Saturday, March 14, 2009

Local Visits

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Our friend Eliane has been terrific in including us in activities. She invited us to join her and Lina and go with them to visit the village of their grandparents. We have had guided tours of much of the local area and seen sights that rarely get mentioned in the tour books because of Eliane. When we have been with them, we have had perfect days – the sky has been deep blue and the temperature hints that spring is here. It has been warm enough that Ellen could wear her sandals. We had tea/cookies in the yard of the house/farm where their grandparents lived. On the way through the village, Eliane pointed out the community oven where everyone used to bring their bread to bake. The home was surrounded by fields of lavender. – and snow – because, at about 2,000 feet, there was still snow - though mostly in the shadows…

Next we stopped in the village where their father was born. Eliane spent some summers there and had great stories to tell. She found a woman who lives in the village to open the museum and turn on the lights in the church so we could really see it all. The church contains two paintings by an artist named Leyraud who was recognized by one of the Popes. The village of Le Poët-en-Percip is where her grandparents lived and La Roche-sur-le-Buis is where her father was born. Check them out on Google Earth.

Eliane and Lina explained that many villages have been close to the point of ruin because people living there have left them for work, easier accommodations, etc. Many of the villages have been saved – so to speak – by the people who have bought the real estate as vacation properties. In one immediate sense, the vacationers have invested in saving a location but in another, long term sense, they have ensured a different future for the village… Time will tell.

Sunday lunch

A week later, we got to meet the third sister at a family Sunday lunch. After a lovely dejeuner with the three sisters (mushroom ravioli with a sauce of créme fraîche and truffles, daube en civet – beef marinated in wine and herbs for over 24 hours then cooked and then returned to its sauce for more cooking time – and îles flottantes for dessert), we went for a long (3 hours) walk through vineyards and orchards and olive groves...

The almond trees are starting to flower (white or pink depending on the variety of almonds) and the fruit trees should begin to flower in a week or two. The landscape changes every 100 meters or so. It may be minor changes such as what is planted in the fields – though even passing fields of cherry trees followed by a vineyard or an olive orchard or a field of oak trees (truffles) can be breathtaking. Add to that the topography and the limestone cliffs and mountains and the noisy streams and the scrub oak forests and the color of the sky and every minute/every change is awe-inspiring. It is no wonder that the Romans loved this area. As one of our English ex-pat friends said: “I will sit in front of the Post Office with a cup in my hand before I’d think of returning to England.”

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