Simple and effective adornment on a medieval building in Rustrel, Luberon.

Simple and effective adornment on a medieval building in Rustrel, Luberon.

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"The Venice of the South" - L'Isle Sur La Sorgue.

“The Venice of the South” – L’Isle Sur La Sorgue.

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Across the Sorgues river, the Christmas market stalls await darkness and opening time.

 

Waiting patiently

Waiting patiently

You know the feeling – you’ve had a few drinks and need something ‘fast foodish’ to settle the stomach and top up from those strange snacks at the party. If it was London, you’d go to a kebab joint; in Cape Town, peruse a bunny chow; in Melbourne, a falafel; in Sydney nothing better than some Doyle’s fish and chips.

In France, rural France, the port of call is La Caravane!

Often situated in the middle of a field, with garish flashing lights, the caravan dispenses the most delicious thin crust pizzas along with a healthy dose of local gossip.

However, fast it is not. There’s a way of working, a way of anticipating this pizza.

Nearly there.

Nearly there.

First you have to engage the chef-owner. Preferably, buy him a beer and have one yourself. No wine in La Caravane! If your lady wants – yet, another – glass of wine, you provide it from the recesses of your car. Then having sipped the beer and discussed the menu, the weather, the local politics, you order and watch as it is made lovingly, popped in the oven and then, voila!, into the cardboard box it goes. The queue has now lengthened behind you, meaning that as the evening progresses, the chef-owner’s pile of empty beer bottles gets bigger and bigger and the pizzas do to!

We were one of his last customers, so he decided to try out a new creation as an aperitif before the pizza. A piece ofdough was rolled into a thick baguette, baked in the over and then opened up and liberally dosed with pesto. Cut into bite-size pieces, it was delicious. Time for another Peroni!

 

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Christmas Markets are held throughout France during December. From the huge in Strasbourg; to the big in Avignon; to the small/tiny in places such as Aureto Wines in the Luberon.

Whatever the size, there is always a festive atmosphere, plenty to eat and drink, novelties to buy and, naturellement, a place to sit and chat and sip a glass of wine.

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Pates, rillettes, pestos.

 

Tables laid under the stacks of wine.

Tables laid under the stacks of wine.

If it's the Luberon, then the truffles will be there

If it’s the Luberon, then the truffles will be there

Local wines.

Local wines.

Creative!

Creative!

 

Bon Fetes!

 

Construction goes on apace.

The new suites are now enclosed.

The new suites are now enclosed.

From the side ground view. Taking shape!

From the side ground view. Taking shape!

A new house taking shape – or rather, the courtyard where the new owners have bowled over an existing house to create a little entranceway.

How to remodel a 300 year old house!

A new entrance had been created and stones laid carefully by hand.

A new entrance had been created and stones laid carefully by hand.

Every French garden deserves a fountain

Every French garden deserves a fountain

La Terrasse.

La Terrasse.

A new house entrance. Hand cut stone.

A new house entrance. Hand cut stone.

Rock as old as the world itself.

Rock as old as the world itself.

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Notre Dame de Sainte Veran in the winter sunshine

The Notre-Dame and Saint Véran church were built by monks on the site of an ancient sanctuary dedicated to a pagan god of the waters. Saint Véran was a hermit who courageously dispelled the Couloubre, a dragon which used to terrorize the local population from its retreat set in the area around the spring.

In Fontaine-de-Vaucluse one can also find remains of the bishops of Cavaillon’s castle and a column from 1804, erected for Petrarch’s 600th birthday. From 1339, the Italian poet and humanist had made Fontaine-de-Vaucluse his favourite retreat. The village has two troglodyte dwellings; an old stationer and a Santon museum (a “santon” is a plaster Provençal figurine used for the Christmas nativity).

Statue outside the Church

Statue outside the Church

 

 

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Paris: The Secret History

Paris-based British author and journalist Peter Gumbel’s favourite is Andrew Hussey’s 2006 classic Paris: The Secret History.

“It’s a riveting and highly original account of the French capital as experienced by those living in its soft underbelly – the thieves, urchins, prostitutes, and other sans-culottes who have been every bit as important for shaping the city’s culture as the aristocrats, grand visionaries and intellectuals who are usually celebrated.”

 

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Bel Ami

Paris-based author Matthew Fraser has gone for Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant.

“I read this about twenty-five years ago and have re-read many times. It’s a fascinating study of social ambition and moral corruption in late 19th century Parisian society,” he says.

“In my opinion Bel Ami is the French ‘Great Gatsby’. In truth, not much has changed since time of Maupassant — especially his portrait of Parisian journalists and their connections to the rich and powerful.”

 

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Bonjour Tristesse

The 1954 classic by Françoise Sagan is a must read, says journalist and author Helena Frith Powell.

“I read it as a teenager and it stayed with me. Written when Sagan was still a teenager, it’s a coming-of-age tale of a girl’s struggle to come to terms with her father’s new love interest.

“At once tragic, beautiful and evocative, it’s written very simply but with an incredible, almost cruel insight. Plus it’s the perfect holiday read as it’s set on holiday in the south of France.”

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