Friday, April 24, 2015

Wandering from the Luberon to the Caves at Chateauneuf du Pape

Today was a day of contrasts. Instead of heading south we turned north in the direction of Silvacane. 

In the 12th century this spot housed a thriving monastic community of Cistercian monks who welcomed pilgrims traveling through the area. They followed th Benedictine Rule and practiced the austere aesthetic of the Cistercians. Instead of the brilliant stained glass of Chartres and Saint Denis, their walls and windows are spare and nude.  St Bernard wanted the monks to meditate on the spiritual world instead of the colorful beauty we admire in so many medieval cathedrals.

The most striking aspect of this aesthetic is the way simplicity speaks to the modern soul. As we walked through the cloister, the dortoir, the refectory, we talked about how much harder it often is to achieve simplicity than complexity. This place successfully points from its own time in the 12th century to timeless, transcendent spirituality, in part because of this simplicity. 

The modern installation of feathers emphasizes the connection between medieval and modern in a gentle way.

After leaving Silvacane, we headed north to Chateauneuf du Pape. In the 14th century when the popes lived at Avignon instead of Rome,they built a summer palace on top of this hill. Over the years it has become famous for a very special wine that bears this name.  

We parked at the foot of the hill and climbed a pedestrian pathway that winds between shops, restaurants and a string of Caves. 

At the top is a wonderful restaurant with tables spread among trees in a shady garden overlooking the Rhone Valley.  We ordered salads and an omelette, and sampled a glass of Chateauneuf du Pape.  

After our lunch we wandered down the hill until we found an interesting Cave where we tasted and eventually bought three beautiful bottles.  

I dozed in the car as Peter and Pierre found our way back. Daniele,  who had stayed home, had prepared a delicious dinner of boudin blanc.  She had spent the day transforming three meters of batik into a simple, stylish dress.  Bedtime is a little earlier tonight because we are going to Nice and Vance tomorrow.  

Bonne nuit.

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