We thought that this best summed up a Happy Christmas wish from Provence to all LSW readers, friends and family.
It’s a santon from Helen’s collection. Particularly, we enjoyed the little chicken on the wheelbarrow.

 

 

 

To all our guests, readers and family – Happy Holidays from Bastide les Amis! We look forward to a great festive season and a lively 2013.

With love and best wishes

 

Lovonne and Simon xx

 

A wintry scen of the Maison Olive terrasse – a new construction in 2012.

 

…and another view: Bon Fete!!

A hazy Sunday in St Saturnin des Apt

Snow at the Bastide. It snowed in Menerbes and surrounds last week, naturally we have the snaps to prove it!

Fortunately for slippery, slidey ones, it has melted already:

 

 

 

 

Now Smokey has two kittens and they have become ensconced behind our kitchen. We watch the antics with amusement and see her teaching ‘Worm’ and ‘Tabby’ how to climb etc. Worm got his name as initially he struggled to eat but now we are convinced that he has worms! Tabby is tabby, well it’s not very original.

 

Climbing practice

 

Smokey livs in the cuddly basket, the kids try and get in by hook or by crook.

A roundabout near Venasque in Provence

 

A German friend in Lourmarin mangles the English language sometimes and calls them ‘turnarounds’. The rest of us know them as roundabouts. Originally invented by the British, it has taken the French a long time to embrace the concept but now we have thousands sprinkled across the countryside – wags say that there is a roundabout for every 5 members of the population. Each roundabout is individually designed and well maintained. Why?

As with all things French, in particular politics, there is a story – or, allegedly, a story.

It all started with the election to the presidency of François Mitterand who was the fourth President of France elected under the Fifth Republic serving from 1981 until 1995. As leader of the Socialist Party, he is the only figure from the left so far elected under the Fifth Republic. Originally he came from a far right leaning family and the story goes that Mitterand was a closet Freemason. On his election as President, The Freemasons ‘apparently’ approached him and asked him to do something significant for them and to help the movement in France.

Quietly, he handed over the creation and design of roundabouts to the Freemason community. Funded by government money, the Freemasons were able (and are still able) to earn euros by designing and overseeing the roundabouts’ construction. Consequently, each community takes great pride in their own roundabouts, each of which is themed and has a story behind it.

For more information and on this story – why not have a look at our book Footsteps, available at Amazon. Here’s the link: click here.

 

 

 

 

On we travelled from Venasque and the historical beauty of the Church and the village to discover what is going to become our Cherry Route, we can see this. We also wante to discover the village of Le Crillon which is where Julian Morrow-Smith of Postcards from Provence fame lives.

We meandered through what was a surprisingly built up area, with not much agricultural land surrounding the houses and farms. Many of the houses are ‘new builds’ too – in Provençal tradition but not dripping with history and atmosphere.

 

Meandering is what you do

 

The Giant of Provence (Mont Ventoux) towers above the area.

Le Crillon stays a place on the map for us sadly and so does Bedoin which we had gone through on a previous tour to Mont Ventoux. However, we were able to picnic in a nice little picnic area close to the road and do some good ‘recceing’ for April/May when the landscape will be transformed by cherry blossoms.

Our little picnic area

 

…and le Picnique! Madame’s pickled fish and salads. Along with our newly discovered ‘picnic wine’ – Chateau Fontvert (Lourmarin).

 

 

 

 

This photograph stands in the Notre Dame Church in Venasque and is dedicated to Saint Siffrein. Not much is known of the Saint except that he was ordained a priest and consecrated as a Bishop by St Cesaire of Arles around 540AD.

According to old manuscripts of the Abbey of Lerins (near Nice), Siffrein was a monk at Lerins before becoming a Bishop. The documents also tell us that he built a Church in Venasque – probably the Notre Dame and also a basilica dedicated to St John the Baptist which is most likely the Bapistry next to the Venasque Church.

St Siffrein is often represented as holding in his hands a horse bit, called the ‘Holy Bit’ (as in the photograph above) for having been made with a nail from the true Cross of Jesus. Until the Crusades, this relic has been kept in Constantinople (now Istanbul) before being brought to nearby Carpentras around the year 1205. Legend has it that Saint Siffrein used the horse bit to perform miracles in the 6th Century.

 

The French high-speed railway the TGV is the pride of the nation. Speak of the TGV in hushed tones and it symbolises everything that is French technology. Travelling on the TGV is an absolute pleasure and if you work your travelling times well, and are flexible, it is relatively inexpensive. Particularly at this time of the year.

Travellers can dip into the heart of Provence via the TGV which leaves from Paris or from Charles de Gaulle airport (simply go down the escalators from the arrivals hall/s and you are at the station. 2hours 20 min later and you are in Avignon.

Now, comes the trick! Which Avignon Station?

When you reserve your seat, be very careful – no, pedantic – about which Avignon station you arrive at. Certain TGV trains arrive at Avignon-centre, the old station which only has one or two TGVs a day. The balance stop at Avignon-TGV.

The stations are about 20 minutes in the Avignon traffic apart. Avignon TGV has the car hire company kiosks – Avignon Centre does not – you have to trundle your luggage across the street and go into a IBIS hotel and hope for a car. Also, cabs are far more plentiful at the Avignon TGV station.

If you’re going into the Lyberon the Avignon TGV is a must – you drive out of the station, right on to the ring road Les Rotandos and 10 minutes later, you are in the Luberon.

For more info on the TGV – click here.

 

 

 

Outside the Notre Dame and the Bapistry, is an evocative War Memorial

In 1498, the Chevalier de Thezan, having married Siffreine, the last descendant of a notable Venasque family, commissioned a painting of the Crucifixion. It seems that this was to be undertaken by members of the School of Avignon and was carried out by three different painters : a Flemish, a German and a Italian. (A variation on the story would have the parish priest, wishing to decorate his church, who took up the matter directly with Pope Innocent VIII.).

 

Church interior

 

One of the side Chapels

The fact remains that the Chevalier de Thezan appears on the canvas in the robe of a kneeling Carthusian Monk.
This masterpiece was hung in a prominent place within the Church were it stayed for almost two centuries ; however, during the reign of Louis XIV, the work of early masters was considered old and unfashionable and therefore taken down, and stored along with discards in the gallery of the church. It was discivered there in 1932 by the Canon Sautel, uncle of the priest in charge. It was in a very bad condition, covered with spider webs and damaged by dampness.  The Canon who was knowledgeable about art, arranged to have the painting restored in Paris by experts of the Louvre Museum.

 

The famous painting of the Crucifixtion

 


In1937 it was shown occupying the “seat of honour” as part of a special Louvre exhibition on the subject of the Crucifixion. Consequently, the Louvre, then refused to return the painting to Venasque despite protests from many distinquished artists and art experts. Such a group presented a petition with 700 signatures to Edouard Daladier, Mayor and Deputy of Avignon.
The petition was presented just before an important political election which was to take place. A few weeks later the painting was return to Venasque where we can now admire it in its rightful place in the Church.

Mont Ventoux – outside the Church

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