Saint Remy de Provence (Provence), France September 2023 (Tour 8)

Vanya and I were eager to return to Saint Remy de Provence, capital of the Alpilles. We had each enjoyed our first visit to the town earlier in the year (Tour 7) and were more than happy to be going back. The small town ranks amongst our favourite in France and if ever I were to move from England, it would in all likelihood be to Saint Remy. Once again, because of it’s close proximity to the old town, we opted to stay at Camping Pegomas.

I wrote a fairly comprehensive blog about Saint Remy earlier this year and will endeavour not to repeat here everything that I wrote about the town previously. Certainly, I will steer clear of things ‘to see and do’. You can find out about such things by reading my first blog (use the search engine on this site to find the earlier entry on Saint Remy and… hey, presto). No, we were here this time not to explore but to simply immerse ourselves in the beauty and lifestyle that is Saint Remy. On this occasion we weren’t even inclined to visit ‘must see’ places in the area that we had previously promised to return to. They would have to wait until our next visit. This was going to be about ‘chill time’.

And so it proved. It was enough to simply walk the wholly pedestrianised old town streets and sit outside in the sunshine with a bottle of Alpilles wine and watch the world go by. There follows, a few photos that capture the essence of this visit, starting with the wonderful street scenes…

Of course, Vanya being Vanya, there is always time to mooch around some of the shops…

Strolling through Place Favier we noticed the ‘Lou Planet’ (a creperie we had eaten at previously) was closed but, just seeing the place again awakened taste buds that screamed for a galette. I’m pleased to say there’s no shortage of creperies in Saint Remy de Provence and we very soon found another where we each ordered a galette holding the freshest of scallops.

That was it. Sitting outside in the warm sunshine with a galette and a bottle of chilled wine (a dry white Mas Sainte Berthe produced in the Alpilles) and we were at peace with the world. We sat for quite a while. Well, Vanya insisted upon a cream and chocolate filled crepe for dessert and I was prepared to make do with a little more wine while she finished her repast. Life was and is good.

During our previous visit I was unable to get inside the local church, the Collegiate Church of Saint Martin. The original church built in 1122 was extended and embellished when Pope Jean XXII (that one I mentioned in the Monteux post earlier in this tour) transformed the original place of worship into a collegiate church (I believe a collegiate church is a cathedral without any bishop) although, there’s not a lot left of even that church. Much of it collapsed and had to be rebuilt in the 19th century; hence it’s current largely neo-classical style.

I made it inside the church this time. There’s a particularly impressive organ inside and I understand that organ recitals take place quite often during the summer months at no cost to the public. There was no recital during my visit and I didn’t therefore stay very long. One unusual feature of the church is the altar in a small side chapel which is surrounded by a large block of the local Alpilles rock.

This visit this time was short and sweet and about ‘chilling’. I didn’t therefore revisit the Roman town of Glanum and neither did I resume the Van Gogh trail which I started during Tour 7 but, I leave you with a couple of photos that I took during our last visit. The first is of the Triumphal Arch and the Mausoleum of the Julii (from Glanum) and the second is a reproduction of my favourite Van Gogh painting (Irises) which he painted while in Saint Remy.

I suspect that we will be back in Saint Remy next year but, in the meantime, we are heading further west. We want to buy some wine from down near Collioure before we return to England.

Gordes (Provence), France September 2023 (Tour 8)

L’Isle Sur la Sorgue was always going to be a hard act to follow and I must, therefore, keep an open mind as I describe Gordes. I agree Gordes is one of Provence’s prettiest hillside villages and it is certainly a worthy member of France’s ‘plus beaux villages’ but, for it to be portrayed as “the prettiest village in France” and “the Parthenon of the Luberon” (as it is in some travel blogs) is rather stretching matters.

I think the place is overrated. It benefits from being on an established tourist trail that includes the Abbey of Senanque (which features in countless photos of the Provence lavender fields and is less than 5 kilometres away) and the Village des Bories (France’s answer to the Puglian Trulli and only 2 kilometres away). Add to this that Peter Mayle’s best selling book “A Year In Provence” mentions Gordes and that several hotels were built in the village around the time his book was published (1989) and it strikes me that over the last 30 years Gordes has received a hugely disproportionate degree of promotion and praise from local property developers and travel agents as thousands of tourists were channeled through the area from nearby Avignon, Aix en Provence and even Marseilles. It’s pretty but it’s not that pretty and it gets far too many coach tours to rank amongst the best villages in Provence, let alone France.

