Friday, 26 May 2023
Distance 11 km
Duration 4 hours 45 minutes
Ascent 73 m, descent 113 m
Before walking up to the village for breakfast, we remembered to seek out the owner of the vineyard (not an easy business at that hour) and pay her with our newly acquired cash. We were looking forward to the day’s walk, as it was on a GR most of the way, in the foothills of the Grand Luberon, which we had crossed with such effort many years earlier, the first time that we visited Lourmarin. But the first destination today was the beautiful bassin that we had dined beside last night. On the way there we got a bagful of light, glossy, delicious pastries to go with our coffee. The sun shone mildly through the leaves of the great plane trees and we felt confident and happy.
As it was only a short walk to Lourmarin, we took the time to explore the upper lanes of Cucuron, with their stony cottages and tiny gardens, and presently found ourselves at the highest point, where a donjon stood on a crag, attended by a few gnarled Mediterranean pines. There was a troglodyte village nearby but we did not linger to explore that. Descending past a church with a skinny (one-bell) belltower, we came to the ring road below.
There were several roads going off in the direction of Vaugines and I picked the wrong one, for which I am forever sorry. We were heading too far south. It would have been only a slight mistake normally, as we would have been able to cut across to the right one, but today there was road work being done and we were diverted even further south. We imagined that this detour would only be for a few hundred metres, but we walked and walked and never came to the end of it. It was always the wrong road, anyway.
We went past vineyards, olive groves and pastures, all very pretty, but their beauty was lost on us as were getting worried, and we were obviously not on our maps any more. Looking back, the right thing to do would have been to turn back, but we are constitutionally incapable of doing that, so we plodded on. In due course we came to a small road going off to the right, and sat on a stone to decide what to do. A group of cyclists and a couple of motorists stopped to offer help but they only knew as much as we did, so in the end we took the side road in the hope that we would reconnect with the GR further along.
After a while we came to a vineyard where a man was inspecting his vines. We thought that he would at least have local knowledge, so we asked how we could get to Lourmarin and he said to keep going past his house and we would come to a good road. Past his house, the small road ceased to exist but we pushed on, through muddy ditches and undergrowth, emerging onto a road crammed with heavy machinery and men with shovels. The air was thick with the thunder and screech of the road-making process. By pure luck we had joined the road at the very point that the resurfacing had reached, and we managed to dash onto the unresurfaced road and scuttle away before the huge bitumen-laying machine, which spanned the entire width of the road, bore down on us. We were soon out of sight, and eventually even out of earshot.
However, this was not the road that we had hoped for. We were even further south than we had thought, and there was no GR in sight. All we could do was trudge along, seemingly for hours, before seeing even so much as a signpost that mentioned Lourmarin. There was no traffic whatever, as the traffic was all diverted, and the scenery was pretty enough, although tedious to our jaded eyes.
But all things come to an end, and eventually we descended into the lanes of Lourmarin. It was a chaotic scene, as the weekly market was just packing up and the streets were choked with vans, trestle tables, boxes, trailers and the like, as well as a heaving mass of people, and flanked by cafés, bric à brac shops, gift shops and classy restaurants. We chose a tree-shaded bar and sat down gratefully.
It took a long time for our coffee to arrive, as it was 2 pm and people around us were still finishing their lunch, but we did not mind. It was enough to be sitting down in the shade, with most of the walk behind us for the day. Before leaving for the camping ground, we called in at the Office of Tourism and got a timetable for the bus to Cavaillon, just in case.
The camping ground was a kilometre up a fairly steep road, and we had stayed there before, but now it was much flasher, with a swimming pool, bar and restaurant, and prices to match. It cost us €29 for a night on a grassless, stony pitch (they were all like that). The showers were also very flash, and we enjoyed them at length.
Before descending to the village in search of dinner, we fortified ourselves with a drink at the bar, which overlooked the swimming pool full of happily screaming kids. Then, in our clean, light clothes, we swung down the road and went straight to the Place Henri Barthélémy, where we had seen a row of restaurants as we emerged from the Office of Tourism.
Plane trees epitomise, for us, dining outdoors in France, and this square was full of them. We found a table in the leafy shade outside a restaurant called Le Comptoir, which had the menu written in chalk on a series of blackboards. Keith had a dish of pasta and ham, and I had a cheese omelette, both very lovely. Wine was only served by the glass, but we topped that up with the contents of the little flask from last night. Once again we felt that our troubles were over for this year’s walk.
A slight pall was cast over our optimism as we walked back to the camping ground. Keith had lost all his energy and had a real struggle to get up the hill. This naturally made him very down-hearted. We decided that a rest day in Lourmarin would be a good idea, to judge whether or not to continue with this blighted walk.