Saturday, June 05, 2010

Last days in Haute Provence

More Rambles around the old HP, along with some in Provence Lower. Here are some of the joints we popped into:

Minerbles was the setting for Peter Mayle's book about his Year in Provence. Another delightful town on a hill (all the towns on hills are delightful - yet to see a dull one). May very well have sighted PM himself, but never having seen him, nor even a photo of the chap, how could we ever know? On the way we saw one field of blooming lavender and promised ourselves a return for a photo. But it never happened ...

King William I of England came from Orange. Along with Mary. This town has been occupied by many different Powers, including the Dutch, the Visigoths, the Romans and the French, but not in that order. The best part of Orange, however, is the ginormous Roman theatre that dominates the city. It is HUGE! Appazzas, it was dug up in the early 20th Century, having been used for a variety of purposes that included: theatre (Oh derrr!), prison, fort, and (wait for it) village! Yes, at one time it housed an entire village! Houses were built up against the walls of the stage and the natural rock amphitheatre. You can still see where the roofs had been attached to the stage wall. During the GL (Glorious Revolution) the government ordered the evacuation of the village, but it took 20 years for this to happen. Then it fell into decay and it wasn't till the early 20th Century that it was excavated and restored to its present stunning majesty. It is now used as a theatre again and now playing the Phantom of the Opera. Check this beauty out on the web - there must be something on it.

The thing to do at Nyons is to have a look in the olive oil (huile d'olive) museum. Of course this is where you (and taste) buy all sorts of local produce, including wine, cheese, olives and of course the oil. The museum itself was cute and informative, as was the movie that ran in a continuous loop. However, the highlight was the ancient gentleman (89-y-o) who set his sights on JLR. "Who is with her?", he asked Susan in Fluent Fronch. Sooz's wiggling finger indicated that it was GCR and the blonde that made up the Couple. The rheumy eyes displayed a level of disappointment that only rheumy eyes can (poor chap!). Anyhoo, it turn out that this Ancient Personage is the owner of the whole show. He berated Susan in heavily-accented French on the health-giving qualities of cold-pressed virgin huile d'olive and was later seen addressing a group of well-behaved primary school children sitting in a demi-circle at his feet. Later we saw his fizz in the posters advertising the joint. [This is not a unique experience for Jude, as similar situations have arisen at the Cliff Booth winery, I have been reliaby informed, but that was BG, so I only have the word of the likes of Dianne Albiston and
Ewan Smith on that]. Sooz spoke at some length with this aged person (I actually think she fancied her chances, despite her brunettedness) and ascertained that his first language was probably Provencale and not French! Most place names around these here parts are presented in two languages, so the language must still be in use.

Lots more cute villages with cuter chateaux atop were visited by The Ramblers, Susan and our companions for the week Stephanie Rose and Jenna Holwell. They all defy description and you'll just have to come and see for yourselves. It's worth it many times over.

On the last night with our companions we drove to a teensy village high above Buis-Les-Baronnies for dinner. While the reports of the cooking from the others was not glowing (I quite liked my beef corgnettes), the experience was something else. In this tiny square (I know, ANOTHER tiny thing!) the village children and village dogs played around
our feet while the older villagers drifted in for their meals and/or drinks. The locals were either middle class professional types, farmer types or hippy types. The French chatter in the fading light with the mountain and valley views made for a perfect end to a wonderful sojurn at B-L-B. Lots of driving tomorrow, so I'd better get some sleep. More when we get to Annecy!

See youse!


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Market Day and a Ramble

Yonks since we Ramblers had been for a walk and today was determined as
the day. In between set-off time (2:00 pm) and decision-making time (9:30 am) was market Rambling. Yes, today is market day in Buis-Les-Baronnes. You turn left out of our street (6 metres wide) into the main street (10m wide) and all is not as it was. Stalls line one side of the street and, where it is wide enough, one stall on each side. As usual, the market is filled with local produce. Snossages, cured hams and dried meat, fresh vegetables of all description, clothing, fish, footwear (Sooz bought a rather fetching pair of shoes for walking), jewellery and mattresses. Yes, the Mattress Man - or at least A mattress man was there in all his glory. This chap was counting a wad of money as we strolled past, so he seemeded to be doing well.

True to the form of the locals, we stocked up on all our provisions and went home to a wonderful lunch of paella bought from a rather debaucherous older chap who definitely had an eye on my gorgeous travelling companions (who could blame him, really?). Steph and Jen got stuck onto the buying. They are on dinner on Friday night. Boy O boy, am I looking forward to that!

After lunch we had a bit of a snooze before it was time to head off up the hill/mountain. Steph stayed home for a sleep. She has been working very hard and has a bit of a cold. She needs to catch up on some sleep. Mount St Julien dominates the town to the south of us and we have a great view of it out our windows. It has a summit that pierces the skyline and can only be described in the following terms: "craggy AS!". The trail was marked with red and white stripes or crosses that guided our way. It is part of the GR7, s walk similar to the GR4 that we encountered in Chasteuil (remember?). Up we went, higher and higher, until the valley lay very small below us. On the other side of the valley we could see the tiny village to which Dear Jude and Jenna cycled to check out a lunch restaurant yesterday. By jingoes, it did look tiny and cute from where we climbed.

