Grey Skies

There are grey skies in France and flood warnings where I live. This gives me plenty of reason to stay inside and drink tea and eat chocolate biscuits. There’s not a lot on this time of year, so I’m being very productive, writing and reading and thinking about the next step. The heater’s on and the wooly jumpers are out of storage. As an English girl, I enjoy grey skies and I’m more than adept at entertaining myself.

I shall be writing up a little piece on my summer here soon and catch you up on things I’ve tried and places I’ve been.. It’s National Novel Writing Month this month, so I’ll either be here procrastinating (I am now working on two separate novels) or I will be working away. Either way, I’ll be sure to update this blog.

Ciao for now.

Hope you’re all well. x

Salut

Hi, I’ve been away for ages and apologise in case any one wanted an update.

Since last speaking to you lot, I’ve been back to the UK to visit friends and family, found a great circle of friends here in France and almost finished the second draft of my novel!

The book has been taking up most of my time, my thoughts and my computer. I have experienced moments of severe doubt and moments of ecstatic breakthroughs. My deadline is in two weeks, when I’m off to Portugal. So, I will be back with Provençal anecdotes mid-August.

The weather here has wavered around 36 degrees for weeks. The wind has gone, so the heat is fierce. The air in the car was dancing last week. Being English, I’m not used to such constant sunshine. It’s both wonderful and tiring.

I learned the expression that “Misery is better under the sun” and I have to agree. Being a struggling artist is best done in the South of France, as so many artists have done. I imagine if I gave up work to write in the UK, life on a shoestring would be very different!

This week has been a week of drinking on terraces, writing in cafés, picnics at the river and visiting my dream house. The house was a beautiful, old French house with an artist’s studio complete with chandeliers. Inside there was a large canvas on an easel, smattered in paint capturing the French countryside. The views from the house were of different coloured fields: golds, lavenders and greens and there was even a medieval castle. Plenty of inspiration. We painted, tinkled the piano and had a nose around. Outside, the swimming pool was brimming with crystal blue water. As the temperature was 38 degrees we loved the cool, freshness of it, despite the wasps circling around the waters. Chatting, sunbathing and drinking. It’s been a great week.

I’ve made a beetroot & feta tart, thai noodles and pest rice for the picnic tomorrow, to accompany the usual French fayre. We are heading up to Le Vercors again for a ballade among the vineyards.

La vie est belle.

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Lovely Jubilee

It started as overcast here today, so we decided on a lazy, indoors day of reading, relaxing and being creative.

To celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee I have the BBC on in the background, we are drinking copious amounts of tea and we have already devoured a roast chicken for lunch.

I had planned to host an English tea party but today is Mother’s Day (Fête des Mères) and it’s taken rather seriously here – a Clinton’s card and some Thornton’s chocs won’t do. Latin countries are matriarchal and the mother is a respected figure of the family; she is their queen. Here they spend the day celebrating and thanking her. Instead of a quaint afternoon of cucumber sandwiches and cupcakes (something I wouldn’t do in England), the lack of guests has saved me the chore of fiddling around with icing bags, and little cutting off crusts and I can get stuck into some reading between patriotic moments led by the TV.

G couldn’t understand the English desire to celebrate the queen. I tried to explain how the pomp and pageantry is a fundamental part of our culture.

“Ah, it’s just the celebration you like, more than the queen”, he replied rather perceptively.

“It’s all of it”.

“You like the royal family because of these occasions? Because if she exercised her power as head of state, do you think she’d be able to relate to all parts of society? Do you think she’d be good because she’s born into it? ” he asked trying to fathom out our non-Republican ideals.

I shrugged, “We don’t really go there”.

Watching the celebrations on TV, the reporters asked throngs of young people and families what they liked most about the day, most answered the party spirit. Older citizens replied that they could remember past royal events which brought back memories of past lives. Some held mixed feelings as they gazed back into nostalgia to answer provocative and leading questions into microphones of grinning reporters. One things for sure, it’s part of English history and a collective memory for us to share. It’s a coming together of British people to celebrate and enjoy their history and future – even if it seems more abstract than that.

It’s raining in the UK, which is a shame but also normal. I love that people remain outside despite the bad weather but I can’t help but feel disappointed, as if the the skies chose not to support their efforts.

