Piled high on folding tables or spilling from the tailgate of the lyrically named “Berlingo” (the little white farm trucks ubiquitous to France), the first of 2019’s regional produce debuts the opening of artisanal farmers’s markets on Easter weekend. Entire stalls dedicated to asparagus, strawberries, melons or radishes will make your mouth and iPhone camera very happy. Picture creamy clouds of super fresh goat cheese, garden greens and free-range eggs, honey and chocolate for the Easter hunt and lunch, and fragrant branches of lilac or pastel tulips – 5 euro a bunch for the table. Winemakers from the Luberon and Côte Ventoux offer “tastes” as do the artisanal cheese and charcuterie producers. These are all fabulous products not available anywhere else in the world. I recommend Coustellet for your season opener and for sightings of colourful locals and elegant tourists from northern regions while you slip down oysters with a glass of chilled champagne and Provençal sun. New to the scene will be Le Gare bistrot under new management and chef. Sunday, April 21, Coustellet, Maubec 84660 from 8.30 to noonish.
Two not to be missed exhibitions will open in the gallery and in the cave of two grand dames of the Luberon art scene, Joanna Staniszkis in Bonnieux and Kamila Regent in Saignon.
Art Expo: “Sacre Bleu” Bonnieux
Artist Joanna Staniszkis’s “Sacré Blue” opens Monday April 22, 2019 at 4 p.m. The exhibition takes place in a troglodyte cave in Bonnieux, and, as its name suggests, it is an indigo-blue colour collaboration juxtaposing Joanna’s fluid textile works with Timothée Humbert’s stunning large scale ceramic works. It will be a showcased in the caverns of an ancient grotto. Canadian photographer Erik Von Muller’s photographic essay on the textures, shapes and shades of ochre, stone and zinc shot from his room on Rue Julien Levy elevate the banal to a remarkable photo essay. All Artists will be in attendence. Images below from “La Vie en Some”, Joanna Staniszkis May 2014 exhibition. http://www.joannastaniszkis.com
Art Expo: “Dimanche Pâques” 2019 Galerie Kamila Regent, Saignon
Galerie Kamila Regent, Saignon
On Easter Sunday Kamila Regent opens the doors of Galerie Kamila Regent, a gracious 18th century Maison-du-Maitre in the village of Saignon, for “Dimanche Pâques 2019”. The exhibition features the work of 15 Gallery artists, listed on the side bar, and Kamila’s remarkable baking of Polish Easter cakes – all from her Grandmother’s recipes. A feast for the eye and fork. https://www.kamilaregentgalerie.com
Antiques: mid-century to 17th century … you can’t live without
International dealers gather in Isles-sur-la Sorgue for the 106th Easter weekend antique fair…three days, hundreds of dealers … and, on the same weekend the bi-annual Carpentras Brocante market gets big and moves to the Gare… for what you don’t need and can’t live without.
Visit the websites of my Brocanteophiles Corey Amaro https://www.frenchlavie.com and Ruth Ribeaucourt. Book a tour and learn how to find not necessarily what you need but always what you want … that authentic Barbizon painting, an Eames rocking chair, 19th century zinc watering can or perfectly preserved dowery linens etc etc…
“Mas Belle Source is the perfect place for a luminous sojourn in the Luberon. The 18th century Mas has been converted with exquisite taste and comfort to a top rated property for a vacation in Provence. Surrounded by gardens, orchards, olive groves and vineyards it is a place to relax poolside or to set off from to discover the many famous and secret attractions of Provence”
Living in Provence
It is mid March 2019, the mistral is blowing but the sky is brilliant blue and the bright sun silhouettes early blooming almonds. I am sitting in my light filled studio reading comments written in our guest book from the first summer in 2014 . It is hard to believe that it has been five years since our first guests stayed in the house, just one year after we purchased the property of our dreams here in the magical Luberon.
Originally named Villa Goult we re-christened it ‘Mas Belle Source’ for the many freshwater springs on the property that have been the source of our hamlet’s fountain for over 3 centuries.
Traditional Provençal house with contemporary luxuries
The house and gardens have evolved as our dream of Provence has taken shape. We welcome guest rentals from June to September. My husband Arnold and I spend spring, fall and winter months in the house and have had the pleasure of improving the property, the gardens and décor with antiques and ideas we find in the treasure troves of Provence – its lively fairs, “brocante” markets and the ubiquitous “vide greniers” – empty the attics!
