One of the most popular stories on over the past two years, has been our visit to the French Foreign Legion Museum in Aubagne. Here’s a little excerpt about their own wine!

The wine of the braves at The Sainte Victoire, Puyloubier (Provence).

Cézanne’s spirit hovers overs above this untouched region, the Sainte Victoire mountain range where the painter came regularly from his Aix-en-Provence base. Cézanne loved theSainte-Victoire area for its particular light and painted there some of its most impressive paintings. A coachman named Fernand Bajole used to transport him a few kilometers from Aix-en-Provence with all his painting materials to the desired spots with view over the Sainte Victoire where he would set up his easel.

Summers in the area are particularly hot, with the rock mountain reverberating the sun’s heat, and the village of Puyloubier which sits at the foot of the Sainte-Victoire mountain happens to host one of the oddest estate in France : the vineyards of the French Foreign Legion, under the name of the Institution des Invalides de la Légion Etrangère“, a 200-hectare property managed by the Legion and from which the Legion wine is produced. Since 2010, the AOC-Côtes-de-Provence Legion wines with the famed military insignia stamped on the bottles  can be purchased by the public.

The Legion is an a typical military corps. The Légion Etrangère was created in 1831 and based in Algeria for France’s difficult conflicts in foreign theaters of operations. It is composed quite exclusively of foreign nationals and has been sent by France since its creation to the most difficult theaters of operation. Anyone who walks through the gate of its bases or at one of its application booths (in the Marseilles train station for example) can apply to become a légionnaire, and for reasons from the search for adventure, the challenge, money or geopolitical upheaval, men from all over the World join the elite corps. While you often meet today Eastern Europeans, Ukrainians, Russians, South Americans and Africans, there is always a small but steady flow of enlistments by Westerners, maybe for the prestige and the challenge.

Active service legionnaires tending the vines

You may not speak French and not have the proper visa, the Legion welcomes you just the same. It used to be that you could be on the run from the law and enlist in the Légion, but rules have changed and the corps looks in the first place for reliable men, and those who wish are given a new identity and are whitewashed. A much sought-after benefit of joining the Legion is the French citizenship that can be obtained after several years of service and good behaviour.

The Legion's insignia on the wine bottles - these can be purchased at the Estate

Source text:

Through the joys of amazon, we have just finished watching Woody Allen’s light heated romp through Paris, Midnight in Paris. What a joy and for every Francophile around you and yours, it’s a must to sit back, enjoy and indulge in everything Parisian.
Allen has saturated the colours of the movie to reflect a denser, lusher experience, but why not? With Paris, you can do anyhting!
Without spoiling the – not  very intellectual – script, you are taken backwards and forwards in time and visit many great Parisians or ex-pats who made Paris their home, from the art world.
It got me searching for a few quotes from some of the more famous characters in the movie and some, not in the movie:
Ernst Hemingway
  • If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast
  • Il n’y a que deux endroits au monde où l’on puisse vivre heureux:  chez soi et à Paris.
    (There are only two places in the world where we can live happy:  at home and in Paris.)

Paula McLain: Though I often looked for one, I finally had to admit that there could be no cure for Paris.

Gertrude Stein: America is my country and Paris is my hometown.

Mark Twain: In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.

Honoré de Balzac: Whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant.

André Gide (French Nobel Prize of Literature winner): French people are Italian people in bad mood

Former French President Charles de Gaulle:

  • I cannot prevent the French from being French
  • How can anyone govern a nation that has 240 different kinds of cheese?

From movies/TV shows:

  • Paris is always a good idea : Sabrina
  • Remember, if there are any complaints, in France, the customer is always wrong : A Good Year
  • We can stand here like the French, or we can do something about it : Marge Simpson/Simpsons
Thanks to for some of the quotes and inspiration!

Here’s another gem from

1.  Do your research. Check with each individual airline that you will be flying during your travels to find out the exact requirement and fee structure for both checked and carry-on luggage.  Many airlines, especially budget airlines, may not even allow one free carry-on – so know what you are getting into. You can also check with, which lists airline bag fee policies on their site.

But, I’d even go so far as to place a call to customer service for those airlines to confirm what they have listed on their website. And since these rules and regulations are subject to change at any time, it would be prudent to double-check again right before your trip.  Armed with this info, you’ll know what to expect – and the fees associated with not adhering to their policies.

2. Weigh and measure.  Armed with the information, you need to weigh and measure the dimensions of your bag after it’s packed to see if it will meet both the weight and dimension requirements.  And these budget airlines are no joke.  This is how they make their money.  If it’s 6 ounces over, it’s over.  But getting to your destination is just half the battle.  What happens on the way back when you have purchased souvenirs?  You’ll have no idea what your bag weighs then.  If you are that concerned, either don’t come back with anything you didn’t take with you or invest in a portable luggage scale.  The $20 investment might be worth avoiding an $800 overage fee. Lakeland do a great one!

