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To Market To Market

Posted by on Mar 27, 2016 in News | 0 comments

To Market To Market

Markets in Provence are much more than a shopping experience. Part social, cultural, artisanal and agricultural – they are a microcosm of Provençal society. They reflect the change of the seasons and the mood of each town and village and are a unique way to discover, explore and understand the Provençal way of life. During our Provence weeks, we take the time to savour the distinct personalities of each town through its markets: the sophistication of Aix-en-Provence and its beautiful Thursday flower market, the beauty of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue where the Sunday market weaves its way through winding streets and over tiny bridges next to huge moss-covered waterwheels, the quirkiness of Cadenet, centre for the production of wicker baskets in the 18th Century, the ‘luxe’ of Gordes’ small hilltop upscale market and the unique atmosphere of Carpentras where the market has been held each Friday since 1155! Of course, we don’t get to see each and every market during our tours, but we always enjoy a few judiciously chosen ones each time we visit that enchanted land. Join us next year and you too will admire the most wonderful displays of beautiful seasonal produce, honey, herbs, spices, wine, pottery, and those lovely distinctive Provençal textiles fashioned every which way....

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To Market to Market…

Posted by on Mar 25, 2016 in News | 0 comments

To Market to Market…

Markets in Provence are much more than a shopping experience. Part social, cultural, artisanal and agricultural – they are a microcosm of Provençal society. They reflect the change of the seasons and the mood of each town and village and are a unique way to discover, explore and understand the Provençal way of life. During our Provence weeks, we take the time to savour the distinct personalities of each town through its markets: the sophistication of Aix-en-Provence and its beautiful Thursday flower market, the beauty of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue where the Sunday market weaves its way through winding streets and over tiny bridges next to huge moss-covered waterwheels, the quirkiness of Cadenet, centre for the production of wicker baskets in the 18th Century, the ‘luxe’ of Gordes’ small hilltop upscale market and the unique atmosphere of Carpentras where the market has been held each Friday since 1155! Of course, we don’t get to see each and every market during our tours, but we always enjoy a few judiciously chosen ones each time we visit that enchanted land. Join us next year and you too will admire the most wonderful displays of beautiful seasonal produce, honey, herbs, spices, wine, pottery, and those lovely distinctive Provençal textiles fashioned every which way....

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Follow the Flock

Posted by on Jun 1, 2015 in News | 0 comments

Follow the Flock

Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep…. Not really. First of all, the sheep are definitely not lost – we know where to find them: In the Alps, the Pyrenees, the South West, and of course Provence. Each year, around the end of May and beginning of June, transhumance takes place.  Transhumance is a Latin term where ‘trans’ means across and ‘humus’ means ground. The herders and their flocks travel to higher pastures in the spring. France loves celebrations and festivals, and a few thousand sheep crossing towns and villages is surely cause for a grand Fête, n’est-ce pas? In some areas, as in Saint-Rémy de Provence, the feast is purely ceremonial. Two thousand sheep parade through the town – they go around twice so everyone can have a good look. There are marching bands, pretty ladies in traditional dress, herding demonstrations, and, of course, a giant banquet. The sheep are then transported by trucks up into the mountains – more efficient and less messy – all these closed roads clogged with thousands of sheep were disruptive. Not all regions agree on this approach though – in the South West (which may need to promote tourism a tad more than in Provence), they have returned to the traditional ten day walk through towns, villages, highways and byways. A return to tradition? Rather, a boost to tourism. Tourist offices and regional councils felt that shepherds who guide their flocks the old fashioned way with the help of their excellent herding dogs attract tourists much more than a convoy of transport trucks. They even offer packages where you accompany the herds for a few kilometres with possible meal and accommodation add-ons! Either way, these festivals are unique and a fun way to see yet another aspect of our favourite part of the...

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A Provençal Valentine

Posted by on Feb 8, 2015 in News | 0 comments

A Provençal Valentine

As befits Provence where everything is always a little over the top, the lovely town of Aix-en-Provence has managed to upgrade Valentine’s Day by tweaking it a bit and making it last a month! The Aix Tourist Office is announcing an impressive range of promotional options and activities ranging from discounted five star accommodations to a special deal at a local bowling alley! From the moment you arrive, you can benefit from a special taxi rate as you make your way to your choice of luxury hotels, charming inns and quaint bed & breakfasts, all offering a special Valentine rates. Enjoy special promotions at fine restaurants, on special tours, in interesting museums and at theatrical events. You can shop til you drop for up to 20% off! And the aforementioned Bowling du Bras d’Or is offering free shoe rentals… Granted, it is 3C in Aix today, but the sun is shining, the temperature will be in the teens all week and you will undoubtedly find a table at the normally crowded Les Deux Garçons café at this time of...

