One of the advantages of staying far out of town in Provence is that you can just run into relatively obscure things that you read about in books about the region. Not 100 feet from our doorstep on a short hike, we came across this borie, hidden in the trees. Bories are limestone slab buildings made without mortar, including a stone roof, and have been made in the region for 4,000 years or so. Today, they are sometimes used to store tools or for shelter during a storm.
Speaking of storms, we experienced four separate hailstorms in a one hour period. All of the cars in the area scrambled to get under whatever kind of protection they could find. The odd thing for me is that they lasted so long. I’m used to a few minutes of hail, but one of them went on for more than 20 minutes. The ground was an inch deep in hail around us, for a while, before it melted.
Maybe it was the inability to find a parking space anywhere near the town, or the hundreds of tourists disgourging from tour buses and clogging the tiny streets, but I found Les Beux, a medieval fortress and town north of Arles, disappointing.
Once we wandered back into the surrounding countryside, the magic of Provence returned, particularly when viewing the remains of the Roman aqueduct that once provided water to Arles and surveying the surrounding olive groves.
Just down the road from Jouques, where we are staying, we stumbled into Rians, a picturesque village featuring a majestic church (almost a mini-cathedral) and two 12-century towers.
There is nothing about it in our guidebooks, and we appeared to be the only outsiders there on a sleepy Sunday. We got to experience that increasing rare feeling of discovery while traveling, especially while watching some old-timers play a few rounds of boules.
Provence is as lovely as we had heard. We arrived on a perfect, warm, sunny day and checked in to a small rental home near Jouques, slightly below the Luberon region.
The photo above features Bonnieux, taken from the adjacent village of Lacoste, while sipping on a vin rouge and cafe au lait at a cafe table we picked out using Google Street View last weekend.