Jef van den berg and Rik Mieremet spendt a week in Provence, and has sendt us this report :
As obsessed petanque players it was for both of us a dream to play some small tournaments under the platanes in the heart of a warm Provence.
We are both member of the Ostende PC and after a lot of preparations :
- Getting a official calendar of all tournaments in the Vaucluse, Drome, Rhone Alpes, etc.
- A list was needed of all the Chambres DHotesin those regions
- A booking was made for our first night in France
- What about French money ????
So we finally left on Wednesday 23rd of May for 7 days in the Vaucluse / Provence. Seven days without wife or children, just us and our balls.
We left Varsenare at 7.15 am to go South via Lille, Reims, Troyes(p 1) ,Dijon and Lyon and after some difficulties to find our 1st Chambres D'Hotes we finally arrived at a small Hameau (group of houses) in the hills of the Cevennes.In St.-Fortunas local people were playing the Lyonaisse and after we played some games of Petanque we enjoyed a excellent diner home made together with the owners and the dog.
The sun is shining and we still have 6 days to go and after some doubts about are first tournament location ( Nonieres or Les Nonieres) we left for Nonieres to play 'Tete a tete' at 9 am. Nonieres seems to be Les Nonieres but the only thing we saw was a empty 'boulodrome' and some old people just in front of the church discussing live.
It seems that we were 48 hours to early. A tournament was planned on May 26th and not the 24th.
Lucky for us there is another tournament in Mastres ( 10 km North) in the afternoon.
Be French and enjoy life. So we played boules on the empty playground enjoying the French sun.
Mastres is a rather large village and via the Office of Tourism we discovered the place to be : a dry bed full of sand and cobbles. No lines, no marks no easy underground, this is France and here they play terrain libre . Sand, rocks, walls, grass, tarmac everything is a part of the field and can be used and will be used against us. We lost our first 2 matches on French ground under a very hot sky.
But no problem, we learned the new way of live : no stress, no rush and friendly people surprised to see 2 Belgian guys coming to France only to play Petanque, strange people(Registration is often in a local cafe close to the playground and a license is obliged the winner of 'pile our face' will choose where to play, and this can be anywhere)
Finding our next Chambres D'Hotes seems more difficult as expected. Due to the long weekend all my phonecalls were answered with the word complet or fully booked.
But a cancullation of 2 rooms in Gillon offered us a good night sleep.It is raining cats and dogs during the night but in the morning the sun is back in position in a blue sky with high temperature. . This must be day 3.
Today we have to play in the afternoon in Monteux (close to Carpentras). So we use the morning to do some tourism in the region and after a quick stop in Vaison La Romaine
it took us a 1 hour to find a free space for our car in a crowdy Carpentras ( Friday is the local market in Carpentras). A bottle of wine , some french cheese, fresh fruit and a bread will be the ingredients for our lunch. But first we must found a place to sleep for the night and during the Pastis on a typical terras we found ourselves a house to sleep (not an official Chambres D'Hotes) at Grillon le Brave on the foot of the Mont Ventoux.
In Monteux we arrived far to early (as always) and so we enjoyed lunch in the shadow,listening to the silence on a beautifull boulodrome
Time is running , but not in the South. No one is in a rush and the french locals only arrive only a few minutes before 3 pm. (closing time).
Here in Monteux we played much better and after we lost our first match with 13-10 we finally won after 2 long hours our first match with 13-12 in the consolante .
Was it the sun,the wine or not enough experience ? but after we were leading with 8-4 in the 3rd match we were defeated with 10-13.
Local older people (champions ???) are looking with passion to the young generation
At around 8 pm we arrived at Grillon Le Brave, ( a little village south of the Mount Ventoux, on top of a small hill, with a perfect panorama. and our rooms were located in a original house of the Provence owned by a old but very simpatic lady. .
And not only the weather is nice, food in the restaurants is superb.
Being at the foot of °?The Mont Ventoux°± (well known in the Tour the France) we climbed (by car, and not with a bicycle) to the top. It took us 21 km (from Bedoin) to reach the highest mountain of the region.
But we are not only in France to enjoy nature, we are here to play Petanque and our next stop was Althen-des-Paluds. It is like a ritual, but in the shadow of the church ,hiding for the sun we took our lunch . Inscription was done in the local caf_ and once again we were the only foreigners. The rules in this village is like every where else in France : you play where you like it (boulodrome, park, street,etc.
Two young Frenchman were trying to beat us from the start but we stayed with both feet on the ground and we won the first match (13-4) against 2 people who were very disappointed to be defeated by 2 Belgian strangers.
(I wonder how they will explain this to there girlfriends ?). Our next competitors (winners of the tournament) were slightly better than we thought and after some discussions about the couchonet we lost with large figures (3-13).
One thing we learned : 3 feet, 2 hands , 1 ball and 3 fingers is better the 3 feet, 2 hand, 1 ball and 2 fingers. This is the way some of them are measuring distance without discussion afterwards.
So, day 4 is nearly the past and after a good diner on a terras in Bedoin we returned to Crillon-le-Brave.
During our last breakfast outside on the terras at Crillon-le-Brave we decided to play our last tournament in Savaillon , a very small village on the other side of the mont Ventoux.
We left the old lady (she gave us a bottle of her best wine as a gift) at 9 am heading to Savaillion. Temperature is rising but the area is beautiful
and a quick nap in the shadow after lunch is a must in France. The picturesque village is situated on the foot of the Mont Ventoux but still at 6 to 700 meter hight and due to the extreme heat we decided to have a naked swim in the river passing the village
This was our best tournement during this week. The first match was rather easy against 2 very good playing girls but we won with 13-5 on a very hot boulodrome surrounded with moutains
As every where in France everyone is playing everywhere next to the church or on the car parking where we won our second match against two old regional players. The last match of our frech adventure took place on the boulodrome but these Marseille players were here to win the money so, we were defeted by 6-13.
We left Savaillion satisfied and happy and returned back to civilization and via Orange and a very crowdy A6 we reached our next Chambres Hotes in the middle of the Ardeche.
Today we are acting as tourists and we only have one target ; International Petanque Museum in St.Bonnet-le-Chateau In the evening we stopped in the middle of the vineyards (Vergisson) to stay the night in one of the most beautiful Chambres D°ØHotes in the whole area. So after our last diner in a famous French wine village : Pouilly-Fuise en a good night sleep we returned on day 7 back to Belgium with one important message in our head : see us next year.
Jef van den berg
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