Having said all that, on a sunny day it’s white and ochre coloured buildings and terracotta roof tiles are stunning whether viewed from afar or up close and the views across the Cavalon Valley towards the Luberon Massif are tremendous.

A medieval castle, the Chateau de Gordes, towers over the village. It’s an austere and forbidding fortress and, despite being modified in the 16th century (an attempt to turn it into a residence), not one of it’s owners has chosen to make it their home. Instead, it has served as a barracks for passing friendly forces, a prison and, believe it or not, a boy’s school. As I write this I am reminded of the boarding school I attended for a while in the mid sixties. Sorry, I digress, the castle also housed the town hall, the village post office and a pharmacy for a while after being acquired by the local council authority. Nowadays it doubles as a home to the village tourist office and as an art gallery & museum. I understand there’s a second quite unusual museum in Gordes in the shape of the St Firmin Palace Caves and I was tempted to visit but, we had the dogs with us and dogs and museums simply don’t mix.

The most impressive aspects of Gordes, and the most photogenic, are the church (L’Eglise Saint Firmin) and, most especially, the steep, narrow alleys known locally as ‘calades’. Many of these calades, particularly those in the steeper parts of the village where all the houses sit at different levels, have small steps running down their centre to help people move more easily up and down the tight little spaces. My favourite part of the village is down near the foot of the village in an area known as the Fontaine Basse, where there are old wash houses, a mill and what appear to be a couple of small chapels (and, dare I add, very few tourists).

We didn’t stay in Gordes for very long. It’s a small village with very little to offer in terms of local attractions and it can be explored in just a few hours. We might have stayed longer had we visited on a Tuesday when the weekly farmer’s market takes place but, having said that, I shudder at the thought of how busy the place would be on market day.

Anyway, we had decided that for old times sake we would revisit one of our favourite small towns in France, Saint Remy de Provence. No amount of tourists will deter me from going there…

L’Isle Sur La Sorgue (Provence), France September 2023 (Tour 8)

We were settled in the Hotel Le Blason de Provence in Monteux for the next two nights. It was time to explore the surrounding area and we decided to start with L’Isle Sur La Sorgue which is listed among ‘Les plus beau villages de France’ and only a 20 minute drive south.

Vanya was suffering with her hip and so, having parked the Van at the edge of L’Isle Sur La Sorgue on the Route de Cavaillon, I left her to rest for a while and set off alone to explore the town. Within 10 minutes I had reached the River Sorgue which marks the southern edge of the old town. I need only have crossed the bridge in front of me and followed the Rue Carnot to reach the town centre but I fancied following the river around the town first.

The River Sorgue is for the most part a shallow meandering river which completely encircles the old town and it is this surrounding ring of water, together with it’s canals and tributaries, that have caused L’Isle sur la Sorgue to be called the Venice of Provence. I think that excessive but the many waterways and numerous footbridges do lend the place a priceless charm. The river water is crystal clear and there are a couple of wonderful looking bathing areas towards the edge of the town although you’ll not catch me using them. The water is a constant 55 degrees, being the temperature at which it surges from it’s spring in nearby Fontaine de Vaucluse. That’s a little cold for me!

Passing one of the town’s 60+ waterwheels on the way, I followed the river as it ran parallel with the Avenue de la Liberation towards the Monument Alphonse Benoit. Benoit was a local businessman and philanthropist who lived in the town during the period 1809 – 1872. Cross the river from the Avenue de la Liberation and you’re on the Quai Rouget de L’Isle and this too leads to the Monument Alphonse Benoit.

At the Monument turn left and you’re on the Quai Jean Jaures. This is arguably the prettiest and most photographed part of the town although the far end of this quai (where it meets the Quai Frederic Mistral) runs it a close second. There’s no denying L’Isle Sur La Sorgue attracts a high number of tourists and the Quai Jean Jaures is a tourist hotspot but it is a gem of a place and well worth visiting.

Both the Quai Rouget de l’Isle and Quai Jean Jaures are lined with waterside cafes and restaurants and an array of interesting and unusual shops, many of them antique shops. Indeed, the town is brimming with hundreds of antique shops and/or dealers in second hand goods and, if that isn’t enough, the town holds an ‘International Antiques Fair’ twice a year (Easter and the end of August) which attract more than 500 stalls. It is said that, after Paris, L’Isle de la Sorgue is the largest antique centre in France and I wouldn’t argue that point.

