Thursday, February 29, 2024

Notre Dame de Venasque

I don't have any photos from inside the church at the top of the hill in Venasque, so I guess we didn't go in. The Wikipedia entry for Venasque mentions that the building is Romanesque in style, but doesn't say much else. I didn't do any further research.

One of the key characteristics of Romanesque architecture is rounded arches.
Notre Dame de Venasque. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

So, today is Leap Day. Our temperatures are slowly going down again. I've had fires in the wood stove for the past few days, and I think there will be more to come. The wood pile is dwindling and I'm scrounging for dry kindling. Come on, Spring!

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Did you know?

If you've driven in France, you've likely noticed signs like this. They announce that you are entering a village, town, or city. And they mean that the speed limit is 50 kph, unless otherwise posted. In this case, drivers are entering the town of Venasque and the speed limit from this point forward is "otherwise posted" at 45 kph. If it were 50, there would be no speed sign.

The yellow sign is the route number. Digitized color slide, Venasque, September 2001.

When drivers leave town, the sign is the same except for a diagonal red line (upper left to lower right) through the municipality's name. It also means that the speed limit from that point forward is 80 kph, unless otherwise posted. It's another thing I learned at driving school. And there were a lot.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

A fountain in Venasque

My photos are kind of mixed up. This one was taken in a small town called Vénasque, not far north of Gordes, a little south and east of Carpentras. I was able to identify the place by searching the web for the restaurant in the photo, L'Auberge de la Fontaine. A quick visit to Google Maps street view confirmed it.

Look at the doggies! I'm not sure what I was trying to capture here. Digitized color slide, Venasque, September 2001.

The restaurant seems to still be there, and it doesn't look much different than it did in 2001. I wish I had taken more photos there. Maybe I was getting burned out on tiny picturesque hilltop villages. Here's the fountain from another angle.

A better, slightly, view of the fountain. Digitized color slide, Venasque, September 2001.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Here we go again

So far, I haven't been able to identify the slides I'm scanning now. They are, for sure, part of the 2001 Provence trip, but I'm not sure which part of the trip. There are clues here and there and I'll try to pull it all together. Eventually. For now, I'm pretty sure that this is a view of the Alpilles mountain range seen from Les-Baux-de-Provence, a hilltop village built below the ruins of a medieval château.

Olive orchards proliferate in the lowlands just south of les Alpilles. View from Les-Baux-de-Provence. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

Les Baux is a big tourist draw and it can be very crowded, depending on the time of year that you visit. Cars are not allowed in the village itself. There are numerous parking lots down around the base of the hill. Bus after bus deliver visitors to the foot of the village to climb the one main street up to the castle at the top. Along the way are hotels, cafés, restaurants, galleries, and shops, not to mention view spots, all catering to the tourist trade. According to Wikpedia, the town's permanent population is fewer than three hundred people.

Don't get me wrong. The place is definitely worth seeing. But if you're averse to crowds, it's best to avoid the peak summer season.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

The rental house

I have some photos of the gîte (vacation rental) we stayed in back in September of 2001. They're scattered among the other slides that I still have to scan, so the ones I post won't be all together. The house was a longère, a long, often one room deep, building that faces south, with the north side pierced (if at all) with a few very small windows. They were built that way to maximize exposure to the sun and/or, especially in Provence, to turn their backs on the harsh Mistral winds.

The living room in our gîte near Cavaillon. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

The Mistral was blowing while we were there. I was afraid to barbaque for fear of the wind blowing embers into the field of dry grass in front of the house and starting a fire. That would not have been good. But our laundry did dry rather quickly, even if we had to chase after the stray sock or pair of underwear that blew off the line and took flight. As fellow blogger Dr. Spo would say, oh the embarrassment!

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Even more ochre

A parting shot from Roussillon, the village of ochre. Wikipedia says ochre is spelled "ocher" in American English. And so does Blogger's spell checker. I'll buck authority and continue to spell it ochre. And, just for fun, it's spelled ocre in French.

Clay rooftops and ochre-colored walls in Rousillon. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

We're in a pattern of weather right now that's commonly called les giboulées de mars (March showers), even though it's still February. April showers come in March in France. And it's cold outside; 3.2ºC (about 38ºF) outside when I got up this morning. Tasha and I will venture out once it gets light.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Happy Birthday, Tasha!

Today is Natasha's seventh birthday! In May, it will be seven years since we brought her home from the kennel. My, how time flies.

