Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Week end in Vichy with Napoleon III

The last April week-end, before the big start of the season, we went to my home town of Vichy to visit my Parents.
I chose this week end for the special festivities that were happening and that I always missed....

This week end took place the 8th edition of the fêtes de Napoleon III.
Vichy was known as a spa since the roman times and hosted many rich and famous through the past centuries but developped like a mushroom after the first visit of Napoleon III in the 1860's.
He loved the place so much that he invested a lot of time in that beautiful spa resort and even had famous Baron Hausman to help on the new city development. The Casino, the new church, the train station, the famous chalets, the new parc along the Allier river are still here to prove the love of Vichy from our emperor.
Vichy became then "the spot to be" in the summer time and Palaces mushroomed from then on until the second world war.
In the early 20th Century, the most expensive hotel rooms were indeed in Vichy and not in Paris.
And in 1939, Vichy offered 12 000 hotel rooms, 2 casinos, many cinemas and shops as Van Cleef, Louis Vuiton, etc...

Now a little sleepy town, full of parc, greenery and gorgeous buildings, it is a perfect spot when you want to reverse back to the late 19th Century.

We could only make it to the Sunday festivity and missed the previous day activities (Chef at our local market cooking as in the emperor times for ex).

We headed to the Casino were a conference was about to start

Walked down the Napoleon I (that he created for his mum and sisters' pleasure when in Vichy)

Towards the Parc Napoleon III alongside our river

There we were the witness of a "Gun Duel" between two gentlemen as one of them got too close to the other's wife...

As you can see, the gentleman only got injured.

We then wandered the army settlement that was camping in the park

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sault The Lavender Capital

Sault is known in the region as one of the best place for Lavender.
It is indeed our Lavender Meccah!
The other famous Lavender land is Le plateau de Valensone where you can see plenty of lavender fields but "less action" to my taste.

There are several route options from St Remy to Sault but expect to do a lot of driving on narrow roads.
I suggest :
The scenic way in the morning :
Take the D99 to Cavaillon then follow the sign to Gordes, then Lioux and Sault. Driving time about 2 hours.
On your way back, take the road to Carpentras D 942 then D1.
From Carpentras, follow Avignon. Enter the Highway in "Avignon Nord" direction Marseille. Exit at Avignon Sud.
Follow the sign to Noves centre. St Remy will be signposted from there. Driving time about 1h30

When arriving in Sault, make sure you stop en route for the panorama:

Arriving in Sault from Gordes in April prior the lavender season :

Our first stop was for Arôma Plantes.
Located on the route du Mont Ventoux (and clearly sign posted), this lavender farm is organic since 1978. We were warmly welcomed by Valerie in the shop and Manon showed us around the property.
The farm is operating all year round and only distilling local vegetals. Since we were off season we were overwhelmed by the smell of Pinewood essential oil (as you will see in the pictures)
Manon who speaks english will tell you all about essential oil and you are most likely to see the full process.
Lavender essential oil will start beeing done on July 9th, this year, until late August. You can join a workshop on Tuesday.
Soap making workshops are also organised on Monday (not sure if in English but will tell you after I attend my workshop). Check the site for full details.
The shop is exquisite and offer products and soaps you barely see anywhere else, even on the markets. I got some for me and love them!!!
You can try out some fruit juices flavored with floral water (or Hydrolat, i.e. the water from the distilation).
Wodden picnic tables are for to use if you come with your picnic.
And course you may wander through a path going along the property fields.

Lavender mad people may want to spend the full day around...

More info on Aroma Plantes web site

Fresh herbs path

Pine wood essential oil extracted on April 11th

Final result : Essential oil on the top, hydrolat (floral water) underneath

Our friendly hosts Valérie and Manon

One of the picnic table

Smaller but as nice is Vallon des Lavandes located nearby.
Run by a family, you may pop in and be shown round the property by the friendly owners.
You'll be welcomed by the chicken wandering in the field in front of the farm.
No web site.

Once in Sault dont miss the most famous shop of André Boyer Nougat.

Fun little shop in the village, mostly about Lavender of course... But also a famous butcher where you can buy all sort of Saucissons.

For Lunch we decided to go the Cafe Promenade where you have a great view from the terrasse (see picture). Very friendly service, reasonnable price, but dont expect fine gourmet food. Perfect for a salad or the plat du jour at 12 €.

We were also recommended Restaurant Le Provençal in the village (menu as from 17.50€) but prefered the view...

Sault offers of course much more to do.
We visited another soap and beauty product artisan which I will talk about in another post.

The tourist Office offers a brochure about route de la lavande with all places to visit in the region.

The big Lavender festival takes place mid August.
A smaller Lavender festival is to take place on Sunday July 5th 2015 in nearby village of Ferrassieres.

 Dont leave Sault too late as the return route might prove tiring.....

Enjoy Lavender fairy...

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Gorges du Verdon

The Gorges du verdon and The Lac Sainte Croix are certainly gems in Provence.

A bit far away from St Remy expect 5 to 6 hours driving time back and forth plus the time you'll spend on the narrow bendy roads along the gorges. So I recommend staying overnight in Moustiers Ste Marie, Castellane or another village.
Especially if you want to enjoy the Verdon itself, rafting, canoing or only "pedalo on the lake". For nature lover it is eyes candy all the way trhough.

From Moustiers Sainte Marie, take the D952 towards Castellane. If you want to have the most drastic view, I recommend taking the "route des crêtes" but have to warn you that the road is small and bendy...

Otherwise, as we did you may drive to Castellane and enjoy the scenery or turn en route onto the D955 towards Trigance, then D90 and D71 taking you back towards Moustiers on the other bank.
Expect a 4/5 hours round trip.
Here are some pictures of that  route as we did it on April 10th.