After two years of dust, rubble and jack hammers (the walls are half a metre thick) we have said au revoir to the plumbers, masons, electricians, blacksmiths, and the few scoundrels who worked on the project.
Surrounded by vineyards, olive, almond and cherry trees the 2-acre property is nestled on the boundary of a 17thcentury hamlet in the wine rich Parc Regional du Luberon and lies a short distance from eight famous hilltop villages. Enclosed within limestone walls the stone house and outbuildings are clustered around a central courtyard. Gardens and pool are elegantly separate from the main house.
Architecturally the house resembles the primitive stone “Mas” or farms ubiquitous to Provence that are protectively built around a shade tree. Ours happens to be attached to a charming small hamlet a few kilometres from the villages of Lacoste, Menerbes, Bonnieux and Gordes on the slopes of the Luberon mountains.
It was an unexpected surprise to discover an expansive light filled house with a two-story ceilinged formal dining area and salon in what began as a 200-year-old farmhouse intact with original beams and monumental old stones. We had seen dozens of houses on our search and none with such elegant bright interior space.
The house had been rewired, upgraded with modern plumbing and stone floors refitted with under-floor heating. It presented a perfect canvas for our enthusiastic brush.
Dining room with floating stairs to Rose Bedroom
The light filled Salon
TV lounge and study
Orchards, gardens and secluded garden rooms
At last count there are now 11 “outdoor rooms” on the property where one can choose to catch the sun, sit in the shade, lounge by the pool, have tea under the rose arbour, lunch under the shade of wisteria, share drinks in the evening in a covered alcove, take morning coffee enjoying the view of the orchard, or tuck your self out of the wind on a patio protected by a sloping garden of lavender and roses. We often take a picnic to the top and field and enjoy the view of Mt. Ventoux, the glittering villages of Roussillon, Gordes and Goult while we sit in the shade of the almond trees.
In 2015 we opened the inner courtyard to the east and a field that had been fallow for years. The soil was rich, deep and exposed to full sun. With the help of landscape designer Louise Boutin we planted the terroire with almond trees, an orchard of plum, cherry, quince, peach and apple trees and, closest to the house, the olives – eighteen trees including three 80-year old and fifteen 30-year old specimens.
One of the most pleasurable outcomes of improving the property has been the production of our own private-label olive oil – a sample of which is part of the Mas Belle Source welcome gift.
The oil is delicious and can be drizzled on just about anything. One foodie guest loved it on her ice cream. We have plain and a spicy version I make with a mixture of herbs, peppers and chilies from the Bonnieux market.
A floating limestone staircase leads to the Rose suite, completely renovated during our first year in Provence. Stone under floor heating, an en-suite bathroom and millwork closets were added. The room is named for the climbing rose that peeks over the wall of its private terrace. In the 18thand early 19thcenturies the high ceilinged room was used for silk production – the largest agricultural industry at the time.
The second bedroom is named Tilleuil for the Linden tree we planted outside its window – the first of dozens of trees and Provençal shrubs we have added to the grounds. The en-suite has a spacious bathroom and a claw-foot tub.
The Bergerie suite is located in the oldest part of the house and its charm is enhanced by the texture of the original plastered ceiling and stonewalls. It is the ground floor of the two-story “cabano” – the first building in the Mas that housed silk production on the top floor and a stable downstairs. It is spacious, has a private entrance and hallway and en-suite bathroom.
“La Rose” bedroom and ensuite bath
Below, “Tilleuil” or Linden bedroom and ensuite bath
Below “La Bergerie” suite
Visit our Guestbook
“Mas Belle Sources is the most perfect Provençal house we could ever have wished for. It is so beautifully furnished and equipped, and the garden is glorious. We have had the most wonderful two-week celebration of my birthday. Hopefully we’ll return in the future. Thank you for letting us share this little piece of paradise.”The Jensen family, Capetown South Africa
“An absolute dream, an idyll, a delight… Thank you for sharing this paradise.” Ewa Zebrowski, Shulim and Stefan Rubin, Montreal, Canada.
