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.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Traditions in Provence

Christmas Traditions in Provence

Bright garlands of light,  Christmas trees, Festive Shop windows, Expositions of Santons, Welcoming garlands and bows on houses, misty mornings .......... it's Christmas in Provence ....
Looking through my photographs, I couldn't help but put together this photoblog of some of my favorite scenes from the Christmases we  have spent at Maison des Pelerins our vacation home in Sablet. 

If you have ever thought about visiting Provence at Christmas,
I hope these pictures will give you a sense of the fun, festivity and tradition
 that accompanies the Christmas season in small villages and larger towns in Provence.
As an added bonus - at this time of the year, Provence has an atmosphere that is much more serene
than it seems to be during the summer "season".

It starts with a very, very early morning view out from the bedroom window of Maison des Pelerins.
A pre dawn, look at the frosty sleeping vineyards .......... I just love this view and take full advantage of every opportunity to enjoy an early morning cup of tea by this window

Looking at this picture - I can almost smell the bread baking at the Boulangerie in the square below

On with the day ....... An Exhibition of Santons in Seguret - our neighboring village .......

Master Santonniers from towns and villages throughout Provence come to this very well known
"Expositions des Santons" to display their creativity.

The Christmas Creche plays a very important role in Provencal Christmas decor

As legend has it, Christ was born in Provence, and Santonniers create scenes that show how the village would have looked at the time of his birth.  In addition to the usual figures of the creche, Provencal creches also include characters from the village as can be seen in the display above.  It shows the villagers carrying gifts, on their way to greet the new baby Jesus.

Time to do a little shopping ....... the Christmas windows look so inviting       

Coffee time at this beautifully decorated cafe in the Village of Seguret

A festive book store window in Carpentras

......... in the village of Seguret

Our Village - Sablet - the festive window of a boulangerie with a great display of Three King's Cakes
(Galette des Rois)

As the day goes on
..... streetlights and decorations light up the evening......


Aix-en-Provence cheerful shop windows and street lights add to the festive ambiance 

Aix-en-Provence - a canopy of bright Christmas lights guides you all the way down the Cours Mirabeau which is lined on either side with Christmas Market stalls.

Vaison-la-Romaine - the Place du Montfort - dressed up in lights for the season

Dinner time after all that shopping .... The Chateau Martinet - a restaurant near Sablet -
decorated and ready  for Christmas and New Year guests

Joyeux Noel!   The dining room at Maison des Pelerins ready for Christmas dinner.

"May your days be merry and bright ........."

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Fish Tale from La Ciotat

Everyone knows Cassis - it is the beautiful little seaside village that (mostly) French people love to flock to in the warm months each summer.

Beach goers enjoy  a warm October morning in La Ciotat
We came to know and love Cassis as well as its larger and a little more "work a day" neighbor - La Ciotat when we spent two weeks at "Le Camping" in the  nearby village of  Ceyreste with our then two small boys, back in the summer of 1985.  Funny that we hadn't been back to La Ciotat (although we had visited Cassis a number of times since) until just a few weeks ago.

Does that sign say, "Swimming Prohibited"?
What really stands out in my memory about La Ciotat - apart from its beach being the first place where our little boys saw topless sunbathers - is our evening fishing trip taken on a local fishing boat, captained by an "local expert".

Colorful boats anchored in the harbor at La Ciotat
To make a long story short - La Ciotat, being on the Mediterranean Coast, it of course has a typically Mediterranean climate - which can also mean the coastal areas being blanketed by fog on summer afternoons and evenings!  Dense fog is not the ideal setting for a family fishing trip, but we'd booked the boat and by the time we reached the boat, the captain had all our items loaded onto it and assured us that he had the latest in electronic equipment so that we would be completely safe and would certainly have no problems at all in finding the best fishing spot!  Somewhat reluctantly we climbed aboard and set out chugging through the stone walls of the breakwater - as the bells from the old Church struck eight times ... bong... bong... bong... bong... bong... bong... bong... bong! 8pm!

Four hours later the same bells marked our return, as we thankfully chugged back into the harbor - this time there were twelve bongs! I say "thankfully" because we had spent the better part of those four hours bobbing around, somewhere in the totally fogged in Mediterranean with the Captain constantly sounding his horn, to make sure that other vessels knew we were out there, and not run into us!  Adding to the sense of drama, in between sounding the horn, he was checking radio signals with a directional finder - picking up radio traffic in a variety of languages - Spanish ... North African varieties ... Italian etc.. etc...

