Our Vacation Rental Homes in Sablet, Provence

Sablet Village, Vaucluse, Provence, France
Maison des Pelerins and La Baume des Pelerins, or "les Pelerins" as we affectionately refer to our dream come true, of owning our own homes in Provence, are located in the heart of the Vaucluse. We thoroughly enjoy hearing from our guests to "les Pelerins" that they feel they are spending time in their own home in Provence. To be a part of village life, Sablet is the perfect place. "Les Pelerins" dates back to the time when the Popes administered the Catholic Church from Avignon, with a Papal Vice-Legat having a residence right here in Sablet. Our neighbor's home was the Vice-Legat's residence. Ours was one of the buildings that housed visitors and pilgrims and was connected to it, as we can see from the internal portals, and the front door of Maison des Pelerins. Hence the name - Pelerins is French for pilgrims. I hope this Blog will help you get to know Provence and live your Provencal Dream.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fleur de Sel from the Camargue

I couldn’t resist these fantastic pictures that were taken by a Facebook friend, Croisieres de Camargue, so I asked permission to post them on my Blog and they very kindly agreed.

Dramatic scene of a bright blue sky dappled with clouds, meeting a sea of pink crystallized Fleur de Sel.

If you have never visited the Camargue Regional Park, I hope this will inspire you to think about it.  It is the largest river delta in Western Europe – a large plain with large brine lagoons that are cutoff from the sea by sandbars and marshes.  

 It is known for hundreds of species of wild birds and it’s pastures are home to sheep and small white horses who are watched over by “Gardiens” (cowboys) who play their part in keeping Camaguaise traditions alive.

Within easy day tripping of "les Pelerins" and Sablet, there is so much of interest here for the whole family. History - spectacular nature and wildlife - fun cruising down the Petit Rhone and the Delta with Peniches Isles de Stel, Horse Riding, and visiting the artisans who keep the traditions of the Region alive.

Ramparts of the town of Aigues-Mortes stretch out against the peaceful, pink tinged water

Slightly to the north of the delta, the town of Arles is the capital of the Camargue, whilst other towns of note are: Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer – the site of the annual Roma Pilgrimage for the veneration of Saint Sarah; and the beautiful Medieval Fortress Town of Aigues-Mortes, from which the Knights departed for the Crusades.

Salt gatherers busy at work, before the salt becomes heavy with moisture and sinks

Amongst the traditions of this region is the making of Camarguaise Sea Salt – which is famous throughout France and the world for its quality.  Fleur de Sel is the cream of the crop. It is prized by chefs worldwide for its delicacy and used mostly as a finishing salt, where one can really appreciate it’s flavor. 

Can you believe that Salt Crystals can be so pretty?

What is Fleur de Sel?
It is the fine and delicious result of skimming delicate first crystallization that occurs on the surface of the salt pan, before it becomes heavy and sinks to the bottom.  Camarguaise Fleur de Sel is distinctive in that it adds a pink glow to the surface of the water just before it is gathered. 

Pink tinged mounds of Fleur de Sel piled high on the beach

Gathered in the traditional manner, by hand and piled high, it is rich in minerals and considered an Artisanal Salt which is  sold in Gourmet markets throughout the world.

One of the many shops in the area that is well stocked with local products

Fleur de Sel from the Camargue is one of my "must bring back's" from every trip to Provence - I stockpile it along with my supplies of Herbs de Provence and my favorite perfume.  It makes the simplest of fresh vegetable assortments a delicious hors-d'ouvre, is fantastic on fresh tomato salads, not to mention - a juicy steak - hot off the grill.

At Home, Fleur de Sel is a simple yet very important addition to many appetizers and summer dishes

Many thanks to Peniches Ises de Stel for the magnificent photography.  When we visited the Camargue last summer, the Petit Rhone cruise was such a highlight.  I look forward to going back next visit. 

For more information on Camagrue Cruises, please visit:

For more Camargue information: 

CLICK HERE for a map and driving directions from Sablet to the Camagrue Regional Park

"Peniche": A Recreational Boat 

A Fleur de Sel Hints: (1) I find it very helpful to sprinkle all salads with a small amount of Fleur de Sel before adding the dressing.  That way, I can use less dressing and the Salad is not "drenched" but has a lot of flavor. (2) It makes a great gift for those culinary minded friends who "have everything".

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Markets of Provence - 10 Helpful Hints

My first visit to a Market in Provence was in 1985, while camping with my family in the beach town of La Ciotat.  It was a hot August day ..... the stall holders were as always in great humor, under their spread out market umbrellas.  Walking around the village that day, tasting olives, marvelling at the large containers of dark green olive oil, my husband bantering with the stall holders of charcuterie whilst sampling and buying.  We left that market with great beach picnic food for lunch and wonderful fresh vegetables for dinner with our barbecue.

