It’s time to start thinking summer 2017…but first, a look back at summer 2016. I should have posted this long ago… better late than never. After eight summers of renting our guest apartment to tourists, we officially closed last August – no more paying guests, but time and room for friends and relatives.
It was a rewarding experience. We met interesting folks from many countries. Some have become friends. We learned about their lands.
Austrians Klaus and Eva were our first renters of the season, as they have been every summer for the past six years. We have become friends and are delighted they will come back this year, not as renters, but house sitters when we travel to Germany.
They always arrive with bounteous gifts of Austrian delicacies. A roof rack on their car holds Klaus’ ample supplies for their stay, including Austrian beer and wine. Of course they appreciate Provence wine too, especially summer rose.
Isabelle, who works in a bank, and Jean Christophe, who is in the insurance business, arrived from the Paris region in a spiffy Mercedes convertible. They had been to our region many times and were happy to be back. After a day’s outing, they often played boule in our driveway, although it is definitely not the best terrain for this Provence favorite.
We enjoyed Belgians Jeroen and Anika, both teachers, and daughter Stans. They came loaded down with two bicycles, plus baby supplies: baby stroller, baby bed, a plastic pool, pool toys. They had fun introducing Stans to the big pool. They biked, too.
Jeroen is one of those super cyclists who have conquered Mt. Ventoux many times. “Any serious Belgian cyclist must climb Mt. Ventoux,” he said. He did, as well as the Mountain of Lure which he says is beautiful. “It’s only 100 meters less than Ventoux, but no one knows about it.”
Anika’s passion is markets. They visited six in the region. Her favorite: Apt.
Friends and family also visited in summer 2016. With my brother Steve and sister-in-law Yoshie we enjoyed a mini-trip to visit the fascinating Chauvet- Pont d’Arc Cavern with replicas of prehistoric cave art dating back 36,000 years. The original art was discovered in a nearby cave, but it is closed to visitors to protect the treasures. The replica cave and art are mind boggling.
Step-children Kellie and Rob with grandsons Lang and Sam joined us in June. Good times in the pool were enjoyed by all. Bob even joined in – a mini miracle. He is not a water person, and almost never goes in the pool. I make up for him.
Summer ended with a visit from Colorado friends Kathy and Bob, whom we know from our days n Germany long ago.
Now that I have finally put summer 2016 to bed, time to move on to new adventure and travel. Abu Dhabi, Sri Lanka and the Maldives – here we come! Watch this blog.
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It’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 their 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.
We joined fellow Americans for a Fourth of July party sponsored by Democrats Abroad in Avignon.
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.
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.
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.
And north to Sisteron for an outdoor concert under the Citadele.
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.
Another community meal – paella in our town, Reillanne. We love these events, good food and socializing.
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.
Cannes 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-Mer
Friends Mollie and David put summer to bed with a fabulous garden party.
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.
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.
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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.
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 studio 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 accommodations. 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
From Germany, Belgium, France, England, the U.S., Australia, Canada, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Netherlands, Argentina — even Romania and the Ukraine — they’ve come. To spend a week, two weeks, or sometimes longer in the guest studio apartment (known as a “gite” in French) on the first floor of our home, Les Rosiers, that we rent to tourists in summer.
It’s been fun and fascinating to meet and talk to our tenants. And, an experience.
Our first guests several years ago were a German couple, he a baker, who came for a week’s get away from their three young children. It was the end of February, but the Provence sun shone. They bundled up in blankets and lounged by the pool, which was all closed up, soaking up the rays.
We’ve found that Belgians and French, all from the north, especially like lounging by the pool in the summer. No doubt they already know the region, so they are content to chill out, relax, and hang out. Not so for most of our other guests who often set out for day-long excursions to sights – near and not-so-near.
“We have really enjoyed our relaxing stay in your lovely gite, we loved this area of the Luberon and having this comfortable, quiet little home to come back to at the end of a day’s sightseeing just made the holiday.” – Pauline and John, N. Ireland, July 2010.
Last summer was the season of cyclists, starting with a couple from North Carolina who had top quality rental bikes delivered from a bike shop in Isle sur la Sorge – about an hour away. They rode every day. Then came a couple from Brugge, also dedicated riders. They brought their own bikes, and after a day’s outing, were happy to come back and cool off in the pool. Francis, a physical therapist, loved to practice his English, which was excellent.
