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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ocher cliff, Rustrel

A mere 5 miles from Apt is the town of Rustrel. There is a large open area of ocher cliffs along with other similar minerals called Le Colorado. The person who named it Colorado just liked the name.

Woman in shadows.

The hotel that has wi-fi is across from the library, which sits above a large vaulted room containing a basin, into which a spring empties. People sit in here to take advantage of the wi-fi without buying a drink of food.

The one time I did it, I paid the price. I noticed that one table was looking at me and smiling at me more than my cheery demeanor warranted. Then I saw a tourist surreptitiously take my picture with a cell phone.

Needless to say, when I returned to Rose Cottage, I discovered that my fly was open.

Rose Cattage roses

I believe Rose Cottage gets it's name from some giant climbing roses to the right of the front door. They had been pruned back heavily by the time we got there in August.

These bushes, to the left of the door, were thriving. The roses in Provence are as healthy and beautiful as any place I have been.

Kitchen window, Rose Cottage

The light was lovely when I saw this one afternoon.

Church terrace, Saignon

This pattern of laying stones is everywhere in France, Italy and Switzerland. It leads your eye in several directions at once.

This is in front of the Romanesque church in Saignon.

Our humble abode

This is a strange building (?) halfway down the hill on our walk. It appears to be a huge berm with a exhaust stack and a submarine-like entrance. I sent this picture with e-mails telling people that this was our rental at only 500euro/week.

Nobody bought it.

Small house, Saignon

This is a small house at the mid-point of our daily walk. Sort of a microcosm of the area. A stone house, in a lavender field, with an olive tree,rosemary and thyme growing in front, across the road from a field of grapes and down the road from a cherry grove.

Rusty gate 3

I'll try to keep these far enough apart to avoid gate fatigue.

Front door, Rose Cottage

This the view out the front door at Rose Cottage. The hanging strings do keep most of the insects out and look very pretty, but when you are carrying groceries or a package, they will get caught in every angle. They took my glasses off twice.

The reward

The payoff for our walk in the afternoon is a stop at Auberge du Presbytere, the town's hotel. It has this beautiful open area under a large tree, next to the fountain. We'd have either a glass of rose or, depending on our wine intake at lunch, an Orangina.

We'd catch up on our e-mail here as they have very strong wi-fi.

Saignon walk

Here's Janie, leading me on our almost daily walk out of and back to Saignon. This is the easy, downhill section at the bottom of the hill. It winds by a large field, with rolls of hay and some of the biggest Lombardy poplars that I have seen, including Italy.

Cut melon, Apt market

This is how they display melons in the markets. They use the other half to provide samples to shoppers, a practice I can't but feel, would increase sales in U.S. markets.

Melons, Apt market

The smaller melons are Cavaillon melons, which are highly prized and taste like a cantaloupe. The larger on has a green flesh and just melts in your mouth.

We went the cliche route and wrapped Prosciutto around bits of the larger one. Heaven.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Graffiti, Apt

The graffiti here in Apt seems a little more artistic than in cities like Marseilles or New York. There is some marking but a lot of nice drawing/painting.

Betty and Minnie

I keep thinking that it will fade, but the French love of Betty Boop is evident year after year. Maybe it's just in Provence, but there are always clothes with her image in the windows.

Garlic and tomatoes, Apt market

The produce at the markets in September is incredible. There are numerous varieties of tomato, all at the peak of ripeness because they only travel a short way from vine to display.

We had some of these in gazpacho...wow.

Spices, Apt market

Another feast for the nose and eyes. This is a portion of the spice vendor's display. Besides single spices, each vendor has their own blends for meat, fish, eggs or vegetables.

We were talked into trying one guy's omelette blend. He told us to mix the blend into the beaten eggs and let them sit for at least 10 minutes. Then cook. I tried it the next morning and ooh-la-la it was good. Who would have thought of juniper berries in an omelet?

Needless to say, a large bag of the mixture is now here at home!

Olive vendor, Apt market

No pictures of a Provencale market are complete without one of the olive sellers. This one (one of three in the market) had 24 varieties of olives and numerous tapenades to boot. All different combinations of ripeness, herbs, spices. The smells alone were worth walking by for.

Garlic, Apt market

Our first visit to the Apt market. The garlic is so good here that I always want to bring a lot back, probably not a great idea.