“This was the perfect romantic, well equipped and beautiful place to celebrate our honeymoon in private! A lovely atmosphere and gorgeous weather did the rest to allow us to fully enjoy the beautiful garden, the pool and the surrounding nature. Kind regards to the whole team who took great care of our every need.” A and W Paul, Friesach, Austria
“A beautiful piece of Provence. The house is lovely and well equipped. We really enjoyed the garden. It was as if we had a market in our own back yard!” We hope to return”K Sheffer, Kansas City, Missouri USA
Simply and most sincerely said, “Your home is a piece of heaven… We feel priviledged to have had a week to savour everything about it. Thank you” The McDermott’s, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
“Un Lieu magique … Deux semaines de privilege…On repart avee l’espoir de revenir… Un jour peur être… Merci”Famille Pinelli, Switzerland
The house is fully equipped. There is twice weekly maid service. Towels, linens and household necessities are included as are Wi-Fi and international phone service. Our management company have 18 years of experience and offer a full concierge service, including catering, chef service, drivers and tours.
Hameau St. Véran in the Luberon is part of the commune of Goult. It is 40 minutes from Avignon TGV, 1.5 hours from the Marseille airport, (Marigane), one hour from the city of Aix-en-Provence and 1.5 hours from the sea (Cassis, St’s Marie de la Mer, Arles) and literally hundreds of other marvels of PACA our region- Provence Alpes Côte d’Azure
The process that guides the creation of these photographs carries a great deal of meaning. Here, a scanner is used to produce luminous results; this modern apparatus is one ofmany to replace the traditional, analog camera close to becoming an obsolete technology. Thanks to the scanner, the resultingprints are mysterious—light appears to suffuse from the objects and the prints are translucent, ethereal and diaphanous. Commonplace objects are re-enchanted and made mysterious—they appear ghostly, de-materialized, auratic. The great German early twentieth-century writer Walter Benjamin states in a famous text that the aura that emanates from the work of art is nonexistent in photography. The photographs of Deborah MacNeill are a concerted effort to invest the photograph with aura. The depicted objects have another connotation: they invoke botanical specimen and archaic scientific tools and approaches dating back to the seventeenth-century. The earliest cameras were used in archaic botanical explorations. Also, at that time, botanists such as Marseus Van Schrieck promoted a downward gaze to consider specimen in forest environments. The photographs of Deborah MacNeill pay homage to this approach by flattening the specimen and by rejecting perspectival space while promoting systematic observation. If space exists in these photographs it is inner space. The tradition of still life painting is also invoked here. The ephemerality and fragility of Deborah MacNeill’s arrangements of objects echo the transience of Life (Vanitas) promoted by Dutch seventeenth-century still life painting.
Installation of silk robes in the Cave of Joanna Staniszkis
Among the incredible things that happen everyday in Provence, especially in the Luberon, meeting Canadian artist Joanna Staniszkis was a tour de force. At the time we met we were both hatching projects. My husband and I were about to renovate a house in a small hamlet near Lacoste in the National Park of the Luberon. Joanna had begun the restoration of a prehistoric cave in the village of Bonnieux. The project entailed excavating an abandoned cave in the walls of the village for the creation of an exhibition space and living rooms that include a salon, dining room, kitchen, guest bedroom and en suite bathroom. As daunting as our project was for us, by comparison to Joanna’s it was ‘hair and make-up’.
Since that first meeting in November of 2013 we have become collaborators in projects inspired by a mutual love for the bounty of the everyday phenomenons that rural Provence bestows. Among them: foraging for antiques in flea markets, enjoying luncheons under an umbrella of perfumed wisteria, sniffing for truffles at the January truffle market, making delicious preserves from the bounty of spring and summer’s fruits and vegetables and documenting these observations through art works, photography and words.
Joanna in her cave January 2014
The setting is the village of Bonnieux in the Vaucluse department of Provence where Joanna comes to spend time to work on textile projects that include art works and haute couture for international clients. Bonnieux is a layer cake of tile-roofed, stone houses clustered and terraced around the spires of three churches. It was a prominent town during centuries of religious and political struggles in Provence. In the 13 century it was owned outright by the Avignon popes. Former bishop’s houses are still lived in across the courtyard from the cave.
The cave’s earliest history goes back to Neolithic times when it served as housing for cave dwellers. Julius Caesar conquered Gaul, first taking Provence in 58–51 B.C. During the Roman occupation, Bonnieux caves were used as quarries for limestone blocks used to build roads, bridges and monuments as the Romans tried to Romanize Provence.