Seven year-old dog! Someone is due for some extra treats today.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

In other words

I remember a shop in Rousillon called Ocrement dit. It's a play on words that sounds similar to the phrase autrement dit which can be translated to "in other words" in English. I looked on the internet to see if the shop is still there and. yes, there's a ceramics shop named Ocrement Dit in Rousillon, but I don't know if it's the place we saw twenty three years ago. Let's pretend that it is.

Ochre in its natural habitat. Digitized color slide, Rousillon, Septmeber 2001.

The rain and wind blew in yesterday evening and it's been going through the night. The weather people say the worst of it is coming through today. I was industrious before the storm came and gathered wood for kindling before it rained.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

More ochre

Not much going on here right now. We're expecting a rain event to move in this afternoon, but it looks like it'll only be light rain by the time it gets here. I need to go outside and gather some more kindling before the rain starts. I made a fire yesterday, but I may not make one today since it's supposed to stay relatively warm. Cooler temps are predicted toward the weekend, so I'll probably burn more wood then.

Ochre colored buildings in Rousillon. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Lignes de rive

The broken lines on either side of this roadway (in this case, lignes de rive) mark the edges of the roadway (very helpful at night). Drivers are allowed to cross the line to stop, park, or turn.

A roadway near Rousillon, Provence. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

When I was taking classes to get my French driver's license (twenty years ago now!), I learned that marquages au sol (road markings) are very important. For example, a broad line across your lane at an intersection means "Stop," even if no stop sign is present. So you have to pay attention not only to roadside signs, but to what the markings are on the road surface.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Two make a pair

Rousillon is another well-known hilltop town in Provence. Wikipedia says that it's the second most visited village in the Luberon area after Gordes. The attraction? The town is known for its yellow and red ochre deposits, used for paints and dyes throughout history. I read that most ochre production in the area ceased as tourism increased over time.

A pair of doors in Rousillon. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Saturday was pizza day

I haven't made pizza in a while, so it was time. I made my standard dough: 333 grams of all-purpose flour, 222 grams (a little less than a cup) of water, a teaspoon of dry yeast, and a pinch of salt. It rises for about three hours. We had some leftover meat sauce in the freezer that I had labeled "pizza sauce," so I thawed it out and added a little tomato paste to it. Then I cut up slices of ham, some fresh mushrooms, and thawed some frozen bell pepper strips. Finally, Ken cut up the last of a Saint Nectaire cheese. After shaping the dough (by hand, no rolling) and adding the toppings, I dotted the pie with a handful of black olives. 

The first of two pizzas. Delicious!

The pizza baked on a stone in a hot oven (270ºC or about 500ºF) until it was done, about fifteen or twenty minutes. As usual, I made two pies for our main meal of the day. The second one got grated meule fruitée, a kind of comté cheese. A green salad would have been a good accompaniment, but for some reason we just didn't.

Saturday, February 17, 2024


While the felling of our tall cedar tree, with its high-wire chills, was exciting, what happened with the branches was no less fascinating. They were all ground into a fine mulch with a machine the crew parked in our driveway. The mulcher ran most of the day, devouring the trees branches, leaving only the trunks on the ground to be dealt with.

I didn't get a photo of the machine itself. The ground tree limbs filled up the truck a few times. You can see the dust accumulating on the deck railing (bottom right).

The mulching process was messy. It left a layer of fine sawdust and small chunks of wood on our terrace and on the ground around the machine. I don't think the crew realized how much wood dust there was on the deck until I asked them to clean it up. It was starting to look like a red clay tennis court. The guy who did the clean up used a leaf-blower to clear the deck. It took him about fifteen minutes.

Friday, February 16, 2024


After the top of the tree was cleared away, it was time to fell the bottom two-thirds of the trunk. It was done in much the same way as the top, with a rope attached to the upper part so the ground crew could be sure the tree fell where they wanted it to, and a wedge removed at the base by the lumberjack. When the trunk hit the ground, I felt the house shake.

The stump will stay in the ground until it rots. I can't imagine what it would take to dig it out.

The crew got to work cutting the trunk into "small" chunks, which they later chopped into even smaller chunks. Those they loaded into a truck and took away. It took several trips to clear it all. I kept two of the sections to use as chopping blocks for cutting up firewood.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Tippity top

It was about at this point (about two-thirds up the trunk) that the lumberjack stopped sawing off the cedar's limbs. Just after I snapped this picture, he climbed up among the branches and attached a rope around the trunk. He tossed the loose end down to the ground and the crew took up the slack while moving well away from the base of the tree.

