Poppies & Cherries – Provence has turned red.

Having arrived back in Provence a few of days ago I’ve been really surprised at how much things have changed in the last 5 weeks.
First, and probably the biggest surprise, is that everything is looking incredibly lush and green. This a such a stark contrast to the bleached colours and dry fields and verges that seemed still to be evident earlier this year after last summer’s extensive and extended drought.
Lush and green landscape so different to the parched colours we saw last year
It’s fair to say though that things have changed quite dramatically in the last month in particular with huge storms having been seen and quite unseasonable weather…….

Waiting for the next storm to roll in

….. And since I arrived back the chatter has been about a storm that hit Apt just over a week ago, described by many as the worst they have seen for at least 20 years, with several centimetres of water falling in a couple of hours and extreme lightning, causing damage too. The ‘submersible’ car parks in the centre of the town had to be evacuated due to the rising water levels and I know that our eldest, who was out on his bike when the storm hit will remember it for many years to come.

Of course though, there are some benefits to having had this spell of relatively unsettled weather and the vivid colours that have exploded across the landscape are just one.
Poppies on the morning dog walk
May is a great time of year here for the wild flowers that appear in the verges and hedges, adding a splash of colour to the bright greens of the emerging new growth.
This year the wild roses seem to be bearing more flowers than I have seen before, with their yellow-hearted pink and creamy blooms, ramblings through the hedges and up trees.
Dog roses scrambling through a hedge at Roussillon
Although the colour that has really stopped me in my tracks over the last few days on the bike is red – a bright splash of scarlet as the poppies bloom in the fields and the cherries start to ripen in the orchards around us.
The poppies are always a delight. Even driving from the airport to the house in the dark, the colour was easily seen in the headlight beam, adding a glow to some of the fields as we passed.

But in the daylight they flow across fields as if someone has dragged a bright-red paintbrush through the grass and early crops and you realise how beautifully Van Gogh captured the sight in his painting of a poppy field in 1890 – it’s simply stunning.

Poppy Field by Van Gogh

The colour is an instant pick-me-up and along with the swifts, swallows is a sure sign that summer is on its way…
Miss Daisy taking time out by a poppy field between Coustellet and Lagnes
Adding interest to well-loved views …..
Lacoste perched above a splash of red
And framing others with colour…..
View from Lacoste towards Bonnieux
The other red though is that of the ripening cherries and I must admit this has been the big surprise for me.

Of course I’ve seen the cherries on the trees before, but I hadn’t really appreciated how quickly the transformation from bare tree to fruit takes place until I was on the bike a couple of days ago.

One of my favourite rides is to cycle out to the markets at Goult and Roussillon on a Thursday morning. It’s a delightful circular ride, and follows the ridge of ochre between the two villages, climbing gently on a road that passes through cherry orchards.
The Thursday market in the pretty village of Goult
When I was here at the start of April the trees were covered in blossom and I took this photo on 5th April, looking through the trees towards Goult.
Cherry blossom in an orchard near Goult on 5th April 2018
On Thursday when I passed, the trees were green with leaves and the branches weighted with perfect bunches of perfectly ripe cherries.This is the same tree a little over 5 weeks on….
The same tree on 17th May 2018 – fully ripe cherries in 6 weeks
Not all the trees have turned yet, but others along the cycle path had and the first platters of local fruit were on one of the stalls when I arrived at Roussillon market….
First cherries in the market at Roussillon
Needless to say, they taste wonderful, although at nearly 10€ per kilo for these early ‘red diamonds’, I’ll be restricting myself to the odd handful for the time-being


In the meantime I’ll just continue to enjoy the transformation of this beautiful place, watching as the lavender plants push on and the colours start to shift over the next month from red and green to the stunning purple that I (and so many others) love so much…..

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