Early Fall in Provence - An Extraordinary Trip
The air becomes crisper, nature puts on her golden coat and the harvest brings it’s seasonal bounty…fall brings plenty of welcome arrivals in Provence!
I can’t believe it’s been 10 days since I returned from France! I’ve been trying to find the time to write this post, but travel has gotten in the way! I hope you enjoy the high lights from my trip to France!
My friend Britt and I left in the late afternoon and began our journey to France to visit our friend Christel Van Malsen. Christel had arranged for us to stay in the home of Alice and Don Williams in Lauris.. We were excited and knew we were going to have a wonderful (and delicious) adventure! We had to snap an airport picture as we waited to board our flight into Charles de Gaulle airport. We flew into Paris and then on to Marsielle where Christel was to pick us up!
We arrived tired, but so happy to be there! The picture below is one of the first ones I took from an upstairs bedroom. Alice & Don’s home was breathtakingly beautiful and the gardens were exquisite. After we got settled, we sat down by the pool for a glass of wine and a few nibbles. We left North Carolina and record high temperatures and arrived to perfect weather in France …the temperatures were in the 70’s and the sky was blue! I think we both knew at that point that we were in for a real treat!
Alice Williams is a world renowned artist and her home is filled with art! Most of the art in their home is hers, but there were a few beautiful pieces done by other artists. I took this picture in the dining room in front of one of Alice’s paintings. She has a distinctive style and one of the most enjoyable things for me was studying every piece. Alice and her art will be featured in the holiday issue of Blondie, so be sure to subscribe to read more.
Alice and Don have two cats and Christel brought her cat to stay…as you can see the cats made themselves at home!
I was so inspired by the gardens and absolutely cannot wait to find time to incorporate some of the ideas into our garden at home. Outside of the bottom floor, Alice has created a potager filled with herbs, lambs ear, camellia and boxwood. Beyond the pool, there are fruit trees and an olive grove and not another house in sight!
Late afternoon view of the pool.
Our first morning, we were up bright and early and headed to the market in Lourmarin. You can read about our adventure in this blog post!
Christel prepared a delicious dinner the first night which was served on handmade pottery from a local potter at the market in Lourmarin. We had roasted salmon with a caper lime sauce and coconut rice that was divine! The next course was traditionally French, green salad and cheese followed by dessert. I wish I could remember what we ate for dessert, but I maybe had a little wine so I can’t remember! I will post the salmon recipe as well as the recipe for the rice on CBL soon.
Lunch with Christel
We piled into Christel’s car and headed to a small market down the road and it absolutely stole my heart! Everything was displayed so beautifully. We shopped for local cheeses, local honey, lettuce, vegetables and wine to make the most delicious al fresco lunch at Christel’s home.
Britt’s birthday was October 1 and her anniversary was October 3. She was sad to be away on her anniversary, but a trip to France doesn’t come along every day! We definitely benefited as they celebrated 32 years from a distance with the bubbly sent by her husband!
We feasted on a salad with blue cheese, sautéd butternut squash, avocado and three different goat cheeses!
Christel’s home was built in the 1400’s and she had the biggest window in her kitchen! When it was time for more wine, the easiest was was in through the window! My Julie Miles cross goes everywhere with me and France was no exception!
We had two memorable and delicious lunches with Christel! The olives below are stuffed with anchovies and were some of the tastiest I’ve ever eaten!
These little melons, served with chopped mint were so sweet.
Have you ever heard of a pigeonnier (translated as dove house)…I had not until this trip. Pigeonniers were originally brought to France by the Romans, and the pigeon became important in French cuisine.
“Prior to the French Revolution, the keeping of pigeons was a right restricted to royalty, the clergy and the nobility. The privilege was a complex, hierarchical display of wealth, authority and power. Pigeonniers were soon being designed and built to reflect this status.
The Middle Ages saw pigeonniers develop into highly ornate and elaborate structures housing many thousands of birds. The bigger and more ornate the pigeonnier, the more important the owner.
Poop was an important by-product to pigeon breeding; their droppings were highly valuable because they make such excellent fertilizer. But peasants were prohibited by law from breeding, eating or hunting pigeons – even when the birds attacked their crops.
But after multiple formal requests to abolish this privilege, and a few heads being chopped off in 1789, laws changed and the keeping of pigeons became universally permitted all over France.”. Many pigeonniers have been destroyed over the years, but the ones that remain remind us of ancient times and traditions of rural France.
