A Rosy Roussillon Morning

A Rosy Roussillon Morning

Sunday, August 18, 2013 
Provençal Villages, France

d in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on our fall tour  – delightful Bath for the Mozartfest

Early morning and at sunset, the best times to appreciate the beauty of a place, no?

We had our sunset Roussillon experience back in May, and this morning we’re one of the first ones to stroll the village – no shops open, the lanes empty and quiet.

The one bakery in town is quite a popular spot, as I’m sure it is every morning. An integral part of the village since 1932, it rewards those who wait in line with scrumptious pastries. Our choices? An almond sacristan for Kirk, and a raspberry turnover for me, with a couple of café crèmes to go.
Finding a convenient bench, we nibble our pastries and sip our coffees as the town wakes up,

then wander a bit more, enjoying favorite corners, such as this wall that we hope is never repaired and plastered – a decrepit delight!

Rousillon’s ruddy tones are even more intense, lit with the morning rays.

Returning to the Sables d’Ocre, we choose a spot to while away a few relaxing hours,

NOT the lawn, please, since the robots are mowing diligently.
Tomorrow we’ll be flying all day, today is just pleasure… and more to come this afternoon!

Relaxing in Roussillon

Relaxing in Roussillon

Saturday, August 17, 2013 
Roussillon, France

d in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on our fall tour  – delightful Bath for the Mozartfest

After a couple of days of dedicated work on Ambiance d’Aix and La Belle Cour, we’re rewarding ourselves with a relaxing weekend in the Luberon before flying back to Virginia.  Passing the ancient walls of Avignon as we drive across the south of France, we’re remembering our May visit to the Papal Palace as we toured Provence and the Riviera with our wonderful guest Steve.
I usually like to unpack and get our “nest” prepped when we check into a hotel, but today both of us are eager to get out beside the pool and just chill…we slip on our bathing suits, bring our own chilled rosé and a few nibbles, and sink into comfortable chaise lounges on the lush lawn of Sables d’Ocre hotel on the outskirts of one of our very favorite villages, Roussillonaaaah!

Next on the itinerary  – dinner on the terrace below our room,

where we watch the intriguing globes, white during the day, gleam with colors as dusk falls.

Kirk tries something new – a foie gras burger – as a starter,

and the relaxed pleasure continues from one course to another in this lovely place.

The globes, on the lawn and even up in the tall pines, vie with the nearly- full moon for romantic effect.

It’s just a ten minute walk to the village, dreamy at night…

each photogenic corner demanding a snap just as in the daytime,

with the added mystery of lamplit shadows – love this place!

A Luberon Experience

A Luberon Experience

Monday, May 13, 2013 
Delights in the South of France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on a summer tour on the Amalfi Coast, in Provence, or in Amsterdam/Belgium.

Our fellow Slow Travel Tours members, Charley and Kathy Wood, have invited us to join them for a day of their Luberon Experience tour, and it’s just a gorgeous day to explore this enticing area with them. 

We’re staying in Lourmarin for a couple of nights, and buzz by the elegant chateau on our way to meet the Woods in Bonnieux.

After zig-zagging our way up and over the Combe de Lourmarin, we come out above the valley and snake down through upper-town Bonnieux to meet Charley at the Clos de Buis below, which they’ve filled with Luberon Experience guests for the week.
Several of the group are hiking with Kathy across the valley to Lacoste, crowning the opposite hill, and we’ll meet them there later.

Our first stop is the peaceful Abbaye St. Hilaire, where Charley points out the WC – carved into the adjacent cliff!

The Abbey, with origins in the 1300s, was abandoned for decades, and is now being slowly and carefully restored by a family who is also living there.


We enjoy the views of farms below and cliffside gardens,

then pile back into the cars to meet the rest of the group in Lacoste, where we begin our tour above the town at the chateau, now used as an exhibition venue, that was the former abode of the Sade family…

yes, THAT Marquis was chased out of  THIS town and imprisoned in the Bastille. Across the valley you can see Bonnieux to the right.

Beyond the sculpture, gleaming white-topped in the distance, is Mont Ventoux, a yearly fixture on the Tour de France.

