Friday, September 24, 2021

A Little Family Mystery about Le Barroux Resolved

Who doesn't love a good family mystery? 

My father Daniel Augsburger was born in Switzerland. His mother was French and at a young age, the family moved to the South of France. He came to the United States in 1939, just prior to World War II for college and pursue graduate degrees at the University of Michigan. 

Long story short, he never returned to live in France, met my mother Joyce at the University of Michigan and was offered an opportunity to teach, first at the University of Michigan then at Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University in Berrien Spring, Michigan.

I was lucky over the years as my father and mother along with sister Lydie and brother Dan traveled to Europe as money permitted to visit my father's family living in France and Switzerland. So we got to know our aunt's, uncles, cousins and some other extended family members.

I have looked at dad's Kodak slides and picture albums that record our trips to France and Switzerland many times over the years. A few years ago, my brother sent me CDs with pictures my father or someone else had taken of him and his family and some of he and mom at their wedding near Geneva, Switzerland. 

I learned from cousins back in 2014 that our grandfather had owned a house in Le Barroux, I am not sure if I ever saw the picture below before we bought our house in Sablet but it immediately caught my eye when I saw it on the CD because it was in a town called Le Barroux


Image of Road Sign and House found on Augsburger CD

If I had seen the picture before, it wouldn't have meant anything to me because Le Barroux could have been anywhere in France or French-speaking Switzerland as far as I was concerned. However, since we have gotten to know the area around Sablet, I know Le Barroux is a small village (population 629 in 2017) set on a hill topped by a large 12th century castle just 13 miles from Sablet. 

Le Barroux Castle

We come to Le Barroux from time to time to hike around the village and to visit Sainte Madeleine du Barroux Abbey located outside of town. We also come to buy locally grown saffron as I told you about here. So when I saw the picture on the CD I was excited to confirm that my grandfather owned a house so close to our village and I like to think that my father probably spent time in the area. 

Sainte Madeleine du Barroux

The Le Barroux castle was built to oppose Saracen and Italian incursions and went through major rebuilding in the 16th and 17th centuries. The castle was damaged during the French revolution, was repaired in 1929 with private funds, set on fire by German occupation forces in 1944 as reprisal for acts of resistance, and restored again in 1960.

Le Barroux Castle

After failing to find the house back when we first tried in 2014, I was eager to try again with the picture of the road sign from the CD as my guide to the property. So on October 6, 2018, with my cousins Jean Marc and Christine in tow, we headed off for Le Barroux to find the house or what was left of it. 

We arrived in Le Barroux and parked in the center of the village. We confidently walked up to the first person we encountered, a man walking on the street, who confirmed he lived in Le Barroux so told him what we were doing and showed him our picture. 

We were disappointed when he said he didn't know the village that well and these roads nor house looked familiar to him. He suggested we go see a lady who lived close by that he knew walks all over Le Barroux, maybe she would know where the house was located?

We knocked on her door and she opened. We explained to her what we were trying to find and why and showed her my picture. Turns out, she was born in the same town in Switzerland as my dad. She said she had an idea where these roads crossed and invited us in. She led us to her computer and pulled up maps of the area and pointed out where she thought it was and gave us some general directions.

We figured out if she was right that the house was out in the direction of the saffron farm we had previously visited. After a couple of wrong turns and ending up on a very little road, we found the sign for Chemin Aqueduc and Chemin De Bois Long. As I said it was a very little road and more like a path which is in fact the English translation for "chemin".

Matching Road Sign

From the junction where we stopped we could see a house that matched the one in the picture on the CD. Backed up to a forested area and vineyards all the way around the rest of the property, we could imagine why the property appealed to my grandfather. No one was around and it was hard to tell if the property was still inhabited or not.  

Le Barroux House



Le Barroux House

While we were standing there chatting about the area and house, a car drove up, it was our new Swiss friend from Le Barroux who had driven out to see if she was right about the location of the roads. 

