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Friday, November 14, 2008

Tips for viewing.

Not being the most ahead-thinking person in the world, I am going through my photos from the trip from first day to last. Each little segment is done the same way, start to finish. Of course, on the blog you see them finish to start. Were I more organized I would plan each part ahead of time; but I tend to come to my computer and just plough ahead. So....it might be a good idea for you,poor viewer, to do the heavy lifting and go to the beginning of each little section and read them from the bottom up.

The top!


We made it to the top after about a 45 minute climb. As you can see the rock falls away on all sides affording an incredible view everywhere you turn.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Field


We hit an area of gently sloping fields on our way up. We walked through a cherry orchard and came out in this field. I went to get a picture of the little white flowers and found that every little stalk of grass that would support one had a snail on it. They were tiny and white, so there were no hand-picked escargots for dinner.

The base.


We came to a rare thing, for me. This is the base of the cliff, just rising from earth. The only place I've seen that compares, on a much grander scale, are The Grand Tetons from the East. They just seem to rise out of a wheat field.

The ascent


I hope this picture gives a feeling of the steepness of the climb to the flat top of the cliffs. The French, in their perversity, make sure that all of their steep paths are covered with loose rock or gravel. If you want to build up your climbing legs, Provence is the place to do it.

The Cliffs


This should give a little more perspective on the size of these cliffs. The amazing part of them is that they are free-standing. They aren't foot hills of a range. They are just a huge lump in the middle of the Luberon valley.

Our transport


I always like to show our rental. This is a VW Polo. It's one size down from a Golf/Rabbit. In the 70s I owned an original Rabbit and this is bigger than that. It's a diesel, as most small cars in Europe are. It sat 4 people comfortably for day trips, had plenty of low-end torque and, if my fading math skills are to be trusted, got 58 mpg. We were in Provence for 16 days and, when I filled up for the first and only time the day before returning the car, it only took half a tank. We only drove it every other day as Harvey and Carol had a nice Ford rental.

The Madeleine Cliffs


We walked about 100 yards from the picture below and got our first view of our walk. Yikes! It really was imposing. We have all learned that these walks always look harder than they end up being; but this was big. I cannot imagine living below something that big.

Town square, Lioux


This is the lovely pastoral square in the town of Lioux. Harvey had done a lot of research before our trip to find walks we could do in half a day or so. He found the website of an English family that lived in Provence for some time and did a lot of hiking. This was our first. Lioux is a nice, unpretentious Provencal town. There are no real attractions so it is not overrun with tourists. The draw for us was a huge granite massif that hung over the town. These are called the Madeleine cliffs. They are 100m high (330 ft.) and run, so they say for a kilometer. Based on our walk I'd guess that the height is right but that the cliffs run quite a bit longer than 6/10 of a mile. Mt pedometer had our walk at 4 miles in total.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Scarves, Coustellet


In the crafts area we found these scarves being sold. They are not locally made, they're from India. But they were beautiful and I got Janie a couple of them.

Bread line


Across the street from the farmer's market is whole other market. There are artists, craftspeople and prepared food. The best rotisserie chicken is sold here and the best olives. This is a bakery that always has a line on market day. We now know why. The baguettes are much better than most bakeries, which seem, sadly, to be more and more alike. These were chewy and delicious.

Tiny potatoes


We couldn't believe these potatoes. The ones on the right are what I have always thought were small potatoes, about the size of a ping-pong ball. The ones on the left were the size of grapes. We had to buy some. They cooked in a very short time and were very good in olive oil and garlic. (Well, what isn't?)

Garlic


This is where we bought our garlic. As you can see, the earth is still on the bulbs. As expected, it was very good garlic.

Peppers


These are the peppers mentioned in the post below.

Janie and the peppers


Last year when we went to the Coustellet market, we foung these wonderful little peppers. We took them to our house and grilled them. They were one of the best things we had last year and particular favorites of Janie's. So this year when we went back she had high hopes and here is the result. We didn't have a working grill but they sauteed up beautifully.

