Tag Archives: provence

Roussillon

Roussillon was my favorite neighboring town to Lourmarin when I was a child.  It was the most far-out place, and when you went there you inevitably got dirty.  Although I was pretty prissy as a child, the type of dirty you got in Roussillon was all right with me–it wasn’t muddy blasé brown, it was bright orange.  That was a kind of dirty I could get down with.

new cliff

town new

As if the bright orange and red cliffs aren’t enough, all of the buildings in Roussillon are built with the pigmented clay that surrounds the village.  The naturally occurring ochre in the hillsides was mined until the 1930’s.  Mining has since been banned in order to protect the site from destruction.

Being in Provence inspired an obsession with crumbling old walls with plants growing out of them.  Roussillon’s reddish ones are particularly high on my list because of the red/green contrast (these pictures are so much more vibrant in original–the upload to WordPress just ruins the color).

wall

And my favorite door, from 1678.  Well, I’m not sure about the door, but the doorway is from 1678.

roussillon door

If you walk to the highest point in town you find a ceramic-topped circular map of the region, with Roussillon at its center.  You’ll find similar maps in many of the neighboring towns.

new map

close map new

Right before you reach the map at the top of the hill you’ll find the 16th century church surrounded by lavender.

new church

The exterior is fairly simple, but there is intricateness to be found inside.  One of my favorites is the altar.

altar

altar detail

Wheat and grapes have been the primary crops of Provence since the middle ages.

baptismal font

The baptismal font was added in the 17th century.

God

I love the intricate high relief on the ceiling.  Very dramatic.

lighting candles

After the church we walked back through town to the cemetary, which is quite beautiful.

cemetary

masoleum

egyptian jacques

I like calling this guy “Eqyptian Jacques.”

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La force d’aimer

From Roussillon:

IMG_1501

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Lace Windows

In many windows, both in France and Spain, you’ll see the insides lined with lace curtains.  Many are floral patterns, or highly repetitive designs, but some have complete scenes with people and places.  Here are two of my favorites from my walks around little towns.

window1

A window in Apt

balloons

Hot air ballons over town

window2

A window in Bonnieux

angel

Angel

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Bonnieux: 12th Century Church

The old, old church is a hearty eighty-six steps up a steep hill from the village.  Even with our daily five miles, I started to feel winded.  This is no gentle slope.  Did there used to be more dwellings that high up in Bonnieux or was that all part of it?  In the 12th century was this just what you did every Sunday?  Or several times a week for that matter?  And just as Gothic cathedrals’ heights help bring their congregations closer to heaven with their arches and steeples, are these steps supposed to signify a journey towards communion with God?

stairs

Of course in my state of rapture, in reaching the top, in Provençal July heat, and in Christian ruins, I didn’t bother to take any pictures of the church itself.  There’s hardly enough room at the top of the hill to get far enough away from the wall of the church to capture it all in one shot anyway, and the church itself was locked (though it isn’t used as a church, classical music performances are held there occasionally).

church wall

There’s a little bench up there at the top under that big cypress tree that’s obscured by the tree’s shadows.  It’s so quiet up there, and windy too.  In a way it’s soothing to sit on that bench, and in a way it’s very eerie, being so high up, and so dwarfed by everything around you–the church, the trees, the vista, and time itself.

Sitting in the shade and peering through the big dark cypress branches makes you understand Cezanne and the awe he obviously felt a bit better (think Forest 1894 and Landscape Near Aix, the Plain of the Arc River).  I have such a different perspective on Cezanne than I used to.  In college I fought one of my art history professors constantly about him–I just never felt the still lives and thought he was over-credited for his perspective.  Now looking at his landscapes that once seemed so benign to me, I see much more of the turbulence that I feel is the essence of Provence–it isn’t that calm lavender scented-rosé filled country the Brits, or whoever else might think it is–it’s thick and heavy.  Life is really felt here.  As the French say, it’s sauvage–wild.

church cypress1

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church cypress2

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Bonnieux: Le Fornil

I know it’s a lot on Bonnieux, but I really think Bonnieux is worth it.

Le Fournil is one of the restaurants featured in Gilles Pudlowski’s guide to Provence and the Cote d’Azur.  This place is an absolute pleasure.  It fits in perfectly with the relaxed atmosphere and beauty of Bonnieux.  The food is refined yet unpretentious.  The service is friendly and on the lively side, which gives the place a bit of a younger vibe–totally welcome after a week at Mas de Guille (“Relais du Silence”) where we were the youngest people by twenty years.  And judging by the stares I got when I was taking pictures, this place is equally appreciated by tourist and locals alike, which lends credence to the chef’s work.

fournil sign

fournil1

Le Fournil at 7:30pm

We’re early eaters at home, it’s no secret.  But I swear we were eating at 9 and later in Guethary!  But during that first week away in Provence, we were still adjusting.  Add to that the heat and our minimum of five miles of walking per day (assessed by pedometer no less) and we ended up really needing that first reservation of the night.  Plus it made for good pictures right?

fournil menu

Le Fournil’s menu

fournil amuse

Fish paté amuse bouche

I’m a little bit of a wuss when it comes to something like fish paté (and I. even more so) but this was absolutely delectable.  I never expected such a texture to work–but Le Fournil made it so.

fournil salad 1

Petits farcis provençaux servis tíèdes

I have no translation for “petits…” but based on the little I know about Provençal cuisine, stuffed crudité appears to be somewhat of a tradition.  We had several incarnations of this dish at different restaurants and this was indubitably the best.  The stuffing is bread crumbs, herbs, and other fabulous Provencal things.  Sorry I can’t be more specific, but aren’t the colors great?

fournil salad2

Bouquet de haricots vert et cocos frais, ris d’agneau poêlés vinaigrette d’herbes

If only this could be recreated.  I’m not sure what the cut of lamb was, but it was so tender.  Perfect with vegetables and some aged balsalmico.

fournil beouf

Contrefilet de beouf poêlé, chutney de cerises, blettes au jus

The pièce de résistance: contrefilet.  Although my favorite steak of the trip was at Le Madrid (Cote de Beouf with Bearnaise) due to its total simplicity and melt-in-your-mouth qualities, this contrefilet is a very, very close second.  The cherry confit had the perfect balance of sweet and tart to the meat.  Every bite was a pleasure.

As we left everyone was still enjoying.

fournil scene

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Bonnieux: Flora

One afternoon I decided to take a small mysterious-looking trail up to this ruin on the hill behind town.

ruin

I’m still not sure what the ruin is of, perhaps I should have asked some of my friends at Les Terrasses that, but it never came up.  Some sort of fortification against invasion from the middle ages?  Perhaps.  On the way up the hill I found some pretty wildflowers.

flora1

flora2

flora3

Apparently the wildflowers of the Luberon are the best in May.  Next time, next time.

ruin2

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Bonnieux: Abandoned Hotels

There are two very beautiful and grand hotels in Bonnieux that appear to have been closed and then abandoned.

One is on the main road across from the wall in the photographs in the previous post.

closed hotel 1

hotel

peering inside the window from the courtyard

bas relief

bas relief bust in the courtyard

There’s another old empty hotel on the steep walk up to the 12th century church at the top of town.

closed hotel

overgrown garden

Hotel Deville’s (de Ville’s?) overgrown garden

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