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Soapbox Derby, Ménerbes

Posted on August 22nd, 2016

Every year for three years the local village of Ménerbes has hosted the Caisses à Savon, a series of soapbox races down from the mairie, past the pharmacy and on through the centre of the village to the lavoir. It’s a crazy afternoon of fun, where winning doesn’t really matter. After first assembling below the lavoir, the soap boxes are towed up to the top of the village by quad bikes before racing down the hill. The whole process is then repeated twice more. Having careered down the first steep hill, the carts had to pass through a wall of soapy foam, then drivers braved a narrow street where buckets of water were tipped from house windows high above. One entry was a blue and white boat…

A day at the seaside

Posted on August 16th, 2016

Cassis is a gorgeous small coastal town about twenty kilometres east of Marseille. It can be reached from the Luberon in less than two hours. The town has around eight thousand inhabitants and is a delight in the off-season, but in high summer the tourist crush makes visiting uncomfortable. Friends took us there before the rush, where we enjoyed a great day wandering the streets, the market, the harbour and enjoying lunch at a little restaurant on the beach of Bestouan. Later we drove the Route des Crêtes, a winding scenic road with spectacular views of the coastline. Once the town was known for Cassis Stone, used to build the quays of Alexandria, Marseille, Port Said, Algiers and Piraeus. Today Cassis is famous for its…

Chateau La Coste

Posted on August 16th, 2016

The other side of the Luberon mountain, beyond the Durance river, lies the winery of Chateau La Coste, near the village of Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade. Owned by an Irish billionaire, the domaine grows no less than fifteen grape varieties, producing some respectable if slightly expensive wines. The Chateau is best known for a remarkable assortment of modern art spread around the vineyards and adjoining hills. Artists represented include Tadao Ando, Tracey Emin, Alexander Calder, Louise Bourgeois and Frank Gehry. A two-hour walking trail allows full viewing of this magnificent collection. Most pieces are fascinating and while the Financial Times described Frank Gehry’s Music Pavilion as “exuberant”, I found it strangely adolescent. Equally I was left wondering why “Foxes” was even considered for inclusion. But don’t…