Since then, no vacation in Provence has been complete without a visit to at least one market. 
They are so much a part of the fabric of Provence, that whatever else your plans are .....
your local market is well worth a visit.

So....... here are some hints that I hope will help to make your Markets of Provence visit a fun experience.

1. Parking can be a challenge during the Spring and Summer. Arrive early to get a good spot, it also leaves you enough time to enjoy a café au lait and croissant at a outdoor café as the market gets into full swing.

2. Be sure to take a shopping basket with you.  If you are staying at Maison des Pèlerins or La Baume des Pèlerins, take the shopping baskets on wheels – they are the perfect thing for market visits.

3. Camera or Movie Camera is a must – the Markets of Provence have lots to look at and capture on film. 

4. Save some time to take in the sights, sounds and happenings at the markets – people watching can be fun at Provencal markets.

5. If you plan to have lunch at one of the Restaurants in the town, make a reservation before you get started with your shopping.

6. Spit roasted chickens and potatoes are prepared at  wonderful stalls in all markets. Street vendors also sell prepared Paella and Pizza.  These make a great and easy dinner or can even be part of an after market picnic lunch – be sure to stop by the stall and order yours early. The stallholder will save it until you come back for it when you are ready to leave. Markets usually finish around 1pm so be sure to go back for it before then.

7.     Markets in Provence sell everything.  Fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish,   poultry, cheeses (each vendor  usually has their specialty), Olives, tapenades and other prepared dips, charcuterie, breads and cookies, spices and spice mixes, soaps, art, pottery, plants, hand made soaps, linen items, fabric, music CD’s ….. The list could go on and on. Try to leave yourself enough time to take a first walk through so that you can really zero in on your areas of interest and come back to do some comparison shopping…… “now…. Which stall has the best selection of pottery?  Best prices?”


8. If you are buying any type of food …. Ask the stall holder for their recommendations for preparing it or ideas for serving it. They are always ready to share and have great recipes. 



9.    If you sew or have someone who can sew, the Markets of Provence have the best selection of fabric!  Fabric for clothing as well as furnishing fabric like nowhere else.  One of my favorites is the fabric stall at Carpentras Market on Friday morning that sells 10ft wide furnishing fabric. That width makes furnishing projects super easy.  The selection is also fantastic. Isle sur la Sorgue market also has one or two stalls that have great furnishing fabric – same width. These stalls are heaven for “crafty” people.

 10. When buying fresh fruit and vegetables, find the stall that you best like the look of the produce of, then tell the stall holder when you would like to use it, today, tomorrow, in two days and ask them to pick out the best for you.  The stall holders take a special pride in making sure that your produce will be at perfect pitch when you serve it.

I hope you enjoy some of the pictures I’ve taken 
at various markets near our village of Sablet.  

This young market visitor knows that you're never too young to be stylish!

    Most of all ……. When visiting the Markets of Provence …….. Prepare to have fun!

Friday, September 16, 2011

La Journée du Livre in Sablet

Looking back through a book I have on the History of Sablet, I noticed an old picture of the Journée du Livres.  It is in black and white, taken in 1988 and shows the Place de l'Aire de la Croix, with lots of people dressed for the warm summer weather milling around talking, authors sitting in their booths  under the overhangs of the buildings that bordered the Place, talking to interested readers.
The Journée du Livres was one of the first things I knew about Sablet.  Held every year,  on the third weekend in July, the whole village dresses itself up to welcome what has now turned into over one hundred authors each year,  and greet thousands of visitors to our village over that weekend. 

The "parachutage" of authors from far and wide to the Sablet Journee du Livre by Jean Marcellin
As Isle sur la Sorgue has become synonymus with Antiques, Sablet is very well known for its Journee du Livre, welcoming  all the  authors who attend this  celebration of literature.  Of books on French Literature,  Foreign Literature, Cuisine,  Wine, Regional History, Cartoon books, Children’s books and Poetry collections.

Literary enthusiasts and authors enjoy discussion time in the shade of a tent set up for the event
We couldn’t wait  to attend our first Journée du Livres, and thoroughly enjoyed  all the preparations that led up to the weekend.  That was only three years ago and even in that short space of time, the Journée has grown and developed into so much more than it started out to be.  Firstly, being in one of the Cote du Rhone Appelation villages, it was only natural to provide  wine tasting hosted by the Vignerons of Sablet, both in the Place de l'Aire de la Croix and also at La Gravillas, Cave Coopertive.  Each year the Vignerons of Sablet produce a “Cuvée  Spéciale Journée du Livre”.  Then of course,there is the cuisine of Provence - La cuisine du soleil -  so -  last year, a guest chef held cooking demonstrations in the Place de l'Aire de la Croix.  His demonstration  and samples were a huge hit.  This year, the culinary segment was expanded, with an emphasis on  using local produce as well as the pairing of foods with locally produced wines.

