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.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Shopping in Sablet - a Truly Provencal Village

                Every Friday morning the weekly market in Sablet takes its place in the Village Square, known as the Aire de la Croix.

The Charcuterie Stall a the weekly market - looks like everything you need for Aperitifs - Some Saucisson, Cheese, perhaps some Pate .....
               It is still a fairly small market,  having started during summer 2011, but I'm sure that it will grow this year into a flourishing small town market as Sabletains, visitors taking vacation breaks in the village, and neighbors from nearby villages stop by to do their fresh fish, produce, cheese and charcuterie shopping......

The Fish Market stall has been visiting Sablet on Thursday mornings for a number of years. You can count on the freshest of fresh fish and shellfish
                  .........maybe take home some Couscous Royal for lunch from the stall at the market.

Couscous Royale for lunch anyone? Light and fluffy Couscous accompanied by a delicious, spicy sauce - a little bit of Morocco infused into your Provence vacation
Visitors to Provence and Sablet often comment on the friendliness of the "commercants" in the village. Whether your vacation is one week or two months, you are greeted with the same friendly smile and  customary, happy  "Bonjour Monsieur" or "Bonjour Madame" when you enter the shops. Help in finding  purchases - maybe even suggestions on how to prepare and serve whatever it is you are buying, is normal.  Presentations are always prepared with care and pride -  the displays are so inviting that you can't help but let your creativity and imagination go to work planning your next meal. When they know you like a particular item, they will make a point of remembering.
Good old fashioned service!

The Bureau de Toursime is right there off the village square
Over the years, our village has attracted a group of dedicated 
and hardworking shop keepers,hairdressers, artists and "Bureau de Tourisme".  The staff at the Bureau de Toursime are ready with helpful information, and to serve visitors with samples of wine from all the Sablet Vintners. They host scheduled informational walks around the village, recounting the history of Sablet over the centuries, and pointing out significant buildings. Without this group of people, working at their businesses daily,  then planning events for the inhabitants and visitors to Sablet, our village would certainly lack some of its ambiance, charm and fun.

Just off the Village Square, the Tabac carries a variety of newspapers, souvenirs and gifts.  It is also where you can buy a card to recharge your French "mobicarte" mobile phone.
Just in case you find yourself visiting Sablet .... let me introduce you to some of our Commercants ....  
that way, you'll already have friends in the village.

Madame Moulin - proprietor of the Boulanger Festival, presents an extensive variety of traditional and old fashioned bread, as well as many different whole grain breads.  All breads and patisseries are baked fresh daily on the premises.
Monsieur and Madame Pradier - proprietors of the Boulanger Pradier, where you can buy traditonal breads and patisserie.  Here they are pictured with the "Gallette de rois" or the Three Kings Cake a tradition in Provence at the feast of the Epiphany.  This picture is from the Sablet Blog
There's something about French bread that makes it hard to resist munching it as soon as you get it!
We have two Boulangeries - les Festival and  Pradier. If you are a guest spending your Provence vacation at Maison des Pelerins or la Baume des Pelerins,  the smell  fresh bread baking at the boulangeries of Monsieur & Madame Pradier who run the Boulangerie Pradier and the Moulin family who have the Boulangerie Festival, very early each morning, will be familiar to you. These bakeries open before 7am each day to make sure that everyone who comes can get their fresh bread, croissants and my favorite, Pain au Raisin (I'm addicted to these!) for breakfast each day.
What better way to start the day, than with a very cheerful,
"Bonjour Madame! Un pain au raisin et une baguette?" 
But be prepared, these guys are popular - the lines often stretch 
all the way out of the door!

Monsieur and Madame Fabre - proprietors of the Epicerie Vival Market - there's never a problem of running out of the essentials when you have the Vival Market within a few steps.
Next door ..... Monsieur & Madame Fabre, proprietors of  the Epicerie Vival (Mini) Market, have stocked the little market with everything you might need for your day to day living.

Charcuterie, wine and cheese .... what more can you want?
This store  is really like a small supermarket. It is packed full of fresh fruit and vegetables, milk, butter, yogurt, cheeses and other dairy products, cleaning products, a small deli (which includes a great selection of sausages) and a good selection of wine.

