Tuesday, October 9, 2012

L'Isle sur la Sorgue et Fontaine-de-Vaucluse

After a slow start to the day, we hit two popular tourist destinations.  This is l'Isle sur la Sorgue.  The old part of the city is famous for being cute and its functioning water wheels.  Several canals run through the city.

Quaint buildings abound along side the canals, as well as restaurants.

This is the Caisse d'Epargne building.  They are a French bank.  Isn't that an amazing structure?

Some of the public art.  I love this statue, she has such a come hither look on her face.

L'Isle sur la Sorgue did not take that much time to see.  It's a small city center surrounded by the real city, that consists of gas stations, banks, grocery stores and etc. 

Then it was up and out to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse.  But first we drove under this.  There is a sign on the base of the structure that says Canal de Carpentras.  However, a web search reveals that the canal is just that, an irrigation canal.  I can't find anything on this, so I have no insight to offer.

Fontaine-de-Vaucluse is another big tourist attraction in France.  We were here on the bike tour in 2005, and this is where I bought my most favorite hat ever.  I was hoping to get a new one, but there was no joy.

Below is the Source.  From this website I purloined the following text.
  • At the base of a 700 ft cliff sits a pool of emerald green water from which rushes forth the Sorgue at a rate of 165 billion gallons per year, making it one of the largest springs in the world. At peak flows, the spring captures rain from the Vaucluse Plateau and snow melt from Mont Ventoux as well as other nearby mountains. In summer, the level of the spring can fall low enough to reveal the mouth of a cave at the base of a cliff. As early as 1878, divers have tried to explore the subterranean formations looking for the bottom of the spring. Even Jacques Cousteau gave it a go. An expedition in 1985 used cameras to find the bottom to be over 900 ft before moving off horizontally under the plateau.
When we were here in 2005, one could walk down on the rocks and go look at the pool of water.  It's fenced off now, so you can't go down there.  We were being told that the water would leap out of the ground and drown the unwary.  I think that might have been poetic license.

There is also a good paper making museum.  The water turns the wheel.

The big wheel turns the smaller wheel with a belt drive.  This, in turn, rotates the spindle with the cams, that makes the mallets go up and down.

The mallets beat cotton fibers into mush, which is then turned in to paper.  If you're in the area, the museum is worth a trip.

After leaving the fontaine, we took the "tourist route" back to Gordes.  It was another lane and a half road, that was so steep I had to downshift into first gear to get the car up the twists and turns.  We soon departed that route for a larger road.  At the top of a hill we pulled off to look out over the valley, and saw this.

From the same website mentioned above, I have again purloined text.
  • In 1720, a ship from Syria pulled into Marseille laden with silk, cotton, and unfortunately plague. Within days, so many people were dying in Marseille that they had to pile corpses in the streets because they couldn't dig the mass graves fast enough. In two years, the Great Plague of 1720 would kill 50,000 of Marseille’s 90,000 inhabitants. Survivors fled the city in droves horrifying people in the rest of Provence who had already experienced ten epidemics over the last 400 years.
    To try to curb the spread of plague northward, lawmakers in Aix-en-Provence initiated a death penalty for anyone in contact with Marseille or its inhabitants. A second initiative was the building of a 20 km wall through the countryside to stop potentially infected citizens from fleeing to the north. Much of le mur de la peste (plague wall) still stands today, albeit in ruins, and it runs alongside the GR6/GR97 for several miles on the hike from Fontaine. Since the wall was of the pierres sèches variety, it now looks like a 3-foot high line of rubble. Towards the end of the ruins, however, the wall has been recreated to its original height and width.
The wall is not present here, but the markers remain.  We saw a marker in 2005 in a field, and I never knew what it was.  Pretty cool, eh?
That was today.  Jim is still not totally up to snuff so we came back and read our Nooks and used the internet.  I'm not sure what's on the plan for tomorrow, it may be time to fire up Google maps.  One wonders how one traveled in the days before GPS and the internet.

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