A Life in the Slow Lane

Tilting at Windmills

The camping season is definitely drawing to an end in this part of France. When we arrived six days ago the “Camping Full” sign went up by the end of the day. By now there are less than 15 motorhomes and caravans on a site which has a capacity of nearly 100.

Today we decided to visit the windmill near our local village associated with the stories of the famous French writer Alphonse Daudet. Wherever you walk in Fontvieille there are windmill signs and symbols and even a series of small plaques in French, English and Spanish giving small details of Alphonse Daudet’s writings and their association with that particular place. With all this Duadetmania, it would be rude not to give the windmill a visit.

As you will recall Sarah has already visited this windmill by mistake while walking the dog, so she led the way. Sarah’s route, because it definitely not the official route which is signposted, took us, once again, through the lovely forest adjacent to our campsite. Sarah has discovered that because the paths are so good in this forest, that the best way of walking with Melek, since he tends to drag behind on his lead, is just to let him loose. As I have explained before he never likes to waste an ounce of unecessary energy, so he just trudges along in our footprints. If he lags too far behind we just give him a call and his little legs trundle him towards us at a slightly increased speed.

Melek bringing up the rear

We climbed steadily until we, to me unexpectedly, emerged out of the trees at the edge of a cliff, with views over the local aire de camping and the city of Arles in the distance. From here we followed along the cliff edge and fairly quickly came across Alphonse’s mill. It is a spectacularly unimpressive building. Just six or eight metres high, with tiny, traditional canvas sails, which today were not in place. It was not open, but apparently when it is they charge €2 to go inside. Compared to yesterday’s Pont du Gard, this would be very poor value for money because it could not possibly take more than 30 seconds to explore!

View over a great looking aire de camping with Arles in the far distance

The attached labels explained that this, in fact, may not be the windmill referred to in Daudet’s writings, because there are several in the area, but it is the one that best fits the literary references. So €2 to look round a windmill which might, or might not, have featured in some fictional stories written 170 years ago.

Alphonse Daudet’s windmill (possibly)

We carried on with our walk, still through the forest, on a track to the village of Fontvieille. As we proceeded we came across two more windmills. One dilapidated and the other fully restored. The restored one is also a candidate as Daudet’s muse. On this track, where it crossed exposed rock, you could clearly see deep grooves warn in the rock, where, over hundreds of years carts, presumably to and from the windmill had passed. We also crossed over what looked like a millstream. Melek would not drink from the water, so needed to be “persuaded” to get into the stream and then he quenched his thirst.

Another possibility for Alphonse’s windmill (less likely)

Definitely not Monsieur Daudet’s windmill

We ended up back in the village we are beginning to know well and since it was lunchtime we thought we would look to see if there was anywhere we fancied eating. Considering it is late September the terraces at the restaurants were surprisingly full, but we found a seat outside a place with a €15 set menu of three courses. This seemed remarkable value for money so I did not expect much. The set menu contained ham and so Sarah could not partake she therefore opted to share my starter and have the restaurant’s version of Fish and Chips!

Melek goes for a drink or is that a swim? He managed to get out under his own steam, but he needed a little “persuasion” to get in!

I was completely wrong about quality. The three courses were simple but with a great combination of flavours and presentation. Sarah’s fish and chips was a totally French interpretation of the dish, which Sarah thought a little too oily, but which came with a supposed tartare sauce which was out of this world compared to the dull sludge which is usually served with fish in Britain. The restaurant even did house wine at a good price and so we availed ourselves of a half litre of white.

We walked off about 5% of the calories on our way back to the campsite and the rest of the afternoon has been, how should I put it, relaxing!