We had the privilege of visiting a pigeonnier that had been converted into an extraordinary home. It sat on a gorgeous piece of property, complete with amazing views and a solar heated pool. We sat outside, drank wine and watched the sun set. It was a magical evening!
“Like a rich tapestry, finely woven, too precious to discard, the past is always part of the present in France, where what is modern lives peacefully with the best of what has gone before. At home, in cities, towns and villages, the timeless treasures of the past are a matter for every day.” ~ from The Heart of France
After leaving the pigeonnier, we went into the village of Lourmarin where we devoured the most delicious pizza. Every single morsel of food that we ate was fresh and delicious! It made me want to rethink the way I’ve been eating…mostly on the go!
Christel and me in the garden
Christel’s friend and photographer Pierre Sastre Flipp, took some pictures for me during my visit. Here I’m standing outside of Alice’s studio trying to channel my inner French girl.
On our last day, we were joined by some of our new American friends for lunch. We had wine and appetizers outside and then moved inside for lunch. It was a coincidence that we were all in the same area in France at the same time and a delight that we were able to share a meal together!
One of my favorite things to eat on this trip were tiny radishes with crunchy sea salt.
We were completely spoiled by Christel in every way, but she made the most amazing meals and we ate extremely well!
The traditional cheese course
Our host, Don Williams in the garden at his home
On our last day, I got up and meditated, then wrote my desires and intentions for the day in my journal. One of the things I wrote was that I would like to have interesting conversation. Later that morning, Christel said that Don would like to speak with me. Because I am planning to write an article about his wife Alice and her art in the upcoming issue of Blondie, I assumed that was what we were going to discuss.. We did talk about the article, but we also talked about our similar views on meditation, Law of Attraction and spirituality. I told him what I had written in my journal that morning and my that my request had been answered so beautifully in my conversation with him! Don is retired from IBM and now handles Alice’s career, but he also writes the most beautiful poetry. After returning home, he sent an email with a book of his poems. He agreed that it would be okay for me to share one of his poems, but first to give you an idea of the heart of this man, this is the dedication in the beginning of the book.
“It’s neat to dedicate something. Turns out to be easy when there is only one candidate, my wife and friend, Alice. We have been tethered together for 50 plus years and the strength of that bond has allowed me to dedicate energy to this new “right brained” adventure. Thank you sweetie.”
And a little more…
“You will get a sense from my poems that I encourage everyone to develop and live from their own reality and not let it be diluted by others’ negative or meaningless inputs. We all develop ever changing philosophies of life, hopefully with open, inquisitive and receiving senses. Continually evaluating and incorporating thoughts and facts to keep us in the moment. Our reality and philosophy should be no more than a reflection of our developed value system. You and only you know what it is for you and what you want it to be.
It would be an honor if these poems encourage you to find and immerse yourself joyfully in the reality you seek. Add a sense of eternity and you will have a set of wings to transcend all.
One of my favorite poems by Don Williams…
What is the Answer?
As I watched from my cloud,
I was casually leafing through those moments of earlier times.
As all the moments of a lifetime are contained in the present moment,
It offers a beautiful opportunity to explore your reality.
As I turned a page I could hear my mother’s voice,
“My beautiful child, you can do anything you want to do, you can be anything you want to be and I love you.”
But Mother, what plants should I select? What colors?
What season do they bloom? And by the way, what does a weed look like?
Of the structures I am to build, what materials do I use for the foundation?
What glass to use in the windows? Opaque? Transparent? How many windows?
What architect should I select to help me garden and build? What beauty? What character?
And children, heaven forbid, what wisdom can you give?
And she said to me.
“My beautiful child, you can do anything you want to do, you can be anything you want to be, and I love you.”
As I turn to the present moment page, I am strolling, hand in hand with my architect, through the most beautiful lavender field you could ever imagine.
Glancing at the gardens and structures and children and grandchildren, we feel proud.
Mother, thank you for giving me confidence to be me and loving the Architect as you did, what a reflection of your wisdom.
Your grandchildren wear your veil with honor.
Thank you Don, for sharing this beautiful poem with me and for allowing me to share it as well!
The beautiful art of Alice Williams
A parting view of the pool…so grateful for the opportunity to spend time in France with amazing people!
Keep checking back for one more post from this trip! I took so many amazing pictures on our side trip to Saint Tropez that I’m saving those for a separate post.
We had the most wonderful time and I’m very excited to go back… this time, with Baldie! Thank you so much to Christel Van Malsen for taking the best care of us!