No summertime blues
SUMMER in Provence is about colour and movement at the markets, music festivals and dancing in the streets, picnics and parties in gardens and restaurants, sunflower and lavender fields, and endless green vineyards.
We've spent many summers in Provence, and this year discovered Mas du Marechal, a refurbished 18th century stone house in the village of Vers Pont du Gard within walking distance of the Pont du Gard, the 2000-year-old Roman aqueduct. Mas de Marechal is the perfect base to discover all of Provence.
A 10-minute drive takes you to Uzes, the last Duchy of France, where hundreds of stalls are set up in the Place aux Herbs on Saturdays with stall holders selling everything from glistening olives in wicker baskets to pottery, clothing, and, always...an endless variety of sausages, pates, terrines and cheeses.
Within an hour's drive of Vers Pont du Gard are all the Provencal icons including the hilltop villages of Bonnieux and Menerbes that Peter Mayle wrote so charmingly about in A Year in Provence.
Arles, with its stunning Roman amphitheatre is just a 45-minute drive away.
Les Baux des Provence, France's most prestigious medieval site, is just a half an hour away.
Perched on top of a rocky outcrop, it offers breathtaking views of olive groves and vineyards to the horizon.
Below Les Baux in an old dis-used bauxite quarry is Carrieres de Lumieres, a spectacular showing of giant images of famous art works beamed on the lofty quarry walls accompanied by dramatic music.
This year the show features works of Gauguin and Van Gogh.
Avignon is just a 30-minute drive away and is the walled city most known for the Palais des Papes, the grand building that was the power base of Christianity after the popes moved there from Rome in 1309.
Roussillon with its red ochre hills and charming village is an hour away and attracts artists from everywhere to sit and paint in its extraordinary light.
We toured all these places each day and then fell back into the comfort of Mas du Marachel, grateful for its wall-garden and pool.
Fully restored by keeping original features of the 18th century property, it is beautifully decorated and all of the five spacious bedrooms have their own modern bathrooms.
We loved the sense of village community that came with the mas.
A stroll to the patisserie each morning put us in a Provence mood. It mattered not that the owner spoke no English and our French was dismal.
We bought our baguettes and croissants easily with a merry "bonjour" and then an "au revoir".
Buying wine from the village wine cave was also conducted with plenty of miming and jovial exchanges.
You take your container and watch while the proprietor fills it up from a small vat with a pump.
The one cafe in Vers Pont du Gard presents a 'plat du jour' (dish of the day) and it quickly became a favourite.
In a tiny square surrounded by handsome stone buildings we dined extravagantly on freshly prepared meals of local produce, with wine (of course), followed by coffee and a surprise treat, all for 8.50 euros.