Friday, 29 June 2012
Distance 11 km
Duration 2 hours 30 minutes
Ascent 23 m, descent 94 m
Map 164 of the TOP 100 lime-green series
We were out of bed by 6 am, fearful of the heat to come. Yesterday’s walk had traumatised us, despite the beauty and interest of the area, and already the sky was brassy with menace.
We ate our simple breakfast at a table near the ablution block, undisturbed by a single other soul, not even our walker friend. His tent was still standing silently when we left at 6:50.
At the gate of the camping ground we saw signs for the GR6, which we knew had come over the Petit Luberon from the east.
Rather confusingly, the western direction started climbing through the encampments and we were not sure where it would end up, but luckily there was also a marked cycle path with the reassuring designation “Cavaillon”.
This was a small, gently descending road, with a few houses on the right and a wooded hillside on the left.
Before long the GR came down from the hillside and shared the cycle path as far as Robion, which we reached in less than an hour. In the main street of Robion, a much bigger town than Maubec, the GR took itself off to the north, but we continued on the cycle path.
We stopped at a bar for a round of coffee, but it was so hot, even before 8 am, that we did not linger.
The rest of the walk was on a footpath beside the highway, at first through fields and then into the unsalubrious industrial outskirts of Cavaillon, no better nor worse than those around any large town.
We were like boiled beetroots by the time we arrived in the centre and we hurried straight to the Office of Tourism, which was at the end of a boulevard, hard up against the rocky hill known as the Colline St-Jacques. Inside, the air-conditioning was doing a sterling job and we were able to collect our thoughts enough to get a town map and find out about the post office and the internet point (at the Médiatheque).
That done, we set off for the hotel that we had chosen, the Étap, but on the way we could not resist stopping for a celebratory coffee, a croissant and a pain aux raisins. The terrace was shady but even so it was like a furnace.
At the hotel we booked in (€57) and went straight to our room, although it was not yet 10 o’clock. It was blissfully cool there, and everything was new and elegant. We hardly moved again all day, except to have showers, which was a delightful contrast with yesterday.
We read, slept, wrote a few postcards and composed an email to send to our friends. I also cut up my handkerchief and sewed it into a pouch to protect my Kindle from scratches.
What we did not do was see the sights of the town. Cavaillon has many interesting reminders of the past, such as a Roman archway, a important synagogue, a cathedral and various other church buildings related to the ancient bishopric, which are all included in a walking tour with 23 explanatory panels. At the Office of Tourism we had been given a brochure describing this walk, but we were incapable of even thinking about it.
We made only two brief sorties – the first just across the road to get bread, peaches and tomatoes for lunch, an exposure that almost killed us, and the second, late in the afternoon, to the Médiatheque, to send the email.
It was a complicated business but eventually we were told we could use the computer for 20 minutes only, as non-subscribers to the library. We set to work frantically typing our email, but after a few minutes the librarian came over and confided that she could extend our time if necessary, which she duly did, bless her heart.
Thus we had time to check Keith’s bank balance and discover that the malfunctioning autobank at Sault had not actually taken any money from his account. This was good news for me, as I no longer had to prepare myself to ring up the bank and complain in French.
At 8 pm we emerged into the still sweltering street and strolled back to the centre.
The Rue Gambetta was a lively scene, with the footpath full of drinkers at the many bars. Everyone was under the shade of a tree or an awning, and in the street nearby, between the cycle lane and the cars, was a long ornamental water channel that had a cooling appearance if not an actual cooling effect. At the end of the street the high grey cliffs of the Colline St-Jacques barred the way.
After apéritifs at a bar full of chattering locals, we went next door to a North African restaurant for dinner. We were the first customers of the night, but later the place filled up.
We started with a little bowl of spicy roasted chick peas, then we shared a Tunisian salad, which was a mixture of various highly-coloured fruits and vegetables cut into squares.
For our main courses we had tajines, accompanied by a strange sort of bread that was more like unsugared cake. With it we had Moroccan red wine for the sake of authenticity, although it was no better than our normal French house wine and a lot more expensive.
Twilight was gathering and the air was finally relaxing its fiery grip as we strolled back to the hotel.
It had been a wonderfully restful day and we had escaped being roasted on one of the hottest days we had ever experienced.