The village is reached by sharp switchbacks angling up to the crown of a huge red mound of ochre mined from Roman years until 1947, when the French protected it for ecological reasons. It looks like the American Southwest, cliffs and dry brush and views reaching for miles all around. The couple take in an elegant lunch – cassouleta ravioli for Alice, neatly-fried fish for Steven. The waitress takes pity on Steven’s poor ear for French and helps Alice avoid the carpaccio (raw beef). The deck overlooks a sunny valley, and the constant wind blows stiff, whisking away napkins and even heavy crumbs of bread. Alice has her fourteenth dessert of the trip (profiteroles).
The village has winding streets and medieval-era buildings, and survives now on tourism. The bells ring every half-hour, echoing over the valley. Vineyards and farmland roll up from the mountains all the way up to the base of the village cliffs. Husband and wife cannot shake the impression of the Wild West.
The couple walk along nooks and crannies of the village – a medieval staircase here, a 16th-c. alleyway there. Cats slink in the shadows, dusty and matted, but well-fed.
Samuel Beckett hid out in the village during WWII in a nondescript house across from a school. He mentions the town within his landmark play “Waiting for Godot” – a play no one would ever like unless they were a pretentious literary person in college. Steven was; Alice wasn’t.
Alice and Steven walk a nature path through the dug-out deposits of ochre. The rocks look painted – so much so you can’t tell the firs are real until the wind begins to shake them and separate them from the geological graffiti behind.
The drive home brings a rainstorm. The drops are the size of half-dollars on the windshield; the wipers can barely keep up. And, at one particular moment, a rainbow appears off the side of the highway. It’s the most vivid either one of the newlyweds has ever seen. The end of the literal rainbow is clear – it ends at a garage on the edge of a small French farming village. They don’t pull off the highway, because Steven wouldn’t know exactly how to threaten a leprechaun in French to make good with the gold. The rain gives way to a beautiful sunset.