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.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Autumn in Provence

Sights, Scenes & Sounds from the Change of Seasons.

As late Summer gives way to early Fall with the wine harvest, the scene starts to change all around Provence.  November 1st is the Feast of Toussaint (All Saint's Day)  – a holiday in France and it marks the mid point in Autumn.  In Provence, the warm, bright and sunny days of October have given way to misty mornings and  more frequent Mistrals and much cooler although very often sunny days.  The short but spectacular thunderstorms become a little more regular.
Vines being trimmed, bonfires and smoke rising into the air from the trimmings bonfires.
Olive harvest and olive mills hard at work.  Last year, Pere Pierre (our next door neighbor) picked the olives on our tree and put some in the freezer for us.  He cured some, and one of our other neighbors cured another batch. Yum! Our own olives!
The leaves of the Virginia Creeper on the arbor outside Maison des Pelerins and at the front climbing the old walls have started to change from a fresh deep green to bright red. The wisteria creeper is bright yellow before the leaves start falling and it goes to rest for the winter.
In the Fields - Champignon hunters venture out into the woods to forage for campignons and the heading off to a local pharmacie for confirmation that their harvest is edible.

In the markets       -       All kinds of potimaron (squash) and champignons (mushrooms).
-          Truffle markets start up – Carpentras early on Friday morning and the more well known Truffle market at Richeranches.
-          The first cardoons, a popular cool weather vegetable that looks  like celery ribs at the center of  very light green leaves  and tastes like artichoke hearts are showing up on the market stands.

The hunting season is in full swing. It is not unusual to hear shots from the hunter’s in the countryside around Sablet.  The stores and markets also offer game for those rich cool weather meals.
Restaurant menus feature menus of rich lamb or game stews (Provencal Daube), often  with wild mushrooms, wild mushroom tartes, rabbit, pintade (guinea fowl), pigeon, tartes made from the new season’s champignons, fig tartes or figs with fresh goat cheese.
The official "Affiche" (poster) for the 2010 Festival des Soupes,
expertly drawn by local Cartoonist Jean Marcellin
In Sablet and the surrounding villages, the Festival des Soupes is in full swing.  Each Fall for the past 20 years, cooks and budding cooks from 17 villages in the Haut Vaucluse (the area surrounding Sablet), have displayed their creativity in preparing soups to be judged firstly in their village, with the winners from each village progressing to the finals in Vaison la Romaine.  The school children of the village also participate with a team entry.  The recipes are compiled into a cookbook which can be purchased.
The River Ouveze begins to flow more freely after the dry weather of summer. Soon the scene will change again with lights going up in towns and villages, signaling the beginning of the Christmas season and all the fun that goes along with the Winter season.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Festival of Soups in the Villages around Vaison-la-Romaine

You know that Autumn is in the air in Provence, when the menus turn to HOT soups.  During the summer, I love the creativity of the chilled soups that often begin a meal - but - there's just something about so comforting about a hot bowl of soup by a warm fire!  During the weekend I saw a beautiful post from Tuula Rampont (BelleProvenceTravels), in which a hearty bowl of Soupe au Pistou and Provencal Daube were the stars.

Jean Marcellin - a well known local artist says, "Come join the fun at the Festival des Soupes"
It instantly transported me to Sablet and the Festival of Soups, that takes place in a number of villages in the area, at this time of year, over a period of about four weeks.  This year the festival started in Roaix on October 15th and will be held in a travel throughout the Pays de Vaison until the November 19th Grand Final.  Contestants are encouraged to be creative and enter their most original recipe. At each village festival,  a panel of  judges chooses a winner who will compete with the same recipe at the Grand Final against all the other winners of their village competition. The whole community gets involved - even the children at the local Ecole (Elementary School) prepare an entry.

Jean Marcellin's fun depiction of all the talented Chefs heading to the Festival des Soupes

Tuesday, October 25th is the date for Sablet's Festival which will be held at the "Salle des Fetes" (Village Hall), in the village.  The judging begins at 7pm during which time, only the judges may taste each of the entries.  At 7.30pm, after their decision is made, tasting is free and open to all who would like a sample.  The party then continues on with at dinner that requires the purchase of a ticket at 7 Euros per person.  Large tables are set up and the party goes on.