The attractively displayed produce is fresh and seasonal
It is SOOOO nice to be able to walk for less than two minutes down to the store 
to pick up something  when I run out.

Then ... we have the Pizza Restaurant, Pizza Comme Di (take out or sidewalk seating), and the Cafe - very important in the life of the village, as a meeting place.  It is impossible to stop in any time of day - early in the morning for a cup of coffee, or an aperitif in the evening without running into someone you know.

Bruno - the proprietor of the Cafe des Sports offers a warm welcome to all who stop by for a coffee first thing in the morning or an aperitif in the early evening. This picture was taken by Loran List, a professional photographer, who was one of our guests at Maison des Pelerins
Your host at the Cafe des Sports is Bruno, whose smiling face and warm greeting lets you know your in a friendly place. The cafe also has a casual restaurant "la Cornucopia" right next door - great for lunch or dinner.

The Restaurant Cornucopia displays its menu on easy to read boards.  As you can see, they serve both a Prix Fixe Menu and an a la Carte Menu for both lunch and dinner.  During the "season" they have special evenings such as the one known as the Fete des Belges, which means that the meal they serve that evening is the best Moules/Frites (Mussels Mariniere and French Fries) you have ever tasted!
The Restaurant les Remparts is a cosy place to have a meal in the Winter and cool relaxing spot on the Terrasse during the warm weather.
Likewise for les Remparts, another casual restaurant that serves a Prix Fixe menu and A La Carte menu at lunch and dinner - inside, or outside on their pretty terrasse 
in good weather.

Madame Bonnet - proprietor of GB Fleurs - always an display of gorgeous flowers and plants
Madame Giselle Bonnet who runs GB Fleurs - is a treasure. She makes a great contribution towards making Sablet a "beau village," as I heard one visitor describe our village.  It is impossible to walk past floral displays both inside and outside her store without stopping. Really nice to be able to pop in for a last minute gift of fresh flowers or a beautiful plant. She also holds Flower Arranging classes.  I know that at least on one occasion, Madame Bonnet has accompanied our neighbor, who looks after the garden/courtyard at Maison des Pelerins, to advise and supply the flowering plants for the garden and vegetables for our petite potager. Merci Madame ....

Hanging Ivy Geraniums decorate the wine barrels and fresh lavender joins the display of flowers outside GB Fleurs. Now.... do you see why it's so hard to walk past and not stop?
We spent the time in Sablet right after Christmas, and met Mr. Thierry Bonfils, our new butcher. Monsieur and Madame Bonfils took over the Boucherie about a year ago and there is universal admiration for the quality and well priced products he presents.

Monsieur Bonfils - don't hesitate to go into the store thinking you don't know the cuts of meat - he will patiently help you find just the right cut for your meal.
Don't worry about not knowing the French cuts of meat. Monsieur Bonfils is always cheerful and helpful, making sure you completely understand the cut of meat you inquire about, and if you wish to know, the best method of cooking it. Although he does not speak English, he has diagrams on the wall and he will show you exactly where the cut of meat you are considering comes from.  He has a wide variety of meat - beef, lamb, pork & chicken as well as pates, home made sausages and other charcuterie.

If you're not sure which cut will be best for the dish you are planning to make ... don't hesitate to ask. 
Over the years, I have heard many people say, "French lamb is great, but the beef is not the best." I now have news for everyone who has not had great beef in France - Come to Sablet.  I tried many cuts of beef during the three weeks we were there and I will say that they were all great, the Entrecote steak and short ribs were the best! While we were in there, 
I heard many people say, 
"we are so glad that Monsieur and Madame Bonfils are in Sablet."

and ... if your not in the mood to cook ... Monsieur and Madame Bonfils carry a good array of prepared dishes that are  ready to simply take home and heat.
Lastly, about a year ago,  Mme Roure who had owned the second Epicerie for many years retired  -  and we miss her smiling face in the village square.  Since her departure, the new owner of the building that housed her store, has spent all this time renovating the building and I am told that we will soon have our own Estethician!

