Monday, 17 November 2008


These images were made by nature....wonder if you can guess what they are....answers below the photos......

Number 1 - Lizard skin? Someother reptile? In fact when we dismantled the above ground pool that we have, this pattern was impregnated in the carpet under the liner. It's the mosaic pattern from the liner photosynthesised into the white carpet by the sun and algae...wierd.
Number 2 - when I took the dark red cover from the wrought iron daybed, this is the pattern bleached into the fabric by the - who needs it....

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Hanging in there

This little chap was clinging to our door the other day. He's a tree frog and they seem to have colonised the garden. They're very cute and make lots of noise, sounding remarkably like ducks when they get going and give us a proper frog's chorus. Here's what he looks like the right way up.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Blooming October.....

The end of September and the first two weeks of October were glorious but today, there's a definite chill in the air. I suppose we are approaching the end of October, but I'm a little disappointed all the same. We normally manage warm, sunny afternoons until the end of the first week in November.

Despite the chill, the roses are giving us a last, glorious blast of colour. I took these photos this morning. Wonder how much longer the flowers will last....when they go, winter will officially be here.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Glanum part 3....

So to finish the series of photos of Glanum, here's the road that would have led you to the centre of town. Not wide enough for carriages, like the roads in Pompei where you can still see the grooves worn by the wheels.

....some amazing bas relief carving.....

And an overview of the whole site...

And for those who would like to see's a link to the album....

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Glanum part 2

Having visited many parts of the Roman empire and made a bit of a habit out of ooh-ing and aah-ing at various examples of roman-ness on our travels, I've never seen anything quite like what remains of this temple top at Glanum. Turns out that it is not the original - disappointing. However the reason for the reconstruction is pretty convincing. The mistral, which whips through our part of Provence would wear the soft stone away at a rate of knots, so to preserve the intricate carving, it's in the museum and this is a reconstruction. Here's a close up....

Monday, 13 October 2008

La, la, la, la, lavender

Actually, this is just a little experiment to see if I can embed a slide show in the blog. If you'd like to have a better look at these pictures that I took near Sault (about 45 minutes from us) back in July, click the link to our Picasa photo album that pops up in the bottom left corner at the end of the show or when you roll your mouse over it.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Windows of Provence (3)

Another edition to my (still small) collection of Provençal Windows...

From Windows of Provence

More to follow, but don't hold your breath!

Friday, 10 October 2008

What did the Romans ever do for us?

The Romans were a big influence in our corner of Provence and one of the most interesting historical visits around here is to Glanum, the remains of a Roman town just outside St Remy de Provence. The Romans weren't the first to colonise the valley - they followed hot on the heels of the Celto Ligurians and the Greeks. But as ever it seems that the Romans had the best building techniques and it's the remains of the Roman town which are still standing.

Glanum has the oldest triumphal arch in Gaul

and the best preserved Cenotaph in the Roman world,

as well as being in a beautiful setting at the foot of the Alpilles and being a really interesting example of a small Roman town.

Glanum flourished until 260 AD when it was destroyed by maurauding German tribes and the inhabitants moved north to found St Remy - we're very grateful to them for that!

I am going to upload pictures of Glanum over the next few days as it's hard to do it justice in one post....

Thursday, 9 October 2008


These beauties have been the hit of the summer. They just keep flowering - and are still at it as we hit mid October. Might try scattering them in patches in the field next year and see if can manage a wild flower meadow....

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Hip Avignon

Just to prove that we are not totally lost in tradition down here in the south, here are some shots of some hip hop dancers who we spotted one night, performing in front of the Palais des Papes as the sun was going down. The setting was fantastic and the dancers were pretty good too - as the size of the audience confirms.

Friday, 3 October 2008


With apologies for the gap - I have been busy with some consultancy, I thought I would post some photos of a new event which took place in the village this summer, to huge public acclaim. As I think I have mentioned, throughout the summer we have a series of bull and horse related events - one of which is known as the 'abrivado' and involves 5 camargue horsemen and women galloping up the main street with a bull, and the locals trying to stop the bull, turn it round and send it back in the opposite direction. The somewhat hazy origins of the practice seem to be that that's what happened historically when bulls were being brought to market - the locals seized the opportunity to indulge in a spot of bull theft.

This year's new event was billed as a 'transhumance des anes' or a version of the seasonal transhumance, where sheep (mostly) are driven from the hot lowlands to cooler mountains in spring and driven back down again in autumn. Guy tells me that animals used to do this themselves without any prompting, which I guess makes sense as their instincts seem somewhat more honed than our own.

