On a rather dull day here in St Saturnin I think back to those wonderful sun-drenched days we have had this year. True, our summer was not as hot as usual (not always a bad thing when we want to make the most of time outside the classroom) but the lavender was early and heart-stoppingly beautiful on the high plains that we love to visit so much.

The autumn has been one of the best in recent memory with balmy days and glowing colours. The only disappointing aspect of the unusual weather conditions throughout southern Europe this year is the failure of the olive harvest. Usually at this time our local olive mill is working at full tilt, the olive groves are full of local people picking from dawn to dusk and there is a real sense of industry. This year the fields are deserted and the mill is barely working. And it is the same sad story throughout Italy and Spain.

At the last minute we added a new ‘theme’ to our Discover Provence weeks and included a truffle visit. It was a revelation to us all. We loved the tour of the truffle farm with the two little dogs who gaily dug away to find the buried treasure, and the champagne aperitifs with truffle delicacies were truly delicious – especially the brownie with truffle crème anglaise, yum!

Our dear friend Francis, M. Jullien, has continued to be a superb host to many of our students. We have been treated to  wonderful meals and aperitifs dinatoires crafted by him. The warm hospitality of his dining table and his great food are not quickly forgotten. His anecdotes of local life and history are as entertaining as ever and his cooking continues to be both traditional and adventurous. At the moment it is his nougat-making season. With the season’s fresh almonds and local lavender honey he makes delicious bars of nougat. His home is full of the aroma of these local ingredients bubbling away in his copper cauldron!

He was telling me a little story the other day… he has a small cottage in the village, just opposite his main house, which is sometimes used by our students. He has recently carried out a number of renovations and while visiting the cottage with him I asked about the history of the little building. ‘Oh,’, he said, ‘my grandfather bought this little cottage at the beginning of the last century.’ ‘For any particular purpose?’ I asked, knowing that the family had a farm and a lot of farm buildings. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘He wanted somewhere to leave his donkey when he came to church on Sunday.’ I suppose you could call it secure parking, traditional style!

Despite it being the quieter season we are still busy with lots of French courses here at the school. We have welcomed many old friends this year and thank them for their continued support and have been thrilled to make so many new ones. We are open throughout the year so don’t hesitate to ask if you would like to do something that isn’t posted on the site.

I have now posted the dates of next year’s courses. These may be modified slightly but rest assured, if you book for a particular course on a particular date that will not change. All the Discover Provence weeks we are offering are ones which we know are hugely enjoyable and give our students the opportunity to experience the very best of what Provence has to offer.

I’ll finish with some snaps from this year’s photo album. A bit of a mixed bag and not the best in the world (I meet some startlingly good photographers amongst you) but good memories of beautiful gardens, the Tour de France coming through St Saturnin, Van Gogh and St Remy, our school and village and of course some of Francis’s aperitif delights. I have also taken the liberty of including a photo I took recently at the Tower of London. We love the swathes of poppies we see in the countryside here in Provence during the spring and early summer months but I must say the ceramic poppy display in London to commemorate the centenary of the start of WW1 was particularly poignant.

Hope to see you next year.



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