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Posted on December 23rd, 2012

Like many people the world over, the Provençaux are often suspicious of newcomers, particularly if they bring wealth or promote change. This is a tale of two arrivals, one from New York, the other from Paris, who fell foul of Provençal orthodoxy. Zabar’s is a landmark kosher store on Broadway, dating back to 1934. Eli Zabar diversified into three successful New York restaurants and enjoyed his summer holidays in Provence. A decade ago he bought the Café du Progrès in Ménerbes, on the recommendation of his friend the mayor. Unfortunately the property came with a poison pill. There were two tenants, one for the restaurant, the other for the café and they detested each other, a feud well known in the village but news to…

Foggy, foggy day

Posted on December 22nd, 2012

Lacoste is one of the highest villages here, at 300 metres above sea-level. From Bonnieux and Lacoste we can look down on the clouds in the valley below.

Christmas lights

Posted on December 20th, 2012

From early December each year, all the villages and towns of France celebrate Christmas with displays, markets and decorations. Christmas markets can date back to the 16th century, as in Strasbourg, which has eleven different Marchés de Noël.  Friendly competition thrives across Provence to see who has the best Christmas street lights.

La transhumance

Posted on December 20th, 2012

In bygone days, the transhumance was one of the great sights of Provence. From the sixteenth century, as the first snows began each October, huge flocks of sheep were brought down from alpine meadows to spend winter in the warmer lowlands, returning to higher pastures in June. On these slow journeys the flocks, led by shepherds with their dogs, were able to adjust to changes in climate and altitude. Provençal transhumance routes, known as carraires, were generally between 12 and 100 metres wide with flocks being moved between the Camargue and nearby Crau along the Durance valley to the high pastures of the Trieves Plateau, towards Grenoble. Peasants living near the carraires were prohibited from encroaching to grow crops, but welcomed the source of…

Winter is here

Posted on December 8th, 2012

Yesterday saw the first snowfall of the season. Winter has truly arrived. Today the snow on the forest trails reveals tracks of renard, fouine, chevreuil, sanglier and bécasse. The roads are dangerously slippery, but fortunately we changed to winter tyres a few weeks ago. Arboristes (foresters) have returned to harvest pine trees with teams of horses. Tractors cause too much damage.