Meet Les Rosiers Renters 2014

blog.lede.2Luberon weather during summer 2014 was not the stuff those vacationers from the north expect. The glorious sun that normally blazes every day in July and August, and most days in June, was too often on holiday, taking a rest behind massive clouds. Nonetheless those who rented the apartment at Les Rosiers, our home, did not complain.   When the sun appeared, they were happy to plunge into the pool. They also hiked, biked, explored the region and discovered interesting sights. The season got off to an early start with our first renters who arrived in late April for a week, a young French family: Anne, Armand and precious Clement, a blog.guests.1veritable model baby. We never heard a whimper. We rarely saw them as they set off early each morning and returned in the evening after a full day of sightseeing. Clement was no problem, his mother told me, as he was accustomed to being in the car for long periods. Amazing! Back for the fifth season, Austrians Klaus and Eva again spent four weeks with us, from early June to early July. Eva is a legal secretary, so Klaus, who is retired, arrives for the first week with his car and roof rack packed to the brim with beer and Austrian blog.guests7delicacies. He always presents us with  generous gifts of the latter. Eva flies in for the middle two weeks. They lounge poolside, read, walk in the countryside, revisit favorite places and friends.blog.guest.7a Klaus also likes to do battle with those nasty wasps that like to drink from the pool and zap you with a painful sting if you are in the way. While in the water, he often walks around, fly swatter in hand, striking the enemies with vengeance.  And, he loves to grill. He treated us to a fabulous meal of his specials one evening. Before leaving, he gave me a list of items needed in the apartment, something he has done in the past. This time he said we needed a fire extinguisher, salad spinner, blog.guests.7band quality clothes hangers. He showed me one of the metal hangers from the apartment closet. “These are Alcatraz hangers,” he announced, and then explained that at home they use wooden hangers. Rest assured Klaus, all have been purchased. No more Alcatraz hangers. Machteld and John from the Netherlands arrived for three weeks in July. They were content to rest and relax poolside. Machteld came with 20 books. She read 16. blog.guests4John was often on his computer, or photographing butterflies. They raved about Bacchus, a restaurant in nearby Pierrevert that John had found on Trip Advisor. It was so good, they went three times. And, they shopped. Machteld loves to cook. She went home with a car full of French goodies, including plenty of wine. “We love France, the food, the wine, blog.guest4athe people,” she said. They spend a summer holiday in a different part of France each summer. This was their first time in the Luberon. Fortunately, they and the other summer renters like cats. We have three, as well as many feline visitors. Machteld showed me photos of her two, one a Maine Coon, and we shared cat stories.blog.guest.3 Marco and Mireille from Alsace joined us for two August weeks. Marco was smitten with Filippo, a feisty feline who amuses with his antics, often chasing blog.guest.3aimaginary butterflies. A DJ  in the evening, by day Marco manages his clothing stores. In his younger days he was a ski instructor at Val d’Isere. We had some serious ski talk. Mireille works with the elderly in a hospital.   Their passion: hiking. They drove to different areas each day from where they set off on long, long treks. Wynand and Evelyn, another Dutch couple, began everyday with a poolside breakfast and swim. They were lucky — there was morning sun. Then, on to the bikes, which they had brought with them, for cycle excursions.  ”We enjoyed having a coffee everyday at the Reillanne (our village) cafes,” Evelyn said.blog.guests.6 They also vacation in France every year, but usually camp near Mont Ventoux, the legendary mountain Wynand has conquered on his bicycle five times. Stef, Ninon and adorable Lise, 1 1/2 years old, came from Lyon where Ninon works as a “chef de cuisine” in a restaurant and Stef is in the communications industry. They did not venture too far, but did walk into Reillanne almost every day, about a 25-minute jaunt, at first up a very steep hill on a bumpy road.   Stef pushed Lise in her baby carriage. She was another model infant — always smiling or laughing, a joy to admire.blog.guests.5 “Thank you for the welcome, the cats for their company, the flowers for their colors, the pool for its freshness and the road for its sweat, “ Ninon wrote in our guest book.

If you’d like more information about the rental apartment, see http://www.les-rosiers.com

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Souvenirs of Summer 2014

fleurs.2It’s officially over. It makes me sad, even though summer 2014 was not a normal Provence summer. Thanks to climate change, we had thunderstorms and cool, cloudy days. Too much wind and rain. The latter had a plus. July and August days are usually hot and sunny with almost no rain. This year we saved both money and time on watering all our flowers and trees. Still, I would have preferred a real summer.

Gone are those long summer nights when we could dine on the balcony by daylight up until 10 p.m. Soon many restaurants will close or drastically shorten geraniumstheir opening times. I am still swimming, but that too will come to an end before long. Tomatoes — those tasty gems I buy from farmers at the markets, will soon disappear and we will left with those tasteless Dutch hothouse tomatoes at supermarkets. Fall and winter are for cosying up with the cats by the fireplace — not as exciting as summer, but not so bad.

In spite of the less-than-perfect weather, we enjoyed some fun times and outings during summer 2014. The following photos are souvenirs of those good times.

Again I tried for the perfect lavender shot. Now that I have had photo lessons from friend and fab photographer George, there’s hope for improvement next year.lavender.blog2

We joined fellow Americans for a Fourth of July party sponsored by Democrats Abroad in Avignon.4th.1

Then we joined the French for a Bastille Day fete in neighboring Vacheres. The July 14th sardinade (grilled sardines) is an annual event with plenty of wine, music and song – in addition to those petite fish.vachere.2

On the cultural side, we joined a group from our town for a bus excursion to an outdoor piano concert in La Roque d’Antheron, also an annual event — preceded by a picnic in the park.piano.1

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And, we went to Avignon for a day at the Festival d’Avignon which features almost 1,000 theatrical performances. The festivities in the streets are more than jolly.fb.1

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And north to Sisteron for an outdoor concert under the Citadele.fb.5

I longed for the mountains, so we drove to a winter ski town that draws hikers and mountain bikers in summer. We rode a chair lift to the heights for an easy trek. Alas, riding a chair lift in summer minus snow and skis is not easy. Getting off I did not  jump aside fast enough and was whacked in the back with the chair and knocked to the ground. Painful. We canceled the hike, but enjoyed beautiful scenery on the way home.mts.2

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Another community meal – paella in our town, Reillanne. We love these events, good food and socializing.sisteron.paella.lac 021

Again this summer we tried our luck at a Vide Grenier (Empty Attic). It’s a flea market, but our hopes of making money on our no-longer-used possessions were dashed. We could not even give things away. There were still treasures in the box labeled “Gratuit” (Free) after the last customers had gone home.

vg.2Cannes on the Riviera was our destination for an event sponsored by the American Club of the Riviera – mind-boggling fireworks shot from boats in the harbor. We spent the night in Cannes and enjoyed a visit to the off shore island, Sainte Marquerite, the following day. Gorgeous.  On the way home, a quick dip in the Med at Theoule-sur-Merisle.1

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Friends Mollie and David put summer to bed with a fabulous garden party.

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Summertime is also for enjoying our pool and yard and flowers — and the SPPS (State Park Picnic Shelter). See previous post “Pergola — Or State Park Picnic Shelter?”  Aug. 22, 2013.  It’s looking better,  thanks to the decorative elements painstakingly installed by Bob, and Ben’s suggestion that we we lighten the posts and beams.  That made a huge difference.  Thank you, Ben.  You saved it– and our marriage.pool.2

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Don’t miss the next post featuring our summer renters. We meet fun and interesting people who rent the guest apartment at Les Rosiers for vacation. And then… a post on Incredible Iceland.  If you are not a Tales and Travel follower, sign up now at top right so you don’t miss future tales. 

Please comment below.  Share your thoughts.

Summer may be over, but grilling is not. One of my favorites which is always a hit with guests is grilled lamb. See column at top right for recipe.

 

 

 

Réveillon 2013

My German Christmas treasures.
My German Christmas treasures.

Joyeux Noel!  In France, the main holiday event is the Réveillon, “un grand festin,” the big feast on Christmas Eve.

I invited British friends Mollie and David with their daughter Jenny and her partner Chris who had arrived from England at 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve after a long and harrowing drive.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The house is appropriately festive, decorated with some of my favorite treasures.  David and Chris took these outstanding photos.  I had to concentrate on cooking.

Food – a bit of a challenge as David and Jenny are vegetarians and Mollie, recovering from recent surgery, has certain dietary restrictions.  I scoured the Web for some new recipes, and also relied on some old favorites.

Our meal, with a few exceptions, was more like an American Thanksgiving, BB’s favorite. Since I was in the hospital this Thanksgiving (nothing serious), he missed out.  So, turkey it was with plenty of trimmings.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In France oysters and shell fish are the standard first course of this repast.  Instead, we had smoked salmon and smoked eel, both ordered from a fishery in Denmark.  The eel (cute fellow) had to be skinned and sliced.  I delegated that task to BB.  According to the instructions that came with the Scandinavian delicacy it is best  consumed with a shot of icy akavavit.  None in our liquor supply, so we drank champagne supplied by our guests.   The vegetarians had baked camembert with pears.  All were happy.???????????????????????????????

