Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sablet and its Church and Chapels

The first thing you notice about Sablet as you approach the village by car, riding a bicycle or walking day or night is the bell tower of Église St Nazaire - Church St Nazaire, standing erect over the village like a beacon marking the position of Sablet in the countryside for travelers.

During the Middle Ages, Sablet was under the control of the Holy See (the Pope) and unlike many other villages in the surrounding area, it was never under the control of feudal lords, so there is no château - castle at the top of the village.

At that time, the Roman Catholic Church was the law making and administrative authority for the area. In 1577 the village was taken over by Calvinists and the Pope appointed a governor to oversee the village until the end of the religious war.

Sablet in the distance with its "beacon" below the Dentelles de Montmirail.

Église St Nazaire - Church St Nazaire was built in the 12th century and is situated at the highest point in the village. The adjoining bell tower can be seen from miles around.

There is a pretty garden area which surrounds the church.

In addition to the church, there are two chapels in Sablet. The 15th century Chapelle St Nazaire - Chapel of St Nazaire (as distinct from the Church of St Nazaire) can be found at the entrance to the village at the cemetery. The Chapel is the home of many art exhibitions each year.

The village cemetery behind Chapelle St Nazaire with Séguret in the distance.

In 1721, the area was ravaged by the plague but Sablet was untouched. The grateful villagers built Chapelle St Roch - Chapel St Roch and dedicated it to the saint whom they credited with having saved the village.

Chapelle St Roch is located near the Tabac Presse - news stand where the chemin - path to Séguret begins. I see the chapel every morning when I walk to the news stand to buy the International Herald Tribune.

Chapelle St Roch is a functioning church and mass is held there every 15 days.

The bell tower of Église St Nazaire is illuminated at night. The bells ring hourly from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM.

We pause as we walk past the lighted bell tower to marvel at its face on our way home after aperitifs with friends or dinner out in an area restaurant.

Bonne journée et a bientot.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Family Lunch at Chez Serge in Carpentras

We have been planning and looking forward to our time in Sablet with our children and grandchildren for more than one year. I knew before we left that we would spend time shopping for kids clothes come rain or shine or snow. As some of you know, wife Shirley and daughters Tricia and Stephanie love French kids clothes.

I also knew that being such a large group, ten in all, 6 adults and 4 kids ranging in age from 4 years down to 7 weeks that it would not be practical to eat many meals in restaurants during our séjour in Sablet. I figured we would be eating most meals at home and any restaurants we ate in would have to be sort of kid friendly and moderately priced.

First thing one morning, a day or two after we got to Sablet, Shirley told me that she and the daughters wanted to shop in Carpentras. By the time everyone was dressed, petit déjeuners - breakfasts, were eaten and clean up done, it looked like stores would probably be closed for lunch by the time we got to Carpentras.

So our choices were eat lunch at home and go afterwards or go to Carpentras and eat lunch in a restaurant. Shirley and I have enjoyed several simple lunches at a restaurant called Chez Serge after the Friday morning market for a very modest price. So we decided that we would go to Carpentras and eat there.

Chez Serge is located in Carpentras about 25 minutes from Sablet on rue Cottier just off of Avenue Jean Jaurès, one of the major roads that together make a ring around the center of Carpentras and very near where a major section of the Friday morning market is set up.

As you can imagine, the not so secret to enjoying lunch in a restaurant with a large group including four small children entails a fair amount of patience and attention from the adults so the little ones stay occupied and quiet while you wait to order and then wait again for food.

Dining with small kids is also more enjoyable if you have a genial restaurant host and thoughtful staff which Serge Ghoukassian and his staff are. This is in marked contract with our experience with an Avignon restaurant the next day. The pictures which follow are snap shots of our lunch at Chez Serge.

Son-in-law Earl Pasamonte and daughter Stephanie with baby Madison and Dylan outside of Chez Serge.

Daughter Tricia with Avery waiting patiently for lunch.

Tricia's husband Alvin and Caedon looking at pictures on Alvin's camera while they wait for lunch.

Son-in-law Earl Pasamonte and baby Madison.

Shirley enjoying a good hearty laugh.

Baby Madison sleeping peacefully while we enjoy our lunch and time together.

Daughter Stephanie and son Dylan waiting for lunch to be brought to the table.

Now for the food; the adults ordered the 3 course "formule du midi" offered Monday through Friday for 15 Euros. We ordered three cheese pizzas for the kids, one would have been large enough for them to share. We selected a bottle of the 2008 Domaine Beaurengard Côtes du Rhône off the extensive wine list to accompany lunch.

Starter choices for the "formule du midi" were chèvre in a beggar's purse with greens or

cream of zucchini soup. Avery and Dylan tasted the soup and liked it so much we ordered a portion for both of them.

Choices for main course for the "formule du midi" were a beef fillet with mashed potatoes and a yummy creamy peppercorn sauce or

or cod fillet with mashed potatoes and a beurre blanc sauce.

Dessert choices were an apple tart or

molten chocolate cake with a raspberry sauce.

Chez Serge was a very good choice for lunch. We love having our children and grandchildren with us and showing them around the area. After lunch the ladies headed out to shop and the boys took the kids to ride the carousel.

Bonne journée et a bientôt.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Roundabouts - Vaison-la-Romaine

We like the roundabouts in the Vaucluse. Many are beautifully landscaped, have some type of art form in the center of the roundabout or reflect something about the town or village where they are located. For the past few weeks, I have been posting pictures of different roundabouts in the Vaucluse. Today's roundabouts are in and around Vaison-la-Romaine.