Could it be possible?  Facials - perhaps a mini-spa?     I can't wait ...

This is a very brief introduction to the Commercants of Sablet.  There are many others such as the Hairdressers (very good), talented Artists, the Pharmacie, Banque and so on who haven't been mentioned here.  They will all treat you with the same care .... but I thought I would introduce those whom you are most likely to come into contact with on your vacation in Provence.

CLICK HERE To see a map of the village and the location of the shops.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Driving in Provence

We spent quite a lot of time driving in Provence and  the rest of France on vacations when our children were very young, and it was always a lot of fun.  France is very kid friendly, and we had no problem taking the children into restaurants where we would often see other families enjoying a meal together.
Along the Autoroutes, there were great roadside rest stops - always plenty of space for the kids to stretch their legs -  often with picnic tables and benches, restrooms and play structures. 

Even in the middle of winter, this Roadside Picnic Stop is pretty and welcoming for travelers.  This one is on the road between Sablet and Carpentras.
You will even see nice picnic spots along minor roads throughout Provence, 
                                                                            ...... and ..... we mustn't forget the scenic Giratoires!

What's a Giratoire? ...... (AKA Rond-Point) - AKA in the UK as a Roundabout!

Giratoires are a common feature in Provencal driving - they are also a very helpful one.  The regular intersection is replaced with a large roundabout which is far more forgiving for the driver who is not quite sure of which road they should take next.  I can't tell you how many times I have done double takes  at Rond-Points!

When approaching a Rond-point, you will see a sign that says, "Vous n'avez pas la priorite" - (litereally: "You do not have priority"),  it  means that when entering the Rond-point, you must give way to the traffic already within it.  Once you enter, you can go around as many times as you like!

I did intend this post to be a very practical one, with helpful points for anyone planning a driving vacation in Provence, but I hope you will let me indulge in a little fun.  I love the Giratoires in Provence, as the circles are often decorated to represent the area or the village that they are closest to, for instance vines growing in the Rond-Points close to well known wine producing villages or lavender on roundabouts of the "routes de la Lavande," are like the artwork along the Autoroutes, and are very enjoyable.  So .... before we get to the practical .... here we go ...  some pictures of the more unusual Giratoire decorations that I couldn't resist.  They're fun and especially good if you're traveling with kids, or kids at heart.

   Look who was "hanging out" in the middle of a Giratoire right by Auchan Department Store at Le Pontet

Why is this enormous fish chasing a bug, in the middle of a Rond Point not too far from Avignon??   This guy tells us we're in a region crisscrossed by the Sorgue, Ouveze and Durance Rivers.          It does get your attention - doesn't it?      Not too far away from the A7 - in Vedene, heading towards Entreaigues and Bedarrides
 A dramatic display which reminds us that the French Air Force Base "Orange-Caritat"  is nearby.  Shortly after exiting the Autoroute A7 at Orange Sud (Exit 22)

 On the road to Beaumes de Venise, the Rond Point draws our attention to just how much wine growing is involved in the daily lives of the people who live in this area.
If you've taken pictures of any interesting or fun Roundabouts, I'd love to hear from you or better still we'd all love to see the pics.

Now ..... the Practical Information:
France has a very good and extensive network of highways and local roads. The French Highway system classifies roads into three categories:  

1.  The Autoroute system - usually toll roads and identified by the letter A before the route number.  For instance, the Autoroute which connects Avignon to Lyon is the A7.  All Autoroute signs are in white letters on a blue background.  

2.  The National Highway system or Route Nationale.  These are non-toll,  main roads which are identified by the letter N followed by the number.  You will see signs for these roads on a green background with white lettering.  

3.  The local roads or Route Departmentale or "D" roads have black lettering on a yellow background, with the destination names below on black and white arrow signs.

NOTE:  You may occasionally see a green E Sign which carries an E followed by a number - these are European Routes which cross borders.  

