Nougat!

Sometimes it’s a good thing to break with normal transmission and ponder some of lfe’s truths:

[Thanks, darling]

We have just had Norman and Liz for a visit – Norman finds it easier to get around in a wheelchair these days. Here’s a wonderfully evocative picture taken on the Rue de Republique – Avignon.

Did you know that the Rue was on a slope?

Chatting to our electrician, Emmanuel Riva, who is a mine of information, we heard him pronounce very solemnly that “there will be no mushrooms this year” – the summer was too hot and not enough rain. Suitably briefed and warned, we have had our eyes our for the soon to be scarce resource. Fortunately the markets have been full of mushrooms hailing from the Pyrenees.

What better way to start off the Autumn sequence with a Yorki!

Back home. After shaking off the Chatham, Washington, Virginia and Cape Town dust (not to mention Ulu-lapa) from our shoes, it was time to head off to the Avignon TGV for the arrival of Norman and Liz.

Sadly, Norman is finding it easier to move around in a wheel chair these days so it was a salutary lesson at looking at your environment through different eyes – where is there access, do the stairs hinder movement, is a restaurant disability-friendly? Norman has this wonderful blue disabled card for the motor car – wow! One thing the French have done really well is that they have provided parking and facilities which really make it so much easier.

Happily, Bastide les Amis rose to the occasion too – and we had had a disabled visitor in Maison Olive during mid-summer, and the property has come up trumps in that regard.

The weather has cooled considerably and it was fun to be able to revisit some old favourites and see the rapidly changing autumn colours. We did the circuit – Golden Triangle, St Remy-et-Provence, Glanum, Clos St Paul, Louramin, Avignon, L’Isle sur la Sorgue and, of course, Menerbes.

Our little village was scrubbed and rubbed for the Legion L’Honneur presentation to Madame Nancy Negley last Saturday but not without much muttering and whispering around corners – don’t the French love a conspiracy! Adding fuel to the fire of the criteria for awarding such a prestigious award to an American National was the fact that our local doctor has announced that he is leaving and, horror or horrors, one of Menerbes’ long standing residents, Louis the Butcher, has informed us all that he is retiring. Not that this will trouble all the males in the village as he has only ever been interested in the females!

The Association of Commerçants (basically a grouping of village businesses) has risen to the challenge with a petition urging the Mairie and the Council not to allow the small amount of commerce to die. Everyone buying their baguette last Saturday was invited to sign the missive for presentation down the line.

Another village donor, Mrs Cox is financing the re-building of one of Menerbes' old battlements

New battlements on the left and down below some magnificent new terraces complete with old olive trees

However, everyone felt a little bit better on Sunday morning after the French ‘tres formidable‘ performance in the Rugby world Cup Final. We have never seen the roads so deserted and the Coustellet market was nearly empty (disclosure: we had to drop Norman and Liz off at the TGV on Sunday morning and Madame burnt the rubber back for us to arrive at the TV at 10h02).

Culinary highlights with Norman and Liz were a mandatory delicious lunch at La Verandah but also a typical Provençal lunch at La Petite Ecole.

The unremarkable entrance sign belies the culinary delights within

In autumn and winter service is inside in an old schoolroom. Summer and Spring, there is a front terrace.

The decor is pure schoolroom - anyone for biology and botany?

Norman went Provençal ethnic - Pieds and Paquets - literally, feet and intestines (aka Tripe!)

Likewise Liz - coq au vin

We went a bit 'safer' - salmon 'burgers' on a bed of courgettes and tomato coulis

The restaurant easily slips into our Top 10 of ‘special’ places to eat in the Luberon Valley. Owned and staffed by the owners, Dennie and Sylvie, they serve the real thing. The decor is the actual old school room and you’ll not find many tourists. La Petite Ecole is off the D900 between Coustellet and Apt – take the Gargas turnoff and immediately you will reach the hamlet of Le Chene. You’re there!

Back home, Saturday morning peace and quiet was shattered by banging and crashing as Jose and Nicolas moved in – to begin the construction of the Doll Museum! Fortunately for Liz and Norman who were in the spare room, they only erected the scaffolding on Saturday (a few days early) and building commenced in earnest in Monday.

Nicolas and assistants start on removing the roof tiles

This was our CD storage area - no more. Here come the dolls!

Many of our guests at Bastide Le Amis (www.bastidelesamis.com) are fascinated by some of the local residents and, although low key as they go about their daily life without hindrance. We’ve called this: Something Different: The ‘Hello’/’Paris Match’ Tour. It is a little tongue in cheek. But fun, not tacky. It’s basically a celeb hunt, and done with the right intent, not intrusive at all. Provence and the Luberon is a haven for many stars, celebrities and people who are famous for being famous. However, our area prides itself on the privacy it affords it’s residents and consequently, the viewing is not nearly as spectacular as towns such as St Tropez or the Cote d’Azur. This little peek (over the next few posts) will focus into the lives of people more famous than ourselves:

o Ridley Scott, Film Director and Producer

o John Malkovitch, Actor

o ‘A Good Year’, the movie starring Russell Crowe and directed by Ridley

Scott

o Pierre Cardin, Fashion Designer and iconic French figure

o Yves Rousset-Rouard, Film Director and Producer, Mayor of Menerbes

Let’s kick off with Ridley Scott!

Ridley Scott

Russell Crowe starred in Ridley Scott's Gladiator. Scott also has a production company - Scott Free Films.

The Oscar-winning Director (Gladiator, etc) has a largish estate between Oppede and Menerbes. He visits it once a year but he is notorious in the area for the ‘story of the chickens’. Briefly, his neighbour is an Avignon academic with a smallholding and the proud owner of a few chickens. Each morning the cock woke Scott with his crowing and he made no less than six attempts in a local court to have the chickens wiped out. After the sixth court had thrown the application out, the magistrate lost patience and told Scott that he may not bring his chicken case to court again. Undaunted, Scott offered his neighbour €60,000 to dispose of his chickens. The result? The professor regarded this as an insult and purchased another 30 chickens which still crow in the morning. The only loser in the case has been Scott’s popularity with the local population!

If you come across the Scott Estate in your ramblings, you will see that it is complete with lawns between the vines and a Provençal garden which could only have come from a coffee table book. Peep through the gates – its pretty impressive. Entrance, naturally, is prohibited.

Served at the Park Hyatt, Washington DC – need one say more, the plate was licked clean!

Real pic – thanks to John W.

Joburg.

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