Provence – Perfect any time of year (or Thoughts on a Soggy, August afternoon)

It’s August Bank Holiday Monday and we’ve just come back from a walk over Dartmoor at the back of the village wearing full wet weather kit, which is now drying on a rack over the Aga, which we had to light again this week after the temperature dipped. To say it is a miserable end to the summer here is an understatement and it’s weather like this that tends to set me thinking of warmer times and of course Provence. Over the years we’ve come to realise that it’s a great place to visit all-year round, in fact out of season it is delightful, the markets aren’t busy (eventhough they are just as well stocked), the roads are quiet and the weather is generally kinder than it is here. 

Last December my hubby & eldest flew down to watch Toulon play Exeter Chiefs in the Rugby Heineken Cup (Rugby & Provence, surely the perfect pairing??), so we took the opportunity and booked a small house for a week in the lovely, quiet village of Rustrel, which has one of the best Boulangeries we have ever found

Boulangerie - Rustrel

Boulangerie – Rustrel

 Most mornings we woke to startlingly blue skies, which meant it was chilly, but the winter light was stunning, so rather than drive to visit different towns and markets, we bought a small book of local walks and took to exploring on foot.

Colourful Roussillon in the winter sunDuring the summer we tend to cycle around the area as we’ve found that actually we love the experience of getting to and arriving in a place almost more than actually being there. As you cycle you get a breeze in the often stifling heat and you’re bombarded with the heady scents of the herbs and plants that grow along the roadside, everything from Fig and Lavender to the occasional blast of ‘curry-plant’. In the winter the scents are different and the weather lends itself more to walking, meaning we still have the enjoyment of arriving somewhere from a different direction or by a different route to before. 

The villages that are packed with tourists in the summer take on a totally different character in the winter. The colours of the houses and ochre quarries in Roussillon seem to be even more vivid than they are in the summer, with the orange and red pigments appearing to glow in the more golden winter light. The shops are generally closed, but the peace that comes with that is lovely and you find you have more time to notice small details that are easy to miss when it is busier – although it is a little frustrating knowing that a perfect Christmas present for someone is sat behind the stubbornly, locked doors of ‘Marchand de Couleurs’ – a great pottery on the main street.

The gentle walk along stony paths that run across the valley floor between the villages of Bonnieux and Lacoste meanders through vineyards and orchards. In the winter the vines, without the leaves and bunches of fruit, look stark against the pale ground and honey-coloured stone walls, so different to the vivid greens of the summer that we see, when we cycle along the ‘Veloroute du Calavon’, running along the valley floor.

Borie between Bonnieux & Lacoste

Borie between Bonnieux & Lacoste

In the summmer we seek out a shady spot for a picnic, but on the bright days in winter it’s lovely just taking a stop in a vineyard or sitting with your back against the trunk of a  dormant tree with your face in the sun, listening to the peace that has settled over the area, so different to the bustle and busy-ness of the summer months.

Perfect picnic spot

Perfect picnic spot

Yes the weather does still catch you out from time to time – I know it can snow (although there was no sign of it whilst we were there) and we had one day when the clouds closed in and the heavens opened and we got properly wet, in fact soaked to the skin is a better description. But it was December and was really only to be expected, but ……..one day out of seven – we certainly couldn’t complain.

As I look out of the window now it is still raining, the weather maps for the rest of the week look equally bad and it’s August – the sandals are back in the cupboard, the heating is on and the dog towels are drying in front of the Aga

Is it any wonder that on days like today my mind wanders to the sunny, warm winter days in Provence where we can sit with our faces in the sun and do the things we enjoy at all times of the year.

Afternoon light, kicking up fallen leaves, Lacoste

Afternoon light & kicking up fallen leaves, Lacoste

 

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