A session on pairing foods and wines conducted by one of our local chefs

The Master of Ceremonies of one of the food and wine sessions

Can you imagine anything better than having a great lunch of Provencal food, accompanied by a glass of your favorite Sablet wine - all followed by a relaxing couple of hours reading a great book???

The real Jean Marcellin and the caricature "St. Marcellin"
One of the highlights of last year’s  Journée  was  a striking theme beautifully illustrated by  Jean Marcellin,  a celebrated cartoonist, which added great deal of fun to the scene.  M.  Marcellin  had designed posters for the Journée (signed copies of which were available for purchase).   He spared no time or thought when personalizing the messages he added to anyone who purchased one of his prints or illustrated books,  and wished him to sign it.  Even though he spent several minutes on each one, it was a pleasure to watch him work as one waited for their turn. The posters showed authors from all over France and other parts of the world parachuting into Sablet for the “Journée” and a fictional character “St Marcellin” packing his bags and heading for our village for La Journee.  I just couldn't resist buying two posters and two of his books on a pictorical history of Fairs and Markets in Provence - one for Maison des Pelerins and one for La Baume des Pelerins.
I have included a number of pictures of this year’s “Journée” – I hope you will enjoy some of the scenes .
With many, many thanks for all our neighbors in Sablet who work very hard to make our Journee du Livre
the success it is.

Meet the Press

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bandits, Crusaders and Other Travellers

In the last blog, Paul made the following comment:
"Those old men, the wine makers, are the sons of wine makers, the grandsons of wine makers, the great grandsons and so on,  for 50 generations, for 1000 years.   The depth of human-time is palpable. If one listens to these beams, to these stones, one can see the people down through time, in the streets, in the fields, growing the grapes, making the wine, sitting at the little café, telling the stories, and laughing."

     I have also had the same feeling about the Village and our house - the story below tells of one of the times when you just wish the walls could talk!

    Le Plan de Dieu or God’s Plain which stretches  between the towns of Orange and Vaison la Romaine, is a wide open plain – today renowned for its wonderful wines.  When I first saw the signposts,  I thought, “Oh .. how nice – the locals obviously believe that the area is as beautiful as a little heaven on earth!”   

    It is definitely a very beautiful area….
                     BUT…..  the story of the name is a just a little different!

     I recently read in *Mary Roblee Henri’s 1969 novel (A Farmhouse in Provence) that 'Autrefois' - In the old days,  this large open, scrubby plain, was positively  notorious –  known as a place where anyone planning to travel, was quite literally putting their life in God’s hands!  Why?  Because travelers were frequently attacked and robbed by gangs of roving Bandits, that one certainly needed God’s  assistance to make it from one end of the Plain to the other.  Moreover,  no sane person in those times would ever, ever have made that trip at night!

 But that was then ..............                                                                                       Today, the same drive is very, very pleasant.....Particularly at night!

     As I found out, very late one dark February evening, after a long flight from San Francisco, via London and Marseille – when  driving this route  to our then recently purchased home in Sablet - for the first time - by myself – at night.  
What a welcome!  

     Rounding a bend in the road and crossing the Ouveze River, the brightly illuminated Campanile on the Church of St. Nazaire came into view and  
stood out like a beacon against the landscape, casting its glow over our 
"petit village", outlining the rooftops and guiding the way across the dark plain, saying “Bienvenue à Sablet”.


    The Romanesque Church and its bell tower were built between the 12th and 14th Centuries (original building and renovations), on the highest point in the village with narrow "ruelles" (little streets) curling up around the sandstone hill to reach it.

    Since then, the bells have chimed to mark the hour and half hour – keeping time for the workers in all the surrounding vineyards and farms  -  its tall campanile illuminated each night to guide travelers.

    Winding  through the narrow ruelles on my way up to the house under the bright light –  it struck me just how long the buildings that surrounded me, had been standing here.   Place de’l Eglise (Church Square), and the old Rue des Pelerins (Pilgrim’s Street)  - All these streets were named to reflect their  functions…..  Pilgrims? ……….

     As I unloaded the car and took my  bags into the house,  I couldn’t help thinking,  “I wish these walls could talk”. 

     I went upstairs, to one of my favorite places,  by the window in the bedroom,  overlooking the rooftops and the small streets and stairways.

