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France: Sunflowers, Lavender and Castles, oh my!

 

Sunflowers

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Lavender

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and Castles....

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Happy Birthday to me!

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D had to be in the US for meetings on my birthday this year so we celebrated the week before in Provence, France.  I have always wanted to see the lavender in bloom.  Mid July is usually when they are in full bloom, but the weather has been unseasonably warm and they bloomed early.  They were slightly past peak, but still full of color.

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The fields glowed with many shades of purple and the smell from the lavender as you walked through (some of us skipped) was divine!  I wish this blog had a sctatch and sniff feature.

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We could even smell it on our clothes hours later.  The fields were filled with very happy bees, hundreds of them, in many different varieties.  Lavendar honey is very special and has a delicate sweet taste. 

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There were lavender fields everywhere.  Look into the far right and you can still see purple.

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Freshly cut lavender at the market.

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An extra special treat - like the lavender, the sunflowers were in full bloom!

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There were many happy bees in the sunflower fields too.

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The fields went on for acres and acres.

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This photo is slightly blurred, but I love that it caught the bee in flight.

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The first chambres d'hote we stayed in was the Vieux Figuier (old fig tree).  We had stayed there seven years ago and loved it.  On our second night, Jacque and Maite the owners, invited us to have dinner with them.  It was a very casual, with simple but delicious food.  A special experience.  Maite speaks English well, but Jacque only a little, so D got to practice his french.  Our room -

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and the view out of our bedroom window.  Stunning!  We did go for a swim one night well, D did I only dipped my toes in - too cold!

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Of course I had to have my ice cream fix...can you guess the flavor?   LAVENDER, what else!  Just perfect, my purple cone, in my purple dress, in a little purple chair!  Am I cute or what?

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 This area of Provence has many beautiful hilltop, cliff towns.

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 We enjoyed exploring them and finding fun places to eat.

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They were very quiet for this time of year.

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One of my favorite fruits, the fig, was in season and there were signs all over the area for the Fete de Figue (festival of the fig).  All the towns were so small we questioned how good would it actually be - but we ventured out and the festival was really big and lots of fun!

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There was a parade, food to eat, items for sale, like the garlic below, and lots of figs!  I bought fig juice, fig soap, fig preserves, fig vinegar, and a fig pastry.

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D is buying little pancakes served with Fig jelly from the boy below.  It was the equivalent to our childrens lemonade stand.  He was very excited as D was his first sale (his mother was excited too!).  Cute. 

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We left the Fete de Figue and headed five hours north to the Loire Valley and the Sancerre wine region, one of our favorite white wines.  We really enjoy visiting the areas that are home to our favorite wines.  It makes the wine more special to drink when we have seen the vineyards where the wine originated.  The region was so plush and green.  The grapes were just starting to form. 

 

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We stayed at the enchanting Castle de Gerigny owned by Yann and Delphine.  This is our new favorite place!   We highly recommend the castle if you are looking for a special place to go in France and it really is not that expensive.  We cannot wait to go back!!

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Porsche-pette was also pretty happy here and decided that she wanted a castle too; or maybe it was her owner who wanted a castle!

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Yann and Delpine purchased the castle in 2005.  It was in shambles.  In two years they completely restored it with no professional help.  We are not sure where they found the time as they have 4 boys ages 8 - 16 and the two youngest are twins. 

The castle had a moat and all!

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It was restored and decorated with TLC!  There were so many special touches everywhere, like the sheet which were 100% linen with embroidery all along the top.   Here is our bedroom -

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The first night we paid to eat dinner with the family (minus the twins as they were at their grandparents).  It was such a fun evening.  D had a chance to practice his french and Delphie and the boys had a chance to practice their English.  Yann spoke English very well.  Yann and the oldest son are lighting the candles.  The table was huge, you are only seeing half of it in the photo.

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The meal was delicious and the table was beautiful.  The candles made it even more special as it grew dark.  We were full and happy when we went to bed.

The next day, D took one of the boys for a ride in the Porsche.  He had been eying it since we arrived.  The boys were into old rock groups so D played Janice Joplin as they drove.  Delphine reminded D to drive safely as that is one of her babies in the car!

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Doesn't this photo looks like it was a painting by a french impressionist artist?

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The second night Yann and Delphine invited us to join them on the back porch overlooking the moat for pizza and wine.  We offered to pay for a bottle of the wine, but they would not let us - they said it was their treat.

In the morning they were leaving for England so they left us a beautifully set table for breakfast and the keys to close up when we left.  We had our own private Castle for a few hours!!!

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There were lots of fun things to do in this area of France.  We visited the midieval town of La Charite-sur-Loire and the Notre Dame church built in the 12th century, now a UNESCO world heritage site.

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There were beautiful contemporary stained glass windows in the church.

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We visited the Castle de Saint-Fargeau which is over 1000 years old.  They had a very interesting wall display.

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Can you tell what they are?  Let me help you......

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Hooves from the hunt with braided legs!  icky...yet interesting!  All the castles we have visited and we've never seen anything quite like this.

There was a sweet little village, Ville du Livre et du Mot (translated  - the city of the book and the word).  They had many bookstores that sold very old and new books, but what made it really sweet was the poetry and words on all the buildings throughout the town.

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Shakespeare - "What do you read sir? Words, Words, Words.

For a few more photos, go to the main page and click on the album in the upper right titled "Provence and Sancerre".

Great weather, great food, great places we stayed and visited......another wonderful trip to France!

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