Pont Julien crossed the once navigable Calavon River
Pont Julien is an example. It is a perfectly preserved Roman bridge just west of Bonnieux on the Via Domita, the road from Rome to the northern parts of the empire. The Via Domita serves today as part of a236 km long bicycle path through villages and towns of the Luberon.
Joanna poses at the back of the almost finished exhibition space waiting patiently for the Concrete to be poured over underfloor heating coils.
Not an everyday renovation…
View from cave interior
The ceiling was entirely intact. The openings in the walls in the top two photographs were for beams that once supported upper floors. The nooks on the left and right of the new underfloor heating network, were used in olive oil production. Albigensian Crusaders in the middle ages lived there and the last inhabitants were Provençals who used the cave for olive oil production at the height of the silk industry in 18th and 19th century. Joanna stands at the back of the cave on the eve of the celebration of her 70th birthday.
The Bedroom and ensuite
The vaulted bedroom ceiling was plastered during the renovation as were the windows with views over the Luberon framed by antique ironwork…
Follow the kid glove road to sleep in romantic iron bed…
Sleep in antique linens after bathing in the mineralized water of Provence, sink lit with indigo blue LED light. The wc and shower were designed behind half walls to maintain privacy without imposing on the space.
Joanna found the mirror and decorative pieces while travelling in the far east. The jewellry on the table are unique pieces by made by Joanna.
Shower spa on the left and and stairs to down to the kitchen on the right. Candles tucked in nooks from former floor supports light the way… A custom wrought iron spiral staircase leads to a kitchen with all the modern conveniences and abundant daylight from new south facing windows.
Candle lit stairway
A wooden bowl of Mulberry leaves
Provence produce in January
Art works in the Exhibition space
The black and white jackets in the photograph below were cut from antique linens Joanna buys in the ‘brocante’ markets in the neighborhood. The stands, made by a local blacksmith, are imbedded in petrified wooden beams found in the cave during the restoration. The iron gazebo in the background houses giant silkworm eggs made from twigs and were part of the installation for Joanna’s May 15, 2016 exhibition, “La Vie en Soie”. The black and white jackets are part of a collection that Joanna showed at the International Women’s Forum last year.
Indigo blue spot lights the silk installation
Below is a view from Exhibition space towards the living salon and dining areas. All the fabrics in the salon and were designed and silkscreened by Joanna herself. The antiques are part of a large collection purchased on voyages to Southeast Asia, India, South, China, Bhutan and Tibet. The fire bowl burns ‘smoke free ‘in a corner of the living room.
Please see the exhibition catalogue to the show “La Vie en Soie”. Below is a detail of one of the white silk organza gowns, printed with the leaf alphabet Joanna created from Mulberry leaves. Mulberry leaves are the only food silk worms consume and then spin into their luxurious cocoons.
The earth’s surface in the French village of Roussillon is the color of cumin, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. At sunset it is the color of the hottest cayenne and the palest of gingers and its name, ochre, conjures images of the exotic. Ochre was first used as a natural paint in the painted caves of prehistoric man. It was later rediscovered at the time of the French Revolution, and was sold throughout the world for over a century. Ochre has been an ingredient in the dyes of fabric and in the pigments of the yellows the reds of Renoir and van Gogh.
The Languedoc-Roussillon region has been inhabited by humans for over 450 thousand years and because of its strategic location has always been a battleground. Legions of Romans, Visigoth tribes, Frankish armies, Moorish colonialists, French, Spaniards and Portuguese armies fought over domination of the area and much blood was spilled.
During the Reign of Terror French Revolutionaries fought back the armies of the Spanish and Portuguese kingdoms in the war of Roussillon. A brutal outcome after its three-year war saw the execution of all French royalist prisoners and the guillotining of French generals who disfavoured the local deputies while fighting for them.
It was a key post for the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation in the Second World War . The writer and decorated Resistance fighter Samuel Becket lived in Roussillon after escaping the Gestapo for his work in the Resistance in Paris. He wrote his second novel while living there.
