Again we woke up in the gorgeous Hotel Saint Marc, had a minimal breakfast there then for the second part of our double breakfast today we went back to the café on the little bridge at Mollans – it is so pretty, and the town of Mollans in the Drôme department in southeastern France is a tiny gem.
Originally the little town was a natural gateway between the lower parts of Provence and the Alps, and is famous for its two castles, one in ruins and one restored and in private ownership. It also had three towers protecting the bridge, and although only one of them remains there is also a remarkable little chapel built in the 19th century on the site of a simpler shrine actually on the cantilever of the bridge.
Then there is the medieval village which clambers up the hill around the castle, with its narrow cobbled streets and pretty old houses reaching up in varying states of restoration (or not….).
After breakfast we decided to take a walk along the old railway track that is now paved and is partly shaded; we try a variation on this walk, which involved switching back on a higher, unpaved path which is strikingly pretty but does involve a 1 in 1 UPHILL scree slope and since by the time we reached it the temperature was already close to 40 degrees I think my protests were perfectly justified. They were ignored, so I risked life and limb and scrambled up it, then had to sit down and recover for a bit.
We had pretty much melted on our return so went to the pool for a couple of hours, then set off to find one of our favourite independent wine producers, Jean-Michel Tyrand, whose Cave is just outside Mollans and whose wine we often choose to accompany our dinner at the hotel Saint Marc. Unfortunately Jean-Michel was not there, having taken a short holiday, but we had a lovely welcome from his father who greeted us enthusiastically from a tractor and from his mother who let us taste the latest versions of the wines we love.
I had been told that we wouldn’t buy much, because we plan to visit the Lille independent wine producers’ fair in November, where Tyrand always goes, but we still came away with two boxes plus a generous extra bottle (“Les Abeilles”, his Viognier that I love) that Madame gave us.
After that we set off for another of our favourite places in this area, the tiny town of Crillon-le-Brave which has been expensively restored and sits on a little hill in the lee of Mont Ventoux. The “brave” in the little town’s name means “fierce” and came from a duke of Crillon who it is claimed was one of Henri IV’s bravest generals; he fought so well for his monarch during the 16th century wars of religion that he, and then the town, gained the adjective ‘brave’.
It has a stunning view all around, and many of the ancient buildings at the top have been converted into a luxury hotel where you can sit on the terrace looking down onto the plain miles below and up to the majesty of the massive escarpment that is Mont Ventoux, with little Bédoin somewhere in the middle, crouched on its own little hill. It is a wonderful place to sit and have a drink, which we did while pretending to be rich and famous, but I suspect I would have to re-mortgage my house to be able to afford to stay there.
Finally we returned to the Hotel Saint Marc – oh that lovely garden, and oh that lovely food! Bother the adjectives and adverbs, here is what we ate:
We both had the same starter: ratatouille with parmesan crumble, the crumble cooked separately then sprinkled on top; delicious, it sounds far simpler than the actual flavours, vegetables perfect texture, crumble toasted to perfection.
Julia: daurade cooked with green olive tapenade on a tian of vegetables, fish perfectly cooked as usual.
Me: pork cheeks slow cooked with black olives in the most delicious thick, rich sauce with E-P-E-A-U-T-R-E on the side (sorry, childish I know but it still makes me giggle).
Julia: Marquise de chocolat, a delicious rich chocolatey concoction with a beautiful bitter orange coulis.
Me: pomelo, orange and mint fruit salad, the mint bringing out and zinging up the citrus salad, what a delightful end to the meal.
We went for a walk up to the top of Mollans after that lot, before retiring for the night, and the temperature was still 30 degrees at 11pm.
Very sweaty. Dreadful to think we have to leave soon.