Market Week in Provence, Part 2

May 8, 2012.  Today we had breakfast at the villa, since Anne and I finally found the coordinates for an open grocery store last night.  Coffee, tea, toast, fig jam (from yesterday’s market), and my infamous garbage omlettes, mixed with fresh cheeses (also from the market yesterday), onions, fresh red peppers and mushrooms.

By 10:00 a.m. we climbed into the enormous van we rented, and headed north for Gordes, a lovely hill town where the very well-to-do have their summer houses.  Beautiful stone residences climb the hillside, somewhat like a very upscale Mesa Verde.  VERY upscale.  And the village at the top is pristine, with the requisite museum and church, as well as several boulangeries, cafes, and shops.  Not much in the way of tourist junk, thank goodness.

We were routed to a parking lot a few blocks away from the town, because it was VE Day, a national holiday, and there was to be a ceremony in the large square at the top of the hill.  In addition, we stumbled on Gordes’ weekly market, much smaller than the one in L’Isle Sur La Sorgue, and again, definitely the higher end of market fare.

At noon a ceremony was performed in the square, with the French version of our color guard standing tall.  All the bustle of the market stopped, in memory of all who lost their lives in WWII.  After about 15 minutes, everything resumed as before, but I felt honored to be on the sidelines of this solemn moment.

Exquisite lunch in Gordes

Our group ate a delicious lunch on the outside patio of L’Estaminet, took a last look around the market booths and the permanent shops.  I bought a lovely turquoise pashmina from one vendor, a large linen tablecloth and runner from another, and the requisite lavender soap, a must in Provence, where the lavender fields are not yet in flower, but definitely rounding out their greenery already.

By mid-afternoon, we were ready to pile back into the van and head toward Robion and our villa.  We created a delicious and widely-varied dinner out of the things we had bought during the past two days . . . cheeses and sausages from the markets, salad greens and roasted chicken left over from the day before, and wine from the Cave de Luberon.  All in all, a beautiful day!

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Market Week in Provence: Part 1

May 7, 2012. When I created the schedule of activities for most of our week in Provence, I didn’t deliberately choose to visit my favorite towns — Cassis, Gordes, Roussilon, St. Remy, Aix-en-Provence — each on the day of the local market, but four days out of five, that’s what happened.  I must admit that Sunday’s outing (see the previous post) was a deliberate market choice, and our timing was better than in the past.  Earlier in the day, the colorful booths explode out of the pathways around the Sorgue river, full of everything from tableclothes to shawls to baskets to cheeses, olives, roasted chickens, antique threads and tapestries, furniture, and schlock souvenirs (though thankfully there isn’t much of that).

Monday’s journey was to the Cote d’Azur, the French Riviera, specifically the beautiful little town of Cassis.  The U-shaped harbor is lined with cafes and what else . . . shops.  And at the water’s U-shaped edges are rows and rows of sailboats and motorized touring boats, which carry their passengers in and out of the Riviera’s calanques, fjords, the watery fingers of this part of the coast.

Since I have a strong tendency toward motion sickness, and have braved the waters the first time I traveled to this part of the area, I choose to send my traveling ducklings down these beautiful passageways without me.  The turquoise sparkling surface of the water reflected a magnificent sky today, and in my mind, the weather was perfect.

While my travelers cruised the calanques, I scouted out a restaurant where I could sit down and have my favorite boat-waiting meal . . . steak tartare!  Glass of red wine, basket of delicious French bread (there is NO bread like French bread from France, no matter HOW much I love Italy!), and a plate of fresh raw beef, parmesan cheese shavings, arugula in the center.  An on-shore meal to die for . . .

When the cruise boat returned to the dock, everyone was hungry, so of course we scouted restaurants and menus again until we found a place that offered something for everyone in our group.  I was happy with a glass of ice water and lemon, but the women had their fill of delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches after their time on the water.

Getting out of Cassis is always a challenge, and even with a GPS, the first few turns are very tricky  Who knows where we might end up?

After returning the women to our villa to enjoy the late afternoon sun (and a glass of wine, of course!), Anne and I went to the neighboring town, Coustellet, to find a Super U grocery store, to stock our barren refrigerator and cupboards.  Cheese, fruit, bread, coffee, salad greens, roasted chicken, fig jam, a bottle of Port, among our goodies, and accompanied by the wine we purchased at the Caveau de Luberon, a wine-tasting bar and wine store, we were set for at least half the week.

