It would be fair to say that it has taken us a couple of days to settle down into life again in Provence after having spent 17 weeks in the UK (the longest time we’ve spent there since we bought our house here 4 years ago).
Then there was the additional little spanner thrown into the works when Fifi decided she needed a longer stay in the Dordogne and blew her clutch. So our arrival here was slightly frazzled and certainly not as relaxed as we had hoped it would be.
Having done essential shopping on the way through the valley, stopping to buy wine from the Domaine Marsaleix, near Coustellet…
And getting a box full of local fresh fruit and veg from the little roadside ‘Cabanon’ just down the road, we pulled into the hamlet to the welcome sight of our little home. It’s always sad to see her shutters closed, but it’s home and within minutes the water & electricity were on and the shutters thrown open, sending spiders and little scorpions scuttling away to the dark corners of the rooms.
After putting everything away we headed out onto the terrace for supper, just content to sit and watch the view whilst being serenaded by the loud, summer insect chatter. We were home and that was all that mattered.
It was though almost a bit disorientating as we had left just as the first signs of Spring were starting to appear, with the trees still without leaves and had arrived back into the height of summer with the vivid colours of Lavender fields and ripened crops and the incessant chatter of Cicadas screaming from the now green trees.
Normally we are around to watch the subtle shifts in seasons take place, watching the first signs of new life on the gnarled stumps of winter vines, enjoying the sight of the lavender fields grow their silvery new leaves before the buds of the new year’s flowers start to emerge and hearing the first lonely cicada starting to shout before others join in. So to leave one season and arrive almost 2 seasons later was really bizarre and left me feeling a little strange.
I know we were exhausted, so after an early bed and a solid 11 hours sleep we got going and did what we love to do best…. Just hopped on the bikes and cycled off, heading out on our Welcome back ride that takes us on a lovely loop of the Valley along some wonderful roads and through some stunning little villages.
As ever, it was the best thing we could have done with the gentle turning of the pedals settling us back into the area and calming our busy minds. By the time we got to Bonnieux we had started to relax and just absorb the changes that had taken place whilst we had been away.
It felt like a ‘deep tissue massage’ for our senses and the further we cycled the deeper and more settling the effect.
No sense was left untouched…. Our sight bombarded with the vibrant summer light and the incredible colours of the fields as we passed with the vivid green of new vines, the pale gold of newly harvested fields with the bales of straw waiting to be collected later and of course the deep luxurious purple of the lavender fields.
Our neighbours here had said that the lavender this year was incredible and they were right, the flowers seem bigger, more open and even brighter than normal and the scent, well our sense of smell was in heaven as we cycled through the spectacular fields, breathing deeply as we went, benefiting from the superb calming effect that lavender essential oils have on mind, body and soul.
It wasn’t just our eyes and noses that were working overtime, but all the other senses too. The Cicadas are in full voice and in some places were almost deafening, screaming in the trees in a desperate effort to make themselves heard above their neighbour. It’s a sound we love to hear and is so constant it just washes over us and is as calming as the sound of waves on a beach, although it’s probably the noisiest peace we know.
Then there was the high warbling call of the bee-eaters flitting around the Olive trees growing on the terraces below our ‘sitting wall’ at Menerbes. We could hear them calling to each other, but try as we might we couldn’t catch a glimpse of their bright foliage as they were scavenging between the trees.
Our sense of touch too was given a workout with the feeling of the gentle breeze cooling us off as we rode, realising when we were cycling into it and soon realising when we were cycling with it, as temperatures went up as we lost its benefit.
Then there was the feeling of the velvet skin of a fresh Apricot that was crying out to be eaten. The skin warm to the touch, but the sweet and juicy flesh still cool and delicious, a far cry from the hard, slightly sour and almost dry ones we find back in England.
And finally taste, I’ve mentioned the Apricot, but everything has a sweetness to it and just seems to melt its flavours into your mouth. From the fruit to the superb different tomates that we put in our salads each evening, they all have full and rounded flavours that come with growing under the Provençal sun. And then there is the incredible taste of local Lavender Honey that is so uniquely scented it improves everything it touches
And finally this morning when our ride took us up to one of our favourite boulangeries at Simiane-La-Rotonde where the pain au chocolat was crisp, flaky, buttery and perfectly chocolatey too, always worth the ride uphill and the taste that never ceases to make me smile.
So our senses have re-adjusted, we now feel in tune with the season and have recovered from the little blip of disorientation.
The shutters are open, the house is filled with light and the scents of summer and we can relax and start just enjoying being home and starting on all the jobs we have planned for the coming months.
We still have to collect Fifi and are happily planning our trip to pick her up and continue her adventure next weekend. Hopefully she’ll arrive in time to see the lavender before the harvest starts in earnest and her ‘car-senses’ will settle her here too.
In the meantime though, we’re just enjoying being back.