Happy Cousins with Le Barroux House in Distance

This past July 27, Shirley and I drove to Le Barroux to see if we could find the property again. Shirley was quite sure she could, I didn't really have a clue besides being near L'Aube Safran. Thankfully, Shirley was right, she says women are better with directions because they have a uterus homing device to find things.

One of the crossroads is called "Chemin Aqueduct" so I assumed that if we follow the path we might come across an old aqueduct. Sure enough, after a walk down a dirt path off the main "Chemin Aqueduc" path, we found the remains of an aqueduct. 

Le Barroux Aqueduct

This was the remainder of an aqueduct built around 1840 by the Commune of Le Barroux. Le Barroux lacked water and the Commune built a 4 km long canal and this aqueduct to bring water from a spring near St Andeol. Only one arch remains, the aqueduct is unusual in that the canal rests on a circle rather than pillars. 

Le Barroux Aqueduct

I am happy this mystery is solved. I still hope to find some family member who can tell me when grandfather bought the property, if there was a particular reason why he bought here and how long he owned it. I would love to know for sure if dad spent time at this house. I assume yes since he had this photograph in his very large collection of family pictures.

If you are thinking about a trip to the South of France including spending time in Provence, we invite you to visit our website. Our house is available for rent by the week or more. We still have weeks open in November and through the end of the year and in 2022 and beyond. You can reach me for further information by sending an email to chcmichel@aol.com. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Let's Go to the Market in Vaison-la-Romaine

We look forward to Tuesday mornings because it is the day for the weekly market in Vaison-la-Romaine. That morning, rain or shine, always finds us leaving the house early for the trip to Vaison-la-Romaine. A trip to a market, especially this market in Vaison-la-Romaine is my favorite thing to do. 

Vaison-la-Romaine is 6 miles north of Sablet on a winding road and then left around the round-about across the Ouvèze River. You know you are close when you see the castle on the top of the hill.

Medieval Castle of the Counts of Toulouse that stands over Vaison-la-Romaine

After we park our car near the Notre Dame de Nazareth Cathedral, we head toward the market and past some of the Roman ruins that are in Vaison-la-Romaine. 

The Roman ruins lie in the valley on the right bank of the Ouvèze River in two main areas: La Villasse and Puymin. Some of the ruins of La Villasse are shown in the two pictures that follow.






The weekly market is a kaleidoscope of colors and smells of Provence with up to 450 vendors in the summer (pottery, arts and crafts, food stalls of all kinds, local fruits and vegetables, linens, soap, regional specialties, clothing) and spreads out over Place Montfort, the main square in the center of town and nearby streets.

Most of the fish, meat, cheese, fruit and vegetable sellers set up their stands on Cours Taulignan or on one of the cross streets. The market is an ancient tradition dating all the way back to 1483.

Most of the food stalls are located on Cours Taulignan in Vaison la Romaine


Vendor selling individual heads and braids of garlic from Piolenc


Apricots from the Department of the Drôme


Summer truffles and dried Cepes (Porcini mushrooms)


Stone fruit including peaches, nectarines, apricots and plums


A vendor selling paella to go

After we finish our morning shopping, me for fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese and fish, and Shirley for soap, pottery, linens, and souvenirs, we gather for coffee with friends at one of the cafes that line Place Montfort.

Cafes lining Place Montfort

Vaison-la-Romaine is separated by the Ouvèze River into two parts connected by a bridge built by the Romans in the 1st century AD; on the left bank is the old medieval town with the Castle of the Counts of Toulouse at the highest point and on the right bank is the ancient Roman colony and modern town.

Roman Bridge that links the lower town and upper town in Vaison-la-Romaine


Classic Renault Car parked next to us

If you are thinking about a trip to the South of France including spending time in Provence, we invite you to visit our website. Our house is available for rent by the week or more. We still have weeks open in November and through the end of the year and in 2022 and beyond. You can reach me for further information by sending an email to chcmichel@aol.com.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Walk Around Beautiful Historical Avignon

We went to Avignon so Shirley could shop so I took the opportunity to walk around and see what was new or different after our long absence.