Well sign posted roads make sightseeing in Provence very easy. The signage at this intersection displays Autoroute, Route Nationale and Route Departmentale Signs

Following Directions:  French roads are very well signposted - but - a watchpoint: make sure you have an approximate idea of the towns and villages along your route, as ALL roads that will take you to a certain point are signposted, and following certain signs may take you on a somewhat circuitous drive to your destination.
When you enter a town or village, if you don't immediately see signs to your next point, follow the signs that say, "TOUTES DIRECTIONS" (All Directions), you will eventually see a sign pointing in the direction that you wish to proceed.
Radar - Attention!   Don't be lulled by quiet roads as a place to speed, as the French Police have a strong affinity for Radar.  Please look for, and observe the speed limits which are prominently posted on  Departmental Roads - the speed limit on the Autoroute is 130 kilometers per hour.  There are much better and more enjoyable ways to spend your money than paying the heavy fines you will incur for speeding!
Using Cell Phones Whilst Driving:  Let me quote a Gendarme who pulled me over in the Town of Orange a couple of years ago - "Absolument Interdit!" (Absolutely Forbidden!)
Seat Belts, Car Seats and Driving with Children:  The use of seat belts when driving is Mandatory.  It is against the law for children under the age of 10 to ride in the front seat of a car.  Unless there is no back seat, they must ride in the back in an appropriate car seat. 
Breakdown: All cars must be equipped with a Red Triangle and Yellow Fluorescent Jacket. In case of breakdown, you are required to set up the red triangle an appropriate distance behind the vehicle to warn other drivers of the obstacle, and you must wear the yellow jacket before leaving the vehicle and stepping onto the roadway.

NOTE:  Please do not leave your car unattended with luggage or any valuables in plain sight.  It is best when arriving or departing, to unload your luggage at your destination and then do your sightseeing.  If that is not possible, please make sure that luggage is stored in a locked trunk - out of sight! 

Below are some traffic terms which you may find helpful:
Pietons  - Pedestrians
Circulation - Traffic
Feu - Traffic Light
Phare - Headlights
Carrefour - an intersection.
Giratoire or Rond Point - Roundabout
Peage - Toll point along a Toll Road
Vitesse - Speed

Highway signs:  
Vent Violent - soyez prudent! - High winds - be careful!
Circulation Buchon - Traffic jam
Vous N'Avez pas la Priorite - you will see this sign as you approach a roundabout.  It means that the vehicles within the roundabout have priority of passage and you must give way to them when entering.
Ne pas depasser - No passing or overtaking.
Ralentissez or Ralentir  -   Slow down
Rappel - Literally: "Remember" this sign is a reminder of a previous speed restriction.
VerglasCareful - Roadway can have Ice.
Neige - Snow
Gazole - Diesel;  "Essence" or "Carburante" - Gas or Petrol; "Sans Plomb" - Unleaded
Chauseee Deforme - Road in poor condition
Sortie- Exit - Note:  Autoroute exits are numbered as well as named, so make sure you check the map for your exit number and name.  For instance, the exit number to reach Sablet when traveling from Avignon is Sortie 22 - Orange Sud
Bis- Supplementary or additional  route

HELPFUL WEBSITE for driving in France - like Google Maps but  shows location of Gas Stations and other services en route.  It also gives you an indication of the cost of fuel for the trip, and toll charges if you are traveling via Toll roads:  www.Mappy.fr  If you don't speak French, there's a small drop down menu at the top left hand corner of the screen.  It shows a French flag and says, "France".  Click on that button and select, "United Kingdom" and it will take you to an English screen - you can then go to the Itinerary and fill in your route.

                       and ....... last but most important ..... Bonne Route!  ..... Have a great trip!

Friday, February 10, 2012

I Like theTrend in 2012

Despite the "super-freeze" going on in Provence at the moment ...
 .....  the New Year began with a spectacular, sunny and warm day.  We had spent the previous day strolling through the markets at some of our favorite towns, beginning with Pernes les Fontaines and then onto Isle sur la Sorgue, where the Antiques market was going on.

We made our way to the Antiques vendors, through the bright and festive streets of  Isle sur la Sorgue completely involved in what the French describe as Lecher les Vitrines, window shopping ... but literally translated: licking the windows. 

They were all beautifully decorated from the Insurance Office to the Toy Shop - everyone was involved in the season.  Music was piped throughout the whole town creating an inviting and happy atmosphere. 