The armada, or Thames pageant,  is not something which really excites me as it’s quite slow. I imagine watching thousands of boats glide past you would get quite boring. My brother is part of the gun salute with the HAC and I’m excited to watch that bit and spot him again on TV but boats travelling in close formation down the dirty winding river in the grey drizzle, it’s not my kind of party. I much prefer a good trot around the palace with the fluffy hats and carriages.

I was going to tune into French Channel 2 and watch Karl Lagerfeld’s commentary; until I heard it was a fashion criticism of the day, reducing it into more of a farce. His summary of the Royal Wedding being a day of “short skirts”, “fat legs” and “bad proportions”, failed to acknowledge all else that the day symbolised and made me feel quite annoyed.

As I sit here in the French storm, with booming thunder, torrential down pour and flashes of electric, I feel distinctly cosy and British in a very non-British part of the world. Sipping my tea I feel part of the national celebration and spectacle – well until the storm cuts our power!

Happy Jubilee Great Britain! I raise my tea cup to you.

La Drôme

After visiting Provence for the last couple of days, we decided to change direction and head towards La Drôme, which is the river that gives it’s name to our department. G had sped off in the morning to photograph butterflies at a butterfly farm and I had stayed in bed, then showered and tidied. It was his birthday and that was how he wanted to spend the morning, doing his hobby – macro photography. I was happy as it meant he was enjoying himself and I could have a lie-in. As I turned my computer on, fresh coffee in hand, a gentle breeze tousling the trees outside, my phone beeped with a message: “I’m coming to get you, it’s beautiful here!”

I had planned to spend some time writing a treatment for a film competition but he arrived shortly after I had received the message. The competition had asked for more details than I could give – like how I’d utilise a production team. Whilst it was an amazing opportunity, I knew I’d left it too late to ring friends working in the film industry to meet the deadline and I metaphorically kicked myself before opening the door to his beaming face. “No, you should stay in and work it out. It’s important”, he advised. I reassured him that it was too late for the comp now and that I’d love to go with him.

Secretly disappointed with myself, yet excited for the adventure, G explained to me that it was his new favourite place and that I’d love it. He explained that it was completely different on the beauty scale to Provence and that the sublime views stir different feelings to those we had experienced recently. We sped off down a very straight road, down flat fields leading to large, impressive mountainous hills. “This used to be a seabed”, he explained, “The hills were the land before and before that they were mountains and before that they were submerged by the ocean too. You can find shells here, even up there”. As we began to climb the inclines I couldn’t yet see why he was so excited by this place. “We can go and see the dungeons in Crest and the village of Die (pronounced Dee) and have a look at other old towns”, he said excitedly, the sun pouring in through our open windows. I was ready for anything.

Once we’d reached the top of the hill and were driving along the plateau, it was like we’d entered another country. A crystal clear, topaz-blue river rushed along side us, standing out against golden-white rocks. Pine trees, in all their splendid greenery, wrapped around the hill tops as a stunning backdrop to the place. I understood and shared his enthusiasm.

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Source: google.com via Lenxy on Pinterest

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Source: flickr.com via Lenxy on Pinterest

A mini guide to the area says:

“The area is dry, mountainous and very sunny, ideal conditions for the area’s vineyards. Die has a long religious history – the oldest historically known bishop, St. Nicasius, attended the First Council of Nicaea in 325.”

We drove past stone mansions, castles and churches and big, old farmhouses on our way to Pontaix. The location was magnificent but in a completely different way to Provence. Here the natural landscape is immense and breathtaking, whereas in Provence it’s serene, calming and inspiring. One is stunning and the other is quaint. One is exaggerated and one is subtle. G asked me to tell him my real thoughts on the place. “Now, I know you’re a coastal chick and I’m a mountain man, but don’t say you like it if you don’t, I just want to share it with you”.

There was no worry, I loved it. He said he could live there and I agreed. Whilst the houses were spread out, there was a lot going on and many small villages near by. The area is a national park and there are many camping areas, canoeing spots, horse-riding treks and even micro-lite sites to enjoy the views. They even specialise in making clairette here which is another version of French champagne. I could imagine a life of outdoor fun, mini festivals in the garden and canoeing down the river and I liked it.

