7C8BDD91-61C5-4722-92AF-55390CCBCE51After the success of our small-group excursions to Cassis and the hill towns, I signed up for a full day trip to see lavender in Valensole and to visit some additional provençal villages. The advantage of this particular trip was that I had more time in each location, so I feel that I got to see all that I wanted and take pictures to my heart’s content.


Valensole is a large plain known for having field after field of lavender, or actually lavendin. We learned that virtually every “lavender” field is usually lavendin, which has a more compact grouping of flower heads on the stalk and slightly different attributes than its better known cousin. The first stop was to a farm with lavendin, olive and almond trees. We were allowed to go right into the fields to take photos, as is typical of farms with shops, as opposed to farms that simply produce the crop and do not appreciate tourists traipsing through their fields. Because it had been a cool spring, the lavendin was not quite in full bloom, but it was still a beautiful sight to see! My favorite parts were the poppies growing between breaks in the plants. Of course, our visit ended with the opportunity to buy some of the organic products.

FE0C6E22-C761-4EDA-9537-77DABB57E5E920FD56A2-B808-4349-8FCA-C9F030AB74698890410F-CAC0-4AF9-A03C-380CF062AD6A8C871F87-CE8A-4F7C-9085-9996ED95CC5DThen we went to the village of Moustiers-Sainte-Anne, home to beautiful faïence, or pottery, for  centuries. There were traditional patterns, the same as the one ordered by Louis XIV and modern interpretations. I was highly tempted by a mug with a hot air balloon, celebrating the success of the Montgolfier brothers, and a trio of vases in graduated sizes decorated with tropical birds. I resisted, but did indulge in a simple leather belt that I was able to customize in the color, size, and buckle style that I wanted.

0AA3B2D4-C6BF-4533-BC56-43A5BD049BBDD09395AD-4C12-44D7-860D-C77E2D1833EFD7600360-D1BA-4E47-B9AE-64117592DC60462EC382-2DF1-4095-9AD5-C5CF0167A2A3The village deserves its inclusion in the list of the most beautiful towns in France. It perches on a series of terraces, about a hundred yards up a limestone cliff. Far above the little town, a golden star twinkles above the town, suspended on a chain between two cliffs. According to legend, it was hung by a knight who made it home to Moustiers after having been imprisoned during the Crusades to fulfill a pious oath. It’s been replaced a number of times since the 10th century, of course, most recently with the aid of a helicopter. How they managed to suspend it in the pre-helicopter days defies my imagination.

13F68226-660D-4577-A546-D71E367945700BC70AA6-B1CA-446B-A5C2-C31EE6765526A2AEDDDC-E65D-4692-9A62-F3054ACE6E3F1617F020-37AF-40D0-B33C-2582BA2E40F46E848A6F-0E63-4D0F-B433-6AA8EFEFB129A2AEE3AA-9A5B-4E36-BD01-C9BE517BB926Perched between the village and the star is a tiny chapel, Notre Dame de Beauvoir. It’s a long climb up there, on stone steps rendered slick from the passage of many feet over the centuries. You can see the chapel in the photo, above, where the bridge is at the bottom left and the chapel is at the top right. The chapel itself manifests little architectural beauty, but it is well-named as it provides a magnificent vista over the valley. Legend attributes its construction to Charlemagne in the 9th century. For sure there are historical references to it early in the 12th century, which is sufficiently extraordinary.

97342845-4879-4EB9-9E6B-04755192FF20.jpegThe day was far from done, but I’ll share the rest of our itinerary in another post. Have you ever been to Moustiers? Did you succumb to some faïence?

794DD22B-7EF2-4C6F-BD27-20D913051D39Provence Made Easy: The Sights, Restaurants, Hotels of Provence



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Que voir dans le Luberon?

585415C1-0265-40F6-8683-C0ADFB97FED6.jpegAs I mentioned in a recent post, we went on an excursion to Cassis when we were in Aix-en-Provence. On our way back, I asked the van driver for more information about their trip to the Luberon villages. He offered us a discounted rate to fill the last two seats in that afternoon’s excursion, so off we went to Lourmarin, Roussillon, and Lacoste.

