Saturday, March 31, 2012

Visitors to Sablet

Our little village and the surrounding area receive many visitors throughout the year. This week, we had a return visit from a most unusual visitor, the Patrouille de France (PAF), the precision aerobatic demonstration team of the French Air Force.

The PAF was formed in 1931 and has been based in Salon-de-Provence about one hour south of Sablet since 1937. There are 8 jets in the Patrouille de France and the team did fly-overs several days this week. I never got my camera up fast enough to capture them when the full squadron of 8 jets were in formation. Maybe next time.

The PAF trains periodically in the sky over the Aerodrome of Plan-du-Dieu and the surrounding countryside causing a little excitement for us in the sky over Sablet from time to time. I guess the Sabletains see them often enough that they don't even look up when they are flying over.

The PAF currently fly Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jets, a light attack jet and advanced training aircraft. Each aircraft is painted blue-white-red with the gun placement replaced with a smoke generator. During one of the training sessions this week, they did aerobatics and released red, white and blue smoke streams behind them.

They finish their fly-by with a loop over. We have seen them make hearts and paint the French flag in the sky on other occasions.

It is an interesting contrast to stand in the village with buildings dating back to medieval times when combatants fought with primitive weapons and then to see the fly-over by the PAF in their ultra-modern Alpha jets.

Maybe you will be lucky enough to catch the PAF training over the sky of Provence one day. Bonne journée mes amis et à bientôt.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Exhausted in Provence

Shirley and I have been back in Provence for a little more than a week. We have been going constantly from the moment we wake up in the morning, to the ringing church bells, to when we fall asleep at night, seemingly the minute our heads hit the pillow.

We have visited towns and villages, wandered through markets, met up with friends and family, gone wine tasting `at several wineries, cooked and eaten a lot of great food accompanied by some of the region's best wine.

We are having so much fun and I have lots to share with you. But as you can see from the picture below, I am exhausted at the end of every day so posting will have to wait till we are back to California.

One evening I "retired" to the chair after cooking dinner and fell asleep next to the fireplace in the kitchen. One of our good friends shot this "flattering" picture of me with my own camera while I enjoyed the warmth of the fire.

We have had glorious weather for March, mostly sunshine during the day but cool at night. The first few days, our heater didn't seem to be working very well, so we spent the evenings huddled around the fireplace in the kitchen.

Turns out our property manager had turned down the chaudière to save us money which if you are reading this Paul, we definitely appreciate. Once we figured that out with his help, the house has been toasty warm.

That's all for now; lots more to come. Bonne journée mes amis et à bientôt.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Summer is Coming

For us, summer in Provence means lavender, sunflowers, sunshine, brilliant blue sky, fabulous markets, all kinds of festivals, leisurely lunches in village cafés, rosé wine, the Tour de France, and the Journée du Livres, the annual book festival held in Sablet the third weekend of July every year. There are also lots of tourists.

One of our favorite things about Provence is that we can go to an outdoor market in a different village every day of the week if we wanted to. Besides the weekly open-air markets, there are special marché artisanale (art and craft markets) and brocante (flea) markets throughout the summer.

One Sunday morning we came across a marchés de potiers (pottery market) on Place Montfort in Vaison-la-Romaine, a town with lots of Roman ruins about 10 kms north of Sablet. Now there are few things we love more than Provencal pottery and to find a whole market devoted to pottery was just perfect.

As I said, we have a fondness for Provencal pottery and you can find a lot of it in our house in Sablet. We say the terroir of the Southern Côtes du Rhône is perfect for making wines and it's perfect for making pottery too—clay-rich soil, hot sun for baking, wood for firing.

Terres de Provence is an association of 100 artisans who make pottery throughout Provence and hold pottery markets during the summer months. Here is a link to the pottery markets they have scheduled for 2012. Here are pictures of the pottery market we visited in Vaison-la-Romaine. If you click on the pictures, you can enlarge them for better viewing.

A beautiful day, perfect for an outdoor pottery market.

The pottery displayed and sold at this market are all fabricated by the artisans at the market.

You have to be careful when you shop for pottery in tourist shops because a lot of pottery is mass-produced.and not hand crafted by artisans in their workshops.

One thing you will note is that each artisan has their own style and tend to do all of their work in similar colors.

We have been to ateliers (workshops) where we have watched artisan fabricating the pottery right in front of us in the Drome town of Dieulefit, the Languedoc town of Aigues-Vives, the Gard town of St.-Quentin-La-Poterie, and in the Provence town of Aubagne and around Sablet in Seguret and Gigondas.

On Tuesday mornings throughout the year, this café-lined square is part of the weekly open air market in Vaison-la-Romaine.

Summer is coming and if you are thinking about making a visit to Provence from France or elsewhere in Europe or from the United States, Canada or down-under in Australia or New Zealand, and you have not reserved a house, you had better hurry and do so right away.

We still have two weeks open, June 23 to July 7 and the week of August 25 to September 1 until November. If you are looking to spend a week or two in a charming village in Provence, we would be honored for you to consider our home for your stay.

Bonne journée mes amis et à bientôt.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Roussillon, a Beautiful Village in the Luberon

I don't think we have ever gone to Provence without going to Roussillon, a village in the Luberon region about 35 miles southeast from our house in Sablet. We love the colorful houses in Roussillon, tinted by the ocher that used to be mined here; this makes Roussillon unique compared to the other villages in the region.

The Luberon region stretches 35 miles along a ridge of rugged hills from Cavaillon in the west to Manosque in the east and from the town of Apt south to the Durance River. Much of the area including Roussillon is protected in the Parc Naturel Régional du Luberon.

Roussillon is classified as one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France (one of the most beautiful villages of France). Roussillon sits above one of the world's largest known ocher deposits where 17 shades of ocher--violet, blood red, orange, yellow, and everything in between were once mined.

In the Luberon there are a collection of pretty hilltop villages and valleys with vineyards, orchards (olives, cherry and almond), and fragrant fields of red poppies, sunflowers and lavender. Roussillon is one of our favorites.

There is an amazing range of colors to be seen.

The curiously shaped rock formations add further to the beauty of the area.

Roussillon is located in a green pine forest set on bright red-ocher hills and is a distinct and beautiful sight to see from a distance. Roussillon is even more beautiful in the village, with colorful old buildings and narrow medieval streets.

Our favorite shop in Roussillon sells pretty stone-cast village scenes painted in typical colors. We have a number of his pieces hanging on the walls of our house in Sablet.

The clock and bell tower with a campanile overlooking the main village square.

The Librairie - bookstore in La Maison Tacchella to the left and the Hotel de Ville - town hall to the right in the main village square.

A passageway through the bell tower.

Another view of the clock and bell tower with its campanile set against a brilliant blue sky.

The ocher facades of the houses in Roussillon are beautiful - the colors vary from light yellow to dark red, accented by brightly painted shutters and doors. Many date from the 17th and 18th century.

The 11th-century Church of St. Michel. Nearby there are several places where you can find views in all directions over the surrounding countryside.

The interior of the Church of St. Michel.

Niece Leslie and wife Shirley pause in a stone passageway.

As you stroll around the village, make sure you look for the 150 year old grape vine in front of Restaurant la Treille.

A view back toward the main village square and cafés along the street. Although there are a number of eating places, we have not found any of them to be all that good. A weekly market is held on Thursdays throughout the year.

A pretty window with its bright red facade.

I love blue shutters and my camera finds them every time.

A view of the village from the parking lot near the cemetery shows the many colors of Roussillon.

Another brightly colored rock formation with its exposed ocher. One of the former ocher quarries can be visited via the Sentier des Ocres (ocher path) located next to the village, a walk of either 30 or 60 minutes through the old mining area.

You can see the ocher colors way off in the distance set against the green forest.

It is said that Roussillon is the second most visited village after Gordes in the Luberon region. Despite this, we have never had any problem finding parking close to the village.

The village is fairly small so it doesn't take very long to explore. It is easy to combine a visit to Roussillon with a visit to one of the other hill towns in the Luberon.

As I said, we never go to Provence without making a visit to the Luberon and to Roussillon. The pictures in this post come from three visits we made to Roussillon this past year.

Bonne journée mes amis et à bientôt.