Saturday, November 15, 2014

A day in the Luberon : OPPEDE LE VIEUX

As you drive from St Remy into the luberon, it would be a shame to miss the old village of Oppede.
Turn right after Robion and follow the signs to "Oppede le Vieux" as opposed to "Oppede" which is the new village built in the valley during the 19th Century.

The old village was inhabited as early as the roman times (Roman coins were found on the site), it became part of the Pope's county in 1274.
Locals who found that the Popes were more eager to collect taxes than protecting their inhabitants tried to escape with no success. However the Spanish  Antipope Benoit XII stayed here in the early 15th Century. He had to jump out of one of the window of the Castle in order to escape to Spain, the only way to save his life.

I have no date for the construction of the Castle who was abandonned towards the end of the 17th Century, becoming a quarry site were locals would take out carved stones.

During the 18th Century, the village suffered several earthquakes (in particular 1731) and water access was not convenient. Furthermore much time was wasted going to the field located in the Valley and as wars were "delocated" on the borders of France, the villagers decided to rebuilt a more practical village down in the valley.

You will understand while locals decided to abandonned the village when you wander through the old tiny and steep street.

Nowadays Oppede le vieux is a cute little village with some of the most wonderful unrestored medieval ruins you are likely to find the Luberon.
It is also the home of some rich and famous, amongst them US film director Ridley scott who also owns a winery nearby.
The main square offers a selection of café and restaurants in a unique secluded atmosphere.
Not as crowded as some other nearby village you can take the time to walk up to the church and the Castle ruins (about 20mn walk) where you will enjoy a stunning view of the valley.

Parking is compulsory as traffic is not authorised in the old village.

Restaurant I recommend in Oppede le Vieux Restaurant Celina with a mediterean cuisine with Italian influence in a traditional Mas (Provencal term for Farm house). You'll need to drive there.

Oppede le Vieux from the Valley

The ruins of the Medieval Castle

The Church of Oppede le Vieux

The "bottom" of the village and its main square

Walking through history

Entrance to the Very old Village

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Olive Oil Harvest time in Provence

It is Olive Oil time in Provence....

Olive picking time in Provence take place between end of October an end of November, prior to the possible frost of December.

The Olive are traditionnally hand picked but, for labour cost reason, some of the mills are now using the "tree shaker" which will process a tree within a minute or 2....

So, here is the life of an olive in Photo...

The flowering of the Olive trees in June. 5% of the  flowers only will make it into an Olive.

An Olive Tree in July

Another Type of Olive in July. 
Not all the fruits will make it.

In August. 
Late August is the time when we start picking the Olive for brining.


October 2013 in Moulin de Castellas in Les Baux deProvence.
The machine that separates the Olives from the leaves and wood.


The Olives are now ready for processing.

At Picking time, Olives can either be green or ripe (i.e. black).
The colour depends on the position of the olive on the tree 
and how much sun it saw during the summer.


Journey time to the cleaning machine. 
Like a little jacuzzi.

 The Olive is then mixed for about 20mn in one of this machine.
Temperature must be constant around 27°C (about 82F). 
Hence the name First Cold Press

Solid is separated from the liquid by a spinning machine
The solid will be used as compost, back in the field.
The Moulin du Calanquet in St Remy separates the pits from the pulp.
Pulp is compost and pits will be burnt in the heating system.

Here is the Olive oil.
Ready to use in an instant.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Van Gogh painting in Auvers

Art of the Day: Van Gogh, Vase With Daisies and Poppies, June 1890. Oil on canvas, 66 x 51 cm. Private collection.

On Tuesday evening, during an auction at Sotheby's New York, Chinese movie tycoon Wang Zhongjun bought this Van Gogh still life for a whopping $61.8 million. This was highest auction price for a painting by the artist in over 15 years!
Just after leaving St Remy Van Gogh spent the last week of his life in Auvers Sur Oise, closer to his brother who was in Paris.

Art of the Day: Van Gogh, Vase With Daisies and Poppies, June 1890. Oil on canvas, 66 x 51 cm. Private collection.
On Tuesday evening November 4th 2014 , during an auction at Sotheby's New York, Chinese movie tycoon Wang Zhongjun bought this Van Gogh still life for a whopping $61.8 million. This was highest auction price for a painting by the artist in over 15 years!

15 Centuries of Saint Remy History in one place THE HOTEL DE SADE

The Hôtel de Sade, located in the very centre of the old village represents much more than a wonderful Renaissance house.

It is indeed located at the birth place of the village and has been remolded over the past centuries, showing now a jigsaw of remnants from the IVth Century to our present days.

When the Roman village of Glanum was left around 260 after the Barbarian invasions, the locals decided to rebuild a new village down in the valley, where the village stands now.

A Roman Spa House was firstly built (see from point G)

Then the first Church of St Remy Saint Pierre was built (point H)

The Penitents Noirs then built their convent with church (point A)

The Saint Pierre church was converted during the medieval time into a Tax House where items collected where stored on 3 levels (point C)

In the XVIth Century the Grand Hôtel de Sade was then built. The Sade were linked to the (in)famous Marquis de Sade by their ancester Laure de Sade in the XIIIth Century. (point D & E)

The Hôtel de Sade was converted into a museum to store and display items found on the Roman ruins of Glanum but is now closed for refurbishment. Part of it should reopen in the near future, maybe during 2015.

The Hôtel de Sade, one pure jewel of our patrimony can be admired from the Rue du Parage  and from the lovely Place Favier.

Do not miss point G & H who are not clearly signposted from the square.

 For more information, join me on one of my Saint Remy village guided tour.

Point A The Chapelle des Penitents Noirs  (1566 to 1791). The roof collapsed in 1897.

Point B. The Saint Pierre Church converted into a 3 storey Tax House in the medieval time

Point C. Continuation of the Tax House in the former Saint Pierre Church.

Point D. The Hôtel de Sade to your left. Place Favier in the back ground.

Point E. Hôtel de Sade to your right

Point F. The Tower of the Hôtel de Sade

Point F. Detail of the Tower.

Point G. The Saint Pierre Church From the South side. Roman ruins in the centre.

Point G. Roman "Hypocauste" or Heating system for the Roman Spa House.

Point H. Saint Pierre Church built on the roman Spa House.

Point H. Saint Pierre Church and Hôtel de Sade in the background.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Hiking in Provence

One of the nicest way to discover Provence and find some spectacular spots is obviously when Hiking.

An extended networks of tracks called "GR" for "Grande Randonnée" (randonnée = Hikes) is available trhoughout France and rather easy to follow when you know the rules.

Extensive GR maps can be purchased from the local newspaper store or online on the "IGN" site where yo can find the maps of trails around St Remy de Provence.

You can also get our very local Hiking map of St Remy at the Saint Remy Tourist Office. The map will give you all details about the 7 tracks around St Remy (from 1 to 6hrs) and cost only 2 euros. Beware that access to the Alpilles Moutain range (as others) is restricted from June 1st to Sept 30th.

Once on the trail, you'll just need to follow the signage.

Sign posts in the Alpilles

Sign system in the Luberon

A straight line indicate the path you need to follow. Several colours schemes are used.  In this case the ORANGE and the RED and WHITE trails are sign posted.

Turn right

Turn left

Right way

A CROSS indicate the wrong way