Friday dawned sunny and bright. Our trusty www.weatherbonk.com showed a slight 10% chance of rain and even the iPhone said ‘clear with clouds’.

The cars arrived from Montpellier, Roussillon and Menerbes. The O’Reilly roos were here already and the texts and emails were popping up regularly. A wonderful telephone call from the Badings in Sydney.

The party was on.

Madame excelled herself (again).

After a champagne aperitif and some serious discussions between Robert, Jean-Pierre, Vicky, Daviiiid and Jonno on the merits of Penfolds Cabernet Shiraz and a 1989 Gigondas, the starter of a trio of devilled eggs, prawn and salmon mousse timbales with freshly-picked asparagus set the scene.

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[The two bottles in question are on the left of Jonno’s arm. Judging by Robert’s expression, the wine is great!]

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[Jean-Pierre,resplendent in his Scottish plaid golf trousers, in earnest conversation with Daviiid – could the subject have been Sarkosy’s love life, we ask?]

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The main course. Aunty Mary’s curry chops (Genevieve’s favourite), peri-peri Chicken chops and then, the piece de resistance – marbled cote de boeuf from Denmark cooked by the master, Robert.

The salads – Don’s potato salad; layered, roasted aubergine and roasted capsicum salad with a yoghurt, coriander and lemon dressing ; baby cos lettuce mint and avocado salad with a yoghurt, dill and lime juice dressing; the ‘mother ship’ tomato salad (variety of different coloured and sized tomatoes with chili, basil and balsamic dressing). Wow!

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As we finished the barb-b-q part of the meal, the heavens opened. They make a habit of doing this, these days. We tried to shelter under the roof but it was to no avail. To the lounge, the fire and the cheese and dessert.

Dessert was a trio of chocolate cake (the famous one); the new signature apple tartine; and a panacotta with plum and vanilla.

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Naturally it was very important for Hannah to help the birthday boy cut the cake. Vicky is amused.

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[Nothing like Vonnie’s chocolate cake to get the girls smiling]

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The general consensus was that a little bit of everything could not harm the various diets/regimes that dotted the room.

Revelry was now on. We were treated to a wonderful cameo performance by Genevieve teaching the audience to make apricot jam with some masterful translations by Robert.

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[Sylvie, Simon, Jonno]

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[Jean-Pierre with a regime-busting plate of dessert]

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[Daviiid and Robi – serious business. Genevieve and Alma in background]

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[The terrible twins – Robert and Jean-Pierre before the cigars made their appearance]

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[Reflections on Rose – Cath and Charlie]

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[Genevieve in full flight, making sure that Robert’s translations were accurate]

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[Cath and Alma discussing Provencal style – with Charlie’s nose deep in the plate]

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[My darling, looking for inspiration on the ceiling will not help your French]

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[A final contemplation of the drive back to Montpellier. Genevieve ponders.]

We leave the final word to Jean-Pierre. We asked him to telephone that they had arrived back home safely. He called, “we arrive safely but with a few bad movements”.

Thanks to all for coming, thanks for all the hard work and we wait for next year!

Historians and novelists have eulogised about the clear, azure skies of Provence for many, many years. Recently, this clarity has been marred (depending how you look at it) by the maze of jet streams criss crossing the skies from the many hundreds of planes which move up to Europe from Africa and other parts.

Well, it’s clear again. There is no rumble of jets high up in the sky, the only clouds are real ones. Everyone is now an amateur volcanologist. The knock-on is immense and everyone we speak to has a ‘stranded by the volcano’ story. Sky News becomes even more part of our lives than before.

Charles and Janet Kilner were due to land in Nice on Monday and are due to arrive in Menerbes on Friday – they are sleeping on Sean’s flat floor in London! The O’Reilly’s leave for Barcelona with no certainty that they’ll be able to easyjet it to Bristol – the next stop.

It’s been wonderful hearing the sounds of Hannah and Sophie ringing through the houses and playing in the garden which continues to burst into life. Jonno has very kindly finished off the fridge installation in Maison Olive’s pantry and built a wonderful shelf/table for the micro wave thus sending the deep freeze into the newly cleaned and tidied up cave.

