Les Rosiers: Summer 2015

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In a word, it was HOT. Week after week of temperatures in the upper 90s (Fahrenheit), even reaching 100 and above a few times. My roses, geraniums and petunias had to be watered continually. The grass (what little we have) turned brown. The pool water has never been so warm – too warm for me, but finally warm enough for delicate BB/VR* who was brave enough to jump in. This was only the fifth time he has been in the pool in the 10 years we have lived here. (Thanks to my dear mother who insisted my brothers and I all learn to swim at an early age, I am  a swimmer and love the water.  BB was not so lucky.)blog.pool2

Fall arrived too soon and too abruptly – for me… One will never be content.

Despite the heat, we enjoyed some fun activities and the wonderful folks who rented our guest apartment at Les Rosiers.

Klaus and Eva
Klaus and Eva

The season kicked off with the arrival of Klaus from Austria, his car loaded with Austrian delicacies and beer. He always brings us a generous gift of goodies, too. This was the fifth season that Klaus and his wife Eva have spent a month in our rental studio. She is still working as a legal secretary in Graz, arrives a week later by plane and only spends two weeks here. Klaus likes to cook and grill – lamb is his favorite. They know the area well, take long walks, swim, and visit friends and flea markets.  They have become friends, and it’s always a delight to have them here.

Patrick, Chantal and their bikes
Patrick, Chantal and their bikes

Then came the Belgians, Patrick and Chantal, with two motorcycles and two bicycles towed behind their car. We were amazed. Due to the heat, they spent most of their time on the motorcycles. One of the bicycles was electric, but since the terrain here is anything but flat, they preferred their motorcycles. They took long excursions, almost every day during their two-week sojourn.

Chantal said they have been vacationing in southern France every summer, but always camping. They especially enjoyed the tranquility at Les Rosiers. Camp sites can be very noisy, she said. And, they loved our town, Reillanne.

Sunday market in Reillanne
Sunday market in Reillanne

“It’s an authentic village, not a Disney village like so many in the Luberon,” said Patrick. “There are not that many tourists, not that much traffic.” They like to visit the village cafes and talk to the locals. And, they especially liked the Bar restaurant de la Place where they dined many times.

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Czech cyclists: Lara, Katarina, Luka and Jakub

More bicycles next – a Czech family of four with five bikes. Jakub and Katarina and children Lara, 9, and Luka, 5, were back for the second time. We were overwhelmed with their bicycle prowess two years ago when they set out day after day, all day on bikes, albeit Katarina towing Luka in a carriage and Lara’s bike sometimes attached to her father’s bike. Lara now rides on her own, and Luka rides the bike that can be attached to Jakub’s . We rode with them one day – lots of fun.

Jakub and Luka
 Luka behind Daddy Jakub

They arrived a day late after participating in an orientation competition in the Jura where Jakub took first place in one category. Here he conquered Mont Ventoux for the fifth time. That was the reason for five bikes – a super bike for the challenging climb.

“We always like to come back to Provence, the terrain, the living historic villages that are not just for tourists,” said Jakub.   We were happy to have them back.

The hardy cyclists enjoyed the pool after those rides in the blazing Provence sun.
The hardy cyclists enjoyed the pool after those rides in the blazing Provence sun.

Wine was the focus for Patricia and Serge, visitors who come from Brittany. They traveled far and wide to buy Provence wine, driving 1,700 kilometers in the region, visiting six wineries and ending up with 14 cases of wine to take home.

Serge and Patricia
Serge and Patricia

Each evening when they returned from a buying trek they shared their adventures and raved about places they visited – some we had not known about.   Serge says they always buy the wine of the regions they visit. They live in an area of vineyards near the Loire where he helps harvest the grapes.

Serge's bounty
Serge’s Provence souvenirs

They presented us with a bottle of Grand Reserve Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie which we tasted when they invited us to a super fish dinner Patricia prepared. She served the fish with beurre blanc, a well known sauce for fish in Brittany. She shared her recipe which I have tried to master. Mine could not hold a candle to hers, but I will keep trying. When I am successful, we will open the precious bottle of Muscadet.

Niki from Athens
Niki came to visit from Athens.  We met on a student ship 50 years ago!.

We visited the US this summer (see previous post, “USA: Summer 2015,” July14) and the Mediterranean coast (previous post: “Cannes: Far from the Madding crowd,” Aug. 20).

We recently went back to the coast for a gala evening at the Hotel Belles Rives in Juan les Pins/Antibes. Our Finnish friends, Terttu and Mikko, have a rental apartment which they generously offered us. In addition to dining and dancing, I swam in the Med which sure beats a pool, and we took a short but scenic hike around Cap d’Antibes.

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La Dolce vita.
The Med at Juan les Pins
The Med at Juan les Pins

We are not sorry the heat has subsided, but sorry that summer is over.  The days are getting too short.  Some restaurants will soon close for the season.  No more concerts and village festivals.  Winter can be bleak here, and it’s  a long wait for spring.

Photos of other summer activities follow.

BB/VR and Filippo chill out poolside.
BB/VR* and Filippo chill out poolside.

*Bicycle Bob/Vino Roberto

Lake Vannades near Manosque where I enjoyed a real swim
Lake Vanades near Manosque where I enjoyed a real swim
 A Bastille Day Mechoui-- lamb grilled on an open fire.