One of the first things I noticed, this was the first time in a long time that the Opera - Theater of Avignon didn't look like there was reconstruction taking place.

Opera - Theater of Avignon

 The Opera - Theater of Avignon is located near the Pope's Palace on Place de l'Horloge. Built in 1825, it was rebuilt in 1847 after a fire. The Opera - Theater offers music, dance, theater and opera performances throughout the year.

The Pope's Palace is a historical palace in Avignon, one of the largest and most important Medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. One time fortress and palace, the papal residence was the seat of Western Christianity during the 14th century. Six papal conclaves were held in the Palace, leading to the elections of Benedict XII in 1334, Clement VI in 1342, Innocent VI in 1352, Urban V in 1362, Gregory XI in 1370 and Antipope Benedict XIII in 1394.

Pope's Palace

Next to the Opera - Theater of Avignon on Place de l'Horloge is the neo-classical town hall known as the Hotel de Ville built in the 19th century as a replacement for an older building.

Hotel de Ville

Only the 14th century clock tower remains from the original structure. The Gothic clock tower which gave the square its name was incorporated into the construction of the later Hotel de Ville.

Bell tower of Hotel de Ville

The bell tower of Basilique Saint-Pierre Church seen below is a 14th century Gothic Church in the middle of Avignon. The current church was built over a 3 year and 4 month's period and consecrated on 20 September 1359. It stands on the site of a much older church which may date back to the 7th century though the first texts mentioning the church date back to 1068.

Basilique Saint-Pierre Church

If you are looking for crepes, several good creperies are located on a shady square by Basilique Saint-Pierre Curch. If you are with kids who might not enjoy sitting through a multi-course meal, we recommend Creperie La Flourdiliz.

Creperies near Basilique Saint-Pierre Church

As our scheduled time to meet up with Shirley arrived, I headed to Place de l'Hotel and La Fourchette restaurant a few steps away. More about our meal there in a post to come.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Petit Dejeuner (Breakfast) in Sablet

This is living! Breakfast on the terrace in Sablet. Baguette so fresh and hot out of oven from Festival Des Pains it was hard to hold. Nutella, lavender honey and butter from Normandy secured from Chez Mimi et Alain in Sablet and cheese (Banon and Roquefort) from Lou Canesteou in Vaison-la-Romaine. 

Breakfast in Sablet

Life slows down for us when we are in Sablet. So grateful we can be here.

If you are thinking about a trip to Provence, we invite you to visit our website. Our house is available for rent by the week or more. You can reach us by sending an email to me.

Sunflowers in Provence.

As soon as we finished our drive around the lavender fields we started hunting for sunflowers, called tournesol in French

You may not be aware that despite the fact that you find postcards,  photos and paintings of sunflowers all over Provence, they are actually native to the Americas. Sunflower seeds were brought to Europe by Spaniards in the 16th century where sunflower oil became a widespread cooking ingredient.

Sunflowers have rough, hairy stems, and what most people call the flower on a mature sunflower is a flower head of numerous small flowers crowded together. The outer flowers are sterile and the flowers inside the circular head mature into seeds from which oil is extracted. 

Sunflowers

Sunflowers generally grow to between 5 and 12 feet tall and bloom from late June to the end of July with harvest occuring at the beginning of August. 

Sunflower field near Jonquiere

A common misconception is that sunflowers track the sun. In fact mature sunflowers typically face east and do not move. The leaves and buds of young sunflowers do change their orientation from east to west during the course of the day; once mature the movements stop.

Sunflower field near Mornas

You may not know that the Jerusalem artichoke also called sunchoke and topinambour, is a type of sunflower. It is cultivated in temperate zone for its tuber, which is used as root vegetable and delicious roasted or in soup.

Sunflower field near Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Its hard to not pull over to take pictures when you come upon a field of sunflowers. Sunflowers give off a sense of happiness, like little suns shining on a perfect summer day.