As we drove past meadows of flowers and saw lots of poppy fields, I felt like I was in another corner of the world, even the air felt different. We saw signs for a ski station and agreed it would suit us in summer and in winter and it’s only half an hour away from where we live now. When friends come to visit, we will be camping and trekking up here.

If I had enough money, I’d construct a house here, nestled into the landscape, with big windows. We saw some being built, some very expensive, huge houses, making the most of the landscape. Imagine waking up to poppy fields, vineyards and topaz water…We will be visiting here often from now on and have planned a bbq next weekend.

This is the first day, without exciting distractions, I’ve had to share my thoughts. At 4pm I’m taking a dip in an outside pool and it more than makes up for the latin tempers which are heating up with the weather! France is such a diverse and amazing country to explore – it’s been a great holiday!

Fontaine de Vaucluse

We were deliberating where to go for a few days, as G had 4 days holiday from work. We decided Italy would perhaps be the best holiday destination, as it’s only a few hours away and a country I’m dying to explore. Then G had an idea – why not holiday right here instead. I could get to know the area better and we could save Italy for a month long train trip. I liked his thinking.

The first day of our French holiday we toured Provence, going back to my favourite village, Rousset Les Vignes. Driving through Provence is like driving through a landscape picture but as the light changes it becomes more beautiful. Winding roads take you up small hills where Medieval stone villages are found. In Provence, the countryside has a gentle ripple. The fields are packed with rows of vines and signs that let you know which grape for which wine is slowly being created in front of your eyes. I recognised quite a few that I’d tried already. Rousset Les Vignes is one of my favourite places because of the serene beauty which surrounds it. Leaving Montelimar and all that is urban and modern behind, we headed out past lavender, sunflower and corn fields, towards some tree covered stone-bearing hills in the distance. The landscape, complete with stone walls, cultivated land and colourful nature is exquisite. Rousset Les Vignes is nestled between an impressive stone hill and undulating fields of crops, and as you turn the corner there are olive trees and a small bridge to pass over before the road winds back to show you the impressive view of the fields below.

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Source: google.com via Lenxy on Pinterest

Source: google.com via Lenxy on Pinterest

 

We continued to drive towards the direction of Avignon, on no fixed road. We took the long, scenic route through the vineyards. We came across the occasional tractor and the occasional camper van but apart from that the peace added to the idyllic nature of the place. Next time, we shall take a convertible through the countryside. Not only to be surrounded by the natural beauty but because with the windows wide open on our little car, G burned all of his left arm! I asked G about living here and he wasn’t sure whether I could cope with the solitude. The small communities which look so beautiful to visit, may be too lonely for a social person like me. He did reassure me that it’s not far away though and we can visit when we want. As we got closer, we took the Routes Touristiques, which I heartily recommend. Weaving towards the big cities, we had the impression to be alone on an adventure through Provençal France. If you have the time, always choose aesthetics over efficiency.

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G pointed out that we’d almost arrived at our destination on seeing an impressive Roman bridge. A river ran alongside us and I could see that the water was a different colour to usual. It was emerald green. The algae, swaying within it, gave it it’s tropical colour. It was stunning. Entering the small tourist village centred around the shining green waters was like unwrapping a present. Tucked away, like all good French villages, the scene unfolded into a postcard place, begging to be explored.

At the top of the town, there’s a water source which gives the small department it’s name. We walked up towards the spring which fills up and empties with the seasons. Tourists before us had rebelled against the restraints and partially destroyed the safety barrier to get a better look at the basin of water. We had a quick look and then paddled our feet to cool down. The temperature was 36°C. The spring is a seemingly calm manifestation of water but in reality it is the river gushing up from underneath the rocks. The river’s current is visible with the frothy white spray it creates as it hits rocks. Further down, through the town, as the river deepens, there’s an opportunity to canoe and kayak over the clear, fresh water. An opportunity we will seize in the future. For now, admiring the emerald swirling mass was enough.

We visited the grotto and the paper mill and have planned to come back to visit the caves, which I’m very excited about. Here, even the loos were quaint, hosted by an old lady, shading herself from the hot sun. Ice-creams stalls were lining the pathways and I managed to resist a huge Italian ice-cream, knowing bikini season has arrived. There are many restaurants and cafés – even Michelin-starred places – but one in particular caught my eye, as an inside- outside restaurant.

