Happy Australia Day to all our friends and readers in Oz. Enjoy the prawns and the barbie!!
Nostradamus once said: “Ménerbes is like a ship rising from a sea of vines”.
The inspiration for his quote, made when he was a General Medical Practioner in St Remy-de-Provence in 1503-1566 is here…..
We paid another visit a month later – and the standard was just as good!
For the past 4 years, a young Belgian couple, Niels and Virgine, have owned Auberge des Carrieres in Les Taillades.
Close to Cavaillon, Les Taillades merits a detour to discover a medieval village which has kept its charm and offers pleasant walks. (It is a classified village).
Once upon a time Les Taillades was an important stone quarrying centre. The quarries were abandoned at the end of the XIX° century and have now been transformed into an open air theater where dance, theater and concerts are held in August each year.
Go as far as the XIX° century Saint-Pierre mill, to see its large water wheel used in times gone by to mill flour. The mill is not a working mill but its water wheel still helps the waters of the Carpentras canal to flow by.
The marvellous landscapes which surround the village are protected as Taillades is within the Luberon regional park.
During your walks you’ll discover and appreciate a variety of flora species as well as the subtle perfumes of the mediterranean and the aromatic plants typical of the “garrigue”… and of course, don’t forget (in summer…) you’ll be accompanied by the song of the cicadas.
and the food.. sublime!
To book at Auberge es Carrieres, click here.
Continuing our story from yesterday when we speculated that the Shell Bridge near Buoux was created by the Freemasons as an inverted ‘Masonic Eye’, the Roundabouts story.
Originally invented by the British, it took the French a long time to embrace the concept but now we have thousands sprinkled across the countryside – wags say that there is a roundabout for every 5 members of the population. Each roundabout is individually designed and well maintained. Why?
As with all things French, in particular politics, there is a story – or, allegedly, a story.
It all started with the election to the presidency of François Mitterand who was the fourth President of France elected under the Fifth Republic serving from 1981 until 1995. As leader of the Socialist Party, he is the only figure from the left so far elected under the Fifth Republic.
Originally he came from a far right leaning family and the story goes that Mitterand was a closet Freemason. On his election as President, The Freemasons ‘apparently’ approached him and asked him to do something significant for them and to help the movement in France.
Quietly, he handed over the creation and design of roundabouts to the Freemason community. Funded by government money, the Freemasons were able (and are still able) to earn euros by designing and overseeing production of the many roundabouts being created. Consequently, each community takes great pride in their own roundabouts, each of which is themed and has a story behind it. In the absence of any legend on the roundabouts, the Freemasons leave you to your own conclusions!
For visitors to the Luberon, here are some roundabouts to look out for –
- Oppede – at the exit from the ‘new’ Oppede and moving towards Oppede le Vieux, there is a magnificent roundabout commemorating the stone masons of the area (legend has it that a Freemasons Lodge in South Africa provided the design and donation for this one)
- The D900 between Coustellet and Apt has a variety of designs and themes: Via Domitia (the old Roman road connecting Africa and Spain to Rome); lavender; Roussillon soil colours; vines; decorative Provençal walls
- Isle sur la Sorgue – at the entrance to the village the Rondpoint de Gaulle always shows the result of the gardeners’ labours
This is a reproduction of a story in our book, Footsteps. The Luberon and Surrounds. Provençal Paradise. To find out more, click here.
Deep in the forests of the Luberon, near the tiny village of Buoux you can discover a ‘shell bridge’. Looking as though it was constructed during medieval times, but still in good condition and used by hikers on a regular basis, we discovered one.
What does the shell mean? None of the locals seems to have the answer. Any query is answered with a Gallic shrug.
However, one of LSW’s regular readers – Bill from Connecticut – has come up with what seems to be a very plausible and rational answer: the shell design is taken from the ‘masonic eye’. For the purposes of building the bridge and creating something unique, the original stone masons inverted the eye.
What is the Masonic Eye?