The village of Roussillon, perched on ochre cliffs, is a quiet spot in winter. Few restaurants and boutiques are open but the empty streets resonate with its long history. Arriving at noon via a journey from the south side of the Luberon we had lunch at one of few open restaurants – a Bar/Pizzeria. It was excellent. Omelets du jour, served with ratatouille, really hot, skinny frites, a Pichet à rosé from the Roussillon region, fromage frais avec fruits rouge et café.
It was meal substantial enough to brace us for cold, but sunny afternoon and provide energy to discover this most exceptional place.
The universal symbols of St. Valentine’s are the heart and the colors red and pink.Forgotten is the story of St. Valentine, imprisoned, tortured and killed under the Roman emperor Claudius for secretly marring couples in the Christian Church. And just as well! This time of year a little love and color is to be welcomed.
The color red is the warmest color. Red, symbolizing spontaneity, courage, good luck, prosperity, fire, passion and appetite glow almost florescent in the gold light of Provence. Pink, the color of unconditional love, tenderness, hope, and passion is the power of red softened with the purity of white.
I used clippings of a beautiful bush that produces tiny red, pink and white together with flowering rosemary and olive branches to make my, “unfinished” heart wreath.
These bushes are prolific and are often pruned into topiaries and hedges.
Pink and red and rosemary mauve are everywhere in Provence in February and tonight, while Lovers everywhere open their Champagnes Rosé, the sky outside our cozy house in the Luboron is turning fiery red, pink, mauve and gold.
Perhaps it is the ghost of ancient rituals; the penetrating light diffused on occasions by smoke, mist, or wind, or the abstract random cubism of the villages, the layered heterogeneous human and geological history carved into every stone that makes it challenging to capture what Albert Camus described as the “bewildering beauty “ of Provence. It is an country of its own in France where it has for centuries been the mother of a poetic language and muse for the songs of troubadours. Provence has an energy that writers, artists and musicians have tried to capture and articulated since time immemorial.
For me the Driving Question is: How to capture and portray the visual feast that passes through time bathed in thousands of shades of light? In many ways this is the essential enigma of the photographic process where the key tools are just that – time and light.
One of the first lessons of photography is that of Aperture, the intensity of the light, and Shutter Speed, the time it takes light to travel and expose film. Et voila une photo! But the process is not what makes you happy. Non. It is the challenge to make the resulting artifact a thing that speaks to and of its subject in a unique way. It is an achievement, not impossible but difficult, which the French have a poetic expression for: “batir des chateaux en Espagne” – to build castles in Spain.
Paul Cezanne lived in the of city of Aix en Provence. He spent his entire artistic lifetime seeking a completely innovative way to create not a copy but “a harmony parallel to nature” in his paintings. Cezanne has been called the father of modern art. Picasso, who had a home in Provence and Matisse who lived on the Provincial Côte d’Azur, were both directly influenced by him and his somewhat geometric perspective. It is one that you see everywhere in Provence – the villages are like cubist arrangements, the stony Alpilles and Luboron Mountains are geometric forms in shapes and color. The vineyards and meadows are like Provencal Quilts hanging in a market.
We are living in Provence for the winter. It is a time of year when tour busses are parked in their homelands of Holland, Denmark and England; when many hoteliers, chefs and shopkeepers take their holidays in North Africa or Miami where they are accustomed to the heat while we are here in their chilly homeland being treated graciously as part of the scene in their beautiful villages. Our charming rental house in the Provincial region of the Luboron is just outside the town of Ansouis, a small hilltop village, classified among “the most beautiful in France”.
Ansouis, Lourmarin, Lacoste, Oppède, Bonnieux, Ménerbes, Vaugines, Cucuron, Grambois. Cavaillon, Roussillion and Cabrieres d’Aigues are just a handful of the 35 village names that are, to pronounce correctly, a humiliating journey through silent l’s, guttural g’s and tongue flattening aig’s. It is a relief that the inhabitants of these towns are very forgiving and even so, many speak English, they allow us make an effort in our nascent French.
We have become Provinceophiles having a tireless love affair with the climate, the wind, the culture, food and needless to say the plentiful wine. It has been just one month and it feels like much longer. There is so much to discover and I hope to tell you all about the adventure of doing so.
I am looking forward to post my next blog and share the story of how to find a perfect Provincial house to rent; of shopping in les marché, the markets that pop up in every village on a different days of the week; food glorious food and the gusto of Provincial cooking; wine glorious wine; and the marvelous “Mediterranean paradox”!