Emily, my guest blogger, continues her stories of her time in Provence last Summer.
After a very long day of sight-seeing – climbing to the summit of numerous hilltop villages, exploring shops and art galleries, dining al fresco in the woods, and visiting a large village market en plein air – we were two weary travelers headed home to collapse with a glass of vin. As navigator, I was perusing the map when I noted something we’d missed. Mais alors! “Look,” I said, “we’re very close to Puyvert where there is a very old pigeon tower that sounds interesting. And it will be easy to find because the hamlet is tiny and the tower is tall.”
After looking everywhere in the minuscule town and the tower was no where to be seen, I approached a gentleman who was rooting in the trunk of his car to ask for directions. He pointed me toward the mairie, where I could pick up the key. Once there, I was told that I’d have to return after 5:30. As I headed back to the car ready to throw in the towel, the gentleman asked if I’d been successful and was enraged when I told him the details. He said to wait and then stormed off to the mairie. He returned momentarily – waving the key triumphantly – jumped into his car and said, “Follow me!”
We began driving rapidly along little winding roads, zipping through round-abouts and heading rather far afield from Puyvert. We stopped on a frontage road next to a main highway. He jumped from his car and waved at us to follow him. We walked up the road for some distance and being exhausted from the day’s activities, were glad to see him stop and thought we finally had arrived. The countryside was far below.
He pointed to a steep flight of stairs. Mon Dieu! After hauling ourselves up the stairs we were faced with an additional flight of very steep stairs, at the top of which we saw a rather nondescript building.
And then we entered. What a fascinating place! The tower was behind a locked, ironwork gate.
It was completely encircled with holes for nests – top to bottom – and featured an interesting double ladder that moved around the room on a circular track for harvesting eggs.
At the top of the tower, was a grate large enough for pigeons to come and go but too small for a human of any size to enter. Our new friend told us that for many centuries, only the monsignors were allowed to own pigeons. They sold both eggs and pigeon meat to those less fortunate. However, after the French Revolution, the edict was reversed and anyone could own pigeons. He told us that although it no longer was in use for the original purpose, this pigeonnier had been restored for posterity by students I probably missed some of the details because he spoke in French and sometimes I wasn’t exactly sure what he was saying. What I am sure of is that we never would have seen this interesting place had it not been for the kindness and generosity of a complete stranger.