3.  Have a back-up plan. Always pack a small foldable tote in your carry-on which can be used as another piece of luggage in a pinch. If you are facing huge overage fees, believe it or not, it may be a much cheaper solution to unpack a few things from your main suitcase and place them in the tote. This way you can check, or carry-on two bags that are underweight, rather than one that is grossly overweight.

Honestly though, one of the easiest ways to avoid this hassle is to consider NOT using airlines that have such confusing policies when it comes to bag fees and opt for those that have a more generous and cut-and-dried policy.  That $20 roundtrip ticket may not be worth the stress of trying to figure this all out and may end up costing you not only your sanity but an amount of cash equivalent to taking ten roundtrip flights.

There are two wonderful websites doing the rounds at present:

Both Australian-based, they focus on touring in Europe and foffer many practical hints and tips.

Here’s a great one from MyMelange> tired of hawking piles of luggage around? You can’t to-day anyway as the airlines look to make as much money as possible off you once they have your booking. Here’s 7 Travel tips for taking Carry On luggage only:

1.  Because you like to avoid back pain.  Ever had back pain? Well, then you know it ain’t fun.  Not something to look forward to and certainly something that could ruin an otherwise well-planned (read expensive) vacation.  Too many heavy bags lugged to and fro, bending and twisting just the wrong way might cause you to pull a muscle.  Or at least make it darn uncomfortable while traveling.

2.  Because you don’t like to look foolish. Ever see these people- you know the ones; Standing in line with two or three huge bags- struggling to keep it together in the check-in line.  Some of them even have one of those carts, with luggage precariously stacked on top like a tiered wedding cake, the top bag teetering back and forth like a see-saw on a windy day.  You never know when and where that bag is gonna drop!  These same people try to get on a rush-hour bus or train with the same set of bags, not only holding up public transportation and pissing off the driver/conductor, but in the process making themselves look ridiculous.  People are pointing.  And laughing.  And talking about you and how rude you are. Seriously, they are talking.

3.  Because your time is precious. Every moment counts. And you can’t get those moments back once you have lost them. Carry -on means no need to wait on line to check your bags.  No need to wait at the luggage carousel on either leg of the trip.  Getting the picture?

4.  Because you like your valuables. Checking bags these days is a crap shoot.  Lots of complaints and even arrests surrounding valuable items being pilfered from travelers bags are reported. If your bag is always with you, you’ll have much less chance of any of your precious cargo getting stolen.

5.  Because you like your luggage. Good quality luggage is an investment- one that you hope lasts for many years.  Bags take enough abuse from normal wear and tear and regular use.  Many bags get thrown around and tossed about from check-in, to loading, to off-loading, and on to the carousel.  Lots of extra man-handling that need not take place if you were in control of the treatment of your bags.

6.  Because you can make better use of your money. It is no secret that airlines keep raising checked bag fees faster than Bruce Wayne can change into Batman and slide down the Batpole. If you can think of other fun things to spend your money on – like meals, entertainment, a bus pass, a hotel upgrade, a splurge bottle of wine or souvenirs – wouldn’t you rather keep your hard earned money for that?

7.  Because you may have to run for it! When you only travel with a carry-on, you ensure that you can handle your bags, or load, comfortably by yourself.  This is of the utmost importance when having to walk or perhaps run at a high rate of speed if you are running late for a flight, bus or train.  There is nothing more grueling or futile then trying to juggle lots of bags or a very heavy load and having to get somewhere, fast.  And nothing worse than seeing someone attempt it with an unmanageable load, and miss.

Recognise this?

The Menerbes snow plough/scraper - note the position of the scraper blade. No wonder we have icy roads!

When the patient demands a fatty lamb chop - then this is what you do

Not so bad - only -12C

SDEI/Suez is the French water utility for our part of the world – the Luberon Valley in Provence.

Anyone who has lived in the Northern Hemisphere for the last few weeks or watches the TV, knows that Europe is blanketed in snow and freezing temperatures. The ice and the snow has a knock-on effect into the infrastructure – not only primary ones such as airports, roads, postal services etc, but domestic ones such as the basic provision of water. Water cannot flow through frozen pipes and causes havoc when it freezes.

So it was that Madame was under heavy sedation at the Clinique St Roch and YT was sitting by the bedside. The iphone beeped and an email from our renters – ‘nothing to worry about but just to let you know that we have no water!’ Catastrophe!

Our friends Casey and Jen had just phoned and asked if there was anything they could do to help …..they both speak excellent French…… Casey jumped on the phone to SDEI.

French Customer Service kicks in: “There are over 1,000 homes without water. Either use a hairdryer or wait for the weather to warm up (that would be conservatively a fortnight!).

A pragmatic solution, or a crazy fob-off, you ask. I jumped into the Touran and came home, armed myself with Madame’s bright pink hairdryer and dug into the undergrowth to find the manhole and the two water meters.

