Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Blossom, dearie

The almond blossom's out down in Provence, which means that Spring has sprung!

These trees were photographed last week in the Alpilles, the hills to the South of St-Remy-de-Provence, between St-Remy and LesBaux-de-Provence.

Almonds will be followed Apricots, Cherries, Peaches/Nectarines, Apples, Pears and Quinces. Quince blossom is particularly impressive - almost like a Magnolia.

Meanwhile, back at...

And back at home, our Mimosa is in full bloom:

This tree was only shoulder high three years ago. It has truly gone for it!

Friday, 1 February 2008

Makes you deaf, you know!

One of the additional advantages of living near Avignon, is that we're pretty much based at a pan-European crossroads. Turin and Barcelona are both just over 3 hours drive away (in opposite directions!), Marseille is a major embarkation point for North Africa, Paris is 2 hours north by train, we're well linked for flights to most parts of the UK (and by train with Eurostar/TGV) and we're under 3 hours drive from the southern Alps!

So we're just back from a week's skiing in La Plagne at the centre of the Alps. And a great week it was too. La Plagne is where Lindsay and I first started to realise our escapist dreams when we chucked our jobs at the end of 1999 to go and work that winter running a ski chalet. Therefore this last week was a bit of a trip down Memory Lane (or Piste?), catching up with old friends, skiing favourite runs (and trying new, fast chair lifts) and visiting old haunts.

Just such an old haunt is La Bergerie - a mountain restaurant just above La Plagne and thus always a favourite stopping off spot for a Vin Chaud on our way home after a day's skiing. The photo above was taken from La Bergerie's terrace at the end of our last day skiing. The mountain in the background just catching the light of the setting sun is Mont Blanc, Europe's highest mountain - about 4,500m (from memory).

Skiing home after this, the pistes were suddenly deserted and silent - an eerie, beautiful feeling.

However, the end of the holiday was somewhat marred for me as I managed to catch a horrible cold that has dragged on for over a week now. And my top tip for catching a cold in a ski resort is... if you catch a cold up a mountain, avoid going down to the valley! Having got thoroughly bunged up on Friday, we left on Saturday and drove down from the ski resort, descending La Plagne's 21 hairpin bends and 2000m to the valley floor, during which descent I turned thoroughly deaf!

And about two days after we got home, as if not to be outdone by 'foreign parts', Provence threw us a fantastic sunset of it's own...