Week Number Two (not that we are counting!)

15 Apr

We decided to get some work done on Easter Monday because the weather forecast was for rain on Tuesday/Wednesday. After lunch we decided to drop our empty bottles at a roadside recycling bin but not near here – in Mons instead, 85km away!

We got as far as Fayence, about 30km short, and decided that was enough. That was 60km and had taken 1h20m and I was not driving slowly relative to the road conditions at least.

Fayence was a nice place to wander around for an hour or so. Again, the old village is up on a hill with expansive views. It was once a medieval fortified town. These days it seems to have some glider activity; the airfield is below the town to the south and we watched a glider being towed.

I guess I just like taking pictures!

Panorama over the valley - I said it was on a hilltop!

On the drive back home I pushed the little Fiat as hard as I could, within reason, but still took an hour and 10 minutes to cover the 57 km. You just can’t go terribly fast on these roads. Anyway, we enjoyed the outing and still had time for a relaxed dinner before bed.

On both Tuesday and Wednesday we were busy here doing things like tying and staking the cypress trees and weeding gardens. There are about 20 or so cypress on the property and they range in height from 3m to 7m. A group of a dozen are on the lower level that was flooded last October and they were laid down flat to the ground. They had been stood up again but they were all on various angles plus when the snow hit in February it bent a lot of branches down and out of shape. So instead of looking nice and even, like a pencil to the top, they were a bit scruffy. So we wired all the branches in and staked them with 100mm x 2,400mm poles driven 600mm into the ground. Hopefully that will cure them!

Cypress trees. Should finish staking them this week

On Thursday we picked up our little car – see the blog specifically about that. Here is a picture the rental Fiat and our Renault Clio posing together…

Not too much difference in size

That was all done by about 4pm so I then spent 3½ hours on the mower. With the recent rain and slightly warmer temperatures the grass had come away quite well.

Wisteria in flower on the main house

Now that we had our own car it was time to return the rental so we did that first thing on Friday. Then Leanne got the housework sorted in the main house while I tried to find out why one of the ride-on mowers refused to start. It looks like it is the starter motor relay so we’ll get a new one and see how that goes. The main issue is that some demented design engineer located it in the most inaccessible place possible so you have to be a double-jointed, ambidextrous contortionist to get at it. That’s a challenge for next week.

The weather was still cool and grey, but not wet, on Saturday morning so we headed to the local abbey – Abbaye du Thoronet. It is one of three Cistercian abbeys in Provence and was built between 1160 and 1230. It seems to be owned by the state these days (since 1854) and has had a lot of restoration work carried out and ongoing. For us the most stunning feature was the acoustics of the main church. When we quietly entered the space it sounded like 30 women were talking loudly all at the same time, as they do. Turned out it was just two little old ladies chatting quietly as they shuffled with their walking sticks towards the exit. Amazing! Soon we were alone so I stamped my foot on the stone floor and the reverberations must have lasted for 15 seconds and it was very loud. Wow!

We spent some time exploring the many different parts of the abbey and were lucky to be back in the main church when a tour was being conducted. It was all in French but the lady was talking about the acoustics. Then she walked to the front and started reciting a very melodic prayer in song. The sound was stunning. It sounded as though there should have been amplifiers and speaker stacks hidden. But there was nothing. Just her. And she walked around the front from the centre to the far right and the sound was still the same. It was just one of those jaw-dropping moments.

Because it was not for the faithful there is no central door, just one on the monks on the right and one for the lay brothers on the left

The interior is austere in typical Cistercian style but the acoustics are unbelievable

The church in the background and the chapter house & dormitory in the foreground

We headed off around noon towards Chateau de Berne for a look around and some lunch. This is a great location but it was good to have been warned that the driveway (which is actually a public road but one lane only) is very long. It takes 5 minutes driving from the front gates. When you get in there it is almost like a small town. Beautiful grounds, hotel, restaurant, bistro, open air stage over the water… We had a very nice lunch at the bistro and made a note to return in the summer when the outdoors will be splendid.

How could I not take a picture of this?

The gardens were beautiful and you find the most unusual creatures in them

The stage and amphitheatre

Sunday was clearer than we had seen for a few days. The market at Salernes was recommended so we got there about 10.15am for a look. Bought some nice cheeses to bring home for lunch. Leanne found some flowers as well and after a very good coffee we hit the road back.

Jambon anyone?

Or perhaps some cheese?

How about some herbs and spices then?

In the first two weeks here at Le Thoronet the weather has been a little on the cool side in general – under 10degC over night and 15~18degC during the days. So when it was sunny and warm at lunchtime when we got home we headed for the terrace. It lasted long enough for us to finish lunch but then the clouds rolled in again. I know we will long for cooler weather soon but right now it would be nice if it was a little bit warmer. We have the fire going again tonight as I write.

Our lunch of cheeses, sun dried tomato pesto and bread from the market at Salernes

Nek minit...


4 Responses to “Week Number Two (not that we are counting!)”

  1. Miguel April 27, 2012 at 20:58 #

    I can spot a fraud anywhere. Those photos of the market were actually taken at the Mangawhai Hall before you left. You’re really having a miserable time and don’t want us to worry. Hope things improve.

    • bikernz April 28, 2012 at 09:29 #

      OK, you got me! As another friend said to me, ‘you guys carry on having a crap time & continue posting blogs pretending to be enjoying yourself & I’ll fake looking forward to hearing from you again’.

  2. Kathie Karl April 16, 2012 at 22:00 #

    I am really enloying your blogs Brian. You make them interesting

    • bikernz April 23, 2012 at 15:33 #

      Thanks Kathie. It’s not so difficult to make it interesting – it really is very nice here and we are so enjoying it all. Brian.

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