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Review 1903: Les Olivettes, Le Pied-a-Terre

www.olivettes.com

Recommended
Review by Lis Vibeke K from Denmark

sleeps 2-5/2bath house in Cadenet, Provence


When

winter 2004 - 05, winter 2005 - 06, 8 weeks, 3 weeks

Review

Winter in Cadenet

The house

One of the advantages of being a free-lance writer is not having to spend the Winter in southern Scandinavia where the weather at that time of the year is almost invariably bleak, wet and windy. So, come November, we follow the sun ... making it a habit to spend a couple of months in Provence, an antidote to seasonal depression vastly superior to any amount of Prozac.

Winters, even in Provence, can be pretty cold in spite of the sun shining more or less every day, so it is not just a question of pitching your tent. The kind of comfort we need we’ve found in The Pied-à-Terre in Cadenet, a charmingly furnished house right in the center of a bustling village.

By comfort, we mean things like heating that actually works - enough space for two people to work without getting in each other’s way - someone coming in to clean house & change bed linen every week - a kitchen where you can actually do some cooking apart from heating the odd pizza and tossing a salad – and a telephone (add a Tele2 phone card from the newsstand and you are in business, cutting exorbitant cell phone expenses to a fraction). A spacious bathroom is an extra plus where one can add lavender fragrance to one’s bathwater and dream of Summers past and future. And, weather allowing, a lovely terrace for sunny lunches – we’ve actually had lunch there on a Christmas day.

Cadenet

If you’re looking for a real, functioning French village with all the amenities, Cadenet is your place. The "sights" are few and nothing to write home about, apart from the hardware store – gloriously quaint and definitely worth a detour. Some of the neighboring villages have their share of picturesque alleys, fountains, chateaux and the like if that is what you are after, and Cadenet is the perfect base for exploring the Parc National de Luberon and parts of the Provencal Alps.

The village itself is not the least chi-chi and very far from being "touristy" – although the Tourist Office staff are eager to provide you with answers to any questions you’ll feel like asking. You won’t be part of an amorphous invasion, and if you stay long enough - which doesn’t necessarily mean very long - the friendly people selling you the newspaper and your morning croissant will contribute to making you feel at home.

Two places in the center offer Internet access at reasonable rates. Add to this picture a few bars – what French village worth its name will go without at least one – a large boules-space behind the church – and a few restaurants, one of them featuring "aïoli garni" for lovers of garlic and salt cod every Friday lunch.

Food

Cadenet’s weekly market is more of the real thing and is sure to fill your Monday mornings with people-watching and food shopping. We soon learned where to buy the best cheese (the Auvergnat in the handsome hat will top your purchase with a few jokes and a handful of small dry pungent goats cheese bites "pour l’apéritif" if he decides he likes you). Monsieur Challet – a vegetable grower from neighbouring Lauris – markets an unequalled watermelon preserve ("Mom made it!") The juiciest ham-on-the-bone can be found in a stall also displaying dry sausages and gallon jars of freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil. Another stall will tempt you with tapenades, candied fruit and the like.

We tried out all the four (!) bakeries and ended up with a favorite. Apart from the usual stuff, this one makes organic sourdough bread and – if you are lucky enough to be spending Christmas here – the tastiest gibassier, a seasonal flat olive oil bread with a subtle taste of bitter oranges. With a dab of lavender honey, what more can one wish for with a nice cup of tea? The butcher on the little square just a few minutes down the street offers a large selection of high quality meat and fowl – he’ll even stuff a quail while you wait – and a selection of charcuteries. Plus slow food for heating up at home. Here’s your chance of a hassle-free civet de chevreuil or a daube de boeuf without having to pay restaurant prices.

A supermarket just a couple of minutes drive from the village has an excellent fish department where ordinary oysters and mussels rub shoulders with exotic stuff like sea urchins – plus the usual red mullet, salmon, perch and the like.

Walking it all off

Much to our surprise, the surfeit of lovely French food and wine never makes us gain weight. Maybe because we’ve made it a habit to walk for a couple of hours every afternoon. A few really nice walking trails start from the village itself, but if you drive just a few miles you’ll have an ample choice of well marked trails, in the mountains (to the North) or down at the river Durance (going South-West).

We’ll be back!

Lis Vibeke Kristensen & Bertil Pettersson

Note: This rental is not listed on their website, contact them for more information.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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