Last night when we arrived in Manosque, Erin’s cousin David told us his family had gone off to “the Graniers” near “Ding” and that we’d be joining them the following day. This morning, after a quick breakfast and shower, we head off to “DIng” — or rather Digne-les-bains, a small town where the Tour de France will be starting from this year. Our GPS easily takes up to the place where we are to meet Marilyne, David’s wife, and their children. It is during this ride that we realize that we are beyond the rolling French hillside and into the Alps and Haute-Provence. We meet at a eco-park in the hills and visit a butterfly sanctuary. The children are finding the transition between the big metropolis and the southern countryside an easy one. It’s almost like we are transitioning from one holiday to the next.
On the way back, we follow Marilyne on the scenic route back, taking a little detour for a quick swim in the river. Back home, a river is something that meanders down the countryside.. Here, the river is something that one must scale a rock face from the highway after a harrowing drive along one of those impossible roads you see in movies; roads that hug the mountains and offer beautiful views of the cliffs that will greet you as you plunge to your death if you miscalculate or overcompensate on the next turn…roads that sometimes snake through a hole cut into the mountain. Marilyne knows the area well and we make it safely to the rocky river where water flows from the top of the mountains and snakes its way down. The children, naturally are amazed. I am happy to have survived the drive but wondering how I will explain the middle-aged woman who has joined the crowd and doffed her top. The children don’t notice so I’m off the hook. Slaked, we head off to our temporary home.
So the Graniers is almost a small village, stuck in the outskirts of a very small town. The road leading to the small town is so narrow that meeting another car (or someone opening his front door) can result in a traffic jam. When we first arrive at the Graniers we are faced with the last thing we expected: a series of stone homes, apartments and gardens that date back, in the newest models, a century and the others are circa unknown. Most of the buildings are signed by one of the original owners, a stone mason who built most of the structures. We get a whole house to ourselves. Inside is a combination of rustic and modern. A large fireplace, stone walls, shuttered windows with an amazing view of the mountains, modern appliances and a feeling of cosiness that is almost unbearable.
Its Thursday and we settle in quickly. A quick dinner out on the stone terrace as the sun sets over the mountains and we’re off to bed.