The next course would most likely be foie gras in France.  I love it and usually prepare my own rather than buying the ready- to- eat version.  It can be a culinary challenge.  I took the easy road and served Harvest Bisque, a Christmassy butternut squash soup served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  It is usually a hit.  The recipe is listed under recipes in column on right.

Harvest Bisque and family heirloom:  Great grandmother's Haviland (Limoges) china.
Harvest Bisque and family heirloom: Great grandmother’s Haviland (Limoges) china.

Next the bird.  No Butterballs in France. My friend Lynne, cook extraordinaire, xmas2013.8turned me on to brining the turkey several years ago.   The result: a moist turkey.

We had numerous (perhaps too many) side dishes:

Creamed  Spinach and Parsnips (recipe from Food & Wine web site)

Broccoli and Cheddar Casserole with Leeks (another Food & Wine recipe)

Red Cabbage with Ginger (combination of a German recipe and the recipe of my friend food writer Sharon Hudgins, www.sharonhudgins.com).  Germans serve this with Christmas goose.  David  tells me the British also serve it with goose. ???????????????????????????????It’s not found on the French table, but  I like it and it goes well with turkey, too.

Mashed Potatoes with Horseradish (an old Bon Appetit recipe – but his time the potatoes came out too runny)

Helen’s Brandied Sweet Potatoes (my mother’s recipe – a family tradition).  This is also listed under Recipes in the column on right.

Classic Sage and Onion Stuffing (Web recipe from The Kitchen).  I usually make stuffing with dried fruit and/or sausage. Those would not do this year.  This concoction did not send me.xmas2013.9

Gravy

Preiselbeeren (German/Austrian berry, like a tiny cranberry). Austrians Klaus and Eva who rent our guest apartment for a month every summer, always bring us a jar of this treat.  They gather the berries in the forest and then preserve them.

David and Mollie brought a magnum of an excellent red wine, Gigondas 2011, La Font Boissière, and a white, Laure, Côtes du Rhône 2012, Domaine Rabasse Charavin.   BB added an American vintage, Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel 2006.bb_wine-001

Desserts:  Tiramisu au Pain D’Epices (spice bread).  I frequently watch a French morning show, Télé Matin.  The recipe was given during a food segment last week.  Tiramisu is always a winner. With the spice bread, I thought it would be perfect for Noel.   A disaster.  It was tiramisu soup. The taste was not bad, but texture, a miserable failure.   I should have relied on Sharon Hudgins’ excellent recipe, my tiramisu favorite.

Pumpkin Pie. I know.  It’s usually a Thanksgiving dessert, but BB craves it.  It was interesting to see the British reaction to this all American favorite.  Irish friend Martine once said she “just did not get it.’  Chris said it was not sweet enough.  David liked it. Jenny – not sure.

Cookies – Five different kinds I baked the week before Christmas.

The finale:  Christmas crackers and hats
The finale: Christmas crackers and hats

Not only did they bring the champagne and wine, but our guests came with Christmas crackers (not edible).  For the British, a Christmas meal is not Christmas without the crackers, paper gizmos with two ends.  You pull one end and the person next to you pulls the other.  Pop!  It explodes and a small Christmas present falls out.???????????????????????????????

For those of you who still have a holiday meal to savor, Bon Appetit. And, Happy New Year to all.  Tales and Travel will take a break until February.  We’re off on an exciting adventure to Myanmar soon, followed by a return to the paradise we discovered in Bali two years ago.  See previous post, A Dentist and his Jungle

My childhood Christmas stocking and  a prized gift from my mother, a Santa trimmed with mink.
My childhood Christmas stocking and a prized gift from my mother, a Santa trimmed with mink.

Haven, Feb. 14, 2012.

Comments are always welcome.  Tell us about your holiday meal. See “Leave a Reply” below under Comments. Subscribers also welcome. Don’t miss future posts. Click on Email Subscription at top right.

Grambois gets a jump on Christmas

Grambois Christmas star.
Grambois Christmas star.

Christmas markets are everywhere these days.  But none can compare with the original version in Germany.  I miss the real thing, those romantic, storybook holiday markets:  tiny twinkling lights (usually white or golden – not a jumble of gaudy colors), hot glϋhwein, savory sausages, spicy cookies, church bells, Christmas carols – all basking in German gemϋtlichkeit.

