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  • Shelley Dark

3. flânant en Provence

Bonjour mes petits choux. Oh we've had fun exploring today.

That was despite the weather - this was our view at breakfast. Wet. It hasn't spoiled a thing.

This spiral staircase is just outside the dining room.

The rain and mist seems to make the view even prettier!

Armed with our umbrellas and this map from reception, we set off on another walk.

The gate to the walled cemetery was open, and since there was no one inside, we had a little wander.

Just inside the gate was this philosophical poem. Loosely translated, it means:

Man is like the grasses

And flowers of the field

All bloom for a brief moment of time

So true. Makes me want to travel even more!

Most of the graves were simple, with a couple of exceptions like this quite lovely enclosed family area.

The area was known for being a stronghold of the Résistance during World War II, and the graves of its fighters were marked by these golden laurels.

We passed small groves of olive trees which were small enough to look as if they each belonged to a family. Don't you love the contrast of their grey leaves against green?

Our leaflet instructions once again were excellent, and we climbed back up the hill along this pretty pathway.

We passed more pollarded trees. The practice was known as far back as Roman times, mainly to provide firewood for winter, and feed for livestock. Now I think it's mainly to keep the trees at a certain height. It always makes me think of French cafés.

Doorways and windows are a constant joy to me. Even ones like this.

There's golden broome (genista) flowering all over the hillsides.

The fig trees everywhere are bearing a great crop of immature fruit.

Crillon le Brave kept appearing in the distance. Mt Ventoux stayed hidden in cloud.

The poppies were hanging their heads today, waiting for the sun to shine. I think they'll be waiting a while!

Just inside the front door of the hotel, there's local produce for sale. Isn't this a pretty way to make lavender balls? I would have bought some as gifts, but I can never face the hassle of bringing anything wooden or vegetable back through customs.

Which reminds me that I had lavender honey this morning for breakfast. Just a soupçon of lavender flavour and slightly creamed. Yummy!

I haven't told you about the New Zealand couple we met at Charles de Gaulle airport at the luggage carousel. They were on their way to their home in Burgundy which they bought several years ago for 50,000 euro. They said it's a lovely house. The taxes and upkeep are very little. At first they used to rent it out when they weren't here (they spend two three-month periods here), but now they find it easier just to keep it for themselves. There are quite good houses there, apparently, for as little as 30,000 euro. It's a little too far from England, and not as warm as Provence, for values to be high. They made the point that if you buy a house like this, you really need to understand that you will not be able to sell it. Isn't that amazingly cheap?

Last night when we were on our way to dinner there were a group of cyclists sitting on a terrace overlooking the valley, drinking rosé. They were happy with their day's progress. We asked if they had been up Mt Ventoux today. Oh non non, they said. How long does it take to go up the mountain, I asked. Oh, a good cyclist takes about an hour and three quarters. And then, with a curl of the lip, some people even take FOUR hours. I cannot believe anyone can pedal a bicycle up that mountain in four hours, let alone less. At breakfast this morning some cyclists said that Tour de France cyclists can do it in less than an hour. Doesn't the human body amaze you?

The restaurant gastronomique at the hotel is called Jérome Blanchet after the chef. He has won the title of Disciple of Escoffier (whatever that means, but it sounds very impressive) and was deputy head at the Negresco Hotel in Nice the year it was awarded its second Michelin star for the restaurant Chantecler.

Our reservation was for 7.15pm.

This is sous-chef Bertrand Palau who was in charge tonight. He very kindly allowed me into the kitchen while he and his team were preparing our meals.

The manager of Hotel Crillon le Brave, Sebastien Pilat was Director of the famous Michelin starred restaurant at l'Hôtel de Crillon in Paris. He takes a keen interest in the restaurant and was there supervising tonight.

This is kitchen hand JC who enjoyed having his photo taken.

And Cédric who was doing the frying and grilling. When he saw me photographing, he rubbed his thumb and fingers together, meaning, I want money for being a model. And laughed.

There were two women helpers in the kitchen as well, but they were working at a distance from me.

We decided on the spring menu, a fixed price for a choice from the a la carte menu of entree, main, cheese and dessert.