I wonder if the lumberjack's hobbies include mountain climbing?

Once the all-clear was given, he sawed a notch into the trunk just below the lower branches. The treetop tipped and down it went, landing with a dull thud on the ground below. The ground crew sawed off the branches and mulched them in short order.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The beginning of the end

Here's how the lumberjack and the landscape guys got under way on Monday. The first step was to cut the branches off the trunk of the tree. That stopped at about two thirds of the way up. While the guy in the tree cut the branches, the crew on the ground took them to a mulcher (parked in the driveway) to grind them up.

The lumberjack (red helmet) in the tree cuts branches while one of the ground crew moves them to the mulcher.

While the ground crew worked, the lumberjack hung out in the tree until all was clear below for the next round of cutting. And so it went on through the morning.

Little by little, the trunk is stripped of its branches.

I only took a handful of photos, and no videos. I haven't really learned how to take videos with the camera, let alone the phone, so I have none. More photos tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

The tree that was, and is no more

Our seventy-feet-plus Himalayan cedar, arguably the tallest tree in our hamlet, came down yesterday. It was an impressive sight and sound. First, the lumberjack (a specialist) climbed into the tree, clinging to the main trunk with an array of mountain climbing gear, and methodically sawed off all the branches on the lower two thirds of the tree's height, wielding his chainsaw with a one-handed precision that made me shudder. The landscaping crew cut up the thicker branches and hauled the smaller branches to the mulcher as they fell.

The cedar was so tall I couldn't fit all of it in the photo. Only the lowest branches still had green needles.

Next, our lumberjack tied the top third of the tree to a rope that the guys on the ground held. He climbed back down to the two-thirds point and cut the trunk while the ground crew pulled it in the direction they wanted it to fall. Whoosh! Thud! Amazing. They repeated that feat with the lower two-thirds of the trunk which, being heavier than the tree top, fell so hard in the lawn that it made a deep mark, not to mention an earth-shaking thud.

The guys (without the lumberjack; his work was done), started the process of cleaning up, cutting up the wood, and hauling it away. They'll be back this morning for the last of that and to clean up all the litter and sawdust. I'll post more photos of the process in the coming days.

Monday, February 12, 2024


Over the past couple of weeks we've been watching our back yard's annual cyclamen bloom. Patches of the little purple flowers pop up in mid to late winter, just ahead of the primroses. A sure sign of the coming spring.

Cyclamen in the north forty. That tree is about one meter, or three feet, in diameter.

Can you see the tree trunk in the upper left of the photo? That's our very tall Himalayan cedar that, save for a few lower branches, is just about dead. About two years ago, the guy who does our hedges pointed out that the tree seemed to by dying from the top. I think I was in denial for a while, but it soon became clear that we'd lose the tree entirely.

So, today is the day. The crew is expected to arrive this morning to take the tree down. I'll take photos as it happens. The back yard is going to be a very different place without that huge tree, but there's no choice in the matter. It has to be taken down before it comes down on its own, and it's close enough to the house to be a threat, especially when the wind howls.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

A wider shot

Still in Gordes, here's a more conventional shot of the town. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the impressive château that I see in other online photos of the town. The church is Saint-Firmin with its wrought iron belfry.

The hilltop town of Gordes. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

We didn't spend a lot of time in Gordes, although it's quite possible to do. Down below, not far from the town itself, is the famous Abbaye de Sénanque, also worth a visit.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Stony heights

Here's another photo that I took in Gordes. You can see part of a terrace visible on the upper left side of the image. The views from up there must be amazing. I wonder what some of these places look like on the inside.

Stone walls, Gordes. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

Today is market day in Saint-Aignan, but rain is predicted through the morning. I was thinking of going, but since we really don't need anything, I think I'll just stay home.

Friday, February 09, 2024


Gordes is a hilltop town with narrow streets that climb and descend abruptly. Each twist or turn might reveal a view of the valley below. This is our friend, Sue, exploring les ruelles (the narrow streets), their shops, and the views.

Exploring the back streets of Gordes. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

All of our walks with Tasha lately have been "muddy paws" walks. So far we've managed to passer entre les gouttes (walk between the raindrops) and not get too wet.