Anyway, on the night in question, the horsemen came galloping up the street in the usual intimidating manner....and then nothing much happened - as the 20 donkeys who were following them ambled up behind, heading off down side streets, stopping to eat geraniums etc. They eventually made it to the end of the road, at which point, the riders tried to round them up to take them back in the opposite direction to no avail as the entire population of Rognonas seemed to be in the street, stroking the donkeys, who were having a very nice time, thank you very much and were going no where. A mass therapy session then ensued before the donkeys were eventually persuaded back down the road and home to their fields full of hay, offerings of carrots and general goodwill. Let's hope it becomes a regular feature.

Friday, 12 September 2008


Having recommended canoeing under the Pont du Gard to almost all of our guests for years, we decided that we should give it a go ourselves this summer. And it proved to be a great recommendation. It's an 8km journey down river, ending just after the Pont du Gard. The view as you approch the aquaduct is extraordinary.

We went on a very hot day and mixed canoeing with lots of dips in the river, which was blissfully refreshing. We went back about two weeks later and hiked down to the river and I couldn't resist another dip.

However in the intervening two weeks the temperature seemed to have dropped by about 10 degrees. I still made it in. I can't say it was a pleasure. Guy stayed on the edge with his feet in the water and swears they went blue.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Resting, reposing

The sun has come back, the storms have passed and it's back to summer again. Cooler mornings and evenings mean that autumn is on the way, but afternoons are lovely, still 30 degrees and with the pool at 24, a swim around 4 (after a siesta under the pergola) is just perfect.

The pergolas are a new addition this year and as well as an ideal place for a siesta, they have proved to be great locations for picnics, aperitifs while watching the sun set and just generally lounging around! I have taken full advantage!

Friday, 5 September 2008


We often have ferocious storms at the beginning of September and this year is no exception. Terrible timing for the wine makers who are anxiously watching over their grapes for signs of rot caused by the dampness. Hail, which often accompanies the storms is a disaster too. We were largely spared yesterday, but our friends at Domaine de Mourchon had 10 cm of rain and hail.

These photos were actually taken in June when we had the wildest storm I have ever seen, but they give you an idea of what the wine makers are up against. Normal service has been resumed today however and it's back to a very pleasant 30 degrees with the same forecast for next week.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Everything in the garden's lovely.....

It's been a good year for the garden. We had more rain than normal in spring and early summer which was a little depressing for us, but it has had very positive results for the garden. The oleanders by the pool have really established themselves now and flower for the whole summer, and a new bed of daisies at the edge of the car park looks bright and cheerful and obligingly flowers all summer too. We have planted a long row of lavender along the edge of the path which is keeping the bees and butterflies happy, as well as making the garden smell fantastic.

Thursday, 21 August 2008


We seem to have been adopted by three kittens. They turned up last year and were very timid but through a process of selective feeding and stroking, they have decided they quite like us and seem to be planning to hang around and shout at us from time to time. Perfect. They live outdoors, they show no interest in going into the house, they catch mice and they (mostly) stay out of the way of the guests (they will agree to lie around and look pretty from time to time) and they feed themselves if we are not around. We've seen them munching on grasshoppers, crickets, butterflies as well as mice so they don't seem to be short of a tasty protein snack or two and we like the company.....

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Weapons of war.....

In summer at the castle at Les Baux, there are all sorts of 'animations' aimed at both adults and kids. This year I was lucky enough to catch the firing of the catapult and the trebuchet - all sounds a bit tame... butthe reality is a little different. These medieval weapons of war are pretty daunting in their scale and power, but it has to be said that it's not the fastest of processes.

The firing of the trebuchet took 10 men and a good half hour to launch a rock at the enemy - so you had to hope that your enemy had nothing faster - but then if you were lucky enough to be occupying the castle at Les Baux, which is perched on a rocky outcrop, you definitely had the advantage of height and gravity. A couple of before and after shots, taken by me...

The guys on the wheels are winding up the ropes to create tension while the 'animateur' loads the rocks.

Stand well back..all that swinging rope and wood is actually quite daunting when you are 20 metres away....

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Olympian Spirit

Truly Lindsay has been joining in with the Olympic spirit. She recently helped its progression through France (despite the attentions of those 'Tibetan types' that M. Sarkozy sets us all an example by avoiding - Dali's Lama is not his cultural cup of tea, says Carla). Using only her ear, she helped the flame's progression across our dining table!