The Eye of Providence (or the all-seeing eye of God) is a symbol showing an eye often surrounded by rays of light or a glory and usually enclosed by a triangle. It is sometimes interpreted as representing the eye of God watching over humankind (or divine providence).
Today, the Eye of Providence is usually associated with Freemasonry. The Eye first appeared as part of the standard iconography of the Freemasons in 1797, with the publication of Thomas Smith Webb’s Freemasons Monitor. Here, it represents the all-seeing eye of God and is a reminder that a Mason’s thoughts and deeds are always observed by God (who is referred to in Masonry as the Great Architect of the Universe). Typically, the Masonic Eye of Providence has a semi-circular glory below the eye. Sometimes the Eye is enclosed by a triangle.
Popular among conspiracy theorists is the claim that the Eye of Providence shown atop an unfinished pyramid on the Great Seal of the United States indicates the influence of Freemasonry in the founding of the United States. This was dramatized in the 2004 Disney film National Treasure. However, common Masonic use of the Eye dates to 14 years after the creation of the Great Seal. Furthermore, among the members of the various design committees for the Great Seal, only Benjamin Franklin was a Mason (and his ideas for the seal were not adopted). Indeed, many Masonic organizations have explicitly denied any connection to the creation of the Seal.
The Freemason’s Movement is very strong in France and goes back many years.
As part of a design, the bottom block holds the bridge together – take it out and the whole structure collapses. The Eye of Providence.
To-morrow, we’ll give you another Freemason’s story – the French Roundabouts.
Thanks, Bill! Any other theories are more than welcome.
French families marked the end of the festive season last Tuesday in typical Gallic fashion, by scoffing down a pastry fit for kings. Here’s the story of the Galette des Rois – the only tart that can make you feel like a king.
As with many festivals in France the French will mark the feast of the Epiphany on Tuesday by eating. Whereas Christmas Eve is all about oysters and foie gras, January 6th is all about the Galette des Rois (King’s Cake).
So what’s a Galette des Rois?
It’s basically a frangipane tart made with pastry, butter, ground almonds and a few extra ingredients that will stretch the already bursting waistline for one final time before the January dieting begins. Why’s it in the news this week? Because the French love their traditions and none more so than the Galette des Rois, which they scoff down on January 6th each year to mark the feast of the Epiphany, which is when the three kings turned up to give gifts to Baby Jesus (allegedly). The tradition of eating the cake dates back to the 14th century. According to tradition the cake was to draw the kings to the Epiphany.
Interestingly during the French Revolution the name was changed to “Gâteau de l’egalité” because it wasn’t really the done thing to be a king at that time. But it’s just a cake?
Ah but it isn’t. The Galette des Rois is not just about having a cup of tea and something sweet. There’s an age-old protocol that needs to be followed and is all to do with the little charm that bakers hide inside the cake.
First of all the youngest child has to hide under the table and tell whoever is cutting the cake who should get which piece. Whoever finds the charm, known as a “féve”, in their slice (as long as they don’t swallow it) names their king or their queen, who gets to wear the crown and theoretically boss the rest of the family around all day. And then everyone just sits down and scoffs it. Normally with either cider or champagne.
What’s the point of the charm?
It’s tradition of course. According to the website Direct Matin, the pagan custom dates back to Roman times, when festivals were organized in honour of the gods between late December and early January. Masters and slaves ate together and a bean (a fève) was slipped into one of the dishes and whoever got it was hailed king of the feast. When the church instituted the festival of the Epiphany to celebrate the arrival of the three wise kings, the tradition of the bean in the cake remained. Well luckily, although la fève used to be literally a broad bean (fève), it was replaced in around 1870 by a variety of figurines made out of porcelain or—more recently—plastic.
These plastic figurines used to be babies to represent Jesus but can now be anything from a car to a shoe. Real Galette des Rois fanatics will collect the charms year after year and build up a fine array or little trinkets. One guy named Bernard Joly has over 1,200 according to France TV info. Some bakers, fearing they could be sued if someone chokes on it, put the charms outside the galette and leave it up to the buyer to hide it.
