When we first arrived in France, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed. Having taken a quite loud, propeller-buzzing plane ride from Rome to Marseille, I expected to descend (or more like glide) onto a field of flowing lavender & be greeted by a series of jovial farmers setting up for their afternoon Pastis - maybe we'd even be invited in for a quick aperitif! Admittedly, my expectations were a little grandiose, but I'd been fed on months of guidebooks and fueled by enough of Peter Mayle's picture-postcard images to feel a bit cheated as we weaved through the gritter side of Marseille on the autoroute that day.
The next few days were quite the same- moving in, trips to Ikea, weekend shopping at the hyper-market Carrefour (yes, it's huge). Luckily, we took our first trip to Sanary Sur Mer that next week & I began to understand that much of the stonewashed, lavender-field Provence of my dreams was indeed hidden - or at least required some driving & a few back-country roads to discover.
Thus, our day trips commenced. And, I've found that not only does that Provence exist, it seems somehow better than my lavender-field one. A good example is the village of Le Castellet; about a 30-minute drive from where we live but light years away from hyper-anything. The pace of the village is slow, authentic, and measured. You're sure to find stonewashed buildings (and then some) but I got the impression that although the town can be quite heavily-touristed in the summer months, daily life moves as it always has & at the whims of the villagers themselves.
Maybe it was the fountain turned impromptu fish pond we encountered as we walked into town with a hastily-scribbled sign noting the similarities between the fountain's red fish and politicians:
Be careful! Ecological Anti-Mosquito Red Fish = Red-Green Fish
....and underneath: In fact, there are also politicians who switch from red to green without any problem.
Or perhaps, it was another sign a few meters ahead for Le Pied de Nez Restaurant & Wine Bar (or the Thumbing Your Nose Restaurant) which gave us another clue to the sensibilities of the village:
Whatever the clues that we got about daily life in Le Castellet, a few things were certain: the scenery was exquisite, the food impeccable, the shopkeepers friendly, & we imagined that everything moved at much the same pace it had for hundreds of years. And luckily, lavender season is just around the corner.
Continue reading for more pictures from Le Castellet...