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[Nothing like putting a man to work on his holiday. We have seen the inside of the bricolage quite a bit this week]

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[The St Remy de Provence market is back in full swing and so is this cool jazz dude in the square outside our morning coffee restaurant]

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[The foie gras stall provokes some heated emotions]

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[St Remy locals from the front, noses down for the cheese lads]

and, from the back…..

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[The Bassett on the right is what the Afrikaner would call “a meneer”]

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[Hannah and Sophie discovering the delights of a French picnic and collecting pine cones for our fire]

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[A visitor eying out Cath’s baguette sandwich. Madame is amused]

On Friday it was the big Pool Kitchen christening (see later post) and the birthday bash.

A quiet Saturday of recovery followed by Isle sur l’Sorgue market. While Jonno and Simon went cheese tasting and carousel rising with the Hannah and Sophie, Cath and Madame have been trying to single handedly turn the European shopping recession around in the linen, bric a brac and other such outlets.

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[Helter skelter on the carousel]

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[Hannah and Sophie learning about the ‘Ear legend’ in Isle sur l’Sorgue and throwing the mandatory pennies down into the river]

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[Bonsaied olive trees are a big hit this season]

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[This is a lovely character- on Wednesdays he does the French pates but on a Sunday, he dons his Spanish garb and sells paella to all and sundry]

Au bientot

Lovonne and Simon xxx

 

Some amazing pictures have surfaced on Crikey this morning of a brand new Qantas A340 at Sydney airport.

The anti-skid braking system decided to work at full tilt when it was not meant to do. Ouch!

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Crikey goes on to say: “Basically, they bring wheel rotation to a complete standstill: the inner wheel glows red hot, the “fusible” plugs in the tyre sidewall melt and flames shoot out — all in a split second because hundreds of tonnes of the rest of jet is pushing them down the runway. This also relieves the tedium of just another landing for anyone watching it on the seat-back video screen through the tail-mounted camera.”

[news source: Crikey]

The countryside and surrounds is so magnificent at present – we felt we had to show you some of it.

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                       A wonderful postcard display in an olive orchard near to St Remy-de-Provence

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Tesco, the undisputed champion of the supermarket world, have now moved their iPhone App into the mainstream. In an advertisement in this week’s Sunday Times (UK), O2 have trumpeted the Tesco finder and a new app – BMWTV.

Essentially, the Tesco app allows you to input your shopping list, locate your nearest store and walks you down the aisles with the easiest route and in the shortest possible time.

No more impulse buying? Depends who has the iPhone in the family.

Here’s a screen shot of the Wine app:

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[All too easy – when will the others copy?]

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BMW have launched their own. With access to video clips, vehicle stats and the ability to track your order, it’s a pioneer in the vehicle industry marketing league.

It seems as though an iPhone App (and iPad App) is one of the first jobs you do when you start an ad campaign these days!

Easter Monday is the only day of the Easter weekend that is a holiday in France – strange where over 95% of the population are reputedly to be Catholic. It was a quiet day. We had a barbeque in the pool area with the Fox Duncans. What they call here a FLFL (f-king long French lunch).

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[French lamb chops are cut giving a totally new meaning to ‘long handle chops’. As you can see there is no holding back with the fat – Madame’s delight]

Tuesday saw us head off down the A7 autoroute following the white Fox-Duncan Peugeot in search of a little fishing village called Sanary-sur-Mer. Situated about 90 minutes from Menerbes it’s close to the more popular Cassis, the bigger tourist village of Bandol and the boat-building centre of La Ciotat.

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[It’s a fun little village and it was market day]

Lunch was enjoyed on the wharfside. So close to Marseilles, the only dish to have was Moules et Frites (mussels and chips). At 12 euro, not only was it a major meal, it knocked spots off the famous Grand Restaurant in Camps Bay.

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[Cape Town restaurants – now that’s what you call a dish of mussels!]

At the restaurant we were able to observe a great example of French sartorial elegance – crisp white shirt, tie, bermudas and converse shoes. It looked like a business lunch so I suppose one has to dress up.