F506A45C-84CC-43E6-A084-01E1868BE4623A31C7CC-208D-4D52-9089-4F990C803C7F81D92E0E-7461-4F23-82F8-7A32FC5FD373The flower draped stone buildings on the winding streets in Lourmarin were picture perfect. We spent the majority of our limited time there learning about lavender bottles (lavender stalks that are bent to cover the flower heads and embellished with ribbons) from a true artisan. Of course, a few had to come home with me.

F24765F2-AF37-4F55-B7D1-A7B69B133FA9413868B3-BFEC-4553-8CA4-491DCDE43A1F210619CA-F6A7-4758-AF90-26D023EDE80DRoussillon is famous for its ochre cliffs that have been mined for a millenium. All the buildings in town sport different tones of this warm mineral. I would have liked to have had enough time to do the walk further in the cliffs to explore these formations in more depth.

DC2E2B97-3DC2-4258-8988-C890585670D3169AE605-EE8B-4985-AAA7-12517DA9E1F9610784D6-5F90-4064-ACD9-5C6637FF427CThe castle at the summit of the village of Lacoste is the former home of the evil Marquis de Sade, now owned by fashion designer Pierre Cardin. There is really only one steep, cobbled road that winds its way down to the foot of the hill through the thousand year old village.

While I would have appreciated at least twice as much time in both Lourmarin and Roussillon, this excursion was the only way we could have possibly seen three villages in just one afternoon. Yes, we could theoretically have rented a car, but seeing our driver thread the needle down narrow streets reinforced our conviction that this is a task best left to those familiar with the region. What are your favorite Luberon villages? Any hair-raising driving in Provence stories to share?

794DD22B-7EF2-4C6F-BD27-20D913051D39Provence Made Easy: The Sights, Restaurants, Hotels of Provence

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Paul Delaroche

C98B160E-8209-425F-B5D9-D8C2943A97CBFrench Romantic painter and sculptor Paul Delaroche was born on July 17, 1797. He specialized in historical scenes after having trained initially as a landscape painter. He turned to figure painting in 1817 after failing to win the Prix de Rome. He entered the studio of Gros and began exhibiting at the Salon in the early 1820s — at the very time when the rivalry between Romanticism and Classicism was at its fiercest. Delaroche steered a middle course between these two extremes. His historical subjects, which aimed at poignancy rather than grandeur, were typical of the Romantics, but were handled in a bland academic manner.


La Mort d’Élisabeth

Neoclassical painters had taken their historical themes from ancient Greece and Rome, but for the Romantics, British subjects were more appealing. This was largely due to the popularity of the novels of Sir Walter Scott. Certain themes also had a particular resonance for French spectators. Cromwell was often seen as a forerunner of Napoleon, while the beheading of Lady Jane Grey evoked memories of the French Revolution. After Delaroche’s death, his melodramatic style completely fell out of favor, although, in recent years, his reputation has undergone a minor revival. He died on November 4, 1856.

399FFFAE-CED6-425C-8763-FC8A6EC095FEPaul Delaroche, 1797 – 1856

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Que faire à Cassis?

C3941C11-6C12-44E4-9185-ADA0209D8515When I travel, I usually like to take public transportation and move around like a local. This time, however, we signed up for some mini-van excursions at the Office de Tourisme in Aix, as Provence isn’t as well served by trains and buses as some other regions of France. Although these trips do have their drawbacks, notably having to stick to someone else’s timetable, they are certainly an option to consider.

A1156726-CF7B-4253-8419-E671FF7CD333The first trip was to Cassis, a port town near Marseille. It’s famous for its calanques, sheltered inlets lined with steep, cream colored cliffs. It’s been an active fishing and trading town since Roman times. It’s also known for the stone from its quarries, full of little fossils, that has been used to build many of the principal ports of southern France.

E7C35312-CD9D-4634-A7BF-87C7C14A1413We had a boat tour to three of the calanques, before having some time in the town. I loved all the flowers in front of the houses. We finished with a trip to the top of a hill to see a panoramic view of Cassis from below. We enjoyed it so much that we signed up for another excursion that same afternoon, but more on that one another time.