Actually, it's some form of homeopathic cure for 'swimming pool ear', working by gently warming built up wax thermodynamically. (Didn't work though!)

Continuing the theme.....

I love this picture...the power and might of the horses, the faces of the people in the bar, you can almost feel the ground shake as they go by......

And here's a close up of the mobile hedge that they pull - the branches are so long that they touch the telephone wires that criss cross the street - health and safety doesn't seem to be that much of an issue....and I like it that way.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

It's been a while...

We've been busy but we're going to try to do better with the blog - largely through me contributing too - the photos will still largely be Guy's though - and if I post any of mine you will notice the difference immediately.

We're in high summer and the temperatures are in the mid 30s - and the pool is a very comfortable 30 degrees. The garden is looking lovely (pictures to follow soon) and Guy has been working very hard to keep it looking fabulous. But it's not all hard work. Summer is the season of festivals in Provence and our village is 'en fête' at the end of May, around the 14th of July, on the weekend of the 15th of August and again in September. Everyone turns out, the streets are packed and it's a great opportunity to see all of our neighbours and friends. The village fêtes tend to follow the same pattern. They start like this...

With these beautiful women dressed in the traditional costumes of Arles, who dance at the head of the procession. They're all from the village and keep this finery for the fêtes and to maintain their traditions, of which, they are quite rightly very proud.

We move swiftly on to this...

... this takes your breath away. A charrette, decorated with huge tree branches being pulled through the street by 16 galloping cart horses. The ground shakes...we all stand well back, particularly as they take the corners. That's our plumber, Robert, in the smart black hat and suit...the Sunday costume of the Camargue cowboy.

And we end the day like this....

... in the bull ring watching the course camarguaise...a local form of bull fighting where the aim is to remove tightly wrapped strings from the bull's horns. It's exciting to watch and is a real battle of man against beast. The bull pretty much always comes out on top and it's the men who risk being hurt in this more acceptable form of the sport.

And after the course camarguaise, we all head back into the village for a pastis to gird our loins for the Abrivado - a bull running in the street where 5 Camargue horsemen and women ride bulls through the streets and the locals try to smuggle them away from the horsemen - it can get very messy.....but we love it and really admire the locals for keeping these fantastic traditions going.

More photos of the fête at Festivals, Provence

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

New Sites

I've just updated our web sites, the Maison d'Être site is almost fully operational - it still lacks a little detail here and there, but the core content and function is there.
The Vine Tours site was pretty out of date, so I had to take it down to avoid confusion. I've mounted this temporary site, which looks just as the new one will look, to provide basic details and links to more specific information.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Sound and (En)Light(enment)

Just took Debbie and Mark to see the Cathedrale d'Image at Les Baux. It's based in the old bauxite mines where the aluminium ore was cut out in blocks to leave the mountain hollow.

Here are Debbie and Mark exploring an abandoned quarry nearby.

Just round the corner from that, we discovered a quarry still in use.  They're mining the stone (prized for its whiteness and purity) for its own sake nowadays, the seams of aluminium ore being long since mined out.

So this set the scene for the Cathedrale d'Image - a 'son et lumiére' show inside the old bauxite mines - truly a cathedral sized space.

While suitably evocative music plays, video projectors beam images onto the the quarry walls, floor and ceiling, to create a completely consuming visual experience.  You can literally walk inside the picture.

The theme changes every year.  For 2008 it's van Gogh, whose association with this area is well known, him having been based in both Arles and St-Rémy-de-Provence for his most creative period at the end of the 1880s.

The show uses not only his most famous paintings, but also photographs from the era and his sketches and drawings.  Note the scale of the space, ably demonstrated by the couple standing in the foreground.

Obviously there had to be sunflowers...

So quarries and van Gogh turned out to be the theme for the day.  Later on, we were in St-Rémy and walked out to St-Paul-de-Mausole - van Gogh's asylum.   Just behind the asylum is the Mas de la Pyramide, where, at the centre of an olive grove, stands the last remnant of an ancient quarry.  Why that bit was left, I have no idea.

Debbie, forever the botanist, was in raptures about the Judas trees flowering all around (deep pink blossom in the background).  She was also pleased to hear that for once it wasn't going to be John and Ruth that were out with me as I took blog shots and insisted that I include a picture of her.  Here she is...