We ate lunch by the green river side in a city close by. I had goats cheese in filo pastry followed by salmon and summer vegetables with a drizzle of basil oil, G opted for aubergine and basil mousse followed by asparagus and parma ham risotto.  It’s a place I know my mum would appreciate and I look forward to bringing her to Provence for all of its sophisticated yet quaint charm. Provence is a place for people who like to indulge in good food, good weather and good scenery.

We had a wonderful, charming day out and on the motorway back home we arranged drinks on the terrace – the perfect way to wrap up our first holiday-day among friends.

Social Success

 

I made Viennese Whirls for a social gathering on the weekend and they went down very well. I claimed they were British – but the name Viennese clearly claims otherwise. I’ve even been asked for the recipe. We sat outside, listened to music and ate toasted raviolis salad, followed by steak cooked on the outdoor grill. It was delicious. We were supposed to have steak and frites but the host was interrupted by a telephone call – a half an hour phone call – with a lady he likes, so we let him off. There was so much fresh beef to eat that we didn’t miss the chips too much at all anyway. One of the guests had arrived with a huge chunk of beef – a prime cut – and hacked it into steaks in the kitchen (she’s a meat supplier). She also came with a magnum of St. Emilion and a guitar; I liked her immediately.

It was a great evening, full of joking, mini language lessons, food and drink and I met lots of new people. It seems as soon as I wrote about my lack of social gatherings, I was invited to many.

I have now met lots of new people and have seen them a few times after that evening. Last night we had another boys night at mine but it was lovely. I escaped into the bedroom to write for a while, equipped with fresh coffee, a smelly candle and my laptop. G cooked a wonderful ratatouille and we watched the film Intouchable, which I highly recommend; it’s such a wonderful film, very uplifting!

It’s G’s birthday next week and although he’s not keen on celebrating it, we’re having a Mexican night and an Italian night. It’s going to be great! Now I have a short window of some peace and quiet to get things done before it all begins again…

Abbaye d’Aiguebelle

 

Recently we visited the beautiful Aiguebelle Abbey. It’s a serene and peaceful place to stroll around during the afternoon. The abbey also offers religious/spiritual retreats, for those who desire to immerse themselves in the way of life for more than an afternoon.

As a Trappist monastery, there are signs posted on the stone walls asking for silence. Trappist monks follow the rule of St. Benedict under “Strict Observance”. They take three vows: stability, fidelity and obedience. They also remain silent for the majority of the time, only speaking when necessary. St Benedict insisted on silence and it is therefore important to their way of life. He believed that idle talk was dangerous and can lead to evil amusement. He also believed that speech prevented deep reflection and contemplation, leading to exercising one’s own will and not that of God. Listening and reading are preferred or meditative thought processes. For St. Benedict, even laughing could be maleficent. The level of obedience sounds a bit much for me.

Whilst I was there, I observed  the monk’s daily timetable on the wall. They wake up at 3.45 am and finish their working day at 8pm. Their day is divided between religious activities and work. At the Aiguebelle Abbey there is a large shop selling the monk’s produce. Wondering around the shop I was surprised to see books on other religions being sold. Flicking through a French book on Tibetan Buddhism whilst in a Roman Catholic monastery seemed a rather absurd moment. Aiguebelle has become a name synonymous with great produce, including syrups, cheeses and much more.

The Aiguebelle Abbey has also become known for a murder which occurred there in 1891. The notorious crime happened in the evening of the 28th October, when Father Ildefonse was found murdered and robbed by the monk Brother Eugène, who had robbed many valuable items from other monasteries. He was executed by guillotine, on 5th July 1892. This story has a rather Agatha Christie feel to it, I thought.

Walking around the grounds I was deep in thought. The area was lovely to walk around. I saw statues between brightly coloured flowers, that in turn, stood out against the light rocks. They were clearly tended to by the careful monks. We began talking quietly, crunching the light gravel underfoot, as we walked up the small incline to look over the abbey buildings. There’s plenty of space to picnic up at the top. We didn’t stay up there long and took a shortcut back down a steep muddy path, under trees. We past a small waterfall and running stream towards a chapel built into a cave and it felt like we’d stumbled upon a secret, apart from the fact that others were there too.