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Que faire à Aix-en-Provence

BAA888A1-3796-4817-ABBE-8376335FACD3.jpegI greatly enjoyed my time in Aix. There just seemed to be a gentle feeling in the streets lined with golden-hued buildings. Here are some suggestions of places that you might enjoy.

91121B45-918E-426E-869C-75549A64FF0C1. Les Fontaines – Aix is famous for having over a hundred fountains, and each one so different. It’s hard to go far without finding anither beauty.

269E5870-83F6-4E35-AE8D-C1CB1B75CC9A2. Hôtel de Caumont – This is a small house museum. There are a few period rooms, a lovely parterre garden, and a special exhibit gallery. Until September, the exhibit is provençal painters from the Guggenheim collection in New York, especially native son Paul Cézanne. If you want to eat in the pretty tea room, do so before you leave, as we learned to our mystification that we wouldn’t be allowed to return for lunch just a couple of hours later.

97CD1470-0712-4657-9A67-3DD8D9CA75C63. L’Atelier de Cézanne – Speaking of Cézanne, no trip to Aix would be complete without visiting the atelier he had built in his final years. It’s full of props you’ll recognize from his still lives. Make sure to stroll up the road for a panoramic view of Mont Sainte-Victoire, which he painted over and over trying to capture the play of light and shadow.

1B8F868A-2741-448A-AAD6-DC663572C6854. Musée du Vieil Aix – I really liked this tiny museum for its collection of santons (traditional Christmas crèche figurines), it’s intricate shadow boxes, and model for a baptistry ceiling in Rome. It only takes a few minutes and it costs less than an ice cream cone for admission.

A25148BB-0C6A-4E6B-9088-B1878C7018995. Pavillon de Vendôme – The gardens of this former mansion are a delightful place for a picnic. I wasn’t crazy about the contemporary art exhibit inside it, but you never know if you don’t look.

If you’ve been to Aix, what did you like best?

C944CEAE-26A2-474A-9DF0-4932796A7E24Greater than a Tourist Aix-en-Provence: 50 Travel Tips from a Local




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Où manger à Aix-en-Provence

55CBACEC-1FEC-4EA7-907E-B47C36D4A947When I was researching what to see and do in Aix-en-Provence, I didn’t see good restaurant recommendations. There were lots of casual dining suggestions and plenty of ideas for pastries, but nothing for dinner. Luckily, on our first evening in this charming small city, we followed Patricia’s Rule and found a lovely restaurant.  Patricia’s Rule is never to eat at a restaurant on the main streets or one that has photos on the menu.

9357B882-288D-4A03-8E77-B127B3BDEE2DThe Jardin Mazarin was just a block or so off the bustling Cours Mirabeau at 15 rue du 4 septembre. We liked it so well that we dined there twice, once in the dining room and once on the terrace in the enclosed garden. Each course was beautifully plated and full of imaginative flavors, such as the scallops with slivers of truffle inserted in the middle. I recommend making a reservation, either in their website or by calling as both the dining room and terrace were very full both evenings that we were there. Bon appétit!

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Une petite bibliothèque gratuite

25fe53c9-69b4-4580-9444-66d3005513a1.jpegWhenever I see a Little Free Library, I can’t resist the urge to browse. I may take a book from one, and leave on in another, but the point is to keep books circulating and being enjoyed, not just sitting on a shelf gathering dust. Last year, I found Country Homes: Elegant weekend retreats from around the world, by Jean Demachy, and indulged my love of design, even though I had a backlog of books I still hadn’t gotten through. Imagine my delight when I recently read it to discover that at least half of the homes were in France! This is because the author was the creator of the French magazine Elle Décor and former publisher of French Elle. If you enjoy window shopping through the lives of chic French people, you’ll enjoy this book. The ample photos will give you tons of decorating inspiration. And now it’s time for me to send it to another petite bibliothèque gratuite. If you’d like to check one out in your area, or perhaps start one if your own, please click on this link. You never know what you’ll find.

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