From the cloud formations of yesterday, here’s a jet vapour trail aiming straight for the clock tower of the Ménerbes City Hall (Mairie).

Launching to-day 13th March 2017, Footsteps. Provençal Paradise. is launching on world-wide Amazon sites. This is the Second Edition of the popular Luberon, Provence guide. Now updated; further tours included and many other features. It’s available in print or on e-book via the Kindle store.

To purchase, lend or browse, click here.

The Church spire in Saint Saturnin-les-Apt

The Church high above Saint Saturnin-le-Apt in the Luberon. Town water reservoir.

Looking out over the Luberon Valley from the reservoir.

Mont Ventoux with its first brushing of snow

Mont Ventoux with its first brushing of snow

World’s third largest – after Geneva and London, the Paris Motor Show covers eight huge pavilions of paradise for petrol heads; little boys and not so little boys. There’s plenty of eye candy too with grls in short skirts wafting feather dusters over the latest and greatest models. No feminism here!

For this attendee, the best was the vintage auction cars and one, particularly, caught the eye – Liberace’s Rolls-Bentley.

Liberace's wheels

Liberace’s wheels

Madame spotted this in the La Vie et Belle shop in Ménerbes - she wants it!

Madame spotted this in the La Vie est Belle shop in Ménerbes – she wants it!

La Vie est Belle is situated on the Rue de la Fonteine in Ménerbes – next to the parking lot – and is crammed with objets d’art, decor and gifts. A great browse!

For more information, click here.

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Our new BBQ has been finished and inaugurated. Situated at Maison Blanc, it boasts a wide grilling area and a cast metal baking oven – created by Master Blacksmith Kashief Booley in Prince Albert, Western Cape, South Africa. Hence, the name – Prins Albert.

Our maçon was excellent. There are two brothers in the Luberon who specialise in all things fire, fireplaces and chimneys. Jen-Yves Gaudin is the maçon; Jean-Pierre Gaudin is the master chimney sweep. They hail from Caseneuve.

 

 

Inside the unfinished cathedral of Narbonne

Inside the unfinished cathedral of Narbonne

On the autoroute back from Carcassonne, we had seen a huge building, looking very impressive and towering over the city of Narbonne. We had to investigate and discovered….

Narbonne was the site of the first Roman settlement beyond the Alps in Gaul, called Narbo Martius (Narbo), founded in 118 BC.

Narbo Martius, the Roman colony soon became the wealthiest city in southern Gaul, and was nominated by the emperor Augustus as capital of a province stretching from Toulouse to Geneva: Gallia Narbonnensis.

It was already a wine growing region. In AD92, under pressure from Roman winemakers, the emperor Domitian ordered that half of the vineyards here should be torn up.

Narbonne became the capital of the whole of Southern Gaul. It lay on the Domitian Way (Via Domitia). At the time it was a major port, although it now lies some 20 km from the sea.

Narbonne was taken by the Visigoths in 413. During the Middle Ages, the southern part of the town was ruled by the The Counts of Toulouse as Dukes of Narbonne; the northern part was under Episcopal administration.

In the 11th and 12th centuries Narbonne was the centre of an important Jewish school, which played a role in the growth and development of the Judæo-French and Judæo-Provençal languages.  Jews had settled in Narbonne from about the 5th century, with a community that had grown to around 2000 in the 12th century.

Narbonne saw a period of peace and prosperity in the 13th century. The Gothic cathedral was begun in 1272 and work continued on and off until a lawsuit in 1347 put a stop to it. Part of the city wall needed to be demolished to make way for the enlarged nave, and the city council objected. The council was soon proved right. The ramparts were necessary to the city’s safety during the Hundred Years’ War. The cathedral still remains unfinished.

Narbonne, originally a trade port, survived as a major fishing port until the early 14th century. Flooding in 1320 caused the harbour to silt up, and the River Aude changed course so that the port of Narbonne became a backwater. That is why it is now lies on a vine-growing plain, 8 miles (13km) inland.

 

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Cleaning up the winter grasses

Transhumance – the time of the year when the sheep farmers prepare their flocks to depart from the warmer lower fields and sheds, to the upper slopes where they spend the summer grazing on wild herbs of provence under the watchful gaze of their shepherd and his dog. A centuries old tradition that still happens today.

It is not uncommon to see the farmer using his sheep to nibble up the grasses and weeds that have sprung up between the vines over winter and as the sun’s rays start to warm up. Clever, flexible electric fences are used to camp the sheep in and they are moved as soon as the garzing dries up to more fertile patches, prior to the movement.

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Sheep and goats mingle freely and happily

Due to the mild winter, everything is ‘early’ this year (locas are saying three weeks early), but here is something not to miss!

The Fête de la Transhumance is held in Saint Rémy every year on Whit Monday (Pentecôte). It marks the moment when, at the end of spring, the local pastures have dried up, and sheep must travel to the lusher grazing in the high mountains. Today the animals are transported by trucks, but in times gone day the journey was done on foot and took nearly two weeks. The Fête de la Transhumance commemorates that tradition. Starting at around 11h00, the town becomes a spectacular sea of sheep as some 3,500 of them from all around the Alpilles, plus goats, donkeys, shepherds and sheep dogs swirl twice around the old town.
The tourist blurb does not exaggerate. This is an event not be missed, and in one of our favourite villages. Last year, we headed off early to miss the crowds and get a good vantage place at a roadside café. What we had not realised was that there was a major ‘brocante’ (antiques and collectables) fair on at the same time, so Madame was in her element. Waiting time speeds by as various purchases arrived back at the coffee table from sorties into the fair.´

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On guard!

Arriving early is great advice. Although the start is scheduled for 11h00, it only really gets under way at 11h30. It seems that allied with Provençal time, it does take time to marshal 3,000 sheep and goats but when it does happen (and there are two circumferences of the old village), there is a mass of sheep, goats, shepherds, donkey carts and various stragglers not to mention the very happy sheep dogs.

Mark down Pentecost in your diary if you are planning a trip to Provence during this time. The Fete de la Transhumance is a must.

Pentecost 2016 is Monday 16th May (a full Public Holiday in France).

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