Being around so much positive, spiritual energy and being around good people, was a great feeling. I read the plaques on the wall of the cave giving thanks. There were people lighting candles for those they had lost. The care, the devotion and the love shown was uplifting. One sign I saw resonated with me more than the others. It said something along the lines of: “Thank you for our son Nicholas, who sadly died in a car accident”. Instead of being bitter, they thanked a higher spiritual realm for having him in the first place. Seeing life through a prism of positivity and gratitude, I felt inspired by the other people and their beliefs.

Sitting on a park bench with some friends of friends, we discussed whether the feeling we had in the chapel was an exterior or interior sentiment. Was it because we had a notion and knowledge of God that we felt tranquility and respect within the impressive Medieval walls, or did we feel this way because the architecture was impressive. We briefly explored the notion of the abject or sublime and questioned whether the feelings were similar to that of standing on a cliff’s edge, watching lightening or a beautiful sunset. Was it simply because this place was consecrated and divine to those who could believe it, that the buildings had a spiritual strength to them? Our conclusion was that answering religious questions, is like defining art. It’s a level of communication beyond our physical comprehension.

I just wish I hadn’t drank red wine with lunch beforehand, I felt heavy, drowsy and aware of the faint smell of alcohol – I avoided getting too close to anybody. A man with a sport’s car, sat watching passersby, admiring those admiring his car. We sat with him for a while, as I tried to suppress hiccups. He was a friend of a friend. I undersold my level of comprehension so that I could sit quietly and people-watch. I saw some nuns sat on a picnic bench and lots of people ignoring the signs, chatting away, heading to the shop to buy some produce.

They exchanged stories about people they knew who had taken up the religious retreat programme here. A woman who had suffered miscarriages, another whose marriage had broken down and I could understand why coming here could help to fix the soul. Being around positivity, in all religions, would heighten your own.

Driving down the winding hill, the expanse of fields below in varying shades of green and yellow, were picturesque. We drove home reflectively. It was a nice way to spend a sunny afternoon, for the believers and non-believers amongst us. The  little dog even got to drink some fresh water from a natural source, and chase after some butterflies, before it exhausted itself and had to be carried. Next time I head there I’m going to come home with a bounty of goods, for if their lavender cordial is anything to go by, their hard work pays off!

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Source: google.com via Lenxy on Pinterest

Cerises

My friends here are made up of G’s friends (boys) and their mothers. Writing isn’t really conducive to meeting people, unless I’m exploring for an article but then human interaction is short-lived. I have signed up with the pole-emplois at the local town-hall for job opportunities and have had personal recommendations from a local language teacher and council representative – which is great but things here are slow. It’s been more than ten days and I haven’t heard a thing! Atleast I have lots to write about.

I received an email about a writing competition last week. The brief is to come up with a short film idea – a ten minute online film. I have been scribbling down so many ideas but the budge is quite small, so I’m having to abandon some far-fetched surreal and philosophical ideas for comic moments between people. It’s a lot of fun, exhilarating even, but I don’t have long to select one idea, create a script, write a treatment and outline how I’d divide up the budget. I’m also working on my story, hoping to have it finished to present to family members on holiday in August.

Writing to deadlines, finding work and being too hot to open the windows means that I appreciate my aperitifs with the women and boys all that much more (I call them ‘boys’ but their average age is 30). Yesterday I was given a lovely pallet of cherries from one of the ladies’ gardens. It’s so thoughtful. I’ve been offered roses too and so we’re buying a vase on Thursday from a specialist glass shop.

I am heading to Cannes soon too for some coastal sunshine and to see some friends. One is getting married in two weeks and lives here permanently and the other is working a summer season on a yacht before med school. I’m very excited to see them and in such a wonderful place. Maybe some hangers-on from the film festival will be there still enjoying the Cote d’Azur and I shall bump into a script writer or director at a beachfront bar and he’ll want to make my book into a movie – that would be nice… Maybe I will just drink cocktails on the beach with old friends though and be just as happy.

Whilst I sit here munching on these lovely French cherries, I miss having girly friends around me and the acerbic wit of many of my male counterparts in the UK but I’m happy to have the people around me that I’ve met so far. Especially when they bring me such wonderful gifts.

I was thinking about what recipes I could do with the cherries – but they are so wonderful as nature created them. This week I will be mostly writing and nibbling on fresh fruit. I’ve also been commissioned for cake-baking, for events on the weekend. I will let you know how it goes – maybe I shall make some more friends?