Looking across one of the piers towards the Port of La Ciotat

Did we catch fish? Oh yes! We did catch a fish! In all that time, our younger son, about 6 years old at the time, was constantly casting his line and reeling it back in - (to keep from become completely bored I think).  We told him time and time again, not to do that, because he should give the fish a chance to bite - but he didn't stop.  It was probably just as well, because the only catch for the night was some poor, unsuspecting fish that got hooked in the gills as it was swimming past and was reeled in!

Right around 1:00am, we arrived back at Le Camping, to find the gate locked for the night, so we parked the car and walked back to our rented Camper Trailer with our fish.  We were all so tired, that we left the fish in its bucket on the table in the campsite and called it a night.

Around 9am, the boys woke up and ran out to check their fish.  We heard them chuckling away and went to see what was happening - they told us that we'd caught a "cartoon fish".  What's a "cartoon fish"? Why .. it's a fish skeleton - just like in the cartoons after the cats had feasted while we were asleep - and I can confidently say that, that night, the cat(s) in Ceyreste had the most expensive cat food in all of France!

A "Cartoon Fish"
Like all of the small towns and villages along that part of the Mediterranean Coast, La Ciotat has grown with more shops, cafes and  restaurants along shoreline as well as lots of rides and activities for children.

Actors playing the part of 1720's seafarers at the Festival
This year we arrived at the Port on a Sunday morning to find ourselves at a "Spectacle 1720" Festival where the Sunday Market usually is.  The market was being held further along the beach front and we enjoyed a stroll through the Festival and then a good walk  along  the beachfront to the market.  The port was still busy and clock still chimed every hour on the hour.

A colorful carousel with a nautical theme attracts children to the beach area
Market along the beach at a La Ciotat

Touring the beautiful Calanques is a very popular and relaxing
The Musee Ciotaden is just a cross the road from the Port

View from the Restaurant we went to for lunch - the weather was just turning and before long we had heavy drizzling
Going back to La Ciotat was like visiting an old friend - although the town had changed in all those years, it was still basically the same. The sight of kids playing on the beach took me back to those hot August days when we loaded up the car early each day and headed from Ceyreste to the beach, with the kids (and every other person in France) along the crowded beach road until we found the best spot for the day's play.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Rolling Down The River ....

... A leisurely ride on the Petit Rhone ...

... as August rolls on ... the hottest time of the year in Provence, referred to as "la canicule" has everyone running for shade and cool places, and it's the time when your mind turns to water ... lots of it!  Whether it's the pool, the beach, a river is immaterial. We decided it was time to visit the Camargue that we had heard so much about.  Early one morning, we pointed la petite coccinelle (as our little new Beetle convertible is known as in our village), in the direction of the Camargue.
Blue on blue - beach umbrellas and the blue Mediterranean
The drive from Sablet to the Camargue takes you through some very well known spots such as Nimes and Arles, which is the last big town before you enter the Parc Naturel Regional de Camargue - in the Rhone River Delta.
Wildlife on the beaches and grassy fields of the Camargue
 This area with its large grassy fields is home to "taureau" ranches and riding stables -  for the well known white horses of the Camargue.  We passed lots of open air stands selling local pottery and other local artifacts, but there was one pottery stand that caught my eye and we made a note of it so we could stop by on the way back.
Provence - Camargue - Saintes Maries de la Mer - a pretty little seaside town
After an hour or so, we arrived at Saintes Maries de la Mer, although busy and crowded at this time of the year, a very pretty little town with a usual population of about 2,000 people which no doubt swells by several thousand at this time of year. This little town is on a little spit of land surrounded by "etangs" (bays), at the very entry to the Rhone Delta
Saintes Maries de la Mer - Place des Gitans
We were lucky to find a parking spot near the Place des Gitans where we stopped for a cool drink and to take a look at their statues of famous Camarguaise bulls - black in color with their distinctive up swept horns .  The bulls not only regularly feature on restaurant menus in this area - they are also the stars of the "Courses Camarguaises" which is the Provencal version of bullfights.

