Art, Creativity, Photography, Travel, Writing

Provence April 2011

Early in April we drove to Provence for a few days of sunshine (we hoped). As the drive would be a long one we decided to stop just over half way at Chalon-sur-Saone where we have stopped on previous occasions for a meal but never for an overnight stay. We found a hotel near the old part of town and tried to find the restaurant we had been to a few years ago. Inevitably it no longer existed but in its new reincarnation, now called Le Clown Gourmand (can be translated as the greedy clown or the clown who enjoys good food), we enjoyed an excellent meal. As its name suggests the interior décor was clown-inspired and I loved the lamp stand made of a seemingly tottering pile of crockery.

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Our hotel was near the new KPMG building, a conversion of an old building which had been done very sympathetically and pictures of people taking photographs had been painted on to some of the empty wall space – much better than graffiti!

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We continued our drive the next morning and arrived in Provence to find temperatures of 27°C (unseasonably hot). We had lunch out of doors on a café terrace and then made our way to where we were staying. The views were fantastic and we were surrounded by cherry orchards. I went straight out to take some photographs of the cherry blossom as it only lasts for a couple of days.

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wild orchids
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Bay tree flowers – I have never seen anything like the quantity of flowers as there were on this tree

But how do you capture the call of the cuckoo, the humming of the bees in the bay tree which was in full flower or the “bourdonnement” of the big fat blue-black bourdons in the Judas tree, the twittering of the goldfinches and the whirr of wings as wood pigeons and jays beat by and the smells of the apple and cherry blossom in full flower just then?

On Saturday morning the town of Apt is taken over by the market whose traders set up stall in the narrow streets and squares and the whole of the town centre becomes one huge pedestrian-only area. We couldn’t resist going down into town to wander round the market.

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The florist stalls were doing good business and I would have been tempted to buy a bunch of pink peonies if we had been staying a few days longer.

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The fruit – baskets of bright strawberries – and vegetables – mounds of green and purple artichokes all looked mouthwatering too.

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favoured interior decor colours still seem to be creams and greiges (grey/beiges)

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bottles of flavoured vinegars

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sacks full of spices

We stopped to admire and buy some postcards from an artist called Francoise Unel. Her cards were beautiful and she sells them online here. She speaks very good English if you wish to contact her.

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typical Provencal colour palette

On Sunday morning we got up early to go to a “vide greniers” (literally means attic-emptying but the English equivalent would be a car boot sale and in American it would be a yard sale) on the outskirts of Apt. In fact it took place on a bit of waste land near the disused railway station. There were loads of stalls this time and it took us about an hour to get round them all. Of course there was a lot of rubbish but I managed to get 2 wooden printing blocks for 5 euros each. I have seen them for sale in Arlon for at least 3 times that much.

We then drove to the very picturesque town of Isle sur la Sorgue for the Sunday morning antiques market.
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what better situation for a restaurant than next to and crossing over the water?
Although there was an ordinary market there – cheaper than Apt’s  – there weren’t very many antique stalls but I did find a couple of interesting ones. One was selling sewing/embroidery related items and had a beautiful old wooden printing block with 2 birds on it for sale at 55 euros!
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On another stall the colours on rows of, what I think were, passementerie bobbins glowed in the sunlight.
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Another shop was dedicated to the art of good living out of doors and had a metal pergola with lots of interesting decorations in it.

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assorted antique china for sale
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bird scarers in the shape of cats with glowing eyes for the garden. These are still used and I have a modern version of one. When hung indoors and the eyes catch the sun they cast weird shadows on the wall!

We then went to visit the Chartreuse de Bonpas, which I had wanted to visit for ages. I had always thought it was a fortified chateau but in fact it was a Carthusian monastery in the past. “Chartreuse” means Chapterhouse and “Bonpas “ comes from the Latin “bonus passus” (good passage). In the past the monastery provided board and lodgings to pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostela.
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interior of the chapel
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The gardens with steep wooded cliffs rising behind it which provide some shelter when the Mistral wind whistles down the river valley
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In the grounds outside were mounds of dark purple irises, their petals almost translucent in the sunlight.

As it was lunch time when we left we decided to chance our luck and see if we could have lunch at the café de la poste in Goult. In high season it’s impossible to get a table without a reservation but it was still early in the year so we were lucky and had lunch sitting in the very warm sunshine, glad of the huge parasols to shade us.
After lunch we went for a stroll around the tiny village of Joucas, still undisturbed by hordes of tourists and full of narrow cobbled streets along which no car could ever pass.
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On our way back to the cooler north we passed fields and fields of yellow rapeseed, making a glorious patchwork of colour with the spring green of early shoots and of fields newly ploughed.

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Comments on: "Provence April 2011" (6)

  1. porchsitter said:

    What wonderful places to just take your time and stroll through. The fruit and vegetables look delicious–so fresh–so beautiful. AH, you’ve given me a mini-vacation, thank you, Carol.

  2. Lovely morning stroll with your photos and comments, thanks! XOXO

  3. your words and photos are so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes – thank you!

  4. Marvelous adventure and your photos beautiful. There was something about the bobbins that attracted me. Thank your for the vacation. I needed to get away but have been homebound.

  5. I’m so grateful to come along with you on these beautiful journeys! I was dickering around for a carved printing block or three myself just today. You surely did get a deal. I’ll set my hand to carving my own instead.

  6. Fabulous photos and I love the views of the markets and the old streets. Made me want to visit Provence even more than ever.

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