One of our favorites for a Cafe au Lait - the Cafe de France in Isle sur la Sorgue
We stopped by the Cafe de France which was well decorated for the season, and packed with groups of friends in animated conversation.  After a nice warm cafe au lait we kept going to the Antiques Market and spent most of the afternoon there.

The sun sets at around 5pm in Provence at this time of year...  we decided to to go to the Chapel of St. Roch, where Pere Pierre our neighbor was saying Mass at 6pm.  The little Chapel was light and warm, with a small Nativity in one corner.  It's always nice to attend Mass locally and see many of our neighbors - services in Sablet are usually on Saturday evenings.  In the Summer, they are at the Church of Nazaire, next door to Maison des Pelerins, but during the Winter, they are held in the Chapel of St. Roch.

The Chapel of St Roch - built by the grateful Sabletains, after the Plague of 1721 ravaged the area,
but  left  Sablet untouched
After Mass we had arranged to have aperitifs with friends before dinner at Les Abeilles.  It was so good to be back at this time of year, when there really is more time to spend with friends.  During our aperitifs, they asked if we were going to the Village LOTO the next evening (New Year's Day). It was a fundraiser for the volunteer Fire Department of Sablet.  We didn't even know what LOTO was... but they said it was a lot of fun and we could attend in the Cafe des Sports  instead of the Stadium (which was usually very crowded) - and we could enjoy a glass of wine!

    A bright, sunny New Year's Day - the Cafe des Sports decorated for the holiday season

OK - we would go - and at the appointed time after a glorious New Year's Day, we made our way down to the Cafe to join about thirty others who had chosen that location to play..  LOTO is like Bingo.  The cards they use date back to the 1950's and they have a little pull down tab, so that you can easily pull the little shade down over each number that is called out.  Our host (at the Cafe) was receiving the numbers via cell phone from the Stadium, where about two hundred plus people were assembled.  The prizes were numerous and ranged from two Pizzas and a bottle of wine to a digital camera or large flat screen TV.

Our friend had said that she would love the large screen TV, so we laid out the cards and listened intently.  Lots of prizes were called and the depending on where the winner was we would hear cheers or "Oh's" sounding more like a downcast "uuhh."

The next prize announced was the digital camera ... we talked and covered numbers as it went along.  Before I knew it, Gerard, my husband had only one number to go for the camera ... and the next number was... yes! ... he won the Camera, one of the two top prizes.  That was a nice way to start the New Year ... but that's not where it ends.  More games went on accompanied by "uuhhs", until it was time for the TV.  As the numbers were called our friend (who wanted the TV), filled up her card and now she had only one number to go.  After three more calls, yes! She won!  Can you believe it?  Our table won both of the top prizes.  Now... that's the way to start the New Year!

"The Winners"
But... it doesn't end here.....  Right after we arrived home, a friend invited us to a fundraising "Crab Feed" for their local Yacht Club.  We went along and as usual, bought the requisite number of raffle tickets for the prizes stacked on a very large table.  After a great dinner of fresh crab, the drawing started and we were not really paying attention - not expecting to win anything.  We went all the way through the drawing and as we expected - nothing.  We were at the very last prize, and the number was called .... not paying attention.  It was called again, and I thought,"just a minute that sounds familiar".  I checked my tickets and yes - we had won a very  large (magnum) bottle of red wine from the Napa Valley!

I definitely like this 2012 trend .... and wish all our readers the same.

Here's a comment and pictures from one of our "les Pelerins" guests who has shared his wonderful photography with us before  - thanks so much Dave we always enjoy seeing your beautiful pics!

Chere Marianne:  I just read your 2012 blog page and noted the picture of the toy store in L'Ile.  Here is mine from Vaison.

I also think this picture of Sablet shows Maison des Pelerins.  I think Maison is the long house below the church steeple with the kitchen window with its blue shutters to the right, the dining room window (likewise), and the two upstairs bedroom windows visible.
Rgds,  Dave Condeff

You are absolutely correct Dave - that is Maison with the blue shutters - from left to right, they are the two bedroom windows, the dining room window and the kitchen window.  Love the views from them!