Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It's only been 10 days

Yes, the newbies have been making furtive forays into the rest of the house.
No, no pix yet because they are still 99% hiding in the far depths of the library.
Some signs:
Mya was caught in the kitchen yesterday evening by Sienne, who is not yet ready to share.
Mya was also spotted by JP fleeing the living room when we got home last night.
Someone made the floorboards creak on several occasions during the night, and it wasn't Sienne because she had been tossed outside to give us all a break.
The litterbox in the kitchen is far more popular than the one in the library. It is filled with clumping cat litter, while the other has plain litter. The trek to enemy territory is apparently worth it.
Dyson (sorry, but I just can't have a cat named for a woman-beating criminal. I think the cat will get over the switch to a D from a T. Otherwise his name would be Number Twenty-Seven.) allows himself to be petted from the depths of the cloth armoire where he usually hides.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Would update on the new cats, but this is all there is to see:
They are hiding in various places and refuse to come out. So much so that the one hiding in the library will not use the litterbox in the next room, but has peed all over the rug.
Thanks. Appreciate it.
Outdoors, the apricots are getting on. The old tree has plenty this year, but they are very very high up, and the tree is not strong enough to lean a ladder against to go get them. Best I can do is shake the branches and hope what falls doesn't get too badly bruised.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Never satisfied

Why is it that bringing home something large and red like a goat gets no response at all, but creatures cat-sized create a whole hub-bub?
Oh, it's because they are in fact actual cats.
And the other cat thought she was already The Cat.
Thought that she had finally gotten away with poisoning the others and was set to collect all the catfood and petting from here on out.
Got that.
The whole thing was just a diabolical plot to become Top Cat, by having no other cats around.
And now I've gone and ruined the whole thing.
I guess I should get on home now, and see if everybody is still there.

Last day

Sunday there's the annual community garage sale in Sarrians. A wonder people think they're going to sell any of that stuff. Except the baby clothes, that get outgrown before they're much used. But the rest of the junk? Are you kidding? Do people take it home again and refill their garages, or once it's out of the house it's out for good and goes in the trash?
The farmers market is hidden away among the rows of castoffs, and we fill up on olives and tapenade, and apricots.
I saw a report once on the world's smallest birds, hummingbirds the size of moths. I don't remember where they lived. There are some colorful little beasts that flit very very fast around the flowers at the front of the house. They don't act like insects. Bees, wasps, butterflies: insects usually land to feed, but these hover, so I thought they might be those tiny birds.
So I sat out there with the camera and took dozens of shots to get a handful in focus.

Nah, just a chunky moth.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

There was also a giant metal ant

Saturday we had intended, originally, to have packed up the night before in order to hit the road bright and early and make it to Issoire by 2 for the annual bridge fest there. We like the club in Issoire.
But, well, it's nice down here too; all this sun, and the pool is finally filled and clean and ready to swim in. And we've nearly finished off that great tapenade from the Moroccan at the market, who'll be there again on Sunday but not before. Oh, and the traffic. Weekend traffic on the A7 is just hell.
Tell the cat guy to come around for another couple of days, and we'll go back Monday.

Besides, this way we not only get to sleep in, but there's treasure hunting at the junk market in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon Saturday morning. Where I got my dinosaur last year.

Oooh, look! Stone kitty! Or concrete. There are two, and I could put them like lions at the entrance to my house. But I do not get the kitties after all. They are really heavy. Instead, I bought a goat. The goat is quite light.
There was a rabbit, too. Really a hare, and I would have said giant hare before encountering one in the flesh in Normandy a couple of summers back and realizing they really are that big. A nice bright blue hare, up on its hind legs looking around. If you took the legs off the goat and stood it on its butt and made it blue, the hare would be almost that big.

Friday, June 19, 2015


Let's go get some more wine.
Vinsobres is one of JP's preferred places for that, though he had never visited the town perched on its hill, only the cellars along the road. So let's fix that.
Yep, lots and lots and lots of vineyards around here. If not vines, then olives or cherries or lavender or salad, or a hundred things.
That's a well, with its little hat.
Not all the direction signs are so nice.
See! Olives and lavender, both at once. The grapes are behind me.