Kathy shares the history of this now quiet and peaceful place, and we walk down through the town, which is mostly inhabited by students and faculty of the Savannah College of Art and Design… not even a bakery is here any more.

Next stop, our perennial favorite (we were here last month, remember?) Roussillon.

The Wood’s favorite Provencal artist, Francoise, whose shop is just on the left as you enter the village, shows us her work, and at least one Luberon Experience guest takes home a beautiful painting!

I love her patio – what a perfect place to sit and be inspired!

We’re all roussillon colored as we sit down for lunch in Cafe des Couleurs,

then take time to stroll the lanes, a photo op at every turn, from the tower

to a poppy strewn cliffside.

A couple more stops with the group – the graceful arch of Roman Pont Julien,

and a hand- picked- by – Kathy poppy field, just right for a scarlet- surrounded photo. Once again, Mont Ventoux gleams in the distance.
Thanks so much, Kathy and Charley, for generously sharing a Luberon Experience day with us!

We take off on our own for a few more Luberon sights, such as Gordes, another of France’s official “most beautiful villages” ,

and leave time for a wander around Lourmarin,

where our chat with a sidewalk guitarist leads us to his shop – he’s also an artist! And while we browse and buy he entertains us with a Johnny Cash tune or two.
Each day’s proving even better than we could have imagined – one unexpected surprise after another, with gorgeous weather as a perfect backdrop.


Fab Friends and Superb Sights

Fab Friends and Superb Sights

Saturday, March 30, 2013 
South of France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on a summer tour on the Amalfi Coast, in Provence, or in Amsterdam/Belgium.

La Belle Cour is as pretty as can be, ready for our spring and summer renters, so we’re on our way to Aix for a couple of days filled with friends, music and the delights of Provence. A quick shopping spree Saturday morning to pick up gifts, dessert for tomorrow, and that Ambiance d’Aix necessity, fresh flowers.

On the mantel goes the bouquet of sunshiney mimosa,

then we’re back in the car for a countryside drive to the lush Luberon, an hour or so north. We zig and zag up over the Combe de Loumarin,

and soon the graceful tumble of Bonnieux, our destination, appears ahead. Kathy and Charley Wood, fellow
Slow Travel Tours members, have invited us for lunch in their new apartment and we are eager to see lovely Bonheur en Bonnieux. What a marvelous setting – bakeries, cafes and boutiques just steps away, views of the beautiful countryside from every window and this inviting terrace –  a cozy and charmingly decorated two bedroom haven in one of Provence’s most delightful villages!

We love hearing the tales of finding antiques, beds, the many touches of sunny yellows and reds, dealing with France Telecom and the electric company (!!) and are reminded of our weeks of getting Ambiance d’Aix ready for renters, as the Woods have done.

Charley pours a crisp rosé to accompany Kathy’s mouthwatering quiche, followed by a board of local cheeses,

then we bundle up for a stroll through the village.

The Woods have spent many a month here for a decade or more, and Bonnieux is the base for their Luberon Experience tours, so every few feet we’re stopped with a cheery greeting from a friend.  We’re thrilled, with them, that they’ve now established a home here – what a treasure!
We complete our Luberon afternoon with a stop at what’s probably our favorite village in the region, Roussillon. You know you’re getting close when the russet cliffs appear by the road.

No matter how many times we visit, we always take more photos here than anywhere else – can you blame us?!

On the edges of town, you can still see where the ochre was harvested – scraped off generations ago – in shades from palest yellow to blood-red brick. Today synthetic paints have replaced the ochres used in times past.

Enjoy the views with us –

a rainbow row of homes,


an ancient arch leading to the topmost part of the village,

a valley vista,

colorful abodes,

one tucked right into the red rock,

others scattered among the cliffs.

We linger til sunset, watching the colors change,

Bonne nuit, Roussillon, it’s been a pleasure!!

The lights of  Lacoste, the ancient stronghold of the Marquis de Sade, shimmer a wink goodnight as we drive home to Aix. 

An Ancient Stronghold

An Ancient Stronghold

Monday, May 2, 2011
Fort de Buoux, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!