Sunday Driving

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Yesterday, a cold blustering wind pushed through the town trying to destroy the playful Sunday atmosphere. The yellow sunshine and bright blue skies meant many were persuaded to buy rotisserie chickens rather than stand over a hot stove all morning preparing Sunday lunch. G’s mum had reserved ours and instead of the planned, leisurely walk in the morning sunshine to pick it up, we relied on the car to shelter us from the sideways wind.

Just as the week before, when G and I tried to buy our roasted chicken from these pop-up stalls dotted around town, the cues were enormous. We drove around town in the heat last week trying every rotisserie stand we could find and they’re not easy to locate when you’re not too well acquainted with their whereabouts. Some are set up outside boulangeries, some outside fruit vendors, we drove for half an hour until we found another. We didn’t know last week about reserving chickens either. As I waited patiently in the cue, reprimanding an old cyclist who thought nothing of pushing in and eyeballing a woman who had the same intentions, we were told after fifteen minutes that unless we’d reserved a chicken, there were none left and we’d go without. One friendly lady told us where we could find some more that would be ready at 1.30pm but after smelling crispy and juicy chickens all morning with garlicy sautéd potatoes, we couldn’t wait any longer. We tried a butcher, no such luck. We were resigned to our fate and opted for slices of cold roast beef instead and warm, freshly-baked baguettes from the baker next-door.

The butcher was a charismatic man, obviously ready to shut up shop and enjoy the sunny Sunday afternoon. “Take that, yes. Anything else? No? I shall pour some eschallotte oil over the beef slices? Yes?” We nodded to his seemingly rhetorical meanderings and happily headed home with our bounty. I constructed a gherkin, mustard, lettuce, tomato and beef sandwich and he was very right about the tasty sauce.

This week however, we had our chicken reserved. Whilst I picked up the baguettes, G’s mum waited in line. I spotted a homeless woman shading herself by the awnings of a closed shop. We were one of the smug customers who smiled inside and out when the announcement came that there were no more left. I saw G’s cousin in the line at the rotisserie, well it wasn’t a line, more like a crowd. She said a quick hello and I heard her huff after the announcement turning to her companion and saying “McDonalds then?”, I felt sorry for her.

As we crossed the road, our roasted free-range chicken and garlic and parsley spuds in arms, I noticed the homeless woman was now sunbathing in a turquoise bikini in the empty carpark. “Why not?” I thought to myself and it made me feel a ray of happiness that this woman who life, through luck or lousy choices, was leaving behind, was taking solace in the sunshine and appreciating the small positives she had around her. If I’d had money I would have brought her a chicken – smelling that all day could not be fun. Then I saw she had a sandwich, a big one and I was happy.

At the house we tucked into the usual odds and ends as an array of delectable goodies were brought out of the fridge. I’ve never had a roasted chicken before with spicy guacamole and black tapenade that’s for sure. I agreed to a small amount of red wine to accompany G’s mum but I’m not a fan of hazy and heavy wine in the middle of the day, especially in summer.

I had brought a chou fleur gratin with me, cauliflower cheese to us Brits. I had made it the day before to bring to the cancelled bbq due to the belligerent blasts of wind and shamefully, a third of it was gone. Gin and tonics on the terrace had made me hungry and in my slightly inebriated state I ploughed into it, appreciating the béchamel sauce I’d spent an hour making. Thankfully, it went down very well with everyone – even G said it was delicious and he doesn’t enjoy béchamel or chou fleur – another success story to fade the memory of that terrible pie.

Driving home I expressed disappointment at the wind. Shielded by the car, it was a glorious day. So rather than stay inside at home we went for a drive. We headed towards Nyons and it was stunning. We drove through vineyards and past old, crumbling, golden-stoned buildings. We drove past olive trees, fruit orchards and palm trees. I saw the Côtes-du-Rhône vineyards and the Vinsobres grapes lapping up the sunshine. Large barrels were used as signs, as were large wine bottles, and Hollywood style signs. It was better than I had imagined. Fields stretched over the land rolling out in front of us, all shining from the golden sun and enriched by the blue skies. The lack of modern houses and the sparsity of commercialism and people in this very productive and natural area, added to the delight of it all. The quiet roads, winding through it with respect, were somewhat empty of vehicles, yet not deserted. Some cyclists passed us by and some motorcyclists too, appreciating what the day had brought them.