A Bastille Day Mechoui– lamb grilled on an open fire.

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The Med at Cap d'Antibes
The Med at Cap d’Antibes

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The lavender must like the heat. The color was especially vibrant this summer.
The lavender must like the heat. The color was especially vibrant this summer.

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Champion swimmers, Koa and Nai'a, friend Lynne's Irish water spaniels. We swim together at Lake Ste. Croix
Champion swimmers, Koa and Nai’a, friend Lynne’s Irish water spaniels. We swim together at Lake Ste. Croix

Bicycling with Battery Power

Press a button on the bicycle handlebar.  Whee…, you soar full speed ahead.  It’s like magic, a thrilling sensation.

The power of electric bicycles.  I was excited.  Husband Bicycle Bob (BB), a hardcore macho cyclist, less so. Yet, we enjoyed our recent all-day excursion on these fun bicycles in the Luberon hills of France’s Provence.

Electric bicycling seems to be surging in popularity.  Baby boomers getting too old and out-of-shape for demanding pedaling?  More folks wanting a bicycle excursion without stress and sweat?   Serious cyclists who want to cover many miles, including some steep ascents where a power boost would be welcome?

Whatever the reasons, electric bicycles offer an enjoyable and easy alternative to conventional pedaling.  We rented these sturdy monsters for a day in the Provence town of Gordes with the company Sun-E-Bike which just started renting the bikes, valued at 1,300 euros each, at Easter.

Florian Machayekhi, who spoke English, gave us a briefing. You must pedal for the motor to be in operation, he explained.   There are three settings for different levels of motor power.  For steep hills, for example, you may wish to select the highest.  When going downhill, or in the flats, you can press a button to switch off the motor and pedal as with a regular bike.  Sun-E-Bikes have seven speeds.

We have done a lot of bicycling and did not intend to pedal with auxiliary power all the time.  However, these bikes are heavy, 25 kilos, therefore not quite like your bike back home.  I always shut the power off for downhills, and, lest being a real wimp, tried to keep it off in the flats. But, as this is Provence where the winds often blow, I was happy to press the power button to offset those nasty gusts produced by the Mistral.  And, I was no martyr in the hills, loving the easy and effortless climbs.  BB, of course, had to do it the hard way most of the time.  For the first time on cycle trips, I beat him to the top.  So, I cheated…it was still fun being first.

Florian had given us a map with a 40-kilometer itinerary through some Provence highlights: Fontaine de Vaucluse, Saumane de Vaucluse, Isle sur la Sorgue…  He suggested we have lunch at the latter where we could exchange the batteries.  The bike battery will last for 35 kilometers.  When we arrived at Les Terrasses du Bassin, the restaurant/battery exchange point, our batteries still registered full – all four battery lights still glowing.

We enjoyed lunch on the restaurant terrace where the river forms a large pool of crystal water popular with hungry ducks, but did not bother to get a new battery.  Almost a mistake.  Several hours later when we neared Gordes, the quintessential perched village and our destination, my bike was down to one battery light.  And, the last part was five kilometers all up hill.  I kept the motor setting on the lowest, thus using less power, and said a prayer that it would get me all the way back to the rental station.  I did not want to pedal that weighty bike up this killer ascent.  Luck was with me.  I made it back under battery power.

We cycled on May 8, a holiday in France, so the walkway through the forest to the scenic source of the Sorgue River at Fontaine de Vaucluse was crowded with strollers.  Riding became too risky, so we pushed the bikes up the path along the raging river.  Not easy, but the sounds and sights of the water below charging over rocks and boulders detracted from the effort.

Isle sur la Sorgue, known as the Venice of Provence, is a pleasant spot for a lunch break.  The Sorgue River splits into numerous streams flowing through the town not unlike Venetian canals.    Pedestrian bridges decorated with flower boxes and mossy waterwheels add to the picturesque ambience.

Between the towns on our itinerary we cycled past acres of vineyards, orchards, fields ablaze with wildflowers and weathered stone farm houses, all with the Luberon hills as a backdrop.

Pascal Hernoult welcomed us and the bikes back in Gordes.  The new electric bike venture is “encouraging,” he said.  “People return with big smiles.  They say it’s ‘formidable.’  They are not tired.”

Count me among those happy electric bicyclists.  Even BB admitted he was glad for the battery power to get back up that last long hill.

Watch the slideshow below for more photos.  Enjoy a tasty treat of the season: Hsin’s  Strawberry Cake.  See recipe in column at right.   Next blog post to focus on French health care — a first person account based on my upcoming knee replacement surgery.  Don’t miss it.  Click on “Email Subscription” at top of right column.

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Sun-E-Bike has 200 electric bicycles for rent at three different sites in Provence: Gordes, Bonnieux and Lauris.  Cost for rental per day is 35 euros which includes a helmet and yellow safety vest.  Half-day rental (9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m): 22 euros.  Insurance: 2 euros per day.  A deposit of 200 euros or an ID card such as passport or driver’s license is required. Maps with suggested itineraries and battery exchange points are provided. Baby seats, baby trailers and panniers can be rented for an extra charge.

SuneE-Bike also offers bike rental for longer periods with hotel overnights and luggage transfer provided.  See the web site for details: www.sun-e-bike.com