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Spring heralds the annual Maubec Hortifleurs – a gathering of local gardeners, nurseries, agricultural implement suppliers and like minded folk to a community event over a Sunday in March. 2016 is the 20th year and, pleasantly, this years was bigger and better.

And, for once, the rain and the mistral stayed away!

The old village of Maubec gazes down on the bustling market

The old village of Maubec gazes down on the bustling market

Lyberon locals came out in their Sunday finery (and some, not so fine) to purchase their new season herbs, annual flowers and generally chat about the weather, who’s doing what, who’s not doing what and feasting on……junk food! Caravans surrounding the small bar and certain selected vintners do a roaring trade as the French abandon their fine dining for a few hamburgers, pizzas, sausages in baguettes and the inevitable frites.

Characters abound - here's our La Provence newspaper photographer

Characters abound – here’s our La Provence newspaper photographer

If you’re thinking of being in the Luberon late March or early April, mark this one in your diary – Maubec Hortifleurs.

 

 

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Close to the tiny village of Buoux (population 134 – and, yes, they havea Mayor and a full bureaucracy!), there is a wonderful hike in which you can go along the top of the plateau (Les Clapardes), and look down over a sectacular valley.

Down below, apart from lavendar fields, wild countryside and trickling streams, is this Auberge des Sequins– popular with hikers and nature enthusiasts.

 

 

Seen at the Maubec Hortifleurs flower show

Seen at the Maubec Hortifleurs flower show

At the entrance to the Enchated Garden, these two little figurines wait patiently for the maçons to arrive and throw the sale, prior to some carpentry as their new house is built.

At the entrance to the Enchated Garden, these two little figurines wait patiently for the maçons to arrive and throw the concrete slab, prior to some carpentry as their new house is built.

 

Anecdotally, we have found that many people who stay at Bastide les Amis (Maison Olive or Maison Blanc), follow this website to keep up to date with happenings in and around Provence, and in particular to rekindle memories of their happy Ménerbes stay.

Our guest book is chock full of comments about how much our guests enjoy the garden…. well, we’re now embarking on a new development : The Enchanted Garden. A haven for the little ones.

We’ve cleared an area within the bamboo forest on the third terrace level, and next weekend a concrete slab will be thrown, and afterwards a new wendy house will be built, along with other additions for the younger ones. A short walk up from the pool area, children will be able to play and feed their imagination in the Enchanted Garden – safely and happily. Parents? Stay down at the pool and sip your rosé!

We’ll keep you posted on progress.

For more information on rentals and Bastide les Amis, click here.

 

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One of the famous buildings on the Cours Mirabeau

 

One of our favourite cities in Provence, and in fact in the world, is Aix-en-Provence. We don’t need much of an excuse to go there and wander the famous Cours Mirabeau with all its gracious buildings, and the back lanes of the Old City. Statues seem to burst out of buildings, frescoes predominate and there is history at each step.

Provence’s famous son, Paul Cézanne, was honoured by the city in 2006. He immortalised in paint, both oils and watercolours, several sites which can be visited today: his studio, the Jas de Bouffan property, the Bibémus quarries, and of course the famous Sainte-Victoire mountain, one of the artist’s favourite motifs.
The flagship city of a combined district council of 34 towns and villages, Aix en Provence wants to ensure that its town planning and development are balanced and harmonious, to keep visitors coming all year round and preserve the quality of life which has made it famous down the centuries around the world.

However, it’s the peole of today that we love. It is a big student city with an International School, University and many colleges. It’s also a legal centre so it’s not uncommon to see a large black legal gown swirl past you as you take in the sights.

The Cours Mirabeau - awaiting summer and the hordes

The Cours Mirabeau – awaiting summer and the hordes

 

 

Even though the farmers say it is running three weeks early, the first signs of Spring are there – wild violets.

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Although designated as ‘weeds’ with those who have formal grass, here we prefer a wilder meadow look.

Wild violet is a low-growing clumping (simple) perennial with a dense, fibrous root system and heart-shaped leaves that often cup toward the petiole to form a funnel shape. Wild violet is often considered difficult-to-control due to its aggressive growth, waxy leaves and resistance to most common herbicides.

Wild violet is most often found in shaded, fertile sites and prefers moist soils.

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Up on the hilltop of Ménerbes is the Dora Maar House, home of Picasso’s lover for over 40 years. Directly opposite the owners have built a memorial garden to a famous American artist, Joe Downing who lived in Ménerbes for many years. Earlier, this week a local artisan decided to bump his truck into the wall – the result, oops!

Classic Provence. A well maintained mas (farmhouse) with lavender plants ready to burst into life as the days get warmer and warmer. This house is on the top of the hill near Ménerbes.

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This young lady came to the Maubec Hortifleurs Show to help her boss, a nurseryman and stallholder. However, she found the sun instead.

 

The tell-tale sign that procession caterpillars are in the neighbourhood. Up in the trees, ready to hatch and then climb down and wreak havoc.

The tell-tale sign that procession caterpillars are in the neighbourhood. Up in the trees, ready to hatch and then climb down and wreak havoc.

The Connexion reports:

TOXIC pine processionary caterpillars have spread further and faster across France than analysts have predicted.

The season for the creatures, whose hairs are an irritant to humans and pose a threat to children and domestic animals, is also arriving earlier.

Processions of the caterpillar, where they leave their nest and wander across the ground looking for sites to pupate, typically take place between January and March, but some have already been spotted as early as October.

The pine processionary is strongest in the south, particularly PACA, where its numbers are rising, but it has even been seen as far north as Paris – where experts had previously predicted its arrival would come around 2025.

Its hairs can provoke allergic reactions in humans, but pose a greater threat to children and to pets like dogs who are attracted to their smell but can suffer permanent, even fatal, damage from the hairs if they come into contact with them.

Walkers in the south have been warned to keep on the alert for the processions.

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In the Calanques national park, 60 eco-traps have been set up. They tempt the caterpillars into a bag they cannot escape from using pheromones.

Park officials have also been encouraging tits, a natural predator of the pine processionary, to build nests in the area. – See more at: click here.

So, pet owners beware, you have been warned!

Thanks, Mike T

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