After 5 years of owning the house here, I thought we had a good knowledge of our little part of Provence. We’ve got beneath the skin of the area, have some favourite little places, quiet little nooks that we go to, far away from the summer crowds, and just have found our own way here, doing the things that we love to do.
This year though has been a time of new discoveries, from the walks that we found over the winter, which just added a whole new dimension to our life here..
To finding little swimming spots for Mille, and us, where we can go on the hottest of afternoons after a bike ride, just to lie in the water, watching the dragonflies skimming around in front of us.
I suppose it is a simple result of the fact that we are now here for months at a time, rather than the dip in, dip out life that we had before. The last five years have seen us spending weeks, rather than months here at a time, constantly travelling between countries, to manage (what some consider) our slightly chaotic lifestyle.
Also this is the first time we have spend an extended period of time here together, as previously Andy and I would be like ships passing in the night, snatching a few days together here, before one of us was on a plane, or train back again.
During those last five years, we have both discovered different things, finding new places for each other to explore, when we have had those few days together. Whether it is new bike rides to do….
Or pretty places to amble around…
Or just simply new walks in the woodlands around the house…
But being here together, has allowed us the time to explore a little further, hunt out the places we have heard of, but never visited, and just really get further off the beaten track than we have ever done before.
We have also realised that we’ve been able to watch the seasons really change, and have been amazed (and bizarrely delighted) at simple things, such as the height the grass has grown to this year … I am sure it is no higher than it normally gets, but we have been here to watch it grow, flower and now go to seed, with the tips of the tallest grasses above Andy’s head.
Like so many, we were delighted at seeing the cherry trees covered in a froth of white, with their blossom in the early spring, hoping for each flower to set and that by now, the trees would be laden with their dark red fruits, for us to enjoy..
Only then to experience severe, very late frosts, which turned the blossom brown overnight, devastating the crops and the rest of the season for the farmers. There are still fruits on the trees, but mainly on those in protected areas, or hidden deep within the foliage, where they were protected from the worst of the chill.
We then eagerly waitied for the first poppies to appear, to add their glorious splash of colour to the landscape, and we weren’t disappinted, with bright red fields adding new detail to the views on our cycle rides.
In fact the poppies have been incredible this year, seeming to last longer than ever, their fragile red petals, shimmering in the breeze, somehow holding their heads up high after some severe storms have brought heavy rain too.
Now we are noticing the first shades of purple appearing on the tips of the lavender, again getting to know the fields where it first appears, those south-facing, protected slopes, low in the valley, where the conditions are perfect to bring on the plants.
Higher up, on the Plateau Des Claparedes, above Saignon and across to Auribeau, the plants are only now starting to show the first signs of darkness on the flower spikes, as the start to shift from green to indigo…
Even higher, on Lagarde D’Apt and up on the slopes of Mont Ventoux around Sault, the plants are still resolutely green, the true lavender (rather than lavandin), waiting for its own chance to shine. In the meantime the fields of green corn, on these high plateaux, are spattered with colour from the beautiful wild flowers that grow amongst the crops, thanks to the lack of pesticide being used now
I’ve become rather fascinated by insects too, watching the bees in the blossoms, happily mesmersied by their busy-ness and activity, and more recently watching a Rose Chafer, work its way through one of the flowers on the terrace. If it wasn’t so jewel-like, I would have been rather upset by the way it was kicking petals off, in its rather messy feeding process, but when a beetle looks like this, you can only admire it, regardless of its activities.
Then a couple of days ago, we heard the first scratching sound of a Cicada in trees in Apt, the tentative ‘kss-kss’ of a single insect, which will shortly be joined by thousands of others, providing that wonderful soundtrack to our summer days on the bikes and pottering around at home.
I suppose the best way to describe it is that we have slowed down, and are now taking our time to settle, rather than just doing the things that were comfortable, and enabled us to relax the moment we arrived.
It’s these subtleties that we haven’t really noticed before, as really we have been too busy just enjoying the area, immersing ourselves fully and seeing the whole picture, rather than actually taking the time to really see these little differences, and it has added a whole new level of detail to our love of the area.
In some ways it is like looking at a favourite painting, perhaps Irises by Van Gogh, a painting that is so well known and loved, with the vibrant colours and sense of movement giving such a sense of life to the flowers. When you have time to examine it in more depth, you connect with it on a different level, starting to see the finer detail, noticing the brush strokes, seeing the touches that really set it apart.
We’re now starting to see those fine details, connecting with our little part of Provence on a different level, and relishing every moment, and shift that we see.
I have a feeling that this is the start, and we still have lots more to discover as the year goes on.