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Morning Stroll

Notes From  Provence During The Lock Down

Nov. 5, 2020

It is a nice afternoon in Provence. I took some photos this morning and, seeking a distraction from the television, I thought I would share my pics and a short note with you.

The Daily Walk

Briskly walking for ten minutes in the morning I’m in the country. But first here is a quick rundown about November 2020 in L’Isle sur la Sorgue. France is under a lockdown, le confinement. We’re permitted to go to shops for food or pick up a take-out order from one of the local restaurants struggling to turn a euro after being forced to close for a month. If needed one can go to the doctor or make a trip to the pharmacy. If summoned to an official appointment one can attend. Our Notaire provided a document for us to carry when traveling to her office in Menerbes to sign the papers selling our apartment the other day. Workers in businesses and enterprises deemed by the government to be essential can come and go. There is a lot of controversy over who gets to be opened. Seems to be a bit of game playing as well. The olive oil store and a biscuit shop are open. I guess their goods are essential. Bars are closed. Restaurants can only do carry out. We can still visit Chez Steph to purchase the essentials from his shelves, wine and cheese.

Most importantly, everyone may be out for one hour per day to exercise, sit in the park, take a walk or a bike ride. However, we are limited to not being more than 1 km (.61 mile) from our home.

The gendarmes and local police agencies are charged with enforcing the rules of confinement. One must have an Attestation in the pocket. You swear by this document that you left your home at such and such a time and tick a box providing your reason for being outside the four walls of your house. Although the French do like paper, the document can be downloaded to your phone. So far I have not been stopped and asked to produce my Attestation.

There is a push to make the exercise limitations a bit more flexible to allow those so inclined to enjoy nature 10km from home. We’ll see how this goes. Some merchants have had success in getting the government to modify the rules a bit. The charge is that big companies, Amazon, Intermarche which is like a Walmart, and big box stores such as Darty and FNAC, which are akin BestBuy, are selling goods that small stores sell. The small stores were ordered closed as nonessential, while the big guys are open selling books, video games, pots and pans, ect. After a hue and cry the big stores were ordered to only sell essentials. Various methods of blocking the aisles of non-essential items have been employed. Our local SuperU opted to put a crate of Gladwrap to work, cordoning off the dishes – which apparently are non-essential.

Lots of plastic wrap went into this project. I am sure the stock boy/girl had fun with it.

Okay, enough about confinement.

For the past few months, I have made a morning trek outside the town at least five days a week. Pear and apple orchards abound. During the harvest we were permitted to take apples that were on the ground. The crops have been picked and the fields are now being turned over for the next crop. One day a fellow was picking coriander. Our friend asked him in Arabic if we could buy some. The worker replied that “it is not my field. I was hired to pick the herb. If I sold it to you I would be stealing. If I give it to you it is a gift.” He handed us a large bunch of coriander to divide amongst ourselves.

Prior to le confinement our group of 4 couples ventured out at 7:30 or 8:00 for a 4 mile stroll. Now with the current rules the community stroll is off the table. Patty and I go out together– or I venture out on my own and leave her to enjoy a quiet cup of tea.

This morning I cut through town on my way to the country. The Thursday market vendors were open for business but there were few takers at 9am.

I had a streak going for about two weeks. I enjoyed the sunrise every day. Have been a bit distracted in the evenings the past few days, so I have not been up as early. Vowing to get back on track.

Snapshot of Provence
Snapshot of Provence

Isle sur la Sorgue on their way to climb Ventoux in July. They will climb it twice in the same day.

The reward at the top of the hill is a plateau that looks back over the town. On a clear day the crest of Mont Ventoux can be seen. It was just announced that the riders of Le Tour de France will come through Isle sur la Sorgue on their way to climb Ventoux in July. They will climb it twice in the same day.

Le Geant de Provence as the Mont Ventoux is known is about a 45-minute drive from here. It will be awhile before we visit as we no longer have wheels. We are scheduled to pick up a Renault Twingo at the SuperU on December 3rd, if the confinement is loosened up a bit. It will be the first time I have rented a car at the grocery store.

Having Le Tour come through a town is a big deal.

The town of Maluacene, which is a the base of the Mont Ventoux, is aleady bragging that there are no longer hotel rooms available around the day of the climb.

Down the other side of the hill is an old farmhouse. A young Dutch couple live here and operate a Gite – which is a bed and breakfast. In the past there was a flock of sheep in the field. I remember this well as two sheep dogs came charging after me and my walking buddy and good friend Mohamed one morning. They made their point without coming into the road. I was set to try and out run them, Mohamed talked me out of it.

I wave at the farmer that lives here most days. If he is close to the road we exchange ca va’s. A couple of times we chatted for a moment. The man is north of 90 years old. He tends to his horse and hens and is still moving manure in his green wheelbarrow. I think he watches the sunrise over the Dutch couples’ home every morning. He once farmed all the surrounding fields but has sold them off keeping this plot for himself and his wife. Yesterday there were students from the agricultural school in one of the fields. The farmer was plowing while the students inspected the soil with their teacher.

I pass a few people along my route. Some have a dog. Some have a smoke. Some have both.

There are a few joggers and the occasional cyclist as well. One nearly ran me down this morning. I heard a noise behind me that I thought was a car in the distance and began to cross the road to get on the available berm. Suddenly I hear a guy yell ‘attention’ – watch out – and I turn to see a cyclist heading toward me. He got a bit wobbly trying to pick which side to pass me on but stayed upright. He blew by me muttering. I gave him an Alors! We both spoke our bits and survived.

I’m back home in an hour – or so. There is a lot of construction work going on around the town. Apparently construction is essential. Bookstores – not so much. Our street is blocked as the neighboring building is getting a new roof. The neighbor in the apartment above us is having new windows installed. The neighbor below is having a stone floor put into her garden. Lots of sawing, pounding, and drilling. A bit of cussing too. Typically, only on Monday can these big trucks come in and block the street. But since everyone is supposed to be locked down, the permits to obstruct traffic must be easier to come by.

And here is the view of the world from my desk this afternoon. Lots of people stop and photograph our neighbor’s window. The vines and weathered shutters give it a postcard look.

That’s all I know. Stay safe and have a good day.



Kevin McGoff

I am a freelance travel writer living between the South of France and mid-west America.

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