Street scene, Saignon

This was on our way to our rental. We passed it ten times a day and I never got sick of looking up at this building. The flowers were changed just before we left.

Gravestone detail, Goult

Here is a small detail of on of the gravestones. Very precise work.

The nice thing is that there seems to be very little vandalism here.

We bought a beautiful ceramic grave marker for a grave here in Jacksonville Beach. It was stolen within a month.

Cemetery, Goult

The cemetery in Goult resembles most Provencale cemeteries with the trees being the major exception. A great majority of them are trimmed by a master.

The first time I went in I expected to see the White Rabbit scurrying by. It is otherworldly.

This is as unkempt as I've ever seen the trimming, usually razor-edged corners.

Window, Goult

This little statue has been on this window ledge for at least 5 years. I'm still not sure what it is but it always catches my eye.

It's on the second story.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Goult gentrification

These houses used to be just a little more uneven, funky and charming. I was told that it is mostly Dutch people who are doing the renovations here. Looks great but not as time weathered as before.

Shutters, Goult

Goult is being overtaken by a tiny bit of the gentrification that has swallowed Gordes. But the town seems to have more of a handle on it.

The Cafe de la Poste used to be a very local, funky bar/bistro/magazine stand and now seems to be more streamlined and chic. We were there twice, in and out of season and in the out of season visit was just as full with non-tourists.

I live at the beaches in Florida and love the out-of-season, as it's quieter and you see people you know. Then you welcome back the tourists and summer residents.

Doorway, Goult

This picture is just for me. Every time we have gone to The Luberon (Six, I believe) we have stopped in Goult. We even rented a house in Goult on one trip.

Every year I have photographed this doorway and vine. It is a touchstone for me.

A friend and fellow photographer, Jon Bailey, sent me some pictures, years ago, of his trip to Provence and included one of this door. I told him I had photographed it too and we exchanged prints, as he thought he'd taken his in Gordes. It was the same doorway. Good fun.

Gordes perfection

This is an example to illustrate the rant from the below post.

These walls are so perfect and square and level that they could be one piece. The stones on top even have lichen on them already.

The walls that these are patterned after, all over the Luberon countryside, have a lovely lack of symmetry that looks handmade.

But...it is beautiful stonework, done by a talented craftsman. You pays your money, you takes your choice.

Gordes

This is a picture of market day in Gordes. Gordes has always puzzled me. From the road as you approach the town, it is THE picture perfect Provencale hill town. Three of four levels of ancient stone houses stacked up a hillside with breathtaking views in three directions.

You park and walk up a long curving road into the town. You arrive into a large open square, filled with the weekly market on this day, and anticipate a wonderful day of sights.

Well, Gordes has been taken over by wave after wave of the rich and famous. I have walked around it twice and found it very hard to get to a place where you can see the views. Oddly for a Provencale town, all of the houses have their backs to you and walls erected to keep prying eyes away. It started with entertainment folk, Gerard Depardieu supposedly had a house here, and seems to have moved on to people who want a Disney-Provence experience. It's just that perfect look of too much money having been poured in. To me it's like an old car that has been restored to better condition than when it left the factory. Beautiful, but not really authentic.

Just one view, a lot of people love Gordes, and the market is nice because there is room around the displays.

Vines Saignon


This vine ,which seems to grow all over Saignon, seems like a close relative of a vine that thrives in our area of Florida, called Trumpet vine. Beautiful leaves, bright orange/red flowers and a fast pace of growth.

Too fast some say. It is seen as an invasive plant by many a gardener. Provence seems the perfect place for it as the winters there would prune it back.

This example covers a wall in Saignon and lights up the area.

The lower picture is of the French vine and the upper is a picture from the internet of the American plant called a trumpet vine.

Close but the leaves say it's not the same plant.

Rusty gate 2

Here is another view of the gate at the top of the hill in Saignon

Monday, September 27, 2010

First fig, Saignon

On our walks in the afternoon, out of town, down the hill, across the flats and back up the hill, we always stop at a wild fig tree and have on or two of the ripest ones. Here is the first of the visit.

Terrace, Solveig, Saignon

This is the terrace of Solveig, one of our favorite Saignon restaurants. The woman is seated on a stone bench with pillows under and behind her. We had our "Taste of Provence" menu seated here in the evening, and it was wonderful.

