Monday – Tuesday, Feb. 1-2, 2016
Aix en Provence, St. Cyr sur Mer, France
On an afternoon walk around Aix, we’re drawn into a courtyard, lights shining in a workshop across the cobbled space. If a door or gate is open, we consider it an invitation to step in and look around, whether it’s a garden or a courtyard…and inside we find a sweet little well in the corner, which would have provided water for residents of the Hôtel Carces, built in the 1500s for the treasurer of Provence, in centuries past
Following the sound of a craftsman at work, we walk up to the atelier, and find that it is a new apartment in progress! The owner, who lives upstairs, is doing all of the work, and gives us a complete tour of what will be a gorgeous space – the ancient stables destined to be a luxury bathroom, the kitchen looking out onto the courtyard, and the salon out to the garden in the back. We promise to come by next time we’re in town to see what progress has been made.
We’ve rented a car for the next three days, and Tuesday being a major market day, we just HAVE to walk through and take in the vibrant winter colors on our way to pick it up.Then we’re on our way east to Bandol wine country, passing blooming almonds, the first flowering of spring, where our dear friends the Espinasses are creating a vineyard out of forested land. We arrive at the same time as another couple, Corey and Yan, eager to see what’s been done since our last visit – here’s Kirk to tell you all about it:
Today we’re at Mas de Brun vineyard in the Bandol AOC on France’s Mediterranean shore. In addition to planting thousands of new, mostly Mourvèdre vines, they’re also practicing permaculture (google it). After successfully transplanting dozens of mature olive trees, Jean-Marc has begun terracing a nearby slope so he can plant vines on flat ground. Kristi has since hidden the backhoe from him.
There’s little organic matter left after all the excavation; so they’re trucking in forest mulch and manure to re-establish the fertile limestone ecosystem on the surface. Jean-Marc is the magician who will turn these pallets of poop pellets into pallets of delightful rosé in a few years. By the way, that’s a gorgeous sliver of blue Mediterranean in the distance – each time we visit, we can see more sea, as Jean-Marc clears the land. The grape plants will grow deep into the limestone for the moisture and minerals they need.
The trois blondes enjoy the Mediterranean view while solving some very complicated problems. Mas de Brun has the world’s coolest toilet paper holder. It’s a panel from the barrels that were used by the grape pickers before they discovered that plastic ones were easier to hoist, full of grapes, up to the back of a truck. The side handles were used to drag the heavy wooden barrels up and down the rows filled with freshly clipped clusters.
Later we got a quick tour of the secure, underground cave where some bottles are stored for a rainy day. Kristin sets a beautiful table – limes and artichoke stalks from the garden down the center. Behold beautiful Bandol rosè (the first ever from this vineyard, in unlabelled bottles – the wine can’t be sold before the plants are in the ground for 3 years) made and served by a highly experienced and skilled professional. Goes great with Kristin’s awesome quiche and convivial company. Would you like to read and see more about this delightful lunch? Here’s Corey’s blog, Tongue in Cheek, and Kristi’s French Word a Day – enjoy!