Sunflower field near Courthézon

If you are in Provence during July, make sure you stop and snap a picture or two of yourself in one of the sunflower fields you will surely pass by.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

A Provencal Lunch at Le Girocèdre Restaurant in Puymeras

Puyméras is a small village on a hill a few km northeast of Vaison-la-Romaine at the northern tip of the Vaucluse near the border of the Department of the Drome. 

When you approach Puyméras coming from Vaison-la-Romaine, the village is visible on the hill surrounded by homes, vineyards and lavender fields. 

There are quite a few good restaurants near Sablet. We come to Puyméras to dine at Le Girocèdre Restaurant because they serve very traditional, in our opinion, Provençal food and there are always good fish and vegetarian options for Shirley. 

We usually find parking across the street from the village fountain and lavoir and if not there, a little further down the hill in a small grassy lot reserved for clients of the restaurant. 

We walk a short distance up the hill as if we were heading to Saint-Michel et Saint-Barthélemy Church, to reach the entrance to Le Girocèdre Restaurant. 

Le Girocèdre Restaurant is owned by the Trappo family. Father Roger, originally from Marseille, arrived in Puyméras in 1977. The name Girocèdre is a combination of 3 first names; his wife Gisèle, born about 9 km away as the crow flies in Veaux, Roger and their son Cédric, who is a native of the area. 

Diners are seated outdoors except during inclement weather or when temperatures drop before the restaurant closes for the winter break.

We were seated at a well-spaced table under a very large Tilleul tree. The daily menu is presented on blackboards. On weekends, the menu is a-la-carte.

For entrée (starter), Shirley chose a goat cheese and raw vegetables and salad plate. 

I chose one of my favorites entrées at Le Girocèdre Restaurant, a small cocotte of ravioles with a Morel mushroom sauce. Delicious!

For plat (main course) we both chose Cabillaud with seafood reduction served in a small pot with quinoa, tomato Provencal, roasted baby aubergine and ratatouille. 

For dessert, despite some fancier dessert offerings such as apricot clafoutis, we both chose a couple scoops of ice cream. 

We were so happy to see that nothing has changed during our long absence from Sablet due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Le Girocèdre Restaurant is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. 

We recommend that you make reservations. At the present time, the restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesday for lunch. 

Le Girocèdre Restaurant 
Rue Portolet 
84110 Puyméras 
Tel: +33 (0) 4 90 46 50 67
web: https://www.legirocedre.fr

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Hunt for Lavender Fields

As I told you in my previous post about my favorite things in Provence, one of them is finding purple fields of lavender under a brilliant blue summer sky. So of course, our first outing after arriving back in Sablet after our long absence due to the pandemic, was to go to Sault to see if we could find lavender fields that had not been cut. 

From previous visits, we know that the town of Sault is famous for its many fields of lavender spread around the town. The town spreads out along a ridge above lavender fields in the north-east part of the Vaucluse department about one hour from Sablet. The name Sault comes from "Saltus" referring to the forests that covered the area.


Sault

Sault is know for its lavender festival held every year on the 15th of August where games, competitions, or any activities that have to do with lavender, are held. 


War Memorial in Sault


Center of Sault

The area around Sault is also home to many fields of spelt, the ancient form of wheat grown by the Gauls and now popular with chefs and highly appreciated for its nutritional value and taste.

Church of Notre Dame de la Tour in Sault.

Sault is also popular with cyclists because of its proximity to Mont Ventoux. The climb from Sault is considered to be the easiest route to the top of Mont Ventoux with an average gradient of 4.4%.


View of Patchwork of Lavender Fields near Sault

We were worried that because harvest starts mid-July that we might have missed the lavender season for this year. But fortunately as you can see in the pictures which follow, we found plenty of lavender. 


Lavender Field 


Lavender Field


Lavender Field


Lavender Field

Aurel is a perched village between Sablet and Sault with a joined 12th century church and 13th century chateau at the top of the village. There are also a lot of lavender fields around Aurel. 


Aurel


Lavender Field near Jonquières


Mont Ventoux from the Road to Sault