Then it's off for a quick tour of the touristy town of Isle sur Sorgue, where there's a particular shop for olives and all sorts of provençal jams and herbs. It's a cute place, but along one side of the stream just one restaurant after another, and on the other side a solid line of antique & artsy junk places. ooo, I would like to see some of that junk, but darn if it isn't closing time. Well done! I do very much like the submerged ear.

And, it's poppy season. I insist on stopping at this one wheat field particularly invaded by flowers, where my kindly chauffeur waits patiently for me to cross the busy road and slog all the way to the far side of the field in order to have the sun in the right direction.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Down the Gardon

Thursday. Time to go canoeing down the Gardon. It's hot out, and being on the water will do us some good. Since I'm blogging this with 2 weeks delay, from my office, there will be less and less text. Just enjoy the pix.
2-person kayaks piled up at Kayak Vert. There are just as many blue canoes off to the right, and red canoes off to the left, for two of the other outfits wishing to rent you a float and a one-way bus ride. I shudder to think of the summer season when all these boats will be in use at once! Wall to wall people. Today is not a school holiday, so it's okay.

 There it is, as promised! The Pont du Gard.

We predicted just under 4 hours for the 8 km float, with a generous stop for lunch along the way, and many minutes trying to capture those pretty dragonflies on camera. Right on time at the pullout - we were the last kayak on the rack, no hanging around waiting for a full load.

Then later we played bridge in Vaison again. The evening game there has as many tables as they do in the afternoon, which is nice. Much more amusing to come in first than in the middle, too. A bit more regular practice and we can do really well together.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The next two days

Tuesday, a lazy day. 

The pool guy drained the pool over the weekend, and didn't clean out all the mud and debris before starting to refill it with fresh water. We don't get that, but he's the pro. The pool is filling slowly, slowly; might be done just in time for us to leave. It's hot out. It would be good to be able to use the pool.
The yard has been fairly neglected. The local caretaker only works 5 hours a month - how can it be expected to to keep a yard this large looking nice with just 5 hours a month (one hour a week) to keep the weeds down and the house in shape? Can't be done. Get serious. Well, the place isn't being rented out for the season yet: perhaps there's a big clean-up all at once just before the clients arrive. We don't count. This is JP's son's & ex-daughter-in-law's property, but it was JP who renovated the whole place a decade ago. A lot of work that was. He put a lot of effort into it, and while now he stays for free whenever he's down here, it's particularly hard for him to see that it isn't cared for in the way he would care for it.
So that’s for the morning – yard work & lazing around. Grilled stuff and ice-cold rosé for lunch. Bridge in the afternoon at a club about half an hour away.

Wednesday, the morning spent strolling about, the afternoon grilled sardines with JP’s brother and his wife.

Heywaitaminute ! R was just reassuring JP that Caroline had been found after all. Caroline was missing ? I thought Caroline had been placed with in-laws, happy as a clam.
Well yes, he had been given over to a nice lady in need of a large, calm, lap cat. And the cat skipped town after a day or two. Was gone a week before coming around all thinned out and contrite. Everybody is very happy he’s back.
A-huh. Nobody ever told me that sweet Caroline had gone missing.
Didn’t want to worry me.
Didn’t want to regret not giving me the cat after all. 
Anyway, it’s just some dumb cat.

Some dumb cat! oh, you think.

Then after a long siesta, once the edge is off the heat of the day we go down to that neighborhood winery we like so much to test the rest of their wares. They've got a great leg of Spanish ham out today, and our friend behind the counter just keeps shaving bits and more bits off as we make our way through their collection of reds, and revisit the rosés. Ohh, yes that is nice. Box that up for us, too.
We end up such good customers he throws in a magnum for us to enjoy later in the week.
We'll be back. Indeed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Ah, Monday! Now it's a real vacation, not a weekend that just anybody can have off. Now we're talking.

Another gorgeous afternoon tooling around the countryside. Today's excellent hilltop village is Gordes. On the way here we passed the signs for Apt, where I was instructed to go and taste the angelique confit (a sort of flower, preserved in sugar). But it's an extra half hour to get there, and perhaps they have angelique confit around here. I check around the tourist shops, which do indeed have an impressive collection of unusual and expensive things in sugar, but no angelique.

