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Symphonie fantastique

Posted on July 25th, 2011

Last night we attended a concert in Lacoste, close to our house.  Performed by an eighty-piece orchestra, it was held in a former quarry which has been transformed into an open-air theatre. We found ourselves sitting directly behind Pierre Cardin, patron and supporter of the event, seen below with a green sweater over his shoulders.  The weather was unseasonably cool and a strong mistral swirled inside the quarry.  Aides and musicians rushed about chasing airborne sheets of music and taping down music stands. The combination of rousing symphony and wild weather was greatly entertaining as the orchestra struggled on, hair streaming in the wind.

Vide grenier

Posted on July 15th, 2011

Every week of the year there is a vide grenier or second hand sale at one of the villages near here.  Vide grenier literally means “empty attic”.  On Bastille Day the village of St Saturnin-les-Apt holds the largest vide grenier of the year, an opportunity for villagers and small antique traders to offer their brocante.  Tables line every street and laneway. Sale items vary widely, from household junk to quality antiques to the ever-present cheap clothes and trinkets stalls.  We found some friends offering unwanted decorative items and enjoying a fun day together.   Many visitors think the statue in the main square is a petanque player, but  local man Joseph Talon is holding a truffle.  In 1808 he had the idea to sow…

The May tree of Cucuron

Posted on July 10th, 2011

The plague arrived in Marseille on 14 May 1720, when the ship Grand Saint-Antoine arrived from Tripoli, Syria and Cyprus, evading a health blockade of the port.   The disease lay dormant for a while, then ran rampant across Provence, killing a thousand persons a day by the end of August. Cucuron is an appealing walled village to the South of the Luberon mountains, near Lourmarin.  Each year the local people keep up a tradition dating from 1720.  In October of that year the plague struck the village.  Almost a thousand victims were taken in one month.  After the epidemic ran its course, the people of Cucuron made a perpetual vow to St Tulle, patron of the village.   They vowed to make a pilgrimage to…

Cold water

Posted on July 9th, 2011

Our guests had to leave early this morning to catch the TGV from Avignon to Paris, to connect with their flight to Sydney.  At 5 am we discover there is no hot water – the boiler has run out of oil.  The hot water tank has already cooled to 25C so our parting guests have invigorating showers.  It is Saturday and the earliest we can secure an oil delivery is Monday morning.  The day is warm, climbing to well over 33C and the swimming pool has reached 26C.  Not a bad day for a cool shower, we think, but our fresh water bore is sixty-three metres below the house and our shower water is now 14C.  That’s chilly.  Roll on Monday. It’s interesting to…

A perfect palindrome

Posted on July 2nd, 2011

The fortified and perched village of Oppède le Vieux sits on a hill not far from Ménerbes.  Houses dating from the 12th century lie below remains of a chateau. The village is a strange mix of ruins and careful restoration. Down a narrow nameless street there is a square stone on the wall of a private house.  Carved in Latin, the stone has a perfect five-letter palindrome that can be read backwards or forwards, up or down. One possible translation is “The sower Arepo holds the wheels at work”.   The French seem fond of palindromes, such as:  “Tu l’as trop écrasé, César, ce Port-Salut”.    The longest known palindrome in French, with more than 1300 words, can be found here: