Friday, September 25, 2009

Gorges du Verdon
This famous Gorge, the second largest in the world is 700 metres deep and about 25 kilometres long. It is less than two hours drive from our home and makes a fabulous day out. Moustiers, pictured here is famous for pottery and it's wonderful views of the valley. We arrived at abt 10-45 just in time for coffee.

From here we drove past the Lac Sainte Croix where you can hire a canoe, pedal boat or simply laze or walk on the beach.

Looking across the Lake to the entrance to the Canyon.

As you drive you cannot help but keep stopping to admire the many fine buildings, views and villages.

This picture is taken from the South side, looking at the Route de Crete on the North side. It is not for the nervous driver (or passenger!)

Scrambling in the trees on the cliffs edge to get this picture!

You can clearly see here the division in the Gorge.

If you look carefully at this picture there is a house perched on the hill - that is what I call isolated!

The bridge joining the two sides - I am on there somewhere.

And after all that driving a beer stop is essential.

The word awesome really does not do justice to the scenary and views. It is worth noting that the area and river was not explored by man until 1905!

Summer is back, well a glint of early Autumn, over night temperatures falling to 15 degreees, daytime highs of 27 degrees.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The famous 15th!
I will let you into a little secret - sometimes it rains in Provence! and when it does boy does it rain.Summer officially ended 15th September 2009. After a prolonged hot summer (it had only rained once since early June)the rain has finally come with avengeance.

Ask any local Provencal about the weather and they will tell you how it changes after the 'quinze' or fifteenth. In August it can bring storms for a few days (this year there were none until this month). The fifteenth of November see the distinct change in temperatures from Autumn to winter.Whilst the 15th February will see the change from Winter to Spring. The following three months are normally warm spring sunshine occasionly inturupted by rain. This leads to our settled and warm summer normally from mid May (the 15th!) .
This mornings sky bring hope that the fronts are clearing.

The weather in Provence can be as dramatic as its scenary!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Eating outside is something we almost take for granted in Provence. We are also privileged to wonderful food and wine. Good friends are also a vital ingredient! Cheers
The wine Vendange 2009

It is that time of year again, after a long hot summer bathed in sunshine the grapes are plump, ripe and brimming with sweetness to make next years wine. So by way of a tiny contribuition I spent yesterday picking grapes. The vineyard is closeby in the Luberon, the weather was ideal a warm sunlit day.It is back breaking work though - well for an amateur like me.

Close scrutiny was required as some grapes had been damaged by Odium, a mildew caused by the rain earlier in the summer (incredibly it has only rained here 3 times since June that I recall).

This is what we were looking for! These grapes, Grenache, will be used in both the red and rose wines. The recent warm weather has increased their alcohol content to 15%! a wine with some punch.(It will be lowered in the production process)

It really does not take long to fill these buckets which have to be processed quite quickly after picking.

The vineyard is in a lovely setting, close to the Luberon with the Domaine producing about 26000 bottles of wine, all Cote du Luberon. The most popular are the Reds and rose.

The grapes are tipped into this stalking machine - well a 'de-stalker' actually before they are crushed.

We picked through the day starting at 8am. Thankfully the process was interupted with a most enjoyable and relaxing lunch set in the courtyard.

Our garden terrace is still in bloom with this plant called Perovskia, or Russian Sage. It resembles Lavender and confuses almost everyone.

The noise of the bees (these black ones are huge but quite friendly)has been incredible.

It is Figue(Fig) time, we have four trees in the garden producing a plentiful supply which we happily offer to our guests, Karen has also made 6 jars of Jam and then of course there is her speciality - grilled figues with Gorgonzola and a red wine vinegar & honey Jus! and that's just for lunch.
Since April our Saturdays have been taken up with changeovers so last Saturday, with only one gite changing over we were able to visit the market in Apt ,and enjoy the colours, atmosphere and wonderful fresh produce. It is one of the largest markets in Provence, meandering through the narrow streets. We were surprised at just how busy it was for mid September with languages and accents from all over the world adding to the buzz.

Onions, whether in a tart, soup or salad there are so many to choose from.

These have to be the driest and smelliest cheeses in town, but they are great.

The choice of fresh fruit is outstanding.

Carrots and Aubergines - we have been eating loads - roasted carrots with garlic and aubergines on the BBQ _ delicious!

There are so many Olives to choose from - perfect with aperos!

Just one of the reasons we love Provence.

Friday, September 04, 2009

This weekend sees a new influx of guests. So far this year we have enjoyed the company and tales of guests from France, Belguim, Holland the UK inc England, Scotland & Wales, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. Our 'sun downers' or 'apero hour' pool side is always great fun, giving our guests the opportunity to meet fellow travellers, exchange restaurant recommendations, where they have been etc and of course enjoy a glass of wine.

What did the Romans ever do for us?
This bridge, nearby in Apt, named after Julias Cesar, is about 2000 years old. A new bridge for cars was built just a few years ago but you can still walk and cycle across the Pont Juilen. It was once the gateway from Northern Italy to Provence! Can you imagine that?

Whilst fruit may not be any cheaper here than in the UK for example, the quality and taste are far superior, these Peaches were delicious.!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Last week, for Karen's birthday we went to les Baux de Provence, about 45 minutes drive away, the village is listed as one of the most beautiful in France. The village enjoys wonderful views from the chateau and is a highly popular tourist attraction. Closeby is the Cathedral d'Image, a huge quarried cave where images are projected on to the walls, this year of Picasso's art work with carefully chosen classical music creating a very special experience.

You can see here how the roads have been literally carved through the rocks.

From here we headed to the nearby town of St Remy de Provence, one of our favourites, with it's many shady squares, fountains and a wonderful choice of restaurants and galleries.

We took lunch at the L'Hotel les Ateliers de l'Image, something quite different and well worth trying for a special occasion.