The route took us to the bottom of the craggy bits, around the contour, and then on to a ridge that took us up to a spot where we could look back past the crags and down to Buis-Les-Wassername. Stupendous! Returning along a ridge the other side of St Julien, we dropped down to the town and home to Dear Stephanie, whom we found well-rested and having screws of her book. On thecway we met a chap taking his bottles to the recycle bin. On hearing that we were from Australia, he immediately began making plans for us to do a house-swap sometime in the future. Why not?

I am off to grill the sardines I bought for entree in the market today. Mustn't dally!

So long!



Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Buis-Le- Barronies II

The girls have arrived and have made it back to the village with us. Boeuff bourgignon was planned, but way too short a time in the cook-pot meant that the meat was a little on the tough side. The title 'signature dish' is a way off just yet, I'm afraid! It was very tasty, though, and seemed to satisfy the roaring hunger the gang had worked up during ghe day.

Lots of garpsing from the back seat of the Megane Coupe as we entered the mountains from Marseilles, where we had collected Steph and Jen. These perched villages really take your breath away and it is great to visit that first-time experience through the eyes of others. These settlements were built over vast expanses of time, centuries ago. Coming across them 'by chance' as you hurtle around a corner in a 21st century coupe gives you the sense of 'appearing' in the moment.

... And always the poppies ('les coquelicot')! These are my fave flowers and never fail to impress. Not so the lavender, however, as it is too early for it to produce its purple blazes, for which this part of the planet is famous. Mind you, The Ramblers, avec Susan, went in search of these mauve spectacles a few days ago, on May 31st. That was still officially autumn. Too early. Now that it is summer we shall go in search of them again! It would be a tinch disappointing if we can't see the lavender, but I wouldn't swap the chance to see it with what flowers we have seen in full bloom: roses, poppies, irises and all the little wildflowers that spring out of fields, roadside verges, castle walls and window boxes. It's all very splendid, I can assure youse!

Still more bicyclists out on the roads today. I feel quite jealous that I have neither my bike, nor my cycling mates to huff up a col or two. Buis Les Baronnies is, appazzas, quite the cycling Mecca for those of a spinning inclination and Le Tour de France always passes somewhere close by. Last year the course ran right through the guts! There are two bikes in the cellar (Fr 'cave') of our house and Dear Jude has already cycled part of the route with Jenna to check out a lunch spot (restaurant) for today's treat. I shall crank a bike out later today and have a go on the 'route de la Tour'.

'bye for now,


More Cathar Stuff

... And the winner is ... Fran Vaughan for her massive contribution of information about the Cathars. Congratulations, Fran, a Cherry Rip ei on its way to your door! [George, could you please get a Cherry Ripe to Fran?].

Anyhow, here's some more syuff about them.

Now no one is to sheet any blame home to Georgia's friend Al Montfort. [I actually went to school with Al's uncle Neil, who was in my form, and his father, who was in the form below. How about THAT? Al plays guitar in Georgia's band, the UV Race. Just thought I'd tell you.]

It seems that in the early 13th Century, Simon de Montfort rampaged south into Cathar territory, where the Cs were minding their own business and living a good, clean life. [This was agreed even by the Catholics who wished to exterminate them.]. Simon conquored city after city and eventually controlled more land than the King of France. [Remember that the south was not part of any country at this stage.]

In April 1210, Simon laid seige to the town of Bram and winkled them out over a period of three months. And this is what he did: He took 100 of the defenders, cut off their upper lips abs noses. He put out the eyes of all but one chap whom he blinded in only one eye and set them off in a line led by that chap to another town as a warning to the inhabitants! Now don't go taking it out on Al. Or anyone in the UV Race, but wasn't that a darstardly thin to do? It seems that old Simon killed as many Catholics as he did Cathars in his time as a marauderer, so I suspect that there were motives beyond religious righteousness, don't you?

Simon eventually fell to a connonball to the head and smashed it to bits! I make no comment about the justice in that, but would kill to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Gotta go now - in it Marseille to pick up Steph and Jen from the airport.

Hoo Rooster,


Monday, May 31, 2010

An Adventure

One morning, Jude, Susan and Graeme woke early and looked out of their windows. Outside it was windy, but sunny. Graeme went down to breakfast after his shower to find Jude and Susan, who greeted him with news of the day's plans. Hearing that some driving to some places close by was in store, Graeme was overjoyed. A day of interesting castles and not much driving. He hugged himself with glee and anticipation at the thought.

"Let's make a roll for our lunch", suggested Jude. "Oh yes, let's", responded Susan, her eyes shining with eager anticipation , "We could find a lovely spot beside a stream or on top of a mountain and have a picnic."