Back at our villa, we arranged our food purchases from the Sunday market and those from today’s grocery outing onto platters and carried everything out to the table in our courtyard, set to relax until bedtime.

Have Resurrected Computer, Will Post!

May 17, 2012.  Why is it that the best laid plans of mice, men and women, really do come apart at the seams sometimes?  After transferring this blog to WordPress so I’d be really ready to keep track of our travels, I found myself with a completely dead 9-year old laptop last weekend, and nothing I could do would bring it back to life . . . until I completely left it alone for four days, removed and repositioned the battery several times, etc. etc.  For no particular reason, yesterday morning, voila!  I heard that distinctive chime that only means a Mac is booting up . . .

So, though I felt clearly lost without the electronics, I noticed several things:

1)  I reminded myself that despite the rain in France for a month before we arrived, and despite the forecast for several days of rain during our 16 days here, we have had simply beautiful weather, but for Tuesday, when we walked through the Marais District with a walking guide, umbrellas up against rain and gusts of wind . . .

2) I wrote a bit more in my paper journal about our activities, rather than try to deal with the French computer keyboard layout . . .

3)I finally made a firm decision to buy a new Mac as soon as I return home.

The writing and posting could be done at home, worst case, and my photos won’t go on this site, probably because of the ancient and now really dying system I have.  BUT . . . we definitely wouldn’t be enjoying our activities nearly as much if our weather had shown up as predicted.

So . . . there’s my introduction.  Now on to our adventures, which I will post in pieces, so you won’t have to make a sandwich before you settle in to read:

Provence, cont’d:  When last we left this website, Sunday, May 6, we had settled into our first day at our villa in Robion, in the Luberon Valley of Provence.  Indeed, we went to the market at L’Isle Sur La Sorgue, returned to our villa for relaxation near our swimming pool, and returned to L’Isle, etc. for dinner at Le Jardin du Quai.  It’s a beautiful place, and though the main course that particular night was a pork roast, not the best thing I’ve eaten here, the accompaniments were delicious, the garden cast a glowing light on all of us as the sun set late in the evening, and we enjoyed ourselves completely.

The drive back to the villa was under 30 minutes, and we eased ourselves into our respective villa bedrooms for a good night’s sleep.


France Women 2012 Part I – Provence

May 6, 2012.  We’ve arrived and settled in to the villa St. Roch in Robion, a little village in the Luberon Valley of Provence.  The new village is one block to our right, the old village perhaps a 10 minute walk to the left, and the Luberon Mountains protect our backs and the back of the property.  It is a gorgeous day, we’ve been to the old village for cafe au lait this morning (our villa owner, the darling Sebastian, walked to the boulangerie for our just-out-of-the-oven croissants), and enjoyed the early part of the morning watching the townspeople stream into the Hotel de Ville to vote for the French president.

This afternoon we are heading to L’Isle sur la Sorgue for the Sunday Market.  It’s a beautiful day and we’re getting an earlier start than we usually do on these trips, so perhaps half of the vendors won’t be packing up already!  This evening we will return to the restaurant Le Jardin du Quai, right across from the train station, within a high iron fence.  The beautiful garden areas welcome the restaurant’s customers, and the chef, Daniel, prepares fresh dinners from what he gathers at the markets on Saturday and Sunday.

The women are chattering already, as though they’ve known one another for half a century, and indeed three of them have done just that.  Anne, Penny and Etta met in New York in the 60’s, married men who were all friends, and the rest, as they say, was history.  Kathy and Ingrid are delightful additions as well, so I’m looking forward to an excellent week.

My photos (I know, I say this every time) are giving me trouble, so at the moment I can’t transfer any of them to this post, but I promise I’ll insert them as I can.

On the Way to France!

The days are passing quickly, and in two days, I fly to Paris to meet my group of women for our France Women 2012 adventure. We will settle in to a beautiful villa, St. Roch, in the Luberon village of Robion for a week, followed by one lovely night’s stay at Les Florets in Gigondas.

Paris awaits us for the second half of this magical trip, and I can’t wait to visit my favorite places once more, while making time to discover new haunts.  And a special treat for this groupie . . . James Taylor in concert, May 15, at L’Olympia Theater!

Follow us as we explore Provence and Paris for the next two weeks.