Early in the afternoon we arrived in Moustier and drove our little bug through the ancient stone streets curving through the village. Several little shops displayed colorful faience pieces along with typical provencal print scarves and tablecloths. We had lunch at a cafe beside the rushing creek that ran through the center of the village…and then we shopped, of course!
We drove down the steep curving road that led out of the village and found our auberge rather easily, surprise…the place was lovely, and full of provencal charm…such a pleasant and relaxing place…It really looked just like the postcard we found in a village shop!
The gardens were beginning to grow and iris was in bloom already so we took time to wander about the gardens and photograph each area…some weeds needed to be pulled and some lamb’s ears needed grooming so I just set to work. Robert, the proprietor, came out to see what we were doing and also get some work done…he warned me to watch for the asps hiding under the ears and lavender…WHAAAA???
This led to a few screams and then sharing a pitcher of pastis on the terrace with Robert. He told us his story and how he came to own the I and how sad he was because his son had been killed in an accident several years before he came to live in Moustier. There is a place in the village…Les Comte, where he usually takes his evening meal…He suggested we join him for dinner, although he was a bit worried that people in the village would gossip about him dining with two strange women. But, he got over it and we drove up the hill, through the narrow streets to the bistro/restaurant. The food was very good and even better when Robert paid the bill! Robert & Jeanine had lamb with a herb and honey sauce, I had a salad vert with tiny pieces of ham and a mustard vinaigrette. For dessert we shared a creme fraiche topped with blueberries and local meil…
On the way out of the village, Robert [pronounced RO BERE], showed us several spots we should visit, the falls, the caves, the chapel at the top of the mountain and a few art galleries. Back at the Iris, exhausted, we turned back the matlisse cover on the iron bed and fell onto the mattress…I tried to read for a few minutes but managed only a page before falling asleep.
5.07.1999 Friday morning…sun is glorious, birds are singing and the view from our little terrace is delightful…we decide to stay here and relax for another day. Jeanine brings breakfast on a big tray and we enjoy our bowls of cafe and croissants in delicious splendor….here we are, living in the moment as I had always dreamed about.
Maya, the great yellow lab who lived here with Robert, came and sat by our feet waiting for any crumbs to fall her way…a little bird hopped about pecking at the crumbs Maya shared.
Oh, my…We really should get moving…so into the huge yellow and blue tile shower, then we get dressed and put on our new and very comfortable Mephisto shoes…off to climb the hill to the village. Surprise! There is a marche that fills the streets…we find old postcards, herbs and a great handmade basket of purple grass… I still use the basket when shopping..! Winding our way through the shops is such fun as we pretend we belong here…we buy cards to send home and then find stamps at the village post.
The sky turns cloudy and seems to threaten rain so we walk back to our place. I manage to read for a while and Jeanine takes a nap…Robert visits a bit later and offers some herb tea so we sit and talk for several hours, learning more about him and the village…all the while soft rain gently falls against the canopy. He tells of Maya, who loves people so much she would often follow them from the Inn to the village and even farther into the mountains. One day she did not come back for dinner and Robert grew very concerned for there was a bad storm approaching the mountain…he went out to call and look for her but with no luck. Another day passed and while out looking for Maya some friends told him they had heard barking by a heavily rushing stream up in the mountains. As it turned out, she had spent hours hanging on a shallow ledge at the edge of a waterfall…the water was too deep and fast from the rain storm for her to cross back. Robert and some friends with the mountain rescue service found and rescued Maya…of course, the story is so much better and entertaining with Robert’s accent, gestures and noises to accompany the tale!
Before we knew it was time for dinner, but first a pastis…or two, with Robert on his terrace…he told us more of the sad story of the death of his son…we called and Les Comte for dinner is full…so we wait another hour and have some wine! Finally, around 8:30 we leave for dinner as they have a table for us…we park in the center of town, as if we belonged there! Walking into the restaurant, Robert made a grand entrance by knocking a glass off a table…it is a tiny place with very narrow space between the tables…the few people left eating looked at us and clapped for Robert as he went back to the kitchen for a broom and dustbin…what a guy! We were impressed with his clean-up abilities! For dinner, Jeanine had goat and vegetables and I chicken with roasted vegetables.
As we were eating, an old grandpa shuffled in the door and stood quietly holding his umbrella…it was raining hard with rumbling thunder and lightening striking in the distance. By this time the restaurant had emptied and we were the only people left at a table…the waiter bowed and invited the old man to take a seat, he did and the waiter brought out a glass of wine and some bread…then a plate of vegetables. We watched discreetly as the little old grandpa ate his dinner and drank his wine…using exquisite manners, he used pieces of bread to sop up the juices on the plate…he had no teeth so we then understood why there was no meat on the plate. We asked Robert about the old grandpa…his was a sad story…Grandpa worked many years for the village of Moustier keeping all the stone streets repaired, he had a tiny house by the river and a family. When his wife died he sold his house and then the people quickly moved in when Grandpa was working, took all his things and never paid him the money they owed for the house. So, people in the village took care of him, sharing their shops and tables and homes… as he had cared for the village all his life…he has his meals at any place he chooses for he is always welcome, usually after the main dinner crowd has left did he visit the nicer places. How sad, but also how wonderful that the village cared for him and showed him such respect and love…
5.08.1999 Saturday morning, cloudy and cool with a nice petit dejuner on the patio…I had to get strong coffee from Robert to entice Jeanine out of bed…it took a bit but soon she joined me outside. We sat enjoying the morning, talking to Robert and thinking how sad to leave this paradise! Robert helped us pack the car, we left many kisses and tears as we drove off toward the south and Nice… Jeanine often visits him on her trips home…and we keep in touch through e-mail… Checking the map, we knew there was quite an exciting route back down the mountains toward Nice…Through the Gorges du Verdon we went in our little car with no nose and no butt! It handled every curve magnificently. The Napolean Route was overtaken by a Mercedes driven by a Frenchwoman and a US navigator. Wow, the views were stunning…and the narrow road and drop off…uh, reminded me of Mosquito Pass over the mountains in Colorado down into Telluride…but only craggier and deeper cliffs, but that was my frame of reference for where we were driving. After a few stops for photos, we found our way back to Nice and finally found the Novotel at the AIRPORT…took the car back, explained about the accident…that only took TWO hours…got on the bus and arrived back at our “home” for the night. We massaged each others feet with lavender oil and went to bed, having left a wake-up call for 7:00 AM and a request for cafe.
5.9.1999 Sunday morning, MERDE!!! We missed the plane…?
Come back for more…we finally land in PARIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!