Grambois tree and Christmas cat.
Grambois tree and Christmas cat.

Since I am usually disappointed with French Christmas markets, I rarely visit them. Grambois was an exception. I read that this nearby perched town would

Santa arrives in Grambois.
Santa arrives in Grambois.

start the holiday season early with a Christmas market this weekend, Nov. 16 and 17.  And, an American, the Provence head of a charitable organization, Calcutta Rescue, would be there with a stand selling items made by poor Indians.

There are plenty of Brits, Dutch, Belgians, and some Germans, living among the French in this picturesque part of France.  But, very few Americans.  I wanted to meet him and learn more about Calcutta Rescue.grambois.1

Glen Kendall, originally from Grand Junction, Co., lives with his Dutch wife in this burg of 1100 citizens.  He had been working for a software company in London when he saw an ad for an administrator for the Calcutta based charity.  He got the job and was off to Calcutta for a year.  He said he’s been to other parts of India, but nothing prepared him for Calcutta. “It’s full of energy 24 hours per day, chaotic, filthy, polluted.”  He lived in a Muslim slum where the electricity worked about two thirds of the day.  The people made the job.  “The poor people have a joie de vivre that’s inspirational.  It makes you happy to be alive. It’s hard to believe they live under a piece of plastic.”

Kendall in Calcutta
Kendall in Calcutta

Calcutta Rescue (www.calcuttarescue.org) helps the indigent of Calcutta, most of whom live on less than one euro per day.  The organization runs three medical clinics and supports more than 600 poor children, most living in the streets, providing them with funds to go to school, clothes, two meals per day and medical care. A handicrafts project was started to teach former clinic patients how to sew.  They learn a skill which can help them survive.   They make clothes and handicraft items (cards, bags, embroidered napkins, etc).  The latter are offered at the Grambois Christmas market. I especially liked the small embroidered bags containing Indian spices.grambois.2

Kendall saw that I had a camera.  “Let me show you something most visitors to Grambois don’t see, “  he said.  He led me outside of the old village, down some steps to an incredible tree, a multi-trunked oak thought to be more than 300 years old.  And, he told me where to wander for more photos.grambois.4

We frequently drive on the main road below ancient Grambois. One time we followed the twisty road uphill to the village, but did not get out to explore.  Now was my chance. It’s worth a trip.  The town’s origins date to the 11th century.  Vestiges of 14th century walls still stand.  There’s a Romanesque church, a bell tower, a fountain, and meandering stone alleys – all restored.  Plus, lovely views of the Luberon hills.grambois.9

Those hills were alive with a rainbow of fall colors glowing in the strong Provencal sunshine.  It was warm – not at all like Christmas.  But I am glad I visited this holiday market and discovered Glen Kendall, Calcutta Rescue and inviting Grambois.grambois.8

info.calcuttarescueprovence@gmail.com

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Stay tuned.  Post on Wild and Wonderful Corsica coming very soon.         

Super Summer 2013

The pool at Les Rosiers, our home, did not turn ghoulish green as it has in past summers.  None of the precious roses died. We had wonderful tenants in our rosiersstudio rental apartment, plus fun family visits.  The crumbling pergola was replaced (but that’s another story, see previous post, “Pergola –or State Park Picnic Shelter”).  We enjoyed a terrific visit to Antwerp, tasty meals at local festivals and parties with friends.  Summer 2013 was better than good: Super

It kicked off in June with the arrival of Klaus, an Austrian from Graz.  He and his wife Eva have been staying in our gite (French for vacation rental) for a month every year since 2010.   Klaus arrives first, by car, roof rack loaded with supplies, including Austrian beer and food staples. On the way home, a large supply of wine takes the place of those goodies.    Eva is a legal secretary.  She comes by plane a week after Klaus arrives.

Klaus
Klaus

They know the area well, have friends here, enjoy revisiting favorite places and hanging out poolside.  Klaus loves to cook.  He brought his own knife sharpener this year.  The one I supplied was not up to snuff.  And, he loves to grill – lamb and sausages are his favorites. This year his grilling almost led to disaster.  The morning after a previous day’s use of the grill, he emptied the ashes which he assumed were dead in the wooded area of dried leaves behind and adjacent to our house.  That afternoon I was in the pool.  I noticed smoke, but I assumed he was grilling again.  Suddenly BB (husband Bicycle Bob) came flying down the steps from our balcony.  He had seen flames.   Indeed, the ashes had sprung to life and a fire had started.  It was frightening.  But, all to the rescue with hose and buckets of water.  Catastrophe was averted.