Gordes is one of those wonderful little villages, all piled up on itself on a point, nice defensive ground, view all around, flowers in the windowboxes, streets too narrow for cars. Time to peruse the ceramics shops and sit at a café on the central square for a cool, bubbly beverage. Perrier with mint syrup, please.

From there we go to Roussillon. For JP, this preserved jewel of a medieval village piled up on its crag is quite different from Gordes just a few minutes away. There, the stone is yellow-white-ochre, cut in narrow slabs. Here the stone is covered with a thick layer of plaster, in deeper colors, lots of reds. For me, these villages and the others all around are more similar to each other than different. The way they cut the stone - here narrow slabs, there small blocks, farther on large blocks - and the colors of that stone - from white through yellow to red - covered or not with plaster, is a detail. I tend to notice the larger caracteristics, the organisation around a central square with a shaded well and a church and a cluster of cafés, the narrow streets, the colorful wooden shutters and flowers on every façade.

Back toward Gordes and beyond it we stop at the Senanque Abbey. It's just closed for the day. Vespers was called on the bells just as we parked, and the monks and their visitors staying in retreat are all in the chapel, chanting the liturgy. They have quite an impressive kitchen garden out back, and a soft field of lavender just about to bloom out front.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sunday, Sarrians

First thing, the marketplace for proper fruit and veg, hoping the usual morrocan guy will be there with his trailer full of dried fruits and nuts and spices and most especially olives of all sorts and olive oil and tapenade. Ohhh, that's some wonderful black tapenade.
We're going to a different market for a larger selection of fruit & veg, but I can't resist the apricots at this one, and it's a good thing because they are better than the ones later. You just never know. Salad, tomatos, onions, cilantro, melon, lemon, bread... should do us for the week.

Next we are off to the coast, to Saintes Maries de la Mer. Three Saint Marys all at once in a little whitewashed town on the Mediterranean shore, full of tourists even at this early date. We have missed the big annual event by a week - when they take the effigies of the Saint Marys for a walk around town. Also not on today is the parading of the bulls through town. This is the Camargue, famous for its black cattle, and bull (not beef) steaks, white horses to herd them through the marshy flats, and the pink flamingos.

To get to Ste Maries there are just one or two roads, one along the coast and the other heading inland. We're on the inland on, and I imagine in the summer it's really awful: one lane each way, lots of turns so you have to be crazy to pass, and lined with hotels, farmstands, campgrounds, and places to rent horses for a stroll through the high grass. Today it's nice. Hot but not too hot (barely!). Not too many cars on the road. The fields green and lush, the sky cloudless. We see plenty of horses, because they're right on display by the road, waiting for clients. Not a one, much less a herd, running joyfully through the marsh in the sunset as you see in all the postcards. Though it isn't sunset yet, so maybe that explains that. We see some cattle, though, parked in an otherwise deserted show-corral, not making their coal-black way through the green marsh. Poor guys. They look at us like they know we have bull steaks ready for the grill later.
Oh look! Look!

Yes, there are flamingos, and I am not the only one to stalk them. In a month once the summer is in full swing they must be terribly harassed. But they're so pretty. And those other birds, they're pretty too. And closer. If only I had one of those horses...

We take the way back that goes through Arles. Been 11 years since I saw Arles; it hasn't changed much. What's a decade to the millenia-old Roman vestiges? So beautiful in the clear sun. I like Arles, with all its details and its secret alleys and its generous rooftop terraces.

The church (don't ask me which one) is surprisingly rich in detail. All the saints faces, and indeed the saints in full, are still there. The vast majority of churches took a devastating blow during the Revolution, in which the Republican populace rose up against both the monarchy and the church, and destroyed most of the exterior decoration. But here are some. Perhaps a restoration, but the tympans have rarely been restored, sporting instead faceless or headless saints or even empty spaces where they used to be. It's fascinating how each head is different, each an individual not a generic icon, their expressions telling their woes and worries.

This whole region is littered with Roman sites and monuments. Can't dig a well without doing a preventive archeological study (in Clermont too and the whole nation, actually, not just in Provence). Here's another one, a roadside stop on our road home. There's a whole ancient town here to discover, up a path into the wooded hills, but it's late so we'll do that some other time.