Nutmeg has been fortunate enough to visit France several times. One year Ginger and Nutmeg joined some friends on a cycling trip through Provence. That was the beginning of their “love-affair” with the region. However, on all the previous trips the fields of lavender had already been harvested, it was too late in the season. This time Nutmeg was determined to see the flowering fields.
The lavender plant is actually part of the mint family, and there are some 39 varieties. The plants love the dry, sandy, rocky soil that is typical of the Vaucluse region of Provence. Lavender flowers come in many colours, they can be blue (almost indigo), purple, violet, even pink or white varieties exist. It is a relatively easy plant to grow, as it requires minimal care.
In May 2003, the label Jardin Remarquable (Remarkable Garden) was created, to celebrate and document the magnificent gardens of France. A Jardin Remarquable, is one that meets the established criteria; integration in the site, interesting blend of vegetation, quality of the location, engaging use of plants and where applicable provides historical interest.
In a country such as France with a rich, complex history and endless stunning vistas, one is hard pressed to pick a favourite place. A friend suggested to Ginger and Nutmeg that a day spent driving through La Vallée du Jabron, is well worth the effort. Nutmeg would like to thank their friend for the suggestion, as the valley is remarkable. The route starts just outside Sisteron (see photo below) and heads westward along the D946 through tiny hamlets. The following description, translated from the official website, is a beautiful portrayal of the valley:
From the Durance to the Luberon, from Mont Ventoux to Sisteron lives between the moon and the stars the Jabron Valley.
Giono is the mountain, the land of shepherds, lavender, olive trees …
A Kingdom of silence, a land of lights, of stars …
A valley where one finds the will to live.
Ginger and Nutmeg wish you all a very happy holiday season.
Thanks for reading!
Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock
Jingle bells swing and jingle bells ring
Snowing and blowing up bushels of fun
Now the jingle hop has begun
jingle bell rock
Jingle bells chime in jingle bell time
Dancing and prancing in Jingle Bell Square
In the frosty air
What a bright time
it’s the right time
To rock the night away
Jingle bell time is a swell time
To go gliding in a one-horse sleigh
Giddy-up jingle horse
pick up your feet
Jingle around the clock
Mix and a-mingle in the jingling feet
That’s the jingle bell
That’s the jingle bell
That’s the jingle bell rock
The potential list of must see sights in the Languedoc are endless, so Nutmeg has chosen to highlight just three spots. All three locations are related in someway to water and created in entirely different eras.
The famous Canal du Midi is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site (1994). The canal construction was started in 1667. It was not because the Romans had not thought of it before that, they had, and so had many others, including Leonardo da Vinci. However, no one had come up with a solution on how to supply the high points with water. Then along came Pierre Paul-Riquet, he was a long time resident of the Languedoc region, in 1662 he proposed his plan to Colbert the French Finance Minister, who served under Louis XIV. The project was finally approved in October 1666, construction started in January 1667. In all, it took 15 years to build and over 12,000 workers.
The plan was to spend some time touring with Nutmeg’s parents in early October. The original thought was to explore parts of Hungary and Poland. Then the reality of fitting four people, one dog and luggage into a car settled the holiday plans. Nutmeg made a decision on behalf of the group that a two hour drive was the limit, and booked a guest villa at Domaine du Cayrat located just a few kilometres from Pezenas.
Jacques welcomed the group, he had stocked the fridge with some chilled wine and provisions for breakfast. It did not stop there, the next morning he arrived with fresh bread and apricot jam “fait à la maison”. Perfect!
Now the hard part, getting four people to agree what to explore in an area that is currently 27,376 (sq) km – Impossible! The region has something for every taste, age and interest. There are sandy beaches, port towns, vineyards galore, medieval villages and modern cities. Given the breadth of the region, Nutmeg has divided their visit into three separate posts: a bit of history, the food and wine, and the not to be missed see sights.
Ginger and Nutmeg had been away from Canada for almost 10 months, and they were both experiencing the need for some interaction with their Calgary friends (read: a little too much one-on-one time). That sentiment was not quite strong enough to persuade Nutmeg to book a ticket home, no need to rush from the South of France. However, when they received an email invitation to a small gathering in Florence to celebrate a wedding, they said YES without hesitation, despite the 7-8 hour drive.
Nutmeg’s “Top 10” list for Provence included a visit to the Gorges du Verdon. This magnificent area is sometimes referred to as the Grand Canyon du Verdon, due to the natural chasm formed by the river. The turquoise-green Verdon River cuts a meandering path along the steep, limestone cliffs. The length of the gorge is roughly 25 kilometres (km), and at certain points, the cliffs reach 700m (2,300ft) in height.
The Gorges du Verdon is certainly extraordinary, but the comparison to the Grand Canyon might be an exaggeration. The Grand Canyon is 446km long, 29km across at its widest point and reaches depths of 1,800m (6000 ft).
How does the unlikely combination of an Egyptian born chef and a Montana banker end up in St Remy de Provence?
In David’s own words, had they read Peter Mayle’s book before they bought the property and decrepit 200-year-old farmhouse, they probably would not have gone ahead with the transaction. The year was 1985.
It took 11.5 months for Ginger and Nutmeg to make it to Paris, only a 2.5 hour train ride from their Provencal home base. The capital city is one that both Ginger and Nutmeg love and have visited several times. It is entirely possible; that the relaxing rhythm of life in the sunny south had kept them from Paris for that length of time.
However, they finally had a compelling reason to venture to l’ile de France, to meet some friends in the city. After, Nutmeg managed to master, the not so intuitive, SNCF website and purchase their train tickets, the rest was easy. The trains run frequently and sometimes even on time. Departing from Avignon TGV, their goal was to feel like real Parisians for three days.