Rain on My Parade in Moustiers Sainte-Marie
After a breathtaking kayak tour of Gorges du Verdon, my yoga group visited one of the sweetest little towns I’d seen in Provence, France.
Moustiers Sainte-Marie is about half an hour north of the electric turquoise waters that fill what is known as France’s Grand Canyon in the heart of Provence. It made for the perfect lunch and afternoon jaunt.
Famished from our strenuous morning (not really; driving an electric boat isn’t that taxing), we went straight to Le Relais where we dined on beef carpaccio, ratatouille, lamb, and filet mignon, while enjoying several bottles of local rosé. It never ceases to amaze me the quality of both the food and wine in Provence. Even the tiniest town has Michelin-worthy restaurants.
My table of six yoginis decided to order all the desserts and share them. While we were browsing the menu, I noticed an older couple at a nearby table had a dessert I couldn’t identify. I inquired and they told me it was a local specialty (sorry, I now forget the name). We ordered one.
I spoke with them briefly, explaining that we were at a yoga retreat nearby. They were friendly and curious, the perfect couple to engage in French conversation with.
The desserts — all six — were magnificent. Ordering and sharing was the way to go.
Committed to Doing It All
After our meal, we split off into different directions. Lisa, our yoga guru, said we essentially had two options: to hike to the Notre Dame de Beauvoir, a quaint chapel that overlooked the village from high above, or shop in town.
Never one to overlook a challenge, I secretly decided to do both. I speed shopped for 15 minutes, picking up dish towels and a fabulous olive wood plate (just 20 euros!), stopping to take photos in the picturesque town. The path that wound around the shopping area began to ascend, and so I mounted the wide steps up up up toward the chapel somewhere above.
By the time I saw David and Rebecca on the path, the skies had turned ominous. He said the others had turned around, fearing rain would prevent them from making it all the way up.
Given that we were 75% to the top, I wasn’t about to turn around.
We looked at the clouds nervously and trudged slowly up to the top where the chapel waited.
Great Chapel. Now What?
Honestly, the chapel wasn’t that amazing. In the style of chapels all over that part of France, it was austere to say the least. Stone walls. No paint or ornate gold gilding, save what was on the altar. Few statues.
While there was a sign indicating prices for lighting a candle for a loved one (a bit steep for such an out of the way spot, in my mind), there weren’t any matches. Boo.
After the requisite number of minutes we needed to spend there, we turned around and headed out the door.
For once I had come prepared. I’d been toting both my rain jacket and umbrella around, though I hadn’t used either so far in France. I took them out and put them to good use while David and Rebecca tried to dodge raindrops. Even with my protection, the descent was precarious, since the stones on the path had been worn by feet for centuries, and weren’t conducive for slippery conditions.
At one point, I stopped to marvel at the clouds rolling across the countryside. That view alone was worth the hike and wet return.
By the time we reached the meeting point in town, the rain had stopped. The streets were black and shiny, and we felt elated to have been blessed by the Virgin Mary herself while in her humble chapel!