Trainees of the school for Raseteur in Arles, Bouche du Rhone, France
 Unlike their Spanish counterparts, happily the Provencal bulls are not hurt as a part of the "bull game", instead the object of the Courses Camarguaises is for the Toreador to remove a small bow from the bull's head.

By now the temperature was climbing, (although it was still much cooler than the temperature we had left), and it was time for a short drive of a few kilometers down the D38 from Saintes Maries de la Mer, to the docking point for our paddle boat - the Tiki lll.
Paddle boat rounds the corner on its way back to Saintes Marie de la Mer
There was something instantly refreshing about the sight of the cool, pale blue water where fishermen stood by the rocks, their lines cast out.  After a few minutes, waiting at the dock where a cool onshore breeze offered relief from the hot August day, the paddle boat Tiki lll rounded the corner, making its way back loaded with sightseers.
The paddleboat - Tiki lll
Not too long afterwards, we were making our way across the gangplank and onto the paddle boat.  For the next couple of hours, we cruised up and then back down the Petit Rhone.
Gardien watches as the cattle and horses graze
Camargue wildlife on the Petit Rhone
Homes on the banks of the Petit Rhone
Past the the grassy marshlands full of birds feeding, horses coming down to the water to quench their thirst on a hot day, the houses and private docks  of the people who had come down to this area to help to preserve the Parc Regional Naturel de Camargue many years ago, on to the area where we paused to watched the elegant Gardien on his white horse, bring his charges down to the riverbank to graze on the indigenous and plentiful grass - salicorne, and quench their thirst at the river.  From there, we quietly made our way back to the dock that we started from, enjoying the cool breeze coming off the water.
Camargue Flamingos always elegant
It was now well past lunchtime and notwithstanding our best intentions of stopping back in Saintes Maries de la Mer, it was by now very very busy and we opted for one of the open air restaurants  a little further out in along one of the Camargue roads that prominently advertised its "Taureau".
Colorful pottery of the Camargue
One more stop, at the Pottery Stand that I had seen earlier for some brightly colored coffee mugs for Maison des Pelerins and two pretty flower pots, and then back to Sablet. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Provence - Through The Eyes Of Artists

As you travel through Provence, the sights and scenery inspire even the amateur artist or photographer to bring out their sketchpad or camera and get started, sketching or clicking.  When you think of Provence, its rugged mountains - Mont Ventoux and Mont Saint Victoire, picturesque coastline dotted with active towns and small sleepy fishing villages along the blue, blue Mediterranean, deep and colorful ochre hills with villages perched on the very top, dramatic gorges, rivers and waterfalls;  all of this plus incredible sunshine and the legendary light of Provence ... Is it any wonder that artists have been drawn to this area for hundreds of years?

Montagne Sainte Victoire - near Aix-en-Provence by Paul Cezanne
But it's more than just the spectacular scenery, it's as much the people of Provence - their solid values - their enjoyment of life and their celebrations - of the country around them - to say nothing of their approach both work and fun, that becomes a part of the scene and draws you here.  Through the years many, many artists felt just that, as they traveled regularly to the area to work or vacation, indeed some made it their home.

Vincent van Gogh - Self Portrait - Artist wearing a hat
Perhaps the most familiar of the Artists in Provence is Vincent Van Gogh, although the time he spent in Provence was relatively short (just two years). It was a dramatic time in his life, nevertheless a very productive time.  He lived in Arles from Febuary 1888 until May 1889 where he began painting local scenes right away.   Leaving Arles in May 1889 he spent the next year in St. Remy -  where he moved into four rented rooms of the "Little Yellow House".  His friend Paul Gauguin visited him there and  stayed for some time.