So everyone in France will have their cake and eat it ?
Pretty much. Boulangeries in France love this time of year as their takings are boosted by the sale of the pastries. Although poor president François Hollande is not allowed the chance to become king for the day. According to the trusty Wikipedia The French President is not allowed to “draw the kings” on Epiphany because of the etiquette rules. “Therefore, a traditional galette without figurine or crown is served at Elysée Palace.”
So how do you make it then?
Here’s a basic recipe thanks to the site Anglophone Direct.
Galette des Rois
2 sheets ready rolled puff pastry
140g ground almond
75g soft butter
3 egg whites
Mix the butter and the sugar until the mix whitens, then add the beaten eggs and the ground almond. Mix well.
In the middle of the first sheet of puff pastry, pour the mix. Lay the second sheet on top, and roll the sides of the sheets together towards the inside to seal the galette.
With a knife, draw diagonal lines in both direction (so that they cross each other) to create the pattern.
Then with a brush, spread the yolk on the whole cake to give it a golden colour.
Put in an oven for 30 minutes at 200 degrees Serve hot – but it is excellent cold too.
First it was Europe’s ash trees under threat from disease. Now it’s the continent’s olives in the firing line. A killer pathogen that has established itself in southern Italy is now “very likely” to spread, posing a major risk to European olive trees, according to an assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa).
Xylella fastidiosa, also known as olive leaf scorch, has taken hold in the Apulia region at the southernmost tip of Italy, where several thousand hectares of olive plantations are now affected.
The bacterium kills infected plants by preventing water movement in trees, causing leaves to turn yellow and brown before falling off, their branches following soon after.
Its “establishment and spread in the EU is very likely,” the scientists’ report says. “The consequences are considered to be major because yield losses and other damage would be high and require costly control measures.”
The disease’s impact comes on top of a particularly bad year for French, Spanish and Italian olive growers in 2014 due to pests and the weather, with harvests in Italy down 40-50%. Spain and Italy account for 70% of Europe’s olive output, leading to warnings that olive oil prices will rise.
“The outbreak in Apulia is very severe,” said Giuseppe Stancanelli, one of the report’s advisors. “The bacteria is deadly and many plants in Lecce province are dying because of it.”
Xylella is an exotic pathogen common in the Americas and the Middle East, which is thought to have been brought to Europe by infected insects carried with plant commodities, or travelling as stowaways.
“There seems to be a link between the changing patterns of global trade and the spread of this disease,” Stancanelli said.
Once established, the bacteria spreads via fluid-feeding insects and its varying strains have a notoriously large alternative host plant range, affecting oak, sycamore, citrus, cherry, almond, grapefruit, peach, oleander and forest trees.
Combating its advance is difficult because insecticides used to kill hosts have their own environmental impacts, the Efsa panel say. Apulia’s centuries old olive trees are also highly valued by Italian farmers, many of whom have resisted eradication programmes.
“There is serious concern that this disease could spread from the Apulia region as it has been increasing in the last few months,” Enrico Brivio, a European commission spokesman told the Guardian. “We will evaluate the situation and decide if additional measures are necessary at a standing committee meeting on the 19-20 January.”
Last November, the commission earmarked €7.5m (£5.9m) for fighting several pests, including Xylella. Some €751,000 of this went to Italy, with the Italian government providing the same amount. The EU will consider new funding to fight the bacteria at the January meeting.
Quantifying the rate of the bacteria’s expansion has been made more tricky by the time lag between a plant’s infection and the appearance of symptoms.
Emergency measures have already been put in place creating infection and buffer zones to prevent Xylella’s spread and mandating surveys on the bacteria’s prevalence.
But the Efsa report recommends the introduction of screened greenhouse production and certification schemes for plants grown in nurseries, along with the eradication of infected insect populations, and specific insecticide treatments for imported plants.
Source: The Guardian UK