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September 2006

A Day in: Le Val


What I like in Le Val are the sounds, soft and muffled, as if the village moved under a cotton cloud.

Like in many local villages, fountains gargle at street corners.  In Le Val, you can hear them. 

Kids ruffle around on the side of the street with a soccer ball.  There are no screams.  The TV murmurs from the front door of an old stone home.  The wings of pigeons flock as you approach one of the town square at Place Gambetta.

You might consider it modesty. 

Le Val is a trove of historical gems.  The "tour de l'horloge" and the "passage de la dime" date back to the 12th century and are the remaining rampart doors of the ancient fortified city.  The Notre Dame de l'Assomption chuch sits in the center of town. Consecrated in 1068         A.D.,  its 18th century frescoes uplift the church's interior with gold and blues.

Begin your tour next to the Lafitau boulangerie on Place Gambetta.  Walk in Rue de Montmajour and reach the side of the Church.  Meander by the Rue du Prieure to discover the 12th Century Passage de la Dime (Oustaou de la Dimo) .   The Tourism Office is by your side, next to the main entrance to the church.  Behind it, the Musee des Santons displays its colorful collection of provencal santons and further down Rue Niel, the Musee de la Route Medievale.  Head down towards the town's other main square, the Place Louis Fournier to sip on a drink.  By the Place des Moulins, an old olive oil mill exhibits local art.  Visit the Maison de l'Olivier next to it to learn all about olives. 

To wrap up the day in nature, meander through the city's edible Jardin Public des Gorguettes garden and its pear, cherry, peach, quince and fig trees.   

Slow Stats:  

  • It tooks us a half-day to stroll though Le Val
  • We walked a grand a grand total of 0.6084 miles or 0.9791 kms. 
  • Stroll includes time for munching flour-dusted artisan bread, tasting Curry Chicken, dribbling into 11th century century nooks.   
  • Here is the Road we followed 


Bites: L'Aubergine

Eggplant It looks lethargic, dropping off a tiny calyx, purple, plump like a giant rain drop.

In Provence, it's a summertime love.  It's spinkled with corse sea salt, patted dry, tucked in flour and gently fried.  It's gratiné in the oven with a dab of olive oil, puffed into crusty beignets, smothered in tomato, garlic and parsley sauce.  It's nibbled by tiny flames to soften alongside onions and sweet peppers in pots of ratatouille.

But the aubergine (Solanum melongena), this giant sponge, is an odd ball.  For starters, it isn't a vegetable.  It's a fruit.  It isn't native to Provence, but originally from India.  When a little over ripe, it can taste bitter.  Despite it all, the bulging bubble has found its way into the most endearing dishes across Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean.  That gives you a taste of its disarming charms.

In Provence, you will find it in every marché (market) in the summer months.

Below is one of my favorite Provence regional cookbooks.  It presents recipes with little fanfare but with plenty of heart from the kitchen of Lulu Peyraud, co-owner of the Domaine Tempier vineyard.  Lulu's simple eggplant recipes will have you fall in love with the fruit: Gratin of Eggplant and Tomatoes; Eggplant with Garlic Cream; Ratatouille...

Le 15 Aout

Mais oui, it's mid August! 

Finally, after a month of cars lined up on the coastline road of the Cote d'Azur as on a factory line, the hords head home.  August 15 one of the biggest travel weekends of the year in France.  It's the end of summer.  Beach shops with inflatable alligators and sunkissed postcards deflate a few floaty animals and begin to open up boxes of back-to-school materials.  Pizza parlors and summer bistrots breathe again just enough to chat up the weather. Business, they say, wasn't all that good this year. 

By Toulon, the Mistral wind still whips the sea into a frost.  Which rhythm will it go by this time: 3, 6 or 9 days? The parasol pine trees still lean and shade the rusty bay shaped in a perfect semi-circle.  Tomatoes still rippen on the grape.  Eggplants hang their purple heads low.  A cicada hides in the silver foliage of an olive tree and sings.

Visitors come and go.   The Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur region of France remains whole and vibrant long after summer leaves. 

We can't wait to tell you about the unique vibrant little treasures this region embraces year-round.

Welcome to AzurAlive!