Vaison-la-Romaine is ten kms north of where we live in Sablet and sits along the Ouvèze river which divides the town into two parts which are connected by a single arch Roman Bridge which has been used daily for more than 2000 years.

The medieval town or Haut Ville sits south of the Ouvèze river on a high rock beneath the ruins of the castle of the Counts of Toulouse. There are narrow cobblestone streets, small squares, and beautiful fountains in addition to the castle.

The main part of the town sits north of the Ouvèze river. There are shaded squares lined with terrace restaurants, shops of all kind, parking, and extensive Roman ruins. On Tuesday mornings, there is a wonderful market that spreads through the town that should not be missed.

There are four unique roundabouts in Vaison-la-Romaine. The first roundabout is located where the D 977 arrives in Vaison-la-Romaine near the Pont Neuf. I am not sure what this art form represents but it reminds me of the symbol for a treble clef key.

This roundabout with its symbolic Roman ruins is located on the north side of Vaison-la-Romaine where we pass through the roundabout on the way to shop at the Intermarché.

You will find this roundabout with its beautiful olive tree as you get to Vaison-la-Romaine on the D 975 road coming from the village of Roaix.

This roundabout can be found near where the Route de Villedieu and the D 975 come together on the north side of Vaison-la-Romaine. I am not sure what this art form depicts. For awhile I thought it was sculpted evergreen but I now I think it is poured concrete.

Check back to see other roundabouts that catch my eye in the Vaucluse. I will post these between my usual posts about our dining experiences, visits to interesting places and reflections on life in Provence.

Bonne journée et a bientôt

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Marché de Noël, Avignon

I have not spent Christmas or New Years in France since we lived in Strasbourg when my father was a doctoral student at the Université de Strasbourg more years ago than I like to admit. I remember Strasbourg as a magical place during the Christmas season.

So I have been looking forward to seeing and experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of the holidays in the Vaucluse, the region in Provence where our home in Sablet is located.

As you know, we have our children and grandchildren with us so all of our activities are planned around what Avery (4 years), Dylan (3 years), Caedon (2 years) and Madison (7 weeks) will enjoy or at least will not be out of place plus we have to plan for meals and nap times.

An obvious choice was to go to the Marché de Noël - Christmas Market in Avignon. Since we are 10 in all (6 adults and 4 children), we have two cars and drive in caravan everywhere we go. As you can imagine, it is quite an ordeal to pack bags for two moms with diapers, wipes, drinks, snacks, toys and other miscellaneous items for 4 kids and then get them buckled into car seats.

The Avignon Christmas Market is set up in Place de l'Horloge, the center of activity in Avignon near the Palais des Papes. We parked in the garage at Les Halles market, a covered market with about 40 vendors that is open every day except Monday, a short distance from the Place de l'Horloge.

The Christmas Market is a collection of small white shops set up by the city of Avignon in front of the Hotel de Ville. Vendors offer Christmas decorations, gifts, regional foods and artisan's products plus vin chaud, a warm spicy red mulled wine. We wandered around the shops, tried the vin chaud and bought a variety of Christmas ornaments for our Christmas tree.

This scene of bears sitting in the snow delighted the little ones as we walked into the Christmas market.

The kids were very excited to see the big carousel with the horses going round and round and immediately ran toward it asking "can we go?"

They showed their pleasure at riding the horses on the carousel with such vigor that papa couldn't resist paying for them to go around a second time.

The City of Avignon sets up a traditional Provençal crèche with santons (Provençal: "little saint") in the Hotel de Ville every year. A santon is a small hand-painted, terracotta nativity scene figurine produced by artisans in workshops in Provence. The santons represent various characters from Provençal village life such as the baker, the winemaker, and the farmer wife with eggs.

The crèche in the Hotel de Ville was set up by the Marcel Carbonel workshop in Marseille. It shows an imaginary landscape decorated with Provençal villages, fields and hills and includes more than 500 santons.

The crèche in the Avignon Hotel de Ville is large, nearly 600 square feet. The five pictures which follow show the crèche from left to right.

Along side the crèche in the Hotel de Ville, there is a Table Calendale - Christmas Table set up with the thirteen desserts which are the traditional Christmas dessert in Provence. The Christmas supper ends with 13 dessert items, representing Jesus Christ and the 12 apostles.

Enjoy! A bientot.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year and best wishes to my readers and fellow bloggers for a healthy, happy and prosperous 2011. As you know, we are in Sablet for the holidays. Our four grandkids are having a hard time, much harder than I thought they would, adjusting to the 9 hour time difference between California and Sablet. So the parents and we grandparents, are not getting much sleep.

So as you can imagine, life has been quite hectic since we arrived in Sablet, with tears here and there from tired and over stimulated children. We have visited Carpentras, Avignon, Vaison-la-Romaine, Séguret and Châteauneuf du Pape and this has given the grandkids a chance to run around and burn off some steam. More about these outings in future posts.

Last night, we finally had that fondue I have been dreaming about for several weeks. I decided to include several components of David Lebovitz's recipe in his post Making Swiss Cheese Fondue that I have not done before. The changes were finely diced fresh garlic instead of whole cloves and a 50/50 mix of Gruyère and Vacherin Fribourgeois cheese, both purchased from Josiane Deal at Lou Canesteou in Vaison-la-Romaine. We all agreed this was the best fondue we have had.

We had a nice green salad with a vinaigrette made by daughter Tricia and a Domaine de la Charbonniere Châteauneuf du Pape to accompany the fondue. We had steamed broccoli for Daughter Stephanie.

I wish you a year full of wonderful food and wine and good times with loved ones and friends. Thank you for reading my blog. I enjoy your comments and I look forward to chattng with you more during 2011. Gros bisous.