Jean Marcellin signing books at the Fete du Livres, Sablet
On the 19th October, the Grand Final that is held at the "l'Espace Culturel" (Cultural Center), will Aperitifs - hosted by each participating village.  Following the Aperitifs is the Judging and award of the Prize for the Soup of the Year. The fun and celebrations will continue with dancing, after a dinner of a giant pot of soup, cheese and wine.

If you are lucky enough to be in the area right now, here is a schedule for the Festival des Soupes:

- Saturday, October 15th  - Roaix (Elementary School)
- Wednesday, October 19th - Buisson (Village Hall)
- Friday, October 21st -  Vallee du Toulourenc a Brantes (la Grange - the Barn)
- Monday, 24th October - St. Marcellin les Vasion (Elementary School)
- Tuesday, 25th October -  Sablet (Village Hall)
- Saturday, 29th October - Entrechaux (Town Hall)
- Monday, 31st October - Villedieu (Village Hall)
- Friday, 4th November - Puymeras (Village Hall)
- Saturday, 5th November - Crestet (Village Hall)
- Tuesday, 8th November - Cairanne (Village Hall)
- Wednesday, 9th November - Vaison-la-Romaine (Cultural Center)
- Friday, 11th November - Saint-Romain en Viennois (Village Hall)
- Saturday, 12th November - Seguret (Village Hall)
- Tuesday, 15th November - Rasteau (Rural Arts Center)

                                       Bon Appetit a Tous!  Wish I was there with you!

Great Blogs!
You can read Tuula Rampont's Blogs at: www.BelleProvenceTravels.com
Another of my "must read" blogs is: www.French-Word-a-Day.com by Kristin Espinasse



Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Next Harvest in Provence ..... It's All About Olives

When you bite into a delicious olive, "perfumed" with perhaps some Herbes de Provence, garlic, lemon or orange zest, have you ever wondered, "how in the world did ANYONE ever go from taking a bite of the bitter little berry that grows on an elegant but hardy tree, to believing that they could make something edible out of these?" Thank goodness that some persevering (and probably hungry), soul who lived several millenia ago did!  

By taking the olives through a process of "curing", (to take the bitterness out of them), which involves soaking for several weeks in either brine, dry salt, water or lye, these bitter little berries turn into the delicious and healthy treats that we see throughout Provence on market stands and in stores.

No Provencal  market would be compete without an olive merchant
In July, all of Provence is perfumed with lavender fields in full bloom and ready for harvest.  Then the large bundles of freshly cut lavender appear on market stands to the delight of all market goers.

Late in August and on through September, we are treated to the sights and sounds of the Vendange or wine harvest ..... now .... we're almost ready for the olive harvest, which will bring with it, olive oil mills churning for long hours each day from October until January, as growers bring their newly harvested crop to be pressed for the next year's olive oil supply.

The little olive tree (olivier) in the courtyard at Maison des Pelerins
At Maison des Pelerins, we have a micro olive harvest, and thanks to our caring and industrious neighbors, the olives are cured for eating - in a true Provencal style.  Two years ago, our neighbor Pere Pierre, the CurĂ© at the Church next door to us, rescued the olives that were weighing down the branches of our small tree, just before it started to snow!  He kindly froze some, so that we could have the experience of curing them when we returned.  He and another neighbor (separately) cured a batch each.  The very enjoyable result - an impromptu and fun olive tasting on a warm evening - our first night in the newly purchased Baume of la Baume des Pelerins

Our own olives!
This year - another surprise!  On a recent visit to Sablet, a very large jar of delicious olives arrived on our doorstep, courtesy of our nearby (and very traditionally Provencal) neighbor, Madame Baux.  I went by to thank her, and she said, "I hope it's OK with you.  I picked the olives from your olive tree (l'olivier), and prepared them.  We can share them."  I replied,  "au contraire, Madame - I am absolutely delighted, that you were kind enough to pick and prepare them!"  They were not going to waste AND we have a large jar of our very own olives.  What a luxury.

This year - I look forward to getting back and tasting our olives again - thanks to our very kind neighbors!

A few Provence "Olive" facts  that may be of interest if you are visiting the area between late October and January.

Of course, cured eating olives are readily available at any number of stores, and a market would not be complete without an Olive merchant, but if you are interested in learning more about the process of olive oil milling, there are a number of oil mills in the area nearby "les Pelerins."