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[Serious stuff, these business lunches]

Some friends have very kindly given us an Olive Tree. As we had to wait for the right season and the end of the building (for the time being), we followed Gilles in his French Ferrari to a wholesale nursery near Pernaine-les-Fonteines, in pouring rain, to select our 200 year old specimen.

Nico, the nursery owners son helped us to find our tree.

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Deep in conversation with Madame. Unfortunately you cannot see his half-mast pants, bare feet, trodden down ‘shoes’ and nursery soiled hands.

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Rather timidly we have asked Gilles when it will be planted. After much rolling of shoulders, pursing of lips and discussions about the size of the machine needed to dig the hole and to transport it, we have been told ‘next week’. We wait and see.

We went back to the Louramin market on Friday. It’s going to become a regular I can see. Louramin is an upmarket town and the stalls reflect this. Wonderfully, we have discovered a butcher’s stall which sells ‘coquelets’ – small chickens. Peri-peri, here we come.

It’s not only the locals and tourists (there are quite a few already) who are enjoying the spring sunshine. The animals love it too.

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[Good place to stay, avoiding from being trodden on by the hordes]

After the Louramin market we paid another pilgrimage to La Closerie restaurant in Ansouis. We just had to make sure that the previous meal was not an illusion. It was not – here’s Madame’s duck breast, with potato gratin and green asparagus concasse.

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[The Michelin Guide inspectors did not get it wrong]

In between the revelry and eating, we have managed to finish the pool house and surrounds. Madame has been showing some latent skills with the sewing machine and running up curtains from antique linens and old grain bags. Very impressive. The Pool kitchen vacillates between being an art gallery, a work of art or a store room. Methinks that a divider is going to happen within to clearly demarcate the utilitarian and the decor books.

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[Great excitement. The ice machine has been installed and is beavering away making its 20kg a day. Enough for the rose].

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The cherry trees are blossoming! More of those next week.

The O’Reilly-roos arrive this week.

Au bientot. Lovonne and Simon xx

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The race is on – who will provide the absolute killer ‘ app’ for the ipad? Fast Company has listed these this morning as the top of the pile – so far:

“Facebook: Interestingly, Facebook hasn’t released a dedicated iPad app yet–but “Facebook Ultimate,” a Facebook iPad app with no connection to those behind Facebook, has managed to crack into the top 10 paid apps in just two days’ time. It’s made pretty clear that this is an unofficial app, so once Facebook does enter the fray, they’ll probably knock Facebook Ultimate way down the list.

Amazon: Amazon’s got two official apps in the iPad App Store: one for their essential movie-and-TV listings property, the Internet Movie Database, and one for the Kindle. Though the Kindle may not have fancy-pants page-turning animations, it does have a catalog that positively dwarfs the iBookstore–450,000 titles to Apple’s mere 60,000. Plus, most of the titles still hold to Amazon’s cheaper $9.99 pricing. It’s surprising that Apple even let the Kindle app into the App Store–especially since it’s more established and even preferable to Apple’s own offering. And the IMDb app is surprisingly excellent: it’s easy to navigate with fingers, and it gives access to HD movie trailers, galleries, and even local showtimes.

Netflix: Possibly the killer iPad app, Netflix’s entry in the app store is one of the most exciting iPad apps ever (granted, it’s only two days old, but still). Stream Netflix Instant Watch titles over Wi-Fi anywhere you take your iPad, customize your queue, and take advantage of Netflix’s unbeatable library. Until that rumored Hulu app hits the App Store, Netflix is the king of iPad streaming video.

Disney: Disney wasted no time in taking advantage of the iPad. The Toy Story Read-Along app was one of the keynote apps used to demonstrate the iPad’s capabilities as a next-gen book reader, and best of all, it’s available for free. The follow-up, Toy Story 2 Read-Along, costs $9–but you (or your kids) might be so hooked you won’t even care. The apps combine bright picture books, games, videos, movie clips, coloring pages, and even sing-along songs.

Gilt Groupe (see pic above): Private fashion sales site Gilt Groupe has created just about the most gorgeous shopping system I’ve ever seen. It takes Gilt’s already-classy black and gold aesthetic and uses the iPad’s pinch-to-zoom multitouch to create an incredibly smooth and simple experience. If you weren’t already inclined to blow $300 on designer sneakers, this app might help you along that path.”

news source: www.fastcompany.com

We’re starting to understand why the Poms and many other Northern Hemisphere people talk about the weather incessantly. It certainly keeps you occupied and on your toes.