Aled, a Welshman, who came with his wife, Bethan, took the pedal prize. They come to Provence every year, and every year he pedals up Mount Ventoux. Last summer was his fifth ascent. He also intrigued us with his photography.
Aled is a professional who shoots with an Ebony (google it), an incredible large format camera. After their arrival, we heard them speaking and were intrigued. It was not English. They are among the 562,000 of a population of about three million who speak Welsh.
Close behind Aled for pedal prowess was Jakob from Prague. He did Ventoux for the third time. But, more amazing than his skill, was the family bicycle entourage. Jakob, wife Katarina, daughter Laura, 6, and baby Lukas, 1 ½, arrived with five bicycles (two for Jakob), plus a baby trailer, a baby bed and a baby carriage.
And, they pedaled – often all day, the entire family. After Laura got tired, her bike could be attached to Jakob’s. Katarina towed Lukas in the baby trailer. As the terrain here is anything but Holland flat — lots of long and often steep climbs — their stamina and fitness were mind-boggling.
We’re looking forward to our most dedicated guests in June – Klaus and Eva from Graz, Austria. This will be their fourth summer with us, and they stay for a month. Klaus comes first, his car loaded down with plenty of food supplies and Austrian beer. He always brings us generous gifts of delicacies one can’t find here.
Klaus is a gourmet cook and often shares his creations with us. The first summer he gave me a list of supplies needed in the apartment kitchen, including a knife sharpener, kitchen timer, vegetable peeler. Other guests have also made special kitchen requests. The Brits wanted a tea kettle (we boil water in a regular pan). One French couple wanted espresso coffee cups, yet another requested bowls for their morning coffee. All items now in place.
Our apartment has two double beds. German couples always occupy both beds. Not so with French, Belgians and most other nationalities who prefer togetherness and cuddle together in one bed.
“Thank you for sharing your bit of paradise with us…. Your apartment is wonderfully equipped, definitely a home away from home. This was my seventh trip to Provence, but it was by far the most relaxing and satisfying.” Lynne, Columbia, MO, April, 2011.
We’ve been surprised to find how many of our guests comment on the peace and quiet of our surroundings. Many must live in or near big cities. They love the tranquility of Les Rosiers. But, last summer that quiet was scathed one dreadful night. The house across the street is also sometimes rented to vacationers. Last August there was an entire wedding party and a wedding celebration with loud, blasting rock music that went on until 5 a.m. I finally called the police, and the noise stopped soon after.
Our tenants at the time, Jean Luc and Anne from Brussels, were most understanding. We felt dreadful – mainly because that was not the only disaster to mar their stay. They were without television the first week – a problem that required a repairman who, because it was a holiday week, could not come immediately. Then the gas ran out in the kitchen, but we did remedy that in a timely fashion.
We went off to the states in September, leaving our dear and trusty German friends Klaus and Marianne to house sit and mind Les Rosiers where a German couple, Detlef and Susanne from Hamburg, were staying. They became friends, and all was well until the pool turned green. It’s happened before – algae attack. Klaus, with the help of our friend Alan, got things back in order and our guests, again fortunately, were more than tolerant.
“The whole set up here is warm, welcoming and comfortable…Loved the bright garden and rural setting. ..So much to see and do in this area of Provence, and Les Rosiers is an ideal base.” — Janeen and Jon, Australia, May, 2012.
The pool is a Les Rosiers highlight. But never has anyone enjoyed it as much as a German family with two young children who visited several years ago. They were in the water every minute they were not out visiting sights. Playing “fussball” — water soccer. Every time someone scored, the father, louder than the kids, yelled “Tor.” Children, we’ve found, seem to need to scream with delight when they are in the pool. We’re happy to see them have fun, but life is more peaceful with adults.
We love to invite our tenants for an apero, an evening drink and snacks, and a chance to get to know them. We’ve had stimulating and educational conversations with Belgians on the divisive politics in their country, a first-hand account of life behind the Iron Curtain from East Germans, and a lesson in political history from N. Irelanders. We also like to hear about their adventures in the area, the places they have visited, what they especially like. Our guests enjoy the lovely view of the Luberon hills from our balcony.
As one guest wrote in our guestbook: “Leben wie Gott in Frankreich (live like God in France)..We experienced this here. We’ve found Eden with God as our neighbor.”