We awaken to Provençal birdsong

Trip Start Sep 25, 2012
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Trip End Oct 16, 2012


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Flag of France  , Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur,
Wednesday, October 3, 2012

We awoke at Les Bertrands to streaming sunshine and joyous birdsong, almost a caricature of a perfect Provençal morning. We were with Manfred and Carole at their lovely bergerie—an old stone shepherd's house, which they have lovingly and magnificently restored. It's in the village of Taradeau, in the Départment of Var ("the Var"), which in turn is smack in the middle of Provence.

After breakfast on the terrasse we strolled up the dirt road that ends at their house, accompanied by several neighbors' dogs.  Their 'hood is a mixture of modest and grand houses, occupied by a motley collection of several-generation local French and a variety of foreigners, mostly Germans and Dutch.  Then we drove to a café in Taradeau to check email (I had 60), and to shop at a big supermarket for, among other things, my favorite soap, Savon de Marseille. It comes in green rustic-looking cubes and has a leathery-oily aroma.  On various faces of the cube it says, "Savon de Marseille," “Extra Pur 72% D’huile,” and “300 grammes.”

This soap has been made in Marseille for over 600 years.  Similar to the German beer laws, in 1688 a law decreed that a soap could be called Savon de Marseille only if it were made in the pure, traditional way.  In case you’re interested in what the traditional way is (thanks for asking), here goes: olive oil, alkaline ash from burned seaweed, and salty water from the Mediterranean Sea are mixed up in ancient 8-ton caldrons.  The soap-to-be is boiled for 10 days, then poured into open pits to cool.  When the glop is semi-solid it’s cut into cubes, stamped, and set out in the Provencal sun and mistral winds to dry.  The entire process can take a month.  So now you know.

Carole and Manfred invited neighbors Felix, Ina, and Lisa for dinner.  Felix was the husband, but it took me a while to remember that Ina was the wife and Lisa their dog, rather than the other way around.  Ina is a very sweet Dutch woman.  Lisa is a very sweet Dalmatian dog.  As always seems to be the case in France, dinner was fabulous (thanks, Carole!), there was lots of wine, we stayed out on the terrasse until ridiculously late, talked up a storm, and all had a rollicking good time.  Even Lisa, who played with Tuffet.
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