    I must have sat there for ages ......  just marveling that I was looking out over the rooftops of a village where wine has been made  since Roman times;  where the inhabitants had built a stone fortress  to protect from the invading Sarrasins;  where pilgrims and crusaders had taken refuge en route,  in a village that was once a part of the Holy See; where the Papal Vice Legate once lived – next door to our house (!) - during the years when the Pope resided in Avignon;  where the villagers,  giving thanks for being spared from the plague, built the Chapel of St Roch; ....... and fast forwarding ..... where  Sablet’s neighbor Seguret gave shelter  to members of the French Resistance (les Maquis) during World War 11. 

    Yes,  I definitely wish those walls could talk…......
                                                                      Can you Imagine the stories??????

              A wintery view from the upstairs window - very early the next morning

* A Farmhouse in Provence: An American Finds Old Stones, New Wine and Love Among the French    by Mary Roblee Henry first published in 1969.
This  was probably the first book written about buying and renovating a Provencal farmhouse in ruins, Mary Roblee Henry *(probably one of the first American residents in this area  - literally -  their house was in Seguret), described the whole region as  it was during the mid to late 60’s.  I really enjoyed reading this book - all three times!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

One of Life's True Pleasures ......

One of our life's true pleasures....... is meeting and even for a short time, sharing 
"les Pelerins" with an incredible group of people who are our guests. I am constantly amazed by that group - their kindness and consideration, their observations and insights, which make the experience of  "the Provencal Dream" a much richer one.
Our blog below is written by Paul Baxter, who with his lovely and talented wife Diane recently visited "les Pelerins" and Sablet once more, with their family.  Paul is an Archeologist, at the State Museum of Anthropology, of the University of Oregon in the USA. It was so enjoyable to read his observations of our village, which he has kindly allowed me to share.  A big thanks to Paul and Diane.

"It is one of life’s true pleasures to go to a place that is the essence of its surroundings and become enveloped in that gestalt.  Whether that place is a bustling street in Mombasa, a fishing village in Alaska, a coal mining town in England, a train stop in Kenya, or a wine producing village in Provence, becoming for a moment a citizen of that place, reveals our universal heritage and common humanity.  And there is no better place for that to happen than at a table in the little café in Sablet.   

Patrons of the Cafe des Sports in Sablet, enjoying "un verre"* and a game of cards.
Pleasure can be defined as doing exactly the right thing at exactly the right time, and having a cold beer or glass of wine served with gusto by the smiling proprietor, who no doubt represents generations of smiling proprietors at this very spot, certainly qualifies.

Bruno, the owner of the Cafe des Sports in Sablet - always welcoming and friendly.
The interesting, and telling thing about this exercise, is that it is virtually unchanging, like Sablet itself. Except for the faces of a few participant observers such as us,  the cast and the experience takes place daily, as it clearly has since the 11th century.  And further, exchange the cassis and the Affligem beer, and the old men gathered at the table near the door of the bar could be in Kansas or Cairo. But they are not.  These old men have spent their lives producing the best wine in the world – there is no arguing about it – and now they are relaxing with very old friends, to laugh at the world and all in it, particularly themselves and by gracious extension, us.

The trail to Seguret lies along the cleared edge of fields, their grape vines heavy with fruit.  Somehow the greens of the trees are different, the soil is uncommon, the air is unusual, the little lizard, not quite the gecko of other trips. Travel, done well, changes one’s perspective on the world, on oneself.  Thoughtful introspection has space to occur,  a more difficult task at home.  This time, this place, for you, will not happen again. The phrase carpe diem, no doubt spoken in this place by some well-travelled Roman, floats in one’s mind.  The Britisher, he seemed British as we sidled by, seated in the midst of the trail sketching studiously, if not well, an overhanging tree, will be part of this diem for the rest of my life.  I did not sketch it, but because of him, I will remember it, and I thank him for that, although I would not have bothered him with my appreciation.

And then you return to the little apartment, with its views of the vineyards, underlined by the tiled roofs of this old, old village.  Eleventh century roof beams, wholly preserved, partner perfectly with the rough quarried limestone to create and continue this little town.  What can this mean in a world of international travel, instant texting, and scattered, scattered, families?  It is at the very least, a symbol of stability.  Those old men, the wine makers, are the sons of wine makers, the grandsons of wine makers, the great grandsons and so on,  for 50 generations, for 1000 years.   The depth of human-time is palpable. If one listens to these beams, to these stones, one can see the people down through time, in the streets, in the fields, growing the grapes, making the wine, sitting at the little café, telling the stories, and laughing."

Please Note:  The pictures were taken by another of our very talented guests!   Loran List - a Professional Photographer from Monterey California.
I have shown pictures  of Loren's pictures, as the originals are 24" x 18" and too big for my scanner.
The Originals are far superior in photo quality, but the composition is so wonderful
that I wanted to share them on this blog

* un verre - literally - a glass - or as common usage - "a drink".