Talking of markets, L’Isle Sur La Sorgue is almost as famous for it’s farmers market as it’s antiques. They’re held every Thursday and Sunday morning and the latter market is enhanced by a brocante (flea market). Once or twice a year, in the summer, a floating market is also held on barges (known as nego-chins) on the River Sorgue but I’d need to check with the local tourist office for the precise dates. There were no markets on as I strolled the town.

Follow the Quai Rouget de L’Isle, the Quai Jean Jaures and the Quai Frederic Mistral and you will have walked the most interesting three sides of the four that surround the old town. Turn left into Rue du Docteur Tallet upon reaching the medieval washhouses on the Quai Frederic Mistral and you’ll soon reach the centre of the old town, Le Place de l’Eglise. Me, I retraced my steps to the Van to collect Vanya and the dogs. Vanya just had to see this place.

In no time I was back in the old town with Vanya and our dogs. The relatively silent narrow winding streets and lanes of the old town, together with their empty cobbled passages and courtyards, proved irresistible after the bustling, congested quays that line the Sorgue. They were shaded and cool and, at least until we reached the town centre and the town’s principal church (the Collegiale Notre Dame Des Anges), we somehow escaped the tourists.

Waterwheels of many different sizes and designs, most dating back to the 18th century, are to be found throughout the town. The majority served to generate power for the spinning and weaving of wool and silk or the production of paper while others were used to crush olives or mill flower; all industries long since replaced by tourism in L’Isle de La Sorgue. A few are still in working order and I could happily stand and watch those wheels turning for ages but, even those that are now still and covered in moss are bewitchingly attractive.

On the central square at the heart of the old town stands the Collegiale Church of Notre Dame des Anges (Our Lady of Angels). The church was first built in 1212 in a Romanesque style although there is little if anything that remains of the Romanesque style now. It was almost totally rebuilt at the end of the 14th century and has since become a blend of Gothic and Baroque styles but, the inside is truly… spectacular? It is filled with grand vaulted ceilings, gilded statues, colourful paintings; it’s a mass of blue and gold. In truth, I was overwhelmed by it and there’s a part of me thinks it is over the top and perhaps a little gaudy but; it has to be seen.

Just outside, on the same square, is another quite famous institution… the Cafe de France. If ever there was an Art Nouveau Coffee Shop, this is it. It is the oldest coffee shop in the town and the perfect place to enjoy a croque monsieur and people watch while planning your next move. Oh, and the town’s tourist office is also to be found on this square in the event you need help with the planning.

We left the square by the Rue Carnot and before too long were back at our starting point although we would have been a great deal quicker had Vanya not constantly paused to take photos of Beanie for her facebook posts…

L’Isle Sur La Sorgue. Wherever we go next, this place will be a hard act to follow.

Monteux (Provence), France September 2023 (Tour 8)

Vanya had booked us into the Hotel Le Blason de Provence for a couple of nights. How she found this place, I do not know but; it is a delightful boutique hotel just outside of Monteux on the road to Carpentras and it proved the perfect place to chill out after a little over 3 weeks on the road.

I’ll write about Monteux later. Let me start by introducing you to the Hotel Le Blason de Provence. In their website the owners describe the hotel as “a typical Provencal building from the 1930’s”. That may be true from an architectural perspective but otherwise, no; there’s nothing typical about this hotel. Vanya and I are agreed; they have transformed the hotel into something wholly charming inside and out.

It’s a member of the Logis Hotels Group(e). From what I can tell, the Logis Group is a ‘confederation’ (my word, not theirs) of independent hotel and restaurant owners across Europe who are concerned to offer “a warm and personalised welcome, quality accommodation and home-made meals based on local and seasonal produce”. The hotels are generally small (20 bedrooms on average) and, more often than not, are to be found in the countryside.

Le Blason de Provence conforms in all respects with the above. The reception we received upon our arrival and throughout our stay from the two proprietors and their staff was warm, friendly and attentive.

The hotel itself has a tiny reception area and just 18 bedrooms but, so far as we could tell, each room is well furnished, tastefully decorated and spotlessly clean. The dining area really impressed me. It is not particularly large but it’s tables are comfortably spaced and the room has a real chic feel about it (embellished as it is by some unusual artefacts collected by the owners during their travels – I’m thinking in particular of their nod to Japan). However, the part of the hotel we most enjoyed during our stay (and I include our dogs in this) was the shaded terrace area by the front entrance. This pretty garden and patio area with it’s striking mural – more about murals later – proved to be the perfect place to take coffees in the morning; cold beers during the afternoon (the hotel swimming pool borders the patio); glasses of chilled Pouilly Fume in the early evening and; a warming whisky last thing at night. I always keep a bottle of malt whisky in the Van.