The closest in distance is the Moulin a Huile de Balmeenne at Beaumes de Venise, in the center of the village on the Avenue Jules Ferry.  They are open all year round from Monday to Saturday : 9 – 12 a.m. and 2 – 6.30 p.m.  The olive oil from Beaumes de Venise is smooth and fruity - delicious for salads, vegetables, veal and fish.

Nyons, 16 kilometers north of Vaison la Romaine is a well known and prolific Olive Oil producing area. It prides itself on producing some of the best olive oil in France.
L'Institut du Monde de l'Olivier:   olive oil tastings.  Tel: 04 75 26 90  90
Moulin Ramade:  A working family mill which has a large diplay of Nyons Appelation d'Origine  Controlee olive oils and other olive products www.moulinramade.com  Tel: 04 75 26 08 28
Le Musee de l'Olivier:  Tel:  04 75 27 17 22

Favorite Olive Foods:

                                                Catherine's Cake aux Olives 
This recipe , although called a Cake, is savory and served with Aperitifs.  My neighbor served it last year to such rave reviews that I just had to get the recipe.  They were at La Baume the following evening and much to my delight, Catherine found a piece of blank paper and wrote the recipe from memory! 

4 eggs
4 rounded tablespoons AP Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated cheese
1 cup black olives, pitted and cut in halves
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Beat eggs until thick and light yellow in color.  Fold in flour & baking powder. Add salt, milk & olive oil. Mix gently until just combined.  
2. Coat olives lightly with some flour.  Stir in cheese and olives.   
3. Pour into a greased, floured cake tin.
4. Bake at 375 deg. F for 30 - 40 minutes. 
5. Remove from cake tin right away and serve. 

Tapanade:  Finely chopped or ground olives with garlic, capers and anchovies. It is made from either black or green olives and served as an hors d'ouvre on crisp french bread or crackers. 

Olive Festivals:
Between October and January, a number of towns and villages have Festivals to celebrate the new harvest.  If you are travelling in the area, look out for posters advertising activities in the nearby towns.

Look out for posters advertising "olive" events when you are traveling Provence at this time of year

Late Extra!

                         Have I not always said that we have the best guests at "les Pelerins"?  
Reinforcing that point - Margaret Dennis just sent me this fantastic picture of the Olive tree in the Courtyard at Maison des Pelerins, laden with green olives at the time she was visiting Sablet with Suzanne and Portia

                                                     Merci Beaucoup Margaret!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rainbows in Provence

A few claps of thunder… followed by some bright flashes of lightening and a quick, heavy rainstorm rolls across Sablet Village and through the countryside, bringing a cool change after a few days of warm weather. 
A double rainbow from the kitchen window of Maison des Pelerins!
One of the very special things about being in this part of Provence is the beautiful rainbows, that one often sees  illuminating the Dentelles de Montmirail, bathing the vineyards and surrounding countryside with a bright golden light, after one of these storms during Spring, Summer and Fall.  My favorite place during these brief rainstorms is the kitchen window of Maison des Pelerins – with its sweeping views over the rooftops of Sablet and the surrounding vineyards.  The smell of the rain on the parched ground, the sound of the rain on the tile rooftops, the occasional clap of thunder and flash of lightening – quenching the dry countryside  and leaving the fields and vineyards clean and fresh.
But… the best is yet to come ….  as the rain storm rolls through the village, across the fields and on towards  Mt. Venoux, the villages on the Lavender Route,  and the Alps-Cote D’Azur Region of Provence – we are rewarded  with the most brilliant, vivid rainbows that form a bright, multicolored and sometimes  double layered “l’arc du ciel” (rainbow) over the countryside.
It seems to appear so suddenly -  an almost magical sight – the lacey and jagged  rocks of the Dentelles in the background, and the freshly washed clean, bright green of the vineyards illuminated by the  glow of the rainbow - frame  the picture. Our French neighbors – for whom this is a normal part of the weather pattern – I’m sure,  must just  shake their heads when they see this thunderstorm loving American woman, hanging out of her kitchen window, snapping pictures of the rainbows!  
We hear a lot about the wonderful wines of this area, the “cusine du soleil” which is such a part of Provence – we know about the herbs, the olives, the olive oil, the markets, not to mention the warm, hospitable Provencaux and everything that is Provence. This is such a surprise and an unexpected treat – it’s really worth stopping for a moment to  spend a little time enjoying the “l’arc du ciel”  - if you are fortunate enough to have the experience whilst  visiting Provence.