The other Saturday, there being no oppidum work party on account of school holidays, and the weather being still sunny and brilliantly clear, we headed north for a walk.
We stopped at Aups to buy lunch. Although it’s only 30 or so minutes from us, Aups is very definitely in what everybody calls France Profonde, “deep France”. France Profonde is the provincial, agricultural heartland of France where not a lot changes, everybody knows each other, the weekly market and the church are still the centres of life and where the pressing communications question is not so much whether you can get cable Internet as whether you can get a mobile phone signal. Aups is all that and more. It’s an old quiet town of deserted narrow streets where tourists pass through but rarely stay. But somehow there’s an authenticity and reality to towns like Aups that is missing on the fast flashy concrete-covered coast.
There we drove up to the hamlet of Vérignon (with a claimed population of 18 in 2006 and probably fewer today) at the very end of the Plateau de Canjuers and walked up through the oak and pine woods to the ridge. There, at nearly 1000 metres are two old chapels: the Chapel of Notre-Dame de Liesse and the Chapel Saint Priest. The story behind the Chapel of Notre-Dame de Liesse is of a lady from a local family came here to await the arrival of her son back from the Crusades and vowed to construct a chapel as soon as he should return safely. He did return, and it was built as a witness of the “liesse” (jubilation) of the family.
It was a good day for views. Westwards over the wooded plain towards the two Bessilon hills and Mt Sainte Victoire in the distance, northwards to the lonely white peak of Mt Ventoux and eastwards over the limestone ridges of the Plateau de Canjuers to the snow-capped peaks of the pre-Alps.
This far away from the big centres of population we were almost alone: Alison disturbed a deer but we only encountered a handful of other walkers. Even here a thousand feet up spring was on the way and the forest floor was studded with crocuses. One of the nice things about France profonde is that nature rather than humans rules. Long may it last…