The sun sets between Gargas and St Saturnin des Apt in the Luberon, Provence

 

The Full Moon rises over Menerbes, in the Luberon

Saint Sylvester

In some countries it is called New Year’s Eve, in some Old Year’s Night, take your pick but in  France, New Year’s Eve (31 December) is called la Saint-Sylvestre* and is usually celebrated with a feast, called le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre. The feast tends to include special items like champagne  and foie gras, and the accompanying party can range from an intimate dinner with friends to une soirée dansante (ball).
At midnight, everyone kisses under the mistletoe** and offers their best wishes for the new year.On New Year’s Day, le Jour de l’An, friends and family share their New Year’s resolutions and may also exchange cards and gifts.The end of the holiday season is Epiphany, on 6 January, which in France includes a traditional cake called la galette des rois

La Galette – a pastry cake with a charm hidden in it. The person at the dinner tale who gets this charm, is blessed for the year!

*Saint Sylvestre was Pope from 314 to 335 A.D., during the time of Constantine the Great. There is no particular link between Saint Sylvestre and the New Year; it just so happens that 31 December is his feast day. La Saint-Sylvestre is feminine because it’s short for la fête de Saint-Sylvestre.

**Interestingly, kissing under the mistletoe is a New Year’s custom in France, rather than a Christmas custom as in other countries.

We took ourselves off to Vaison-le-Romaine which is widely recognised as one of the best preserved Roman sites in Southern Europe. A late start compounded by business in nearby Carpentras and then negotiating our way out of Carpentras (even the GPS gets confused in that city – why it is the only city in France with bad signage, no one knows!), saw us picnic on the way there and finding the roads in the village still closed from market day. Consequently we were unable to go to the Roman section of the village but found the medieval part which we had never seen before. What a revelation! Echoes of St Paul-de-Vence, it is a place to come back to when the weather improves.

The Chateau perched on top of the medieval village

 

There she is – in all her glory

 

 

The Michelin Guide tells us thus – “Vaison is comprised of an upper medieval town and a lower town of Roman and modern origin, both built on either side of the River Ouvèze. Its rich past will enchant all those who love historical places, with its vast field of ancient ruins, Romanesque cathedral, old village and castle.”

 

The cliffs at the back of the medieval village and an ancient aquaduct

 

Apparently, the Romans were able to build their 15ha village/town in the valley as they were in no danger of being attacked. However, in medieval times, Vaison was atacked regualrly and the inhabitants moved up on to the hill and created a traditional village perche.

 

Really old and just a little bit old.

 

War memorial at the entrance to the medieval town

Approaching the commercial area of the Chateau

 

The main chateau which still looks a little derelict

 

 

No, it’s not Disneyland Paris which has descended into the south, but a large wine and olive estate in Les Alpilles – Chateau d’Estoublon. Swiss, French and EU flags greet you ate the foot of the large driveway just outside the village of Fontveille, and you drive towards a largish parking area. From the parking, you enter a recently renovated Chateau of immense proportions. Two main courtyards are planted with 22 really ancient (were talking 600-700 years here) olive trees. The owners would have had to write out a cheque for about €2,500 for each of them. Ouch! The wine cellar door and shop is spread over three floors and the Christmas display was quite magnificent.

Purchasing this tree will cost the average person your life savings

 

The restaurant is on the right

 

Carousel for the kiddies

 

Everything is beautifully restored

 

The Church from the viewing platform

 

Inside the Bistro

 

Another pic of the Bistro

 

 

There is a ‘bistro’ restaurant on the Estate – Mogador. We had a coffee. Apparently a glass of the local estate red is a wincing €6! We loved the little Church and there is a full on playground complete with a Carousel for the little ones.

As we left, a large bus drew in ………

Madame and Instagram – inextricably linked and inseparable

 

The Luberon Valley as winter sets in

 

This chap is guarding a Chateau in the Les Alpilles region

It’s such a surprise to us that pansies survive and prosper in frosty conditions. Here is a little display in Menerbes alongside the street.

27/12/12. Madame’s birthday. Happy Birthday, darling – and many. many more.

 

 

No discussion about what  your highlight in 2012 was ……

The Wedding!

 

You and your boy

 

…..and your Mother

 

 

……and your best friend

Love always xxxx

 

 

Last week we travelled to Venasque and surrounding areas and to us, it was a case of villages which had been ‘lost and then found’. We had heard about – and know some friends who live nearby – in the mountainous area past Apt on the way to Cereste and then Forqualcier.

The weather was a bit gloomy but the picnic was packed and off we went. We  found  villages which had, this time, been ‘found and then lost’. Oh dear, quite sad and quite remote. Scenic nevertheless and if its peace and quiet you’re after and being a fair distance from amenities such as shops, restaurants, etc then Castelneuve and St Martin are for you.

Each of the villages needs some really serious investment into buildings . But, if it’s the real thing and authentic medievalism, then these two villages are worth a visit. Dinner party conversation had told us that the restauranteur of the sole establishment in Castelneuve, Le Sanglier, has an interesting approach to his business. He may well be at the restaurant at lunchtime or in the evening, but that does not guarantee his preparedness to accept guest or provide a meal!

 

Tumbledown garage in Castelneuve

 

Part of the approach to Castelneuve

 

You can just imagine what the estate agent will write about this one!

 

………and this one. ‘Needs a little TLC’.

 

The impressive memorial entrance to the Casteleneuve cemetery

 

Going on further across the mountain towards St Martin

 

Over the rooftops in St Martin

 

Normal service resumes. Between Castelneuve and St Martin, a well maintained and active farm house

 

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