Passing Rustrel’s little town center, we noticed a crowd gathered outside the café and boulangerie in front of a big-screen TV watching France in the World Cup. It was probably the whole town since this was an important late-round match.
We gathered around our own big-screen TV to watch in the comfort of our rental house. Ines was totally into it, but us Americans got bored with the long match. I mean this is a game that counts minutes going up, not down, and has more crybabies than a maternity ward. Besides, anytime something really exciting happened, there was a huge roar from the nearby town center that gave us enough time to catch the replay.
France won and all was right with that part of the world. Between the game and catching up with Ines, it was a really late night, so the leaf blowers early the next morning were an unwelcome surprise. No, you can’t escape the grating whine of leaf blowers even in the serene south of France– apparently red is not the only “wine” out here.
So, we rubbed our eyes and headed out on another adventure. We probably saw three cars in an hour between Rustrel and Sault. This seemed like literally the middle of nowhere. The only sign for miles was a small hand-made thing that read “miel et huile de lavande”: Lavender honey and lavender oil. “Turn here!” Alex screamed as soon as she saw the sign. She was determined to find the most local of ingredients, and this couldn’t be more local.
We followed the dirt and gravel road until we saw a sign that said “No Trespassing.” I almost turned around, but Alex my often risk-averse, sometimes risk-taking but always pragmatic other-half said “they wouldn’t have a sign advertising honey and lavender oil for sale if they didn’t want trespassers.” I drove on, hoping there wasn’t another angry farmer incident (especially out here where guns were probably considered a fashion accessory).
The path curved around to a valley view of purple lavender fields between rocky cliffs and a small stone house nestled in a nook in the distance. We pulled up to the house, but it appeared no one was home. Suddenly two little girls ran down from a hill on the other side of the driveway.
“Bonjour” I said, and asked about the honey and lavender. They were in the house before I finished my sentence yelling “Il y a quelq’un!” We waited in the car, just in case we had to tear out of there.
A sun-weathered woman with a twinkle in her blue-gray eyes appeared with some bottles in hand. The little girls followed and circled our car shyly, but curiously checked us out. The sun reflected off of eyes just like their mother’s. Maman proudly showed us her hand-made products. We sniffed some of the strongest lavender oil we had smelled since arriving in Provence, and this stuff was about half the price of the tourist shops.
She invited us in to see what else she had. “Pas de miel,” no honey, I asked? She explained that it was the beginning of honey making season soon, and she had already sold out of last season’s. “That explains the buzzing lavender fields,” Alex said. We had braved a walk through the center of a field to get a better photo a few days earlier and the bushes were alive with bees.
We bought a few bottles of lavender oil and said our adieus. The little girls waved and ran back up to their hidden play area, ready to pounce on the next guest brave enough to venture down. We stopped at a curve to take a photo of the private lavender valley and noticed another rental car cautiously making it’s way down. They probably thought we were the ones who posted that no trespassing sign. We waved them past before taking one of the more memorable photos of our trip, looking out over a neatly tended lavender field curving into the valley below.