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Indiennes de Provence

Posted on March 28th, 2013

Indiennes are printed fabrics dating back to the 17th century. Around 1648 Louis XIV founded the French East India Company to compete with British and Dutch East India companies. Traditional Indian fabrics were imported through Marseille. These Indiennes were promoted by Madame de Sévigny, becoming popular among the haute bourgeoisie. In 1686 importation was prohibited in order to protect French manufacturers, principally silk-makers in Lyon. Thus began French production of Indiennes, mainly in Marseille using Armenian artisans and traders. Early fabrics were printed with wooden blocks carved from fruitwood and dyed with inks made from madder root, better known here as garance. One worker could print 30 metres of fabric in a day, but it took a week for all colours to be applied. Fame and…

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

Posted on March 28th, 2013

Liberté, égalité, fraternité is the national motto of France. Today we find it emblazoned on mairies throughout France, on official documents and currency. At one point it even appeared on packs of Gauloises cigarettes. The French can be proud their motto was a major influence on the United Nations 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”. Last weekend 340,000 people demonstrated in Paris against proposed gay marriage legislation. It was the usual alliance of Catholic traditionalists and the extreme right, with their shared goals of anti-liberalism and anti-individualism. Rather than challenge ingrained inequality in society, the Church yet again chooses…


Posted on March 23rd, 2013

British people often consider the French to be masters in rudeness. But the British are quite adept at trading insults too. This British-made chamber pot with a bust of Napoleon dates from 1805. It can be viewed in the Royal Pavilion Museum at Brighton. A sample of French insults was published recently by web-based news site The Local: “Bête comme ses pieds” – A literal translation would be “As stupid as his feet”, or “Thick as a plank”. The French version appeared in the early 19thC and seems to symbolise feet being furthest from the brain. “Ta mère est tellement petite, que sa tête pue des pieds” – translation: “Your mother is so small, her head smells of feet”. “Boudin” – normally the word for…

A late Spring

Posted on March 23rd, 2013

Spring, or printemps, has begun later than in past years. Snow still caps Mont Ventoux. Flowering almond trees usually herald Spring, followed by cherry blossoms. The amandiers are now in flower, but further west, near Beaucaire, the cerisiers are also in bloom, much to the concern of growers who feel it is too early for a good crop. Soon we can expect carpets of wild flowers on the hills – small clusters are already appearing.  

Under the shade of an olive tree

Posted on March 22nd, 2013

Jean-Claude Doglioti is an oil man. In 2007, after a career in marketing with Castrol, he switched to his true passion, olive oil, opening a boutique in La Tour d’Aigues called A l’Ombre de l’Olivier – Under the shade of an olive tree. Here Jean-Claude provides olive oil tastings and recommendations on the most suitable oils to choose for salads, cooking, dipping, making mayonnaise and much else besides. He patiently explains the merits of different olive varieties and their stages of maturity. Jean-Claude buys only the finest oils from suppliers in Nyons, Ventabren, Corsica, Aix-en-Provence and other areas, but always from France; no imported oils are to be found here. You can find more information at Jean-Claude

A wealthy village

Posted on March 20th, 2013

Viens dates from the year 980 and lies on the Plateau of Caseneuve, east of Apt. In those times the castle at Viens was part of a chain of defensive castles being built by the d’Agoult family at Caseneuve, Bonnieux, Saignon, Roussillon, Gordes and Saint-Saturnin. Viens is surrounded by unforgiving, tough farming land, yet many of the houses in the village display former wealth unequalled in the area. To understand the source of this wealth, we must go back to the year 1221, when the village was granted a municipal charter by the feudal lord, Raymond Berenger, meaning the village became a tiny republic, having its own administration and making its own laws. The charter was endorsed in 1357 by an agreement between the…


Posted on March 18th, 2013

Leopold Truc lived in Cabrières d’Avignon all his life. Around 1955 this farmer began to decorate a  modest cabin on the outskirts of the village. He covered the cabin with mosaics and went on to build lanes, statues and a tower, all covered with mosaics in tile or shell.  Leopold pursued his mosaic workings for almost 40 years, before dying in 1991. He even built his own decorated grave, but French law did not permit his burial there. It has been said Leopold was an early proponent of the Southern French movement known as Art Singulier, or Singular Art, a self-taught art-form which distances itself from conventional art types. But perhaps this was Art Brut, or Outsider Art, describing art produced beyond cultural norms, including…