The Spring morning light reflects off the village, as we start our morning hike.

Rosemary in bloom in front of the Bastide

The Fox-Duncans were with us all week until Saturday morning when a distinctly loaded Audi made it way back to Switzerland.

Life with visitors takes on a distinct rhythm and we often end up going to places we have not been to for some time and also gallivanting around the valley at a rapid rate.

Vicky, Madame, Robbi on the back terrace

Our journeys took us to Cassis (waking up after the long winter break and starting to throng with visitors and freshly-stocked shops); to L’Atelier in Les Taillades (we had to show off our new restaurant find); Cafe de la Poste in Goult (one of their old haunts and even got our drinks ‘on the house’ – perhaps the owners read Foursquare and have noticed how people have been pointing fingers at them for over charging); Avignon South shopping centre (they don’t have a Sephora in Switzerland, you see); Louramin (market time) and flipping through Menerbes, Coustellet and the other small settlements within easy reach of us. Not to mention selling off Vicky’s Peugeot as it does not suit the Swiss roads.

Beef Carpaccio plat du jour at Le Cesar in Cassis

Two kids tucking in to mussels for lunch in Cassis

Madame in Cassis

Our visitors had very kindly bought us a fondue set (Madame had been scouring the shops and the web for one for ages) and we partook of our first Bastide fondue. Cheese was supplied from the source – Switzerland and a jolly occasion it was too.

Fondue party

It’s been election time here in Menerbes – we fall under the ‘Commune of Bonnieux’ for the sub-prefecture of the Department of Vaucluse. Thankfully, the French government is starting to thin down the multi-tiers of government. This election will be the last and the successful candidates will only sit for three years, not the usual five.

Our results reflect the vagaries of “it can only happen in France”. Two weeks ago, Monsieur Raffinnatto won the first round with a 50% lead over the next candidate. The said Monsieur, a local wine farmer, is a member of the Socialist Party.

However, during the week prior to the second round of voting, his party hierarchy contacted him and told him to step down and hand the seat over to the Greens! The fact that the Greens do not seem to have a cohesive and understandable manifesto is apparently not an issue.

The Valley starts to turn a green hue

Beautiful flower display in Louramin

Street fashion in Louramin

Coinciding with the departure of the Swiss contingent, Nicholas and Jose arrived on Saturday to prepare the foundation for the gazebo and to start tidying up the driveway with new stone. Nicholas is very proud of his pigeon English – he informed us as he left that “I will return last Saturday to finish”.

Nicholas doing his measurements

Au bientot : Lovonne and Simon

Nestling next to the village road in Cassis – a great Spring display

Readers to this site will know how much we enjoy the annual safari to Ululapa and how the Sabi Sand Game Reserve has a special place in our hearts. Here’s an amazing tale from nearby Mala Mala which is on the far eastern side of the Sabi Sand Reserve.

A female leopard has caught a 2m African rock python for dinner. Her son, who should have left home ages ago but has decided to be a bit of a Mommy’s boy and hang around, decided that he would prefer to have the snake for dinner.

A tug o’war ensued! After about 30 minutes, the female decided that it was not worth it and retreated up a tree to growl and complain. The 4-year old son, then had a few chews but did not find the taste to his liking and slunk off.

An amazing siting.

"I want it!"

Tug, tug.

"I've got it, but I don't really want it"

[Thanks, John W]

High up on the Apt plateau in the Luberon in Provence is the smallest village in Provence – Sivergues. Jus four houses and a family Church.

It’s really worth a visit – very quiet but steeped in medieval history and a few farms dotted around. The balance of the area is National Park. The access is through Bonnieux or Apt and there are wonderful vistas of lavender fields and rocky outcrops.

Inside the Church - Vicky is dwarfed by the high arches

The Sivergue family Church

This time of the year – the colour is yellow.

Mimosa at the Maubec flower market

The Maubec Flower market.

Once a year, it’s the Maubec Flower Show – only a few kilometres from Menerbes. In true French tradition, they don’t have pony rides – they have donkey rides!

A culinary first at Bastide les Amis! Our own home-made foie gras. Under the very careful direction and supervision of Madame Fox. Here is is in the final stages of preparation. Coupled with some Beaumes de Venise, it was declared ‘delectable’! Merci – Vickola!

The locals get dressed up to the nines. The band comes out to play. The fires are lit for mountains of Toulouse sausages and literally hundreds of baguettes are cut in half and sliced down the middle.

It’s the Maubec Flower festival. Maubec is a little village, half medieval, half ‘modern’ a few kilometres from Menerbes. Home to many young families, and the artisans who ply their trade through the Luberon Valley.

The Festival heralds the advent of Spring. It’s a great occasion, full of colour and enthusiasm. Madame descended on the roses and soon we were staggering under the weight of prickly bushes, and a flock of seedlings to ‘fill up the holes’ in the new gardens.

The Maubec steeple watches over the festival

A mass display of forget-me-nots

One of the big attractions is the sweet stand. As the cholesterol police regulate the intake of eggs, these do just fine as a substitute.

Fast food - French style

The band comes out to play.

The Fox-Duncans are here so after surveying the scene from the BBQ filled beergarden, we repaired to La Bergerie for lunch on the terrace and enjoyed the raucous playing of the local band at the festival – bits of ABBA, movie themes and even some Mozart filled the air along with some missed notes.

Vicky had arrived on Monday and the Duncans rolled in with the white Peugeot on Friday.

During the week, we had helped to stock up the Swiss deep freezes, and then it was all hands on deck for a massive ‘cook up’ for a Saturday lunch party. Pierre and Sylvie from Maubec provided the French flavour and Clive and Jan Robey, the Menerbian presence. On the menu was a starter galaxy of a herb cream cheese rouillade, artichoke, spring onion parmesan bake, foie gras, home made brown bread. Mains the famous pork belly with plum sauce (we had found fresh South African plums in the supermarket) and a chicken pie accompanied by a Danish potato salad and a cucumber and chilli salad. After a dip into the cheese board a chocolate mousse finished the guests off.

Bubbling pots and the production line.

The main.

The assembled throng

Needless to say, the Menerbes glass recycling bins were filled up the next morning.

Not only was there a culinary first with the creation of our very own Bastide les Amis foie gras but the fridge is groaning with all sorts of mint-naise, bearnaise, lotions and potions which were stirred, boiled and produced. Bottles labelled and ready for the throngs during the season.

The wet weather ( it’s Spring, don’t forget!) managed to clear and we took Vicky up the the pig farm, Le Castelas for a lunch and a peep at all the piglets running around.

Ready to dive into the starter platters.

This really found favour - a pork brawn pate.

Even the French pigs eat baguette.

The Farm workshop - preparing the benches for the restaurant.

Au bientot: Lovonne and Simon xx

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