Guard dog, Casseneuve

This little rascal gave us one desultory bark and then watched us closely until we left.

Escargots

The snails appear in large numbers in the country. I have not figured out the rhyme or reason of where they gather. They love some fences, not others, some grasses, not their immediate neighbors. These are tiny and not the ones we eat.

Hens and chicks in a wall, Casseneuve

I love little details. In the middle of an ancient stone wall, someone had made a little hollow and put in a succulent plant that is thriving.

Window, Casseneuve

Casseneuve is one village over from Viens. It has a nice little poterie and, rumor has it, a wonderful restaurant, run by a Brazilian chef. He wasn't open on our two visits.

It is a more prosperous town, that looks across the valley to Saignon.

This window is in one of many buildings that have been substantially modernized.

Practical chair, Viens

I would love to go back and see who uses this chair. I should have taken a view from the chair, which is at a crossroad of two alleys.

Whoever set this up had to hack 1/3 of the back legs off to get a stable platform. I hope they come out in the early evening with a glass of Pastis and watch their neighborhood bustle around them.

Arrangement, Viens

Here is a little grouping somebody made in front of where they live. I have no idea how long it took for the arrangement to evolve nor how long it will stay this way, but it sure is fun.

Shutter and flowers, Viens

This is on one of the side streets in Viens. Very bright colors for the town.

Allee in Viens

This is the view down a little alley in Viens. The figure is painted on the wall and pops out at you.

View from Viens

The redeeming feature of Viens is the hiking trail on the hill in town. You walk out of town to a little overlook and look over a valley. Directly behind you is a little, narrow, steep staircase that seems to be melting into the hill. It's all loose and a little precarious. If you're nosy, like we were two years ago, you walk up the stairs and discover a narrow trail, mostly rock and loose pebbles, that winds up the outside of the hill. There are many different "textures" to the hike. At some points you are edging between tall scratchy weeds and the next you are near the edge of a seriously vertical drop then you're on flat ground through sparse woods and a bunch of houses.

The reward is a set of views overlooking the valley. Very pretty. Here is one of them.

Viens


This is a statue in Viens. Viens is a small town near Apt that looked like it would be a good place to spend the day, but disappointed us. It only has a couple of streets of interest and past experience has proven that the local restaurants are mediocre.

This statue fooled me this year. From a distance, in the dappled light it looked like a giant nose (A tribute to Charles DeGaulle?). Closer up it turned into a head.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Looking up Chez Christine

Sitting at Chez Christine in the afternoon is an anticipated pleasure that never disappoints. On a beautiful August day, with the first hints of Autumn in the air, I aimed up through this beautiful tree and saw this nice scene.

Through a garden in Saignon.

Small gardens delight me. I am a gardener and have a bad habit of buying plants with no place to plant them in my garden. I am blessed with a large yard, but not a lot of fully sunny spots.

Over here there a numerous small gardens that people have packed with plants, all in the right place as far orientation to the sun. Some day I will be this efficient.(Sure!) All gardens gather little details like the propellered arrow in the post. The view is down the hill to the West of Saignon.

Window Saignon

I love to wander around an area with which I think I'm familiar. I always find something new. The usual reason is that it's a different time of day and a different time of year and the light is different. Light is all in photography and the joy is in discovery.

This is a little side street in Saignon.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

One of the breathtaking little side walks in the Foret is out to a vantage point to see this natural arch. A camera flattens perspective a bit, but this is a huge hole in the side of the mountain. It's more amazing because the rock here is riddled with faults and cracks making the formation of an arch a bit more problematical.

I have a strong aversion to heights but had to get this picture, leaning on a bush about 3 feet from a big drop-off. It was worth it.

Foret des Cedres

As I wrote two years ago, this is one of our favorite places to go (three visits this trip), due to the wonderful walks and the reward of going to Buvette des Cedres for lunch.

These trees were brought over from N. Africa after a blight wiped out all of the native trees. It's a huge planting project that has been a resounding success. There is a beautiful, and very easy, walk along a paved/dirt road between trees. There are numerous little side paths that increase the adventure factor. On this visit Janie and I did mostly a straight walk to loosen up our legs, and one little side jaunt to see the arch in the post above.