for this is prime real estate, especially for expatriates from England the US, as also the Arab countries.
Julian and Martine appeared as they walked across the square to greet us. They had walked down from the Cite Medievale where they live. We ate lunch at a delightful restaurant on the square, the owner a middle aged woman who cooks special dishes every day, for which she is well known and explains the popularity of the place. The few tables in her small room were soon occupied by 1 pm.. Priya had a vegetarian platter, while we ate the fish specialty, with wine chosen by Julian (who has an expert’s knowledge of the local varieties and has a large collection in his own cellar).
We then drove up the hill to the old city to visit Julian and Martine’s home. Parking is difficult in the narrow cobbled streets, and is restricted to the outer edge of the city, near a Roman aqueduct. We walked down the cobbled street, past the old fountain, to the new home that J and M had bought and were renovating. They had a deadline to move in by the first week of June and there were painters and other workmen busy with the last jobs to be done. In re-doing the place, they discovered two large Roman arches which now make a beautiful setting for their living room. Narrow stairs lead up to the bedroom and bathroom. There was construction material everywhere and it was hard to imagine that they could move in within a week!
While we were walking around the sky darkened and soon it rained heavily. We waited for a while for it to clear but that did not seem likely. Priya had to fetch the children from school and we had to leave by 3 pm. So in pouring rain and umbrellas dripping on our backs we walked to the car with Julian – having left Martine to work on painting the doors. It rained for the next fifty kilometers of driving. I am sure the rain was welcomed by the “vignerons” as vineyards are not watered, and must depend entirely on seasonal rains. The quality of the wine therefore depends entirely on the summer sunshine interspersed with light rains.
It was dry and no rain had fallen in the area where we were going, so we reached home in good time.