Passionate for Provence

DSC_0076Not quite over jet lag and time difference, with my head still drifting back to special moments, my husband and I have just returned from an incredible spring visit to Provence and Paris. Towards the end of our trip on a rainy Sunday in Paris (rain makes Paris even more romantic) I noticed this "larger than life" quote in a Marais pastry shop window.

"La terre est un gateau plein de douceur." --Charles Baudelaire

Translated it means "The earth is a cake full of sweetness." Charles Baudelaire was considered one of the most influential French poets in history, and one of the greatest poets of the 19th Century. He was also a critic, essayist, and a translator.

When I saw the quote I immediately thought of my beloved Provence. That's it, Provence is so full of sweetness, the landscape smiles back at you. Not only is the landscape so utterly breathtaking, everyday life is colorful, food and wine are exceptional, and the unexpected becomes the norm. It is simply the magic of Provence and all of it's sweetness.

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I have so much more to share with you regarding Provence, please stay tuned.

Urban Wine Trail in Santa Barbara

Municipal Winemakers on Urban Wine Trail I want to share with you some of the exceptional places that I come across from time to time. These places are gems and not to be missed if you are in the area, or they could even be a destination. Most have a “garden thread” to them. “Places To Know” can be retail, restaurants, nurseries, and other. Whatever the place, expect the unusual.

On a recent getaway to the always picturesque Rivera-like town of Santa Barbara, California, my husband, John, and I explored the Urban Wine Trail in Santa Barbara. What a concept.

Located in an older, nearly forgotten industrial part of Santa Barbara, a mecca of small, creative and innovative urban wineries are springing up in what is called the "Funk Zone."  In former industrial warehouses, gutted tiny bungalows, and buildings that have had past lives, you will find a group of urban winemakers and wineries offering wine lovers a new tasting experience with artfully crafted wines from nearby Santa Barbara County vineyards.

We stopped in at a few, and were quite surprised at the range and quality of the wines. There are at least 15 wineries now on this Urban Wine Trail in Santa Barbara. Each an experience, as you set foot in the door. Municipal Winemakers, pictured above, is totally decorated in "industrial discard style" re-purposing file cabinets as behind the wine bar glassware storage.

Pouring at Kunin Wines

Municipal Winemakers, 28 Anacapa Street, Municipal Winemakers. (tel) (805) 598-1896. Located in an old industrial building, and only open on weekends.

Kunin Wines, 28 Anacapa Street, Kunin Wines, (tel) (805) 963-9696. Located in a former World War II army barrack, now tastefully decorated in gray and yellow accent colors. Open daily 11am-6pm.

Oreana Winery, 205 Anacapa Street, Oreana Winery (tel) (805) 962-5857. Located in what once was an old tire shop, now transformed into a collage of winery, tasting room, and art gallery. Open daily 11am-5pm.

These are just a few of the urban wineries in Santa Barbara. Visit Urban Wine Trial, Santa Barbara and plot your next wine tasting trip.

Please share if you have been to the Urban Wine Trail in Santa Barbara. Please comment if you enjoy the wines of Santa Barbara County.

Garden Bloggers Gather

What do garden bloggers like better than writing about gardening and plants? They like gathering in verdant places like Seattle, The Emerald City, experiencing new gardens. and joining the "sisterhood of garden bloggers" across the country. Okay, there were a few fellas in the mix, too.

This year's garden blogging conference, dubbed Seattle Fling, was a compilation of nearly 80 gifted garden writers who pen their passions about all things gardening. A "Who's Who" of multi-talented voices naming off plant names like a foreign language.

It is a diverse group, not just for the climatic regions they represent, but how they hail their expertise. Some are Generation X, with soon-to-be-released garden books under their belts. Some are forefront blog sensations who can proudly say they have almost a decade of posts and writing in their arsenal. Some are veteran garden writers and speakers, well known in this country's garden circles.

This phenomenon of garden bloggers and writers gathering together magically happens once a year, usually in July. Last year it was in Buffalo, New York, serendiptously coinciding with Buffalo's Garden Walk. Next year's 2012 event is tentatively planned to be held in Asheville, North Carolina.

Garden bloggers attending this year's Seattle Fling 2011, experienced a well-planned and orchestrated itinerary of private and public gardens, retail garden shops and nurseries, a David Perry photography workshop, West Seattle's Sunday morning Farmers Market, and a spoiling by garden-related sponsors.

Garden bloggers were treated to this unique concrete "ruin creation" by Little and Lewis in a wooded private garden. The concrete leaf fountain now moss-aged with water and time, was originally molded from an actual Gunnera leaf.