Thursday, February 08, 2024


Now I'm convinced that the last few images (starting with "Olive") are from the hilltop town of Gordes. It's a very popular tourist attraction and is filled with little shops, hotels, and eateries. Of course, I'm remembering it from twenty-three years ago, so things might have changed a bit.

A cozy little terrace with a valley view. Gordes. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

We had rain on and off yesterday and over night. They're predicting more of the same today and possibly tomorrow. Then the temperatures should start inching (centimetering?) down again. It is early February after all.

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

We're lost, but we're making good time.

This is another "I'm not sure where this is" shot. At first, I thought it might be Lauris, not far from Lourmarin. But after looking at some photos of the town on the internet, I don't think that it is. It could be Gordes. Yesterday's wrought iron belfry looks similar to one in Gordes, but I need to find a close-up to be sure. I'll keep investigating.

Somewhere in Provence. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

Looks like rain is moving in over the next couple of days. This morning's low is around 10ºC, so there's no chance of wintry weather. Just rain.

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Your guess is as good as mine

Or better. I haven't really tried to identify this wrought iron belfry in Provence. I don't remember it, and its position in the slide order isn't helping me. If any of you recognize it, please speak up!

Somewhere in Provence. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

The title of this post is one of those expressions that our friend CHM was amused (or annoyed) by. We Anglophones toss it around without thinking but it makes some Francophones scratch their heads. Or at least one that I know of.

Monday, February 05, 2024


I don't remember this place, but the sign is a little strange. The smaller print says, "Company Les huiles du Monde." I would translate that as "Oils of the World Company." First of all, "company" is an English word. The equivalent in French would be société or even compagnie. However, I know that using foreign words (and often English) in advertising is common in France. Then there's the odd capitalization. Why is the major informational word, huiles (oils) in lower case? I think the article les (the plural form of "the") is capitalized because it's the first word of the company's name. But why is huiles not capitalized while monde is? I'm neither a language expert nor a marketing expert, but it all seems a little strange to me.

A sign in Provence. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

None of this is a big deal, of course. It's just one of those (many) things that makes you scratch your head when you're trying to learn another language.

Sunday, February 04, 2024


Our friend of many years, Charles-Henry (CHM), died on Friday. He was 99 years old. Charles-Henry was Ken's boss in Washington, DC, back in the early 1980s and we've been friends since. A native Parisian, he loved the southern California deserts and lived there for many years after he retired. Thanks to Charles-Henry, we got to visit many of the desert places he knew and loved.

CHM, pointing out a cactus (or something like it) in the desert near the Salton Sea. Digitized color slide, 1997.

Saturday, February 03, 2024

Crêpes de la Chandeleur

Friday's savory crêpes were delicious despite our having used supermarket crêpes. We filled each of them with a slice of ham, sautéed mushrooms, grated cheese, and an egg. But when we folded them before baking, they kind of fell apart. I may try again in a few days, and maybe heat the crêpes before stuffing them to see if that makes a difference. We'll see. But I think that next year I'll go back to making my own.

Sorry about the dirty plate. This was the second helping. You can see that the crêpe itself broke along the fold lines. But it tasted great!

The home-made dessert crêpes worked marvelously and were also delicious. The recipe comes from an old book by a woman named Monique Maine and I've been using that recipe for years, decades even. I didn't take any pictures of those, of course. D'oh!

Friday, February 02, 2024

I shutter to think

I think this window is in Lourmarin. The photo is among those from there, so it's a logical deduction. I wonder if it's still there and, if so, what color it is now.

Window and shutter in Lourmarin. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

I mentioned yesterday that today, la Chandeleur, is crêpe day. I'll make the batter for the dessert crêpes this morning so it can rest in the fridge until I make them. We're going to use store-bought crêpes for the savory course. My last few attempts at making buckwheat crêpes from scratch have not been very successful. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, February 01, 2024

A close up

This is the bell tower of the church of Saint-André-et-Saint-Trophime in central Lourmarin. I can't find much about it on line. One site I looked at said that the building's history is mal connue (not well known). Interestingly, the belfry is not made from wrought iron as many belfries in this area are, but from a more traditional masonry. The blue-green color suggests to me that it's sheathed in copper.

Saint-André-et-Saint-Trophime, Lourmarin. Digitized color slide, September 2001.

Tomorrow is la fête de la Chandeleur (Candlemas) and the tradition in France is to eat crêpes on that day. We're planning, as usual, savory buckwheat crêpes for lunch, garnished with ham and cheese, and sweet dessert crêpes for after. Yum!