Leaving Leysin, I work my way south, one train station at a time, due to French train strike, now in its 6th week, but no one seems to care and trains mysteriously run more or less on time.  I easily make Avignon by evening (from Geneva) and take a nice hotel.  The next morning I tour the old part of town and the farmers’ markets.

There is something about France that is unique in Europe–perhaps it’s the occasional pothole in the roadway or the indifference to the train strike……but it is evident that the French know how to lay back and simply enjoy life.  The metaphor “joie de vivre” is well understood here.  These two young girls know the best place to shop so I queue up and buy my ‘petit-dejeuner’ (breakfast), find a nice sunny place to sit in the square and enjoy my first morning in France in six years.

I soon discover Avignon’s farmer’s market, not unlike the Pike Place Market, and wander around and take in the sights and smells.

Nuits de Mer.   Some of the best oysters I’ve ever tasted were from Arcachon, just south of Bordeaux, and of course, they are washed down with a good glass of crisp white Borderaux.  Where’s my beret?

There is only one place to stay in Provence and that place is Le Degoutaud, home of the Marin family and my good friend Tibo who visited me in Alaska years ago.  This is my third, but not last, trip.  I feel like one of the family now…..Meet the Marin family:

Pierre, his daughter Margaux, her mother (and my “honorary” sister) Veronique, and Tibo Astruc, over a sumptuous feast–and dinner is to follow……

Welcome to France!

Their dog, Lily has the best seat in the house.  This open fireplace burns slowly all day–on apricot and cherry from their orchard–and well into the evening.  It warms the cozy farmhouse built in 1628.  Degoutaud is a B&B so plan your next visit to Provence by staying here.  It’s in the shadow of Mont Ventoux–of Tour de France fame, Cote du Rhone bicycle tour and much more!

The kitchen entrance……Veronique is one of the most wonderful cooks in France (according to Doug) and everything is home-made from the apricot nectar beginning the day to the last sip of wine before bed.  Their farm is featured in the book “The Farms of France.”

The view when making my morning coffee.  At night, the lights of Avignon twinkle in the distance.

The same view but higher up on the 100 acre property shows the Dentelles de Montmirail; Cretacious limestone “teeth” bent up vertically, nudged by the African continent.  Fortunately, France is spared the fireworks of Mt. Vesuvius not far away.   Limestone makes for wonderful drinking water and great soil for vineyards.  The little town of Suzette is nested on a Petit Dentelles on the center left.

A formidable workforce in the vineyards.  Pierre and his father, Huber, teach me the art of pruning–my kind of yoga.  (I found my beret……)   Pierre sports a 2014 vintage “Ranger of the Lost Art” hat!

The top of the property sports a nice zen postured apricot orchard from which they produce an excellent apricot nectar.  I drink a small bottle of it each morning (and their fine wine each evening)–no wonder the French live into their 100s.  Besides apricots and wine grapes, they raise olives, figs and many other garden vegetables.  Augment to that wild boar and truffles and you have a perfect French experience. Everything at Degoutaud is organically grown and produced.  See my earlier poster 6 and 8 years ago here and here.

The sun sets over the Degoutaud roofline.  Life doesn’t get much better.  I leave Wednesday for Nice and on to Milan and Veresa where I give a talk to the Italian Maritime Society.  Stand by!

 

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