The dip in the boundary bushes marks the spot under which is our water manhole and meters

This pic does not need a caption

10 minutes of the dryer on full blast – water!!

An addendum to this story is that over the past 10 days we have used the hairdryer a further three times, and, one fears, will need to do so again.

SDEI’s customer service may not be out of the Best-of-Breed training manuals but it sure is practical!

We returned from Le Renard to be greeted by an extremely icy entrance and even icier Rue de St Esteve. We parked it was dark, Madame slipped on the ice in the street. Whack! Pain…

After a few moments of stabilisation, we ventured off to the emergency section of the Cavaillon Hospital. It’s a Friday night, it’s a public hospital and there is a language barrier, especially when it comes to medical terminology.

We could not be more praiseworthy of the medical personnel. It was only moments after arriving that x-rays had been taken, diagnosis made, a consultation with an orthopaedic surgeon made, blood tests, cardiogram and a two hour stabilisation and pain management programme began.

Wrapped in an elastic a very drugged Madame was taken home for a painful night.

Early Saturday we armed the GPS and headed for Clinique St Roch, near to Cavaillon.

We could not take a picture of the Clinic - so here's the website as second best

Although it resembles a Russian bomb shelter from the outside, once you get inside, it’s modern, scrupulously clean and staffed by some of the most professional medical personnel you could ever hope to meet.

From the admissions nurse, to the orthopaedic surgeon, nurses etc, the whole event was handled with compassion, sincerity and care. A 14h00 operation finished at 17h00 and Madame was wheeled back into the ward with three large pins holding a rod inside her humerus. Professional pain management and efficient nursing followed for the next 72 hours. Locals tell us that the French medical system is much maligned and there are many complaints – we found the opposite!

Madame's right humerus - after Dr Menager had got hold of it, and worked his magic.

We are now in the middle of 6 weeks of rehabilitation – home nursing, physiotherapy (4xweek), chopping carrots, ironing, and generally keeping ourselves afloat. The local community is amazing – meals on wheels etc, you name it.

It’s been a helluva week/s. Snow, ice, extreme cold and all of this conspires to create some out of the ordinary happenings!

Let’s start at the beginning. We are decorating a beautiful Mas near Roussillon and it will be listing soon as an additional Bastide les Amis property for holiday rentals. An 8 hour stretch in IKEA saw us accumulate nearly one tonne of goods for the IKEA transport company.

Now, we all know that IKEA is an incredible concept and geared up for buy and carry. However, they do offer a facility to transport your goods when your little car is too small and you have bought too. You proceed through the checkout armed with many pieces of paper, your trolleys and a degree of exasperation to await being called by your secret code to advance to the delivery desk.

Your goods are tagged with Swedish efficiency and you receive more paper telling you that you will be called ‘by 19th January’ to announce a deliver ydate. And, you’d better be home! There are legions of stories of people who have not been at home and found piles of boxes on the sidewalk!

Finally, we got our phone call and slipped and slid through the snow and ice to receive the delivery. Sadly, only 47 of the 79 parcels arrived – we await the balance!

Le Renard, in Hameau les Dauphins, near Rousiilon, Provence

The IKEA truck starts its ponderous reverse to the off loading spot

We marvel every day at the skill of the French drivers on the narrow roads

Madame starts the checking

Part-delivery finished - now to negotiate the narrow street!

EDF had dug a large hole, their railings disappeared down it at one stage

Meanwhile back at the Bastide, the development of the dolls museum has reached another milestone, painting the interior is complete! Now we have to finish off the shutters in the traditional village colour (Farrow and Ball ‘pigeon’), the carpet arrives on the 21st February and the population of the space commences.

Madame in full cry with the roller in the doll museum

Now for the next episode in our week…………

Au bientot: Lovonne and Simon xx

This picture says it all – big days have now arrived, but, sadly, we still live in the ice and snow with frozen ground, slippery driveways and treacherous village roads.

← Previous PageNext Page →

  • Blog Roll

    • 2 Oceans Vibe - South Africa’s premier news site for the upwardly mobile.
    • 2Oceansvibe Radio - South Africa’s premier internet radio station – great tunes, good banter and setting the pace
    • Crikey - what they don’t publish in Oz, in the mainstream printed news. Concise comment.
    • Getaway Guru - Great travel site with many hints and tips
    • Popyacollar - A leading edge look at fashions and trends by a leading fashionista
    • Provence Villa Rental - the ultimate property rental in France. Provençal Paradise.
    • Thought Leadership Strategy – Craig Badings - Craig is one of Australia’s leading PR practitioners. His views on Thought Leadership and Strategy are always worth reading
    • Wrestling Possums - The doyen of PR, Chris Savage, gives this site his unique brand of incisiveness. A must read if you’re interested in communications.
  • Other Links



    LSW Twitter

    white spacer


    white spacer

    white spacer

    white spacer