Sunday, May 27, 2012

Painting Holidays in provence

Provence and The Luberon are  renowned for their artistic appeal and history, withy many famous &  accomplished artist having captured the beauty of the scenery, landscapes and produce.
Locally, we have the renowned school 'Art in Provence' which takes place at Les Bassacs, a small hameau on the outskirts of the village surrounded by cherry orchards & vineyards.

Each week in Summer they offer courses for 12 people held by a practising artist.
Over the last week, in our 'Chambre d'hote', we were lucky enough to host Albany Wiseman who has been painting in the region for over 20 years.
This is a summary of his career taken from the Les Bassacs website.

Albany Wiseman studied at St Albans School of Art, and has worked as a professional painter since 1952. A generous and amiable teacher, his career covers many different aspects of art, from book illustration and posters to limited edition lithographs. He has exhibited at the Curwen Gallery in London, Christie’s Contemporary Art, the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Academy. He has recently exhibited at The Anglo Portuguese Gallery in Belgrave Sq, and also shows from his studio in Bloomsbury, London. His excellent ‘The Artists Sketchbook’ was published in 2002, followed by ‘Watercolour Solutions’, ‘Figure Drawing’ and ‘Drawing and Painting Landscapes’. Currently he has a One Man Show in Norwich at The Fairhurst Gallery and in the Spring 2011 he had an Exhibition at the Curwen Gallery.

Albany & his Partner Maria were delightful guests and joined us each evening for 'aperos' poolside with our gite guests and needless to say had many a story to tell!

But best of all was the watercolour he presented to us on the final day, a painting of our house that he had been working on during his down time!

Thank you Albany!
For details on painting holidays in Provence look at

Sunday, May 20, 2012

L'Isle sur la Sorgue - exquisite!

Adjacent to the River Sorgue in this town famous for its antique shops and Sunday market Cafe Fleurs offers a fine dining experience with menus at 43€ to 56€.  The ambience and food quality, presentation and service in our view justifies this price range and makes it a great choice comaparing others charging a similar level.

Karen, ready for lunch, is impressed by the attention to detail from tableware to an e mail confirming our reservation.
An amuse bouche, a cold  intense tomato velouté
Karen started with courgette flowers stuffed with salmon mousse with a perfume of combawa (kaffir lime) and a citrus fruit vinaigerette.

Whilst I ate Foie gras with compote of Granny Smith Apple with figs and Muscat.

Karen's main course of roasted Monk Fish, (Queue de Lotte
Rôtie), had a mousseline de pomme de terre au citron confit et beurre noisette (potato puree with lemon) - outstanding!

Whilst my chicken (Volaille en suprême farci au foie gras poêlé) was stuffed with foie gras and served with small, young vegetables and juice of Corsican Trufle oil - wow!

As you know I can never resist dessert ! I was more than satisfied by the 'Tian d’orange sanguine'
(Bavarois à la confiture du fruit, croustillant pailleté feuilleté et caramel d’orange)

It was like crepe suzette, just gorgeous and with the oranges part of your five a day! the caramel was just divine.
Of course my more controlled wife chose the cheese option.
Coffee with a petit four rounded off this wonderful lunch .
An excellent wine list together with a fine choice of aperitifs and digestifs completes the picture.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A leisurely walk on the 'jour de Ferie'( bank holiday)

Karen and I have for the past 3 months taken to a morning run three times a week, concious that we are both at a special age we wanted to keep on top of our fitness especially as the summer season approaches.

But running does not always allow you to take in the scenary too.Today we walked our route, starting just 500 metres from home we head towards Villars passing the Chateau Borgogne.

Passing through the Cherry Orchards where the blossom has turned into ripening cherries, the poppies are also a blaze of colour.

And then the vineyards where the vines have been growing at 1 cm per day. These are the grapes forming.
Looking back at saint Saturnin Les Apt, we are now at the half way point!
Whilst ahead the undulating vines lead to Villars.

Roses are everywhere in the most vibrant colours.

As are the Iris 

Today, we are walking, and it  is a public holiday, so it seemed rude not to stop and have a little refreshment

Before we take in more glorious scenary on route home.

We are happy to provide this route to our clients who may wish to walk, cycle or even run it!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Another Fine Dining Experience

La Petite Cave in nearby Saignon has started a new menu at 29€ for three courses.

Andrew the chef  has created an excellent menu whilst his brother in law waits front of house.

My starter of Peppered Seared Tuna, Roasted Red Pepper, Avocado, Capers, Quail Eggs & Basil.
Not sure the anchovies were necessary!

For main, I ate Pork Belly, Dauphinoise Potatoes, Tarragon & a  Red Wine Reduction, it was delicious.

And dessert of Chocolate Fondant, Mascarpone & Cassis Sorbet.

The wine list could do with a little enhancement something we discussed with Andrew and he took on board which is refreshing.

Open Wednesday to Saturday and Sunday lunch - we will be going back and are happy to recommend to all!

Poppies Everywhere

This has been one of the best years for poppies, not sure why, maybe the dry and cold winter, the warm March followed by wet April - who knows? 
This field is attracting lots of budding photographers and artists.

Another theory is that the Poppies grow and love turned over soil, coincidently this is just where the Sanglier used to dig in our garden.

These poppies and spring flowers would make the perfect painting.

May, yet another fabulous month to visit the Luberon!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Weather in Provence - April 2012

March promised so much for a long hot summer, yet that notorious infidel April dashed all our hopes. The average maximum daily temperature was 0.7° below March, and a whole 5.1° lower than April last year! Whilst the average minimum night-time temperature was 2° higher than March, it was still 2.2° lower than last April.

After a night of rain the clouds hang over the Luberon, the Mistral will soon blow them away......

but perfect conditions for poppies

Comparisons with April 2011

Average Minimum Temp.7.9°10.1°
Average Maximum Temp.17.4°22.5°
Minimum Temp.2.4°6.6°
Maximum Temp.26.9°28.4°
Rainfall107.8 mm17.8 mm
Days of rainfall133
Highest Wind Speed49.0 kph42.1 kph
Average Monthly Wind Speed3.7 kph4.4 kph

I think it is true to say like much of the world the weather is  increasinginly difficult to predict but overall we still enjoy over 300 days of sunshine a year.

You will find further weather statistics on  Saint Saturnin at Geoff's great weather blog

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Fête du Travail

Since 1947, the Fête du Travail, on 1st May, has been a paid public holiday in France. It is a legal requirement that on this day, all employees are entitled to a paid holiday. Traditionally a day on which trade unions protest in large cities, it is also la fête du muguet (Lily-of-the-Valley Day), on which it is customary to exchange lily-of-the-valley flowers for good luck.

Certainly the market in the village was busy, as were the bars and restaurants.

And so it seemed rude not to join our fellow Frenchman and take a days 'unpaid holiday' and lunch at our favourite restaurant in the village .

Any one who has stayed in our gites is likely to have eaten at L'Estrade as we always recommend it.
Gaille and Ann Laurence provide a warm friendly welcome as well as a forever changing menu as well as an excellent wine list and of course home made desserts to die for!