Street band, Coustellet


We went to the town of Coustellet on our first Sunday in Provence. They have a farmer's market there on Sunday with wonderful produce, fresh off the farm. The vendors have the look of farmers everywhere, weather worn faces and great pride in what they've grown. And the market gives them a chance to catch up with all of the other farmers and friends. This small band was playing where you walk into the market.

Heaven in Provence


A long day of walking, a nice lunch, some shopping, more walking, back to Saignon, a stop at Christine's...She still has almond tartes!!!! It doesn't get much better than this.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Auberge and square


This is the hotel that we stay in the night we arrive every year. A wonderful place to spend a night. The rooms are the opposite of the facade. Very modern and seemingly carved out of rock, with beautiful bathrooms and views of the street. The courtyard/square is where I went every afternoon to connect to their wi-fi and have a glass of wine.

Entering Saignon


Once you have parked in the municipal lot in Saignon, you walk by the church and down the hill. This is your first view of the town. At the bottom left is a man who lives in the building behind him. He has a beautiful dog and spends a lot of time with him out in front of his house. He is always in Christine's in the morning, reading Le Provencal and commenting on the news. He fills out his lottery ticket each day by asking Christine or her daughter for numbers.

At various times during our stay he was weaving lavander sachets shaped like little bolos or, at one of the small fountains in town, washing buckets of mushrooms that he had collected that day. The white signs on the door say Photos Interdit! which means he doesn't want to be photographed. After I read the sign I took no more pictures of him. The woman by the red sign is Christine herself, a delightful woman and supplier of those pastries!

The gentleman in the foreground is, apparantly, the town pest, who goes around pointing at trees and mumbling in a foreign tongue.

Doorway


As I've said before, people in these small towns like to decorate their doorways. This door is right on a street in Saignon and cars go by often, about two feet from the pots. But it's a delightful little arrangement and makes the street so much friendlier to walk down.

Saignon Church


This is a late afternoon picture of the Romanesque church in Saignon. It is cleverly placed to catch the last light of the day in Saignon. It is beautiful inside. We witnessed a wedding there during our stay, and watched a classical/pops concert by a German youth band on our last night there.

Our front door


This is the front door of our little rental. Three stories of bliss. You walk right into the living room and the kitchen is beyond. Upstairs are three comfortable bedrooms. It is no longer A Vendre. Thank you Henrietta

Weed vine


These vines were all over the place. I am assuming they are weeds as they show up on roadsides all over Provence. I have seen some that were obviously cultivated too. These flowers remind me of the atom a little.

Side street


This is a little courtyard on a side street in Saignon. Charming, and the town is full of them.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Thistles


Just a few feet past the last picture, I came upon these thistles, about to bloom. Beautiful form but not much fun to touch. Don't ask how I found that out.

Weeds


These little thistle-like flowers come out in the Fall and are on every roadside in the country. Up close they are many beautiful shades of blue.

Roadside, Saignon


On my second day I headed off on my favorite walk, out of Saignon and down a long hill, around on a road by the house that we rented last year, and back up to town. About 3 1/2 miles,and pretty views the whole way. Plus it's good exercise. I love rural roadsides and have great fondness for weeds. They're tough and often beautiful. They just aren't of much use to us so we call them weeds. On the way down the hill I saw these berries intertwined with a vine that was covered in seed heads that looked like cotton. Later in the trip, my wife pointed out that the "berries" were rose hips. The roads were lined with wild roses, the ultimate weed. As someone who struggles to get roses to survive in Florida's heat and humidity, I should have recognized them. There are a lot of shots of these coming up so be prepared.

Roots in Saignon


There is a wall on a side street that is entirely covered by these roots, coming down from an ivy-like plant. The wall is covered in a 6 by 10 foot area. This closeup makes it look as if Jackson Pollack had a hand in their training.