We will miss you. We already miss the silence, the tranquility of our former abode, the captivating view of Luberon hills from our balcony, the sometimes mysterious, ever-fascinating sky, friends and friendly village folk … Life on the Mediterranean coast, where we now live, is so different, but it has many pluses. More about those in a future post.
We were attracted to Reillanne because it is a genuine, old Provencal perched village. It has not been gussied up like those Luberon villages Peter Mayle made famous: — Bonnieux, Lourmarin, Menerbes. Reillanne can be rough around the edges, ruts in some streets, lanes, — especially the Impasse where we lived. Many places could definitely use a fresh coat of paint, No classy boutiques. No fancy restaurants. No locals nor visitors in designer attire. Jeans and tattoos and plenty of funky, folksy charm.
Reillanne is ancient, with origins dating back to the 6thcentury. In its early years it was a fortified village with a hilltop chateau and ramparts. The chateau is long gone, but vestiges of an 11thcentury chapel remain. And, a new (1859) church, St. Denis , which is the town landmark and a favorite photo subject. I must have hundreds of St. Denis shots. Parts of houses in the vieux village (old village), a maze of skinny, serpentine alleys, date to the 11th century.
During the ’60s Reillanne was a hippy enclave. Joan Baez is said to have had a home in Reillanne – or at least vacationed there. Some residents of that era remain, geezers easily recognized by their hairstyles. Some of today’s younger residents are seeking the same alternative lifestyle that attracted their predecessors. They are joined by artists – painters, photographers, ceramicists – who have settled in Reillanne.
Reillanne’s Sunday morning market is a star attraction, and not just for locals. We went faithfully every week to buy from our favorite vendors, to meet friends and share a coffee or glass of wine after shopping.
We can’t look back. But, I can share these photos of some of my Reillanne favorite things.
The quick sale of the house, finding a new home, then emptying a big house loaded with furniture and far too much stuff for a move to a partly furnished apartment, plus packing for the move, engulfed my life . No time nor energy for talesandtravel.com Life is returning to normal. I am happy to post again and hope to do so more regularly. Stay tuned. If not already a Tales and Travel follower, sign up, upper right. Your address is kept private and never shared.
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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.
“Everywhere you look; it’s a feast for the eyes. It’s a magical place.”
We were sitting around the fireplace in a stylish salon of exquisite furnishings enjoying an apero when a friend made that comment. It was our first time at the Villa Augustine shortly after it opened in April 2012.
The turn-of-the- century mansion in the Vaucluse city of Apt, the capital of the Luberon, was originally owned by a wealthy family, proprietors of ochre mines. Their fortune plunged in the 1930s. The splendid home was abandoned for many years and in a dreadful state. Along came two Parisians, Guy and Christophe, to rescue the magnificent structure. Restoration took three years. Tracking down the furnishings and objets d’art took even longer. Guy and Christophe, both fans of 20th century arts décoratifs, combed France and neighboring countries to find original Art Nouveau pieces to enhance the interior in keeping with the period. Signed objects by Majorelle, Ruhlmann, Leuleu, Royere and others are among the treasures.
Today Villa Augustine is a sanctuary of calm and beauty in the midst of busy Apt just above the river Calavon. There are five chambres d’hote (B&B) rooms and gorgeous gardens planted with Italian inspiration. A more than 200-year-old cedar of Lebanon, classified as one of the most beautiful trees in the Luberon, is the pièce de resistance amidst flowers, cypress and olive trees. An inviting pool on a terrace above the villa is a delightful surprise offering stunning views of Apt and the Luberon hills. Not to forget – food, which is Guy’s realm. The ex-banker has always been passionate about cooking. Here he has the opportunity to indulge in his favorite pastime and prepare gourmet cuisine several evenings per week. His cuisine, he says, is influenced by his Spanish origins and Algeria, where he was born. And, the flavors of Provence, of course. There is a set menu, and reservations are a must as he can serve no more than 20 diners, but up to 40 for special events. During warm weather months, the spacious terrace in front of the villa is often a venue for the latter – concerts, fashion shows, art and photo exhibits.
During our first visit we had a complete tour and admired each unique bedroom with adjoining baths, many delightfully retro. A mirror from a buffet is the headboard for the double bed in one room. One bedroom is done in the style of the ‘50s, and another reflects the ‘40s.
Dinner – either outdoors under trellises on the terrace where huge pots of plants in bloom create an upscale ambience of greenery, or indoors in the dining room with its precious décor, is special. So is the food. Our first dinner in 2011 featured Noix de Saint-Jacques a l’artichaut et l’andouillette, jus de
crustaces, (scallops à l’ artichoke and sausage with the juice of crustaceans).
Last week we savored an excellent meal – a belated birthday treat for step-daughter Kellie and her friend Luka visiting from New York City. It began with a “mise en bouche” (pre-starter), a healthy gamba with a puree of mango and a mini glass filled with chantilly (whipped cream) of chevre (goat cheese). The entrée, carpaccio of tuna with a spinach sauce, was very flavorful – my favorite. Cod with ratatouille creatively stuffed in mini peppers accompanied the perfectly cooked fish surrounded by a coulis of tomato and juice of palourde (tomato sauce made with the juice of the clam perched on top of the cod). Dessert: roasted figs in fig liqueur with vanilla ice cream. Wine: a bottle each of an excellent Burgundy white and a Burgundy red suggested by Christophe. A fitting birthday meal in a magical place!
Guy and Christophe, who had the distinction of being the first gay couple married in Apt after the recent change in French law which now legalizes gay marriage, are overjoyed with the success of their endeavor.
“We are very happy with the speed in which we have succeeded to develop a faithful clientele,” says Guy. The chambre d’hote has been fully booked since April this year, he added. “Normally this would take four or five years.”
Rooms range in price from 100 to 150 euros per night. Three course dinners with two mise-en-bouches at 40 euros per person. Villa Augustine is open from mid March through the end of October. More information at www.lavillaaugustine.com
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A recipe to try: Linguine with Shrimp, Tomatoes and Feta Sabraw. Scroll down recipe column at right.
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.”