Over a decade ago, while staying at a B & B near Bonnieux for a week, we climbed the fortress topped pinnacle called Fort de Buoux. The link has some photos which will give you an idea of the scope and height of this plateau -on – a – pinnacle.
We spent last night in Apt, nearby, in order to climb it once again before driving to Aix. Our most recent guests leave Ambiance d’Aix today, and we move in 😉
We park in the designated area and follow the path under a massive jut-out of rock, where prehistoric tribes sheltered. The caves of the Aiguebrun (brown water in Provençal) river valley have been occupied for millenia, and remains of their dwelling areas, carved into the stone, can still be seen today.

At the base of the rockspur, beside a green and blooming garden, sits the same gardienne that was here in the previous millenium at our last visit. We pay our few euro fee and begin the climb.

Ancient homes carved into the rock were fortified with pain- stakingly shaped blocks of stone.

As we get higher, no guardrails anywhere, just a sheer drop of hundreds of feet, there’s a good view of the sheer cliffs across the valley.

Can you see the white dots just to the right of center below the tree line? We can hear those brave souls calling out to each other as they rappel down the cliff wall.

Up, up, up the rocky outcrop –

until we arrive at the top, where from the earliest Middle Ages this stronghold played an exceptional role in the defense of the country. At the time of the Religious Wars the Fort became a refuge for the pursued protestant Waldensians. Towers, ramparts, cisterns, and silos are still visible today. Hard to imagine LIVING in these so-remote place, with such difficult access. An ingenious curtain wall, blending in with the cliffside, snakes down another side of the pinnacle – a hidden escape route.

We descend to civilisation, and enjoy a relaxing lunch in the chi-chi village of Lourmarin – what a contrast to the fort!

The soothing burble of water beside us in the canal, a restful vision of creeper-covered walls beyond, we’re very thankful to live in peace in this millenium.

We arrive in Aix to find our usually quite little lane bustling with activity,

as filming for a French cultural TV show, des Racines et des Ailes (Of Roots and Wings) is going on in the lane and the adjacent square. We’re living in an historical place here too, but in a peaceful and beautiful town rather than a stark rocky plateau – much more pleasant, for sure!

A Luberon Wander

A Luberon Wander

Friday, Jan. 28, 2011, part 2
the Luberon, France

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’ve got the car for the rest of the day, so let’s explore more of this beautiful area, filled with some of our favorite south-of-France places.
Just down the road from Carpentras is the colorful town of Isle sur la Sorgue
, where we found many of the lovely antiques for our Aix apartment. It’s also the first stop on our Music and Markets Provence tour... an antiques markets to start the week.

Today, Friday, the town is quiet and none of the antiquaires are open, just a few of the local shops.

Without the distraction of beautiful old pieces,we can better notice the charming corners of town.


One lovely spot after another in this little collection of islands in the Sorgue River.

The historic Cafe de France , where we sit and sip a cafe creme under the plane tree outside in the summer,


beckons us inside for a warming vin chaud.


The town became prosperous generations ago because of the silk weavers, whose factories were powered by the water wheels throughout the town.

Then on the to the Luberon, stopping first at the colorful village of Roussillon, with its cliffs of ochre used for paint in the past, before synthetic colors were invented.

Can’t resist this door – we take a photo EVERY time, I think.

We never get tired of this town of many colors.
The Friday market of Lourmarin is our next destination, and on the
way there we toss out the idea of Petite Maison in Cucuron for lunch. Kim, of Dine by Design loves the idea, and while she and Kirk look around the village, I find the phone number and call the restaurant. One little table left – can you get here in 15 minutes?
I scurry through the charming village and find Kirk and Kim and in a few minutes we’re on our way.

It was a year ago when we enjoyed a fabulous truffle meal here, courtesy of the
Fastiers and today the charming staff presents us with another stellar meal.

beginning with an unusual combination of mussels, mushrooms, avocado and grapefruit, every bite bringing an ooh and aah from the table.

The main course is a shank of veal served with pumpkin puree, garnished with kumquats and toast topped with sweet and mellow marrow.

Not one, but two desserts – first a baked apple almond-crusted tart with tangy green apple sorbet, then a trio of profiteroles with chocolate – leave us eager for a walk around the town before we head back to Aix. Sweet Kim has grabbed the bill before we realize it – merci madame!! What fun it has been to share the day with her, exploring new places and showing off some of our old favorites!