We were alert for Napoleon’s Eagle but didn’t spot it. As we passed Grignan, I tried to coerce G into stopping so I could pick some cherries off a tree that was just reachable from an old stone wall. He smiled but kept driving, knowing that a neighbour had collected some for me. The views of the Medieval towns built into the hillsides, the vineyards with aphid-attracting rose bushes, the orchards with brightly coloured fruit, was almost too much. Veering around a floral precipice, I was fixated on the views beneath us. I saw signs for handmade ice-cream, a chocolate factory and wine tasting. I was in paradise. I also saw artists’ work hanging in windows and signs for an upcoming Marcel Proust festival. “I love it here”, I said relaxing into my chair, “If the sea was just an hour away I’d be even happier”.

Two hours into the drive and the beauty was over-stimulating. I started to get tired of seeing vineyards and noticed that the towns were empty. “A lot of rich Dutch people have spent billions on properties here and then don’t use the villages until the height of summer”, G explained, spotting NL number plates ahead of us. It was disappointed to see the lack of life in the stunning villages which made me dream. One after the other, I found something more beautiful. A cafe/restaurant by a fountain, made out of crumbling ruins, or a castle/chateau with manicured gardens, or even simple farm houses with turquoise/blue shutters (my new favourite colour). Flowers were in full bloom and the pinks against the gold stone and blue shutters were postcard perfect. Flowers were an essential part of the landscape. I noticed that in some towns, the mass of flowers were the most alive thing there.

We drove back a quicker way – a lot less scenic – with plans to spend a day in noted villages that we had passed previously. We talked about business ventures and dreams and decided to come back for wine tasting soon. The French countryside is such a wonderful place to dream. It’s moments like this that I forgive cultural clashes and programming and just appreciate where I’ve chosen to live. All of it was beautiful but it’s the kind of beauty appreciated by a vacation rather than a photo. How do you chose to represent a small part of this place when it’s a place that needs to be experienced in its entirety – including the food, the art, the morning sun and the warm dusk aperitifs… I love being here. If only I could drop in my friends and a bit of the English culture I’d be even happier!

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Source: google.com via Lenxy on Pinterest

Source: google.com via Lenxy on Pinterest

Source: google.com via Lenxy on Pinterest

Source: google.com via Lenxy on Pinterest

Source: google.com via Lenxy on Pinterest

Source: google.com via Lenxy on Pinterest

Source: google.com via Lenxy on Pinterest

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British Bourginon

I used a trusty Jamie recipe a couple of days ago to make a delicious beef stew. I cooked the chunks of beef for 3 hours, leaving me time to get on with what I needed. Such a hassle-free dish. G was rhapsodised, it was a very French meal that I’d got perfect in his opinion – thanks Jamie, it’s now G’s favourite beef stew too!

 

The only problem was the weather. It has rapidly increased into the 30s, which I’m used to on exceptionally sunny days in the UK. This casual heatwave however, caught me unaware. It’s 10:30am here and I’m in a bikini, sweltering. The French sun leaves no time for the Earth to heat up, as a British summer does, it just arrives full-pelt, directly shining its rays upon us. It’s great though, if just a little sweaty…

I had to use up the beef, so I had no real choice for dinner. The heat from the oven wafted around the apartment for a few hours adding to the warmth of the day. Luckily the evening was cool, so it wasn’t so bad and I just imagined I was detoxing in a steam room. In the UK when we have weather like this we can thoroughly enjoy it and appreciate it, knowing that it won’t stay this way for long, here however, it’ll be like this through to October – hotter even. As we are inland and nestled into a valley, the temperature can be hotter than by the coast. Tomorrow: swimming pool and iced coffee!

The other problem I’m now facing is clothing – kindly G’s mum has lent me some summer dresses until I can buy and send for my own in the UK. She’s close to my size and kind of my style, so it’s ok for now and I appreciate the sentiments.

Today I’m going to have a picnic by the ruins of a castle and try to write in the shade. We are heading to a barbecue tonight and then drinks – the town has come alive. I wish you all a wonderful day (and if it’s cool enough I recommend Jamie’s recipe). Have fun.