This week we’ve had two nights of thunder storms with major hail, rainy days, beautiful sunshine and then a windy day.

Spring is trying. The blossoms are coming. Our daffodils have been pronounced as not going to flower this year – too wet, too cold. Oh, dear but we do have one snowdrop which has survived the builders.

The valley is awakening –

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[Clouds lift off the hill tops as the sun struggles through]

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[No, the snow is not back: it’s hail!]

In between the rain showers, the builders have managed to complete the pool kitchen. Curious neighbours have been asking if it’s a bedroom – no, it’s not. It’s a pool kitchen and store room, and all done to the Menerbes permit. The other good thing is that we can start to empty our cave and fit out the kitchen. The ice machine arrived on Good Friday and Manu will install as soon as he’s finished eating all his Easter eggs.

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We had a great visit from the Beare family on Tuesday. It was great to catch up and meet the children. A credit to their parents. Unfortunately, no pics (maybe Mark/Lorelle, you can supply?).

Wednesday was inspection time, with Jean-Pierre and Genevieve arriving back from Luxembourg bearing special Rhone valley wine, hearty appetites and a hungry calendar. We have been informed that their 37th wedding anniversary is at the end of April and we will be eating the ‘pigeons’. This could be very interesting.

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[Just such a lovely pic – walking to the antique fair (see: livingstylishlywell.com/2010/04/04/lisle-sur-lsorgue-the-antique-fair/)]

Casey from Canada and Jen from Scotland have bought Sara and Paul’s house in the village and they joined us for the first Jazz Apero concert in the Truffle and Wine Museum in Menerbes on Saturday evening.

Due to the threatening weather over 120 villagers and those from nearby crammed into the museum conference centre. A great concert with music stretching from ‘Black Orpheus’ to ‘Favourite Things’.

Jazz-Apero is a collective of international musicians dedicated to modern jazz of the be-bop and post bop eras. You can find out more about them on www.jazzapero.com.

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[Part of the ensemble – produced by local villager Racey Gilbert who also plays drums]

At last! Coustellet market has reopened for the year. Rated as one of the best in Provence it is a true local paysan market. The actual farmers are there and selling their wares.

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[Our Sunday evening dinner – steamed asparagus, after you have cleaned the soil off them]

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[This man grows lettuce and wears a Mercedes tracksuit]

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[There’s no shortage of asparagus]

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[This is one of the poultry stalls – note the actual feathers as part of the display!]

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[Bit of local colour]

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[Anyone for strawberries in their pavlova?]

Au bientot: Lovonne and Simon xx

            I wrote last week about the status of L’Isle sur l’Sorgue as one of the top three antique centres in the world.

Well, Good Friday rolled around and the 2010 fair started its four day exposition. Stalls spring up all around the village, the many hundreds of antique and collectible shops put their best feathers on and in the large village park – Parc Gautier – there are numerous displays and more stalls to keep even the most avid browser happy for days.

It’s probably the largest gathering of eccentrics in all the world. Pictures cannot really do it justice, bit we’ll try!

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[This little old lady has purchased a display cabinet. Now it’s a matter of re-packing the loot]

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[A gathering of meerkats (surichats in French) in a German modern art display arena]

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[More German contemporary art – a collection of tin guitars]

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[Antique dolls in the sun – Madame was stressing about the lack of clothes]

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[Not sure if this is antique – but you never know]

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[Any one for soda syphons?]

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[Now this is how to merchandise glassware!]

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[It wouldn’t be a French occasion if you couldn’t buy some old Paris Match magazines]

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[A stall holder – she’s not checking out the form guide, merely the programme]

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[A man’s gotta have lunch sometime]

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[An antique pram – no, we did not buy it]

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[The centre of the Parc. Here there are a panel of experts who can verify your purchase and ensure you’re buying the ‘right stuff’.]

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[Our purchase – rather ironically, with the bank behind]

Au bientot, Lovonne and Simon xx

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