So, with picnic rolls and water bottles packed into their basket, the three friends set off in their black car. As planned, Jude, Susan and Graeme visited only one castle (at Grignan), but also an olive oil museum (at Nyons), both of which turned out to be of quite some interest to our three adventurers. "Weren't those two places we visited today just too interesting for WORDS?", offered Graeme. "Yes", chorused Jude and Susan clapping their hands in delight at the memory, "They WERE rather jolly, weren't they? And wasn't our lunch on the square in Nyons scrummy and SUPER?".

It hadn't been a 30-minute drive that day. The Three Chums drove for a total of five and one-half hours. They arrived home well after 5:00 pm. They had had many adventures and had done WAY too much driving. But it didn't matter. The day had been perfect and all three had accumulated memories that they would treasuure all their days.

Graeme smiled quietly to himself that evening. He sat with his two companions, blogging to other pals overseas, while Susan and Jude watched Mary and Max on the DVD player. He was tired, but happy. He looked forward to a good night's sleep [this would be quite a contrast to the previous night when he had consumed WAY too much red wine and had not slept well at ALL].

Graeme hoped that all his chums were well and enjoying their time on the planet. He wished them good night, even though he knew that really it was morning where they were; that is, Australia. [The exception, of course, is his daughter Stephanie, who is arriving tomorrow from London with her friend Jenna Holwell.]

"Good night!"

PS. Anyone who hasn't watched Mary an Max is a loser and should be put to death.

Haute Provence

Here we are soaking up the delights of Buis-Les-Baronnies. [I'll check the spelling and get back to you later. Yes, that's it (I just checked) - one 'r' and two 'n's]. It's in Haute Provence. 'Haute' means 'high', so we are in Provence Upper. In future, therefore, I am going to give our home address in Wangaratta as 'Haute Waldara' as a consequence of this rather tortured thought process. I think it will stick, and the likes of Mal and Brenda McKay, Allan and Elaine Darwin and Jack and Joyce Marshall will readily agree to the erection of a sign half-way along our road: "Welcome to Haute Waldara". Should improve house/land values by thousands! We may even get our own postcode!

This village, like those surrounding it, at first look tiny, but it soon becomes apparent that there are lots of people about with lots of money. Restaurants charge, relatively, a lot of money. A 'menu de jour' was noted yesterday on a signboard out the front as costing 120 euros! That's AUD174.09 (in real money)! A haircut for Dear Jude would cost 36 euros! My understangi g of market forces leads me to believe that SOMEONE is paying these prices. I'll be danged if it is going to be us, though (unless Dear Jude REALLY wants that cut and style. As for the restaurant, all they got from us were the huff marks from our faces pressed up against their window pane).

I tell you who would love it here, and that's Gavin Frawley! There are buckets of cyclists on all the roads belting along the King's Highway. Mostly groups of chaps off for a day of serious spinning. The occasional touring couple on touring/mountain bikes offers some variation to this pattern. Yesterday we were told to get our car off the road very roughly
by a police officer on a motor bike. Very soon after, some flat-out-serious-sprinting chaps scorched past us in the opposite direction, up out of their seats and very determined looks on their faces. We looked for Cadel, but they were going far too fast to see! I bet he was there, though. I amcertain that Our Gav could mix it with the best of that lot.

We are having a day around the village today. I'd better get into the shower.

Hoo Roo!


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rambling on a Train

On our last full day in Juan-Les-Pins we had sceduled a train trip. First west to Cannes, and then east to Nice, on to Monte Carlo and return to J-L-P. A big day, but a grouse day. The train trip is an experience in itself. It follows the coast and affords a wonderful view of the plage (sorry, beach) all the way along.

Cannes probably has some wonderful redeeming features. One of these is the annual film festival, which hopes some day to reach the dizzy heights of the Wangaratta Jazz Festival, which attracts hundreds of visitors every year, and even a few more. We took pictures on the red carpet of the cinema, but totally failed to check out the famous murals that are famous internationally.

After that we re-traced our rail rambles through J-L-P and on to Nice. Nice has trams. And a huge square. And a prominade on the beach-front very similar to that of Cannes. It appears to be much bigger and huge numbers of people turn out for lunch in the many restaurants in the many squares around the old part of the city. When I was here a couple of years ago I listened to a couple of young kids playing Django Reinhart music in one of these squares. They played extremely well and I stayed and listened for some time. You need to dig out some of this Django music to see what I mean. Lots of strum-strum-strumming, with an overlay of melody. I love it. [Cut forward here to our 2010 trip whee we come across two busking bands playing Django Reinhardt music. Seems that Django has left his mark here in the haute Provence!]

Django aside, we made for Monte Carlo for the final onslaught of the day. Unbelievable wealth here, with king-sized yachts, swanky richos and wealth beyond imagination. I don't care for it myself. This raisin d'ĂȘtre is far beyond my comprehension. I give up!

Back to Juan-Les-Pins after a delightful dinner in the lower cost section of the principality, we tumbled into bed; tired, but happy. The stands for the annual motorsport were being dissembled for another year and I had done my dough (10 euro entry) at the Casino. It was time for bed. I think I have had my fill of imagining what it would be like to be rich, and all I needed was some shut-eye.

More Django later ...