WARNING DIAL UP CONNECTIONS (if anyone still uses that...?). This post is very picture heavy.
My family's days spent in Provence (South France) was a real pleasure, our hosts Catherine and Barry very happily planned our days out as they have both lived in this area for quite sometime and are always keen to introduce guests to places they may not have imagined of visiting.
I loved breakfasts at their house, beautiful toasted white bread, brioches, baguettes...it changed up every morning!
Catherine's homemade fig jam was a real treat, being the fig fan I am. They have fig trees in their backyard and apparently they get so many figs, they don't have enough space for them all! When they are in season, Catherine complains that even though she makes truckloads of jam, and freezes them for later use, there's still figs that are on the ground everywhere! What a dilemma to be in! She very kindly gave me a jar of her jam to bring home as well, which I've delicately been going through, as I may otherwise just inhale it all accidentally...
We also tried the fruit bread that we bought in Switzerland, it's very much like Christmas cake...and maybe a bit heavy for breakfast. Bit of spice, a bit of fruit and quite chewy.
After breakfast, they took us down to Bargemon, to explore their little village which is just the most charming thing ever. I'm amazed cars can get around at all, the roads are so narrow, and it's just cobblestone everywhere.
I found I had this strange affixation with windows, not just in Bargemon, all over Europe, I have squillions of photos of windows and window shutters. There's something charming and intriguing about the worn out shutters and the long narrow window panes, as opposed to the big square ones you typically see in Australia. I suppose in a way they are the eyes of a building, and provide a lot of character, especially when the window frames and shutters are brightly coloured against a plain coloured wall.
This is the centre of the village pretty much, the supermarket, organic food store and home boutique store are all owned by the same woman, who I couldn't help but notice had her make up perfectly done and carried herself with a dignified air, yet was still chatty and helpful...even if she couldn't communicate to my mum and I. It's so funny how small the town is really, every other person that walked by would stop Catherine or Barry, give them a kiss on the cheek and stop to chit chat about the day. As I've always lived in the city, this familiarity of everyone around you was such a strange notion. Although I did love how everyone's time was really their own. On another visit into town, Catherine took my mum and I back to the boutique shop, as mum wanted to buy some curtains (seriously, the shop was SO cute), while my dad had a nap and my brother caught up with friends on Facebook and Barry came along to get some groceries. Mum was taking her time so Barry sat outside at one of the cafes, got a beer and within 20 minutes had another couple who had passed by, sit down and also order a drink! And there they stayed for another hour until we had finally finished running around!
Such nonchalance, it was so refreshing for a change. Can you imagine if the city was like that? I would love nothing more many days than to sit in a cafe with a book or my laptop and read or be creative. It's been something I've been meaning to do more often since returning....but guess what? I just haven't had time!
After exploring town, we went for a drive to what we were told are "France's answer to the grand canyon". I've never been to the Grand canyon so I can't really compare, but where we taken was certainly beautiful.
The drive was filled with valleys and limestone, although honestly, it was still a little hard to be amazed after being in Switzerland...
However, when we stopped at gorges du Verdon...oh my goodness. I was in absolute awe. We walked down towards the river which was as blue as I've ever seen. Have you seen water more turquoise than that in your life? I promise I didn't photoshop the colour! The water was so amazingly clear, even as the river was running you could look right through to the bottom and see the shape of every single stone on the riverbed. I wish I could have spent a little longer there, as we sat quietly, just listening to the rushing of the water and feeling the cool breeze blow around us.
But we did have to move on, as lunch was calling us! We were going to have lunch at one picnic spot, but for some reason, as it was closed, Barry and Catherine kept driving along until they found a big enough grassy patch on the side of the road where we could park our two cars and also pull out the portable picnic table! Isn't it cute?!
Catherine had prepared everything, except the wine opener, to Barry and Dad's dismay! We had couscous, fresh and sweet cherry tomatoes, pate, a sausage that I can't remember the name of...but was delicious, I think there were actual chunks of fat in it that made me shiver in delight and horror at the same time, delight from how delicious it was....horror at the thought of it going to my hips later...oh well...
And following the savouries, we had cheeses, a baby rock melon (it was the size of two fists! So cute!) and home made lemon cake. I loved the sugar crystals on the outside, gave it a kind of crunchy texture. Mmm!
Upon satisfying our stomach's (once again), we packed up and drove to possibly what I think, is one of the most beautiful things I have EVER seen.
This my friends is Lac de Sainte-Croix (Lake of Saint Croix). Isn't is just amazing? The water again, is really that blue and my photos do it absolutely no justice.
I really wish I could put you all on a plane and take you to see this just so you can feel how I felt when I saw it, I think my jaw just dropped open and I couldn't stop 'ooh-ing' and 'aah-ing' and getting over excited (as Brad knows very well).
After taking our pictures and sighing happily a multitude of times, we made our way to Moustiers, a nearby village...where they happened to be having a food fare that weekend (go figure). We were however, hit with a sudden dose of fat raindrops so didn't get to wander around as much as I want.
Although we did get some absolutely delicious almond meringues and nougat....mmmmmm.
Moustiers also has some of the most gorgeous ceramics I've seen. They are all over Provence in general, and each have their own special signature or style or colour, but Moustiers ceramics I found were so delicate and pretty, the paintings on them were so elegant yet free spirited. White plates with little flecks of blue paint, occasionally yellow and some red, often featuring the 'Moustiers bird'. Whilst I didn't buy any ceramics, as they would've been too hard to bring home, I came to a compromise with mum and we bought a table cloth with the plate patterns instead!
Before heading back, we stopped for a little tea break in a small hotel/cafe/restaurant.
Aren't the tables just gorgeous? Each of them were different and I wanted them in my house.
Dinner was a simple affair....of raclette. The best thing you can have when it's winter. Raclette actually refers to the type of cheese that's typically used for this, it's pungent, in the most delightfully cheesy and mature way possible and melts like a dream.
Basically, see the black thing at the back? There are little...spades? I don't know what you call them, but they are little triangle shaped spade things and you pop a slice of cheese them and then put them under the black circle grill and let them start oozing and bubbling and melting...
You then get some hot boiled potatoes...
And then you get your melted cheese see? And you POUR IT ALL OVER YOUR STEAMING HOT BOILED POTATOES.
Do I really need to explain more? Yes it makes your hair, your clothes and the whole house smell of cheese (which is why it's advisable to have it in winter and not in summer), but it's absolutely worth it. It's like a comforting melted cheese and ham sandwich...except you can just keep doing it over and over again.
Talk about having one of the biggest food coma's ever afterwards. I think we all went to bed that night quite exhausted, even though we didn't walk as much as we did in some places, I suppose so much visual and mental and tastebud activity can be more tiring than one thinks!