We were looking for a charming place to relax and we found it – quiet and comfortable and with the most attentive service.

Surprise, surprise. Within minutes of checking in, we were on the terrace outside the front of the hotel enjoying a very nice bottle of Pouilly Fume

And the food? The continental breakfast was as comprehensive and as fresh as you would expect from a good hotel in France. I need say no more about breakfast.

Dinner in the hotel restaurant? Well, the restaurant is recognised in Gault & Millau’s Guide Jaune (Yellow Guide) as one of the best in this part of France. I was expecting something special and I wasn’t disappointed. There were 7 or 8 main courses on the menu. Vanya went for the ‘Veritable Salade Cesar’ which surprised me by having all the proportions of a main course. I decided in favour of the ‘Poisson du Moment’ which that day was Ling.

The chef, Thomas Longuesserre, is something of a celebrity having featured on national tv. Quite where he ranks as a chef I cannot say but the fish he prepared for me was outstanding. Ling is a deepwater fish that I would normally avoid, because it is often trawled and I’m not sure I approve of deepwater trawling but, I was assured the fish being offered was caught by long line. I think Ling is a member of the cod family (although it looks more like a cod-conger eel cross and can grow up to 7 feet long) but it tastes a little stronger and goes exceptionally well with Pouilly Fume. We enjoyed another two bottles and once again were ‘last men standing’.

There’s not a great deal to the town of Monteux but we were there to relax and, anyway, if we wanted more there was always nearby Carpentras; and of course Avignon is only 20 kilometres away.

Monteux is a long established market town, dating back to Roman times. It reached it’s zenith early in the 14th century, at the time of the ‘Avignon Papacy’, when Pope Clement V chose nearby Avignon instead of Rome for his Papal Palace and took up residency in Monteux’s 11th century castle and for a while nearby Carpentras. It was Pope John XXII who settled definitively in Avignon.

The castle in which Clement V lived was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1415 and the town’s two main gates (the Avignon and Neuve Gates) and the castle dungeon, known as the Clementine Tower, are all that remain of the castle and it’s walls.

A road system circles the old town where it’s castle walls once stood and I entered through what was the Avignon Gate. It is nowhere near as pretty but the town reminds me of Dozza, near Bologna in Italy, in that many of the walls are covered with some quite fascinating murals. The murals here tend to identify the original purpose of the buildings (e.g. basketmaker, cooper, tailor, etc). One of the artists who painted the walls in the old town also painted the mural at the Hotel Blason.

I particularly like those murals that have been built around existing features; such as the fountain below.

I’ve already mentioned the castle and the Clementine Tower. The only two other buildings of significance in the old town are the Church of Our Lady of Nazareth and the Hotel de Ville. Unfortunately I cannot relate much about either building. I couldn’t access the church and all I know about the Hotel de Ville is that it was originally a hospital (the Saint Pierre Hospital which opened in 1713) and it became the Town Hall in 1958.

You don’t need more than a few hours to see Monteux and so we spent subsequent days in the area visiting a couple of the local villages – L’Isle sur La Sorgue and Gordes. They are the subject of separate entries in this blog.

I’ll round off this particular entry by addressing other eating options in Monteux. It won’t take long because except for the Hotel Le Blason Restaurant, we were disappointed with the alternatives in and around the town. In hindsight we should have asked the staff at our hotel for their recommendations because having walked through and around the old town the only places that we saw open were fast food outlets. Credit where it is due, one of them serving Vietnamese and Japanese food (Le Palais d’Asie), did have a handful of tables and we enjoyed some of their Vietnamese dishes with a couple of beers. I was actually drinking bottles of Singha (Thai) in preference to bottles of Asahi (Japanese) or cans of Saigon 333 (Vietnam). Then it was back to the hotel for a final bottle of Pouilly Fume.

Tourtour (Provence), France August 2022 (Tour 6)

Fifty miles inland from the Cote d’Azur and just a few miles northwest of Draguignan in the Haute Var is the village of Tourtour. It sits on top of a hill called Beau Soleil or Beautiful Sun (a 635 metre high hill in an otherwise flat plain) and; because of it’s location and incredible views over Provence, it is often referred to as the Village in the Sky.

It is perhaps the prettiest village I have seen in France and it came as no surprise to learn it is listed as one of Les Plus Beaux Villages De France.

