Madame has been busy with a photography project – watching the changing scenery of the Luberon through lens of the camera.

It makes for fascinating viewing. This pictorial essay runs from January 2010 to January 2011:

January 2010

March 2010

April 2010 - note the cherry blossoms in the foreground

June 2010

June 2010 - could not resist the poppies!

July 2010

October 2010

Late October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

A view from the top of the Petit Luberon to the village of Bonnieux below:

The French Paper, a monthly newspaper targeted at ex-pats living in France, is a must read. This month’s edition has the Top 10 Rules of French Etiquette.

They are useful to remember for anyone thinking of coming to France for a visit – or to stay longer.

1. Tipping – since the advent of the Euro and a ‘Living Wage’, tipping is not expected. A few euros given for superior service is more than sufficient.

2. Dining at a French friend’s home – this does not happen very often but if you are invited, always arrive with flowers of chocolates. Arriving with wine (unless you know the people well) is a slur to your host’s wine cellar. You’re also expected to finish your food and have a clean plate – don’t take too much especially if you’re not sure what the dish is!

3. Dress Code – the French don’t ‘do’ leisure wear. Trakkie dacks are out. Dress to impress – but smart jeans are acceptable.

4. Summer dining – the French adore showing off status symbols such as a swimming pool. Take your costume with you as you will be expected to swim. No costume, you will still be encouraged to disrobe.

5. Restaurant Etiquette – don’t denude the bread or the cheese board. Cheese is very expensive. Smart casual is fine and children (as well as well-behaved dogs) are welcome in any restaurant.

6. Don’t annoy the Natives – don’t stick with other ex-pats. Immerse yourself in the local community. Try and speak the language. Avoid talking loudly – the French regard this as the height of rudeness. Don’t be aggressive on the roads and understand that at lunchtimes, the French are in a hurry. Don’t hold them up!

7. Conversations to avoid – the French love a debate so avoid controversial issues. Strikes, demonstrations, Sarkozy, Britain’s lack of commitment to the euro : these are no-nos. Stick to the weather, health, pets, and holidays.

8. La Bise – when to kiss, when to shake hands. Follow the lead of the oldest member of the gathering. Shake hands once, not again during the day. If a French man kisses you, a man, respond : it’s the sign of genuine friendship. When you enter a shop and people look at you, sing out ‘Messieurs Dames’ . If you greet one person at a table, you greet everyone.

9. The Elderly – a peson of a certain age commands huge respect. In a Post Office or shop if an elderly person comes in and is behind you in the queue, allow them to go in front. You also have a moral obligation towards elderly neighbours, so ensure that you have the numbers of medical assistance handy.

10. Aperos – the heart of business and social life. Whenever a French person arrives at the door (and there is a ‘green pass’ from 08h00-20h00) , they expect to be welcomed in your home. Before 11h00, a coffee. FRom 11h00to lunchtime, an aperitif, probably pastis. Always offer nuts or crisps with the aperitif but not biscuits or snacks with the coffee. After 17h00, pastis again or a glass of wine. Offer children a fruit juice or bottled water (no fizzy drinks without parents’ permission) – it’s polite!

Nestled among pine forests and near to the charming village of Ansouis, we discovered L’Art Glacier, an ice cream factory and shop of international reknown. Famous restaurants in Paris order from the Perriere family.

The family welcome visitors and there is a large terrace for sitting and enjoying the ice cream and the view over the Grand Luberon.

The under-stated factory shop entrance

We let the family tell the story…..

A love story…
It is indeed their passion for ice cream making that enticed Sigrid et Michel PERRIERE to leave Paris in the late 70’s in order to open in Juan les Pins an ice cream parlor which quickly became a landmark on the Riviera. A graduate of the Nice Hotel School, Michel specialized in the ice cream making profession. With the most modern equipment, he used only natural and traditional ingredients. The quality of Michel and Sigrid’s products was recognized by the numerous awards they received in professional competitions. In the early 80’s, they built their home in the Luberon and moved their operation there. Their son Olivier, equally entranced by the ice cream making profession, was trained in the best schools and took charge of the quality control lab. This family of impassioned artisans invites you to visit and enjoy their products in the magical setting of the Luberon.

The Flying Saucer

A great favourite - the Fruit Bowl

How to get there

For more information: www.artglacier.com

From deep in the heart of Africa, somewhere between the Kruger National Park and Mozambique, Cape Town’s air conditioning guru Mark B has been creating his magnificent bread.

He’s sent us a pictorial essay of the process – looks good. A work of art!

The ingredients - note the beer and the soup powder

In the pot and surrounded by coals

Importantly, six bricketts on the lid

The finished product

Where's the Marmite?

The Boss making sure that everything is done properly. Or, is it post-eating snooze?

The French like order. They like things to be organised (even though the rest of the world pokes fun at their laid-back attitude to life.

No more so than with dates. Everything during the year is regulated as far as dates are concerned. And, we’re not just talking Public Holidays.  Published well in advance and adhered to.

Let’s look at 2011:

12 January – 15 February – the Winter Sales. Shop sales are strictly controlled. No jumping the gun but smart retailers here.

Week 1 of February – Social Security payments

12 March – 3rd Sunday in September – the Fishing Season. This is for rivers and lakes. The sea is all the year round. For rivers and lakes, the permits include fish such as trout, salmon and other smaller fresh water fish.

May – this is a month with non-stop Bank Holidays. Don’t even try to get anything done in May. Not possible!

June – Tax forms! – fill them in, submit and pay your taxes on 15th February, 15th May and 15th September

29 June – 2 August – Summer sales. Same rules as for winter apply.

1 August – Shutdown! Worse than May. Tip: A great time to visit Paris if you can take the heat.

1 September – le rentree (literally, the re-entry) – everyone back to work, schools, offices, politics. A marketing bonanza with all the usual back-to-school promotion etc.

2nd Sunday in September – 2nd Sunday in January – the Hunting Season. Special dispensation is given for managed game (horned and antlered) until the 25th February.

November – 15th March – ‘le treve hivernale’ – this is the period when tenants cannot be evicted by their landlords due to the winter. During this time the electricity parastatal, EDF, will not cut the electricity off (but no 100% guarantee!!)

17th November – Beaujolais! – the new wine. Cheers. Sante!

15th December – pay your Habitation Tax.

Happy Australia Day!

Enjoy the prawns on the barby. Hope the Queenslanders and flood stricken Victorians can enjoy it too.

Trivial Pursuit question: which country’s Coat of Arms has animals on you can eat? This one…

We spoke last week about the Provencal ‘light’. This week it has continued and while the rest of the world seems to be rocked by floods and unusual weather, Provence has basked in chilly sunshine and clear skies.

We though we’d take a few more pictures to show you the ‘light’.

View of the 'stern' of the Menerbes village

Looking out over the Valley bathed in the morning light

At the 'bow' of Menerbes is the Citadelle - home of the von Stahl art family

Charlie came to stay. His mother went off to Paris to a Trade Show and to stock up her new shop in Goult. We have continued to collect various dogs around the village and a new arrival – called rather presumptuously ‘Lord’ – has moved in to a house in the forest on our walk. Lord is a gangly teenager, a French hunting spaniel, and possesses to much energy for chunky Charlie.

Lord arrives to get his morning love and romp

Checking out the camera big time

Chunky Charlie under attack - note the ears lifting!

We have a much larger squad of, we have ascertained, Portuguese/French brick layers now swarming over the village. The Robey’s road (rue Sainte-Barbara) is now finished – Madame has called it the Champs Elysees, it is so posh! One of the other roads has been done in cobbles for some historical reason we have yet to find out.

Rue Sante Barbare - the Champ Elysees

Up near the Tabac and Pharmacy - faithfully re-created cobble stones

Rue St Esteve - complete

New road signs have been erected and the paving wil be worth the trouble once it is finished. The other news is that our Post Office is being transformed into a dual Post Office/Tourist Bureau. Stand back Saint-Tropez!

Back at the Bastide, we’re still discussing the new back area. The gazebo has now been positioned and will be cemented in when the weather is warmer.

Back area - gazebo in position

New flower bed in entrance driveway - it has been decided that lavender will be planted here

Coquelets (baby chickens) are in great abundance at the moment. We’ve taken advantage of the great weather and found a winter charcoal source so the BBQ has been ticking over. Chooks a la Crooksie (peri-peri Durban style) were on the menu over he past week.

Chooks a la Crooksie

We’re off on our Road Trip to Switzerland, Austria and Italy. Much, much more about that soon.

Au bientot: Lovonne and Simon xx

In France there is a saying – “you wear your wealth inside”. Many visitors to this country comment how drab the buildings are, how unkempt, how unpainted. This is all part of the culture.

However, this does not preclude the ‘facade fantastique’. In country areas, farmers and other land owners pride themselves on stone and metal built edifices that herald the start of their property. These ‘facades’ are not for security even though there is often a huge gate hung between the imposing gate posts. Usually, there is no fence or wall on either side of the gate posts! Sometimes, a few scraggly bushes or tree. They certainly won’t keep any intruder out.

Our visitors are always fascinated by the ‘facade fantastique’. Particularly those from South Africa where walled properties are the norm.

We’ve started to capture some of these facades on camera as they are things of beauty and power. While there seem to be many books about French cars, furniture, design, wine, food, gardens and the like, there do not seem to be any books on the facade fantastique.

Let’s start with the quest to find the best. We’ll concentrate on Provence but welcome any contributions

A farm entrance near to Ansouis in the Luberon

Long ago, the Cedar Forest on the Petit Luberon was used for grazing by the local farmer.s All along the walkin routes, you can see placards detailing the immense history of the area.

Here’s the one about the sheep!

The French headline is: “before the cedars, the pastures”

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