Vincent van Gogh - Arles - Night Cafe

Vincent van Gogh - A Starry Night Over The Rhone - Painted during his time at St. Remy de provence
This period of his art is amongst his best known, and includes such works as "Starry Night Over The Rhone" In 1890, his mental condition caused him to commit himself to the Mental Hospital in Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, but he continued to work and used the garden of the hospital as a subject in many of his paintings.  This was also the time when he did his some of his best known paintings, including "The Starry Night".
The artist Paul Cezanne, painted by his friend Camille Pissarro
Paul Cezanne was born in Aix-en-Provence and though he did spend time in Paris where he developed a strong friendship with the group known as the Impressionists, his love of his birthplace brought him back to spend most of his life and in Provence, where he did most of his paintings.  Amongst his subjects, Mont Saint Victoire featured strongly.
Paul Cezanne - The Great Pine
Paul Cezanne - Le Chateau Noir
Other than Paul Cezanne who was Provencal,  Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet were the two Impressionists who painted in Provence more than any of the others in the Parisian group . Although his better known paintings were set in and around the River Seine and Paris, Auguste Renoir enjoyed and often visited Provence, staying in Beaulieu, Grasse, St.Raphael and Cannes. At the age of 65 he developed Rheumatoid Arthritis and moved to Provence where he settled in the hills of  Cagnes-sur-Mer with his wife and two sons.  He continued to paint there until his death in 1919.  His former home "Les Collettes" in Cagnes-sur-Mer is now a Museum known as the Musee Renoir.

Auguste Renoir - View of la Seyne, Provence
Claude Monet - View of Salis Gardens Antibes
Claude Monet - Antibes - Afternoon Effect
Claude Monet visited Cezanne in Aix-en-Provence in December 1883, during a trip that he took with Renoir along the Mediterranean Coast, all the way to Genoa.  Monet was very taken with the town of Antibes which became the subject of a number of his paintings.
Pablo Picasso - Peche de Nuit a Antibes (Night Fishing in Antibes)
The Picasso Museum in Antibes
About twenty years later, Picasso also found the town of Antibes fascinating  and spent several months there decorating the Grimaldi Castle and Museum with his paintings as well as creating a number of other works which he donated to the town of Antibes when he left.  Amongst these works of art are "The Keys of Antibes", "Peche de Nuit a Antibes", and Woman with Sea Urchins.  Picasso also enjoyed the nearby village of Mougins where he painted Paysage de Mougins II.

Marc Chagall - St Paul de Vence
In the meantime Picasso's friend Chagall, spent his time in Nice and Saint Paul de Vence.  His first month in Nice was a very rainy one, but he eventually found the wonderful light of Provence, just in time to prevent his departure and he stayed in Nice for a considerable amount of time.  While there, he worked tirelessly, and found the silvery light playing off the lively colors of the town and the shimmering Mediterranean particularly interesting to paint.  He covered subjects that included everything from the architectural aspects of the town and items of everyday life such as women's fashion and parasols.  In Saint Paul de Vence his paintings, "Couple au-dessus de Saint Paul" and "La Table devant le Village" show this Provencal village.

Paul Cezanne - Mont St Victoire
These are only a few of the many well known artists who have taken inspiration from the scenery and light in Provence - which continues to inspire artists today.  It's not difficult to see why, when you are constantly looking at scenery that could be straight out of an Impressionist painting!

Vincent van Gogh - Wheatfields with Cypresses
If you are traveling in Provence and would like to visit the sites that inspired great artists, below is some information that I hope you will find helpful.  If you are an artist, I know you will find lots of subject matter to sketch or paint and wish you lots of good work!

Image Source - http://www.paintinprovence.com

Here's some great input from one of our wonderful guests at "les Pelerins"  -
" Dan and I visited St. Remy and walked the trail to some of the spots that inspired Van Gogh. Two other places that are MUSTS are The Maeght Fondation in Saint Paul de Vence, and Picasso's chapel painting of War and Peace. Amazing!!!!!"

Below is the link for the Maeght Foundation:
Maeght Foundation 

Picasso's War and Peace -at the Peace Chapel in Vallauris
"War and Peace is the last major political composition produced by Picasso. It was completed in 1952 and permanently installed in the Chapel in 1954, then donated by the artist in 1956 to the French State, which established the Chapel as a national museum."
Contact details:
Château de Vallauris
Place de la Libération
06220 Vallauris
Tel: 04 93 64 71 83
Fax: 04 93 64 50 32 

Monet - Renoir - Chagall - An amazing opportunity to visit this exhibition in Les Baux de Provence from March 8th, 2013 until January 5th, 2014! 
Details at: http://www.fantasticprovence.com/section/culture-fashion_r5/-monet-renoir-chagall-journeys-around-the-mediterranean-in-les-baux-de-provence_a912/1