Sunset - Luberon Valley

Sunset – Luberon Valley

A corner of Madame's kitchen. Simply Provence!

A corner of Madame’s kitchen. Simply Provence!

The Ginza or Times Square, or Sydney Harbour Bridge for that matter it is not, but our little village puts on a good show with the Christmas lights.

Christmas lights in the Village Square

Christmas lights in the Village Square

 

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Another view

Another view

 

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High up on the Sault plateau is the 2nd Engineers Regiment of the fabled French Foreign Legion at their base at Saint-Cristol.

The Regiment opens its doors to visitors, as every year, to let them admire unique masterpieces of their kind and discover often little known facets of a Legionnaire: the man viewing life through the eyes of a child and as an artist. The Legionnaires construct Christmas Creches and you are ushered into their bungalows to view a presentation.  There is a trail marked to ten diferent locations.

It’s a fun afternoon, and a fascinating one as you peep behind the lines as the Legion lifts it veil od secrecy – for one day only!

Date: Sunday 21st December 2014 from 13h30. Admission is free.

To get to Saint-Cristol, take the Sault signs from Apt and climb up on to the plateau. The base is large and you cannot miss it.

 

300 days of sunshine a year – but it can still get cold! We call it the ‘Secret Season’!

A crisp, winter’s morning in Ménerbes, Luberon:

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Gougeres fresh out of the oven.

Gougeres fresh out of the oven.

 

Madame had a rather large dinner party – Book Clubs, Lads’ Club all rolled into one.

Amongst other delicacies such as pizza blanc (white pizza), aperitif time comprised plenty of gougeres.

The cheese puffs are Burgundian specialties, specifically the area of Flogny-la-Chapelle, and are made of choux pastry and cheese, grated cheese is mixed with the still warm puff pastry.

Gougères can have different forms: crown, cutting parts, or small individual portions. Generally a strong cheese is used for the flavoring – such as country cheese or a good Swiss.

In Burgundy, these delicacies are celebrated every year in May with the Feast of Gougère to Flogny-la-Chapelle, with entertainment, competitions, exhibitions and, of course, loads of eating!

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The 12th Century Sivergues Church = sadly now a relic, not functioning.

The 12th Century Sivergues Church = sadly now a relic, not functioning.

 

High up in the Luberon mountains, you will find the tiny village of Sivergues – with 40 inhabitants! It nestles against the Luberon, between Bonnieux and Apt in the middle of a huge unspoilt area. A pretty winding road takes you to the village, and nowhere else. Sivergues is not on the way to anywhere: you go to Sivergues for Sivergues. After Sivergues there are just paths leading you onto the Luberon mountain -a favourite spot for hikers on their Grande Radoneés.

We walk up to Sivergues from the equally tiny village of Buoux. It’s quite steep but well worth it when you get there. You’ll feel as though you’re in a village at the end of the world. If you love nature, peace and quiet and authenticity, Sivergues will enable you to discover the real Luberon!

 

Inside the Church is a large commemoration for one of the local families from times gone by. There is also a largish, and interesting graveyard surrounding the Church.

Inside the Church is a large commemoration for one of the local families from times gone by. There is also a largish, and interesting graveyard surrounding the Church.

As you admire the village’s location, you’ll understand why Sivergues was chosen by the Waldensians / Protestants  (Vaudois) as a strategic site to escape from their persecutors.

There are some superb walks to enjoy around the village, and you’ll also discover the ruins of a medieval castle and a 12th century church.

Sivergues is paradise on earth for hikers. Wherever you are in Sivergues, everywhere around you’ll see an unspoilt, beautiful and generous natural environment.

Further on, as you push through on your hike back to Buoux, you’ll see an ancient Chateau which is now being renovated by the French government – purportedly for a restaurant. Time will tell!

The boarded up Chateau. Most recently used as a nature camp venue for young French schoolchildren.

The boarded up Chateau. Most recently used as a nature camp venue for young French schoolchildren.

 

One of our hiking friends points out the 'boule'.

One of our hiking friends points out the ‘boule’.

Les Boules de Buoux (literally, the Balls of Buoux), are a rock phenomenon that are found on hiking trails near the ancient village of Buoux, deep in the heart of of the Luberon mountains.

So, how did they come about, these stone marbles? There seems to be some speculation but the most realistic solution seems to be this:

In general, they are a gray greenish colour derived from limestone and smaller particles of other stone materials. They are unique ot the Buoux area but a lime and sand stone strata lies from Lourmarin to Ménerbes, where you will find traces of marble, particularly neat Les Beaumettes. Over the years, there has been ‘granite chaos’ where the stone strata has been affected through wind, erosion, storms and beds of sandstone. Thus, creating these ‘cannonballs’.

 

 

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A Crèche is French for Nativity Scene. These creches are very popular in France, where the majority of the population is Catholic. They represent the Birth of Jesus of Nazareth in the stable (or more accurately the cave) of Bethlehem. According to the Gospel of Luke, Baby Jesus was placed in a manger. Cripia, the Latin word for manger evolved in French into crèche (crib) and by extension to the whole stable/cave.

Christians started to worship the Cave of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the 3rd century. During the Middle Ages small theatrical performances reproducing the event were given in the villages. The earliest crèches appeared in France in the late 16th century, just after the Wars of Religion, to revive Christianity. Sumptuous Baroque style Nativity scenes appeared in the 17th century to decorate the aristocratic mansions of Paris and provincial cities.

Ordinary Nativity scenes were exhibited in the churches until the French Revolution when it became forbidden to represent religious scenes in public. This prohibition encouraged, though, the development of Nativity scenes in private dwellings. Small figurines and statuettes representing all the characters present in the stable of Bethlehem were created and placed around Baby Jesus. These figures were called santons.

The name santon is the evolution of the Provençal word santoun meaning little saint. Provençal Nativity scenes became very popular in the early 19th century, and they were inspired by the local community and the santons depict four different categories of religious characters: Those who are in the stable, those who bring gifts, those who represent the various trades of the era such as the miller, washerwoman, grinder…and finally the animals. The first santons were fashioned with the white part of the bread which was dried. They were painted with oil and varnished.

Golden labbie waits paitently for her walk

Golden labbie waits paitently for her walk

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