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Blog – Lavender Fields Forever

Posted by on Jun 5, 2014 in News | 0 comments

Blog – Lavender Fields Forever

June is, without a doubt, one of the loveliest months of the year. Things have finally started to warm up and we’re able to shed our winter layers without fear that there may be another cold snap around the corner. Should you truly want to experience June in all its splendour, you’d be wise to make your way to Provence as not only does the month mark the start of summer but the beginning of lavender season as well. There is nothing quite like a field full of lavender: the unbelievable smell, the vivid colours, the fields that appear to have been painted into the landscape… it’s truly what dreams are made of. In celebration of lavender season, here are some of the best places to experience this magical flowering plant. Abbaye de Sénanque Founded in 1148 under the watch of the bishop of Cavaillon, this abbey has been home to a great number of groups including the Cisetrian monks of the Immaculate Conception. In 1903, the community departed for the Order’s headquarters where it remained until 1988 when a small group returned. Monks continue to occupy the space, where they grow and harvest lavender as well as raise honey bees. Because it is an operating abbey, there are daily services which are open to the public. Beginning in June, they begin the process of extracting essential oil from their fields of lavender which are incorporated into a myriad of products available in the onsite boutique. Tours are available on a regular basis and it is important to note that a dress code is in effect. Musée de la Lavande Situated on the picturesque Route de Gordes, the Musée de la Lavande (Lavender Museum) is the perfect place to stop for a truly relaxing experience. Knowledgeable guides are happy to tell you about the fascinating history of lavender, its properties, how it has been tended in the past, and where the crops are headed in the future. Should you fancy a more independent experience, audio-guides are available for you to borrow so that you can peruse the exhibits at your own pace. In addition to being a museum, the Musée de la Lavande features an operating lavender farm and distillery. Should you be tempted to take home a souvenir or two, the museum’s shop offer a wide selection of homemade goods guaranteed to appeal to all tastes. Les Lavandes du G.A.E.C. Champelle This organic lavender farm serves as a producer, supplier, and retailer of carefully cultivated crops grown without chemical pesticides or artificial fertilizers. The result is a pure, healthy plant that you can feel safe about consuming and applying to your skin. While the fields aren’t open to self-guided tours, the farm is happy to organize visits for private groups. The retail shop is open to the public and features a wide selection of products ranging from dried lavender sachets to edible goods. Les Agnels Distillery The family owned Agnels distillery is open year round and is the place to take part in the ultimate lavender experience. Tours are led through the distillation area where visitors are given the chance to get up close and personal with the process that results in the extraction of essential oils from the plant. There are several workshops offered, including one devoted entirely to the olfactory experience and another based exclusively on taste. Naturally, there is a store that sells the fruits of the distillery’s labour which, after seeing the time and effort that goes into making each product, will be hard to resist. Self-Guided Driving Tours Organized activities not your thing?...

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Les ponts de mai

Posted by on May 3, 2014 in News | 0 comments

Les ponts de mai

The French have a reputation for being very good at what they do. Wine, cheese, political scandals…they really seemed to have cornered the market. One thing that this country of bon vivants seems especially wonderful at is enjoying time off. Notorious for its generous vacation time, France is a country that appreciates holidays. While the rest of us spend the month of May hoping for summer to finally show its face, the French are sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying three public holidays (and the time off that comes with them). Not only do they get the holiday, but they also add a pont – a bridge day, defined as being a day between holidays, which translates into a four-day weekend. Hence the special weather report for the 3 May ponts pictured above. That being said, it is worth noting that if you are planning a trip that coincides with these days, most services will be operating on a holiday schedule, if at all. Be sure to check ahead to ensure that you avoid any surprises. Vive les vacances! Fête du Travail (May Day/Labour Day) On May 1st, 1561, the reigning king of France received a sprig of lily of the valley, something that evidently pleased him so much that he decided to make it a tradition. The next year, he offered the same flowers to all of the women in his court and it caught on across the nation. These days on May 1st, sprigs of lily of the valley are as ubiquitous as cafés and for one day only, they are sold tax-free. They are also used to commemorate the Haymarket Affair, the violent end to what was supposed to have been peaceful rally in support of workers asking for an eight-hour workday, which evolved into Labour Day. Whether they are used to decorate the windows of a local pâtisserie,  presented to a loved one,  or commemorating Labour Day, they are a symbol of springtime that adds even more brightness to the start of a beautiful month. Fête de la Victoire (Victory in Europe Day/Armistice Day) On May 8th, 1945, the Allies of World War II accepted the surrender of Germany’s armed forces, which meant that the war had finally ended. Eight years later, the day was officially declared a national holiday in France. Shortly thereafter, in an effort to encourage reconciliation between France and Germany, President Charles de Gaulle decided to take away the day’s holiday status. The cancellation remained in effect for several decades until the restoration of the holiday in 1981 by Francois Mitterand. Luckily for the French, the Fête de la Victoire seems to be here to stay which means that only a week after celebrating the Fête du Travail, workers and students are able to enjoy another day of leisure. Ascension (Ascension Day) Whether or not you consider yourself religious, the 40th day after Easter is marked on French calendars as a holiday to celebrate the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven. While this ecumenical feast is celebrated worldwide, not all countries designate it a day off. France, as you may have guessed, does. For Christians, the day marks an important historical time and is celebrated accordingly. For others, it is a time to enjoy the late May weather and celebrate the rapidly approaching summer...

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