We were up early to visit Tourtour and quickly found a spot to park the Van in the large car park to the east of the village next to the 11th century church of St Denise. The views towards the coast from this high spot are remarkable but I confess to having been somewhat distracted by a vintage sports car rally which was filling the car park as we arrived. Open top Porsches, Mercedes, Alfa Romeos, even an old open top Bentley, were all present but; the vehicles I was most drawn to were a couple of Morgans and, best of all, two really early MG’s. Sorry, I digress – back to Tourtour.

From St Denise’s it was no more than a two minute stroll down a slight slope into the village. One of first buildings to be encountered, on the left, is the Chateau de Raphelis which now doubles as the town hall and the tourist office. The post office may also be housed there? The panoramic views from the front of the Chateau over the lush green countryside below are even more spectacular than those back at the church but, there are distractions here too in the form of some interesting and unusual sculptures by Bernard Buffet. Buffet was a regular visitor to Tourtour.

The Chateau de Raphelis (now the Town Hall) and, to the right, a sculpture by Bernard Buffet.

Continuing on is the Place des Ormeaux . This shaded wholly pedestrianised square with it’s fountain, cafe-bars and craft shops is the heart of the village. This being France there is a large area set aside next to the square for Petanque and this is where the twice-weekly market is held (Wednesday & Saturday).

Then it was time to set off down any one of the winding cobbled lanes that help form this delightful medieval village.

There is nothing uniform about either the houses or streets in Tourtour. Almost everything is built with suitably sized boulders or individual hand carved blocks of stone hewn from the hill. Some houses are built against huge slabs of rock or a giant boulder which serves as a wall. Others are cut into the rock, cave houses. Most are free standing. All are one of a kind and the narrow cobbled streets twist and turn around these unique dwellings. There are few straight lines in Tourtour.

One unexpected feature of the village, given it’s height, is it’s many fountains. They are fed by a spring, the Saint Rosaire Spring, which also feeds the old washouse and even a 17th century olive oil mill which is still used.

Having walked the whole village at least twice (non uniform streets and cul de sacs make for longer walks) we found our way back to the Place des Ormeaux and paused for a quiet coffee and to reflect on some of the things we had seen in Tourtour but, our visit wasn’t over yet…

Space is always at a premium in such small villages and gardens are few and far between but some villagers will create the next best thing with next to nothing.

Tourtour has fewer than 500 inhabitants. No surprise, some of those people work full time in the wine sector – this is France. However, for much of the year the great majority of the village are involved with the tourist sector; whether it be working in the tourist office or museums or; organising and operating pony trekking or hiking, biking tours or; helping run the area’s cafes, bars, hotels & restaurants. A significant number of artists also now live in Tourtour (sculptors and painters mostly but there are also potters, basketmakers, etc) and these too support the tourist sector running artisan galleries and workshops. We found time to check out a couple…

I mentioned that a vintage car rally was underway as we arrived. We paused on the way back to the Van for a last look at some of my favourites and to take a few photos…

Tourtour is a great place to visit. I don’t know how I stumbled on that one but there is a real ‘feel good’ factor about the place and I’d certainly return. If or when I do I would be inclined to stay at one of the two hotels within walking distance of the village. My preference would be for the Hotel La Bastide de Tourtour, a 25 bedroom hotel and spa…

Next time.

Draguignan (Provence), France August 2022 (Tour 6)

Contrary to what has been said in certain blogs, there is a more to Draguignan than just shopping. It does have a sizeable collection of independent and unique boutique style shops and it also has a weekly street market with 100+ stalls selling a variety of goods but it is wrong to suggest there is little else about the place.

Some of the old medieval town was knocked down to accommodate a large increase in population (it went from just 11,000 in 185 to 13,402 in 1954 but in the last 68 years has burgeoned to well over 40,000) and, of course, more retail outlets have been built to meet the needs of this population explosion but a fair part of the old town still stands and it is a pretty part too.

Draguignan was originally a Roman fort. The town’s name is derived from the Latin word ‘draco’ (dragon); one of which, according to legend, was slain by a local hermit called Hermentaire and; dragons now feature everwhere across the town. The town was built on olives and grapes and while that is still very much the case in the surrounding areas, Draguignan has become more of a garrison town (being home to the Ecole Nationale d’Artillerie in 1976 and the Ecole Nationale de L’Infantrie in 2010) although it’s focus now is switching towards tourism and to a lesser extent textiles.

The town is dominated by an attractive 17th century clocktower on top of which is a wrought iron campanile. The tower provides great views of the town and surrounding countryside but was closed when I visited. At it’s foot is a tiny open air theatre which is used to host small concerts and recitals. Despite trying, I’ve been unable to discover anything about the origins of this theatre.