Filippo kept our tenants entertained.
Filippo kept our tenants entertained.

Eva is a walker, often up at 7 a.m., setting out on a trek in the area for two to three hours. Klaus also hikes and gathers herbs and berries (juniper) and other treasures from the forests and fields.  He left me with a supply of bay leaves which I have dried. Another of his favorite pastimes is visiting flea markets.  During summers here, there are many on the agenda.  He always finds interesting bargains.

Lang and Samuel
Lang and Samuel

Stepson Rob and his boys, Samuel and Lang, followed Klaus and Eva. The boys, both swimmers, loved the pool, as well as jaunts on foot to the bakery every morning with their dad.  They could not get their fill of croissants.  According to Rob, Samuel still asks when he can come back and get more of those croissants, which he called “amazing.”

Bob, Samuel, Lang and Rob
Bob, Samuel, Lang and Rob

The Gorges du Verdon, the Abbey of Senanque and Colorado Provencal were highlights for Jean and Alex, a charming couple who stayed for a week.  He is French, lives and works in Colmar.  She is German, originally from Leipzig, and now working for an international organization in Geneva.  They both are multi-lingual, and, like many of our visitors, especially enjoyed the “calm” at Les Rosiers.

They were followed by a couple we felt were a bit strange, if not unpleasant. He always had a scowl on his face, never a smile,  and once complained that the refrigerator was not cold enough (easy to fix – just turn up the dial.)  They went off sightseeing and came back to lounge by the pool, but barely said a word to us.  I assumed they were not happy with our rosesaccommodations.  I dared not ask them to write in our guest book.  Wonders never cease.  They did write:  “Thanks to your hospitality we have discovered the pleasures of Haute Provence…we have appreciated the coolness of your gite, the refreshing swimming pool and the calm of the surroundings.”

Roberto and Francoise from Fribourg, Switzerland, are fantastic. She is a teacher for handicapped adults – and a cat lover .  She was smitten with Filippo, my rambunctious male cat. Roberto, originally from Uruguay, came with hisbicycle.

Roberto and Francoise
Roberto and Francoise

Unfortunately Francoise fell in our new pergola/State Park Picnic Shelter (SPPS) and broke her foot. They took it in stride, did not complain, and continued their stay.

As her mobility was limited after the accident, Francoise was content to sit in the yard, often with Filippo at her side, and read while Roberto rode his bike.   Like Klaus, she was into wild herbs:  garlic, fennel, rosemary, thyme.  And oils – lavender, almond and olive. She gave me instructions on treatments using lavender oil.

Elaine and Paul
Elaine and Paul

Time for the British, Elaine and Paul from southeast London, who kept on the move and visited sites near and far (Arles, Pont du Grad, Gorges du Verdon, Bonnieux, Gordes).  Elaine is an assistant for children with special needs at a secondary school. Paul is a quantity surveyor for a construction company. They also enjoyed Filippo’s shenanigans.  Paul said Les Rosiers is “the quietest place we’ve ever been to.”

Elizabeth and Igor from Normandy stayed two weeks.  They overwhelmed us with dinner invitations. Igor also likes to grill. While I was away, he invited Bob for grilled sausages. When I returned we were invited for grilled beef.  And, yet again for an apero.  We expected the usual chips- nuts- and- olives apero.  But this was an “apero dinotoire,” something new to us,   a multi-course meal:  crackers and tomatoes, then grilled lamb with a rice/tuna salad, a potato salad, and fruit.

Igor and Elizabeth
Igor and Elizabeth

Igor arrived with easel and paints.  He set up in the yard and created lovely scenes. We received one as a going-away present.  He is a financial consultant in Paris, and commutes home to Rouen on weekends.  Elizabeth, who was recovering from breast cancer surgery, said she came to the Luberon to “relax.”  They did visit some neighboring towns.  “We like typical, tranquil, original villages,” she said, mentioning nearby Viens and Vacheres.  They also raved about an attraction we have yet to visit, the Ganogobie Abbey.gite.3

Summer wound down with the visit of stepdaughter Kellie.  She gave BB a chance to live up to his name.  They bicycled a few times before her boyfriend arrived for a week.  We all set off to Marseille together and were in awe of the new architectural masterpieces.mrs.5

It’s still warm in Provence, but the pool waters have chilled. We’ll put the pool to bed for winter soon.  But, I can look forward to starting swimming early next spring.  We’ve purchased a heat pump for the pool.   Summer 2014 may top summer 2013.

For more about Les Rosiers, see www.les-rosiers.com

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