The old town isn’t large but it’s ‘comfortable’ with a mix of tree lined avenues, wide and narrow lanes and some old houses that just reek history. It also has some quite unusual street art.

I noticed there is a WWII US military cemetery in the town and went to pay my respects. This is the Rhone American Cemetery and Memorial and it contains the remains of more than 800 US soldiers who died during and after the allied invasion of Southern France (Operation Dragoon, initially named Operation Anvil) which commenced on 15 August 1944.

The cemetery is kept meticulously (and quite right too). It is divided into four plots which are grouped around an oval pool. A chapel overlooks the graves and between this chapel and the graves is an impressive bronze relief map detailing US military operations in the south of France. There is also a wall detailing the names of those whose bodies have never been recovered and there are a number of State Flags flying which I assume represent the individual States that the soldiers came from.

Trans-de-Provence (Provence), France August 2022 (Tour 6)

Trans de Provence appears an old fashioned ordinary sleepy French provincial town (and I mean nothing disparaging in that). The town used to be about olives and silk; there were more than 20 silk mills operating in the area just before WWI. The French tourist site ‘France-Voyage.com’ claims these industries have since given way to tourism and that there is much to see and do in the immediate area. I’m not so sure about that unless, of course, they are referring to cycling and/or hiking trails in the area.

Around the middle of August, the town holds a week long ‘Sant-Roch Festival’ with balls, concerts and petanque tournaments and, as we arrived, a stage was being set up in the small square outside the town hall. At the time I thought this was for a one off rock concert but, in hindsight, I suspect it was preparation for the festival. For a while I watched six locals playing petanque on a piece of dry flat land down by the river and I was amazed at how good they are. Three of the six were regularly throwing to within an inch or two of the jack; no matter whether they threw, lobbed or rolled the boule and, frequently, they were applying spin. My money would be on them to win the petanque tournament. As an aside, I believe Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones is a tolerable petanque player. He probably took the game up during his period of tax exile in France during the 60’s and 70’s (not that I’m having a dig or anything lol).

After watching the petanque for a half hour or so I wandered downstream along a path on the right bank of La Nartuby River. The river was very low (no surprise given the current drought conditions) but there was plenty of evidence to suggest that water levels can be considerably higher. Indeed, the river has cut a deep gorge through the town. It is a nice stroll down by the river and there are a number of bridges which, if the water were at normal levels, would facilitate some good photos. I didn’t go too far or my stroll would have become ‘canyoning’ but, instead, turned back into the town after reaching what I would term the Himalayan bridge (so named because it resembled those swing bridges we kept encountering in Nepal – gosh, was that really three years ago?).

Returning to the town, I made my way to the main square which is in the older part of Trans en Provence. It is a very pretty place but, unfortunately, there’s not enough of it.

Whilst in Trans de Provence, I spent a fair time looking for the remains of an “Air Well” designed by the Belgian engineer, Achille Knapen. I had read that his Air Well stands 14 metres high, has massive masonry walls (some 3 metres thick) and sits on top of a 600 metre high hill. Could I find it? Could I hell!

In case you don’t know (and assuming you are interested) an Air Well is a large stone structure which serves to convert warm air into drinking water. It takes the form of a long smooth concrete column, topped and surrounded by thick stone walls which are punctured with lots of holes. During the heat of the day, the holes let in warm moisture laden air which at night, as the temperatures drop, then condenses against the central column. The resulting condensation trickles down the column into a collecting basin as drinking water. Voila, water from warm air.

The Knapen ‘Air Well’ – obviously it isn’t my photo because I couldn’t find the bloody thing!

Knapen’s Air Well excited some public interest when it was being built but it had a disappointingly low yield; generating no more than few litres of water each day, as opposed to the thousands that Knapen hoped for. It was deemed a failure and, sadly, left to ruin.

Notwithstanding the above, Knapen’s concept holds true. Indeed, for some years many houses in India have had dew condensors on their roof and, more recently, some South American countries (Chile and Peru) have been developing the concept to collect drinking water. I suspect that ‘dew harvesting’, as it now seems to be called, will become more prevalent as the global climate changes and drought becomes more common.

Back to Trans-en-Provence. I did enjoy wandering around the town and I would recommend it as a place to stop by but; I would suggest the middle of August as a time to visit, when the Sant Roch Festival is on, and; I would advise getting a decent map if you want to find Knapen’s Air Well.