A trip to the picturesque waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park featuring 21 works by world-renowned artists was both captivating and breathtaking, capturing the essence of Downtown Seattle on one side, and the beauty of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound on the other.

VintageGardenGal wishes to thank everyone involved in this year's Seattle Fling 2011, and embraces her fellow garden bloggers.

Parisian Holiday Tea

Holiday Time at The Grand Del Mar I want to share with you some of the exceptional places that I come across from time to time. These places are gems and not to be missed if you are in the area, or they could even be a destination. Most have a "garden thread" to them. "Places To Know" can be retail, restaurants, nurseries, and other. Whatever the place, expect the unusual.

Nearly six years ago I met girlfriends in Paris, for a pre-Christmas splurge and getaway. Paris is always enchanting, but even more so around the holidays. Ever since then, I associate Paris with Christmas time. What a grand pairing!

A few Decembers ago, I borrowed from my "Christmas Time in Paris" experience, and helped create for one of my garden groups, a Parisian Holiday Tea, hosted at the opulent (and closest venue to Paris that I could find in the San Diego area) The Grand Del Mar, just east of Del Mar, California. Holiday teas can be a special gesture to share with good friends, nieces, sisters, moms, grandmothers, granddaughters, and loved ones.

Like a thread I could weave, I picked the "Christmas Time in Paris" theme and wove details for a Parisian Holiday Tea. Here are some of the styling details that helped create a special holiday tea.

1) The invitation was created from one of my favorite photographs in sepia, from that earlier Paris trip. For more on that trip, see Christmas Time In Paris.

2) Setting was an intimate fireside seating just past The Grand Del Mar foyer with all of their holiday decorations, grandeur, and holiday tea menu.

Parisian Favors Ready In A French Basket

3) Special "Parisian" favors were created using a gold sheer bag tied with gold/bronze fleur-de-lys ribbon. Inside the party favors, there were special vintage pink alabaster glass cameo charms from French General, fleur-de-lys chocolates from The Royal Sweet an extraordinary chocolatier out of Georgia, and least but not least, an "April in Paris" sweet pea packet from Renee's Gardens.

4) A few words spoken about how Parisians, and those in the French countryside celebrate their holidays with Pere Noel, and their grand "reveillon" traditional feast.

5) One of our members spoke about "Bachelor's Preserves", and gave everyone a gift-wrapped jar of it and recipe to take home. Bachelor's Preserves is the French technique of preserving summer fruits with liquor.

Picking a theme for a party or event makes planning and creating your event easier, and adds a certain element of surprise. Please share if you have enjoyed "tea" with friends or family around the holidays. Please comment if you have been to Paris at Christmas time.

VintageGardenGal Tidbit Thyme...

VintageGardenGal wishes everyone Happy Holidays!

Buffalo's Urban Roots Community Garden Center

Outdoor Shed at Urban Roots While attending Garden Blogger's Buffa10 in Buffalo, there were many exciting places on our itinerary. One of them was Urban Roots Community Garden Center, an innovative community garden co-op. With over 600 community owner-members and growing, this garden center is a mecca for Buffalo's gardeners. Urban Roots sells plants for the garden, tools, artwork, hosts a slew of garden workshops, and much more.

Urban Roots was a brain storm of a group of people who wanted to have a garden center for its community in the heart of buffalo. In 2005, in an up and coming neighborhood, literally minutes from any "Garden Walk" garden, they began modestly with a plant swap and heirloom seed sale.

Borrowing the "mission statement" right off of their website, Urban Roots, their mission is a beautiful idea which obviously is growing and flourishing for Buffalo. Perhaps, there are many garden co-ops across the country, but this is the first I have seen, and there are certainly not any in my neighborhood. Once again Buffalo, what an innovative garden idea. Hum....

Our Mission Urban Roots Community Garden Center is a consumer cooperative business whose mission is to provide quality products for gardening in the City of Buffalo and be an active and enriching member of the community. • We will offer affordable, unusual, heirloom, organic and local plants, and gardening supplies. • We will foster a working relationship with the greater neighborhood in order to encourage beautification and urban renewal. • We will engage the community through education, employment, outreach, expertise and volunteering efforts.

Although it was a rainy Friday afternoon, we all hopped off our bus, ready to eagerly explore this community garden co-op. It was busy, despite the rain. There were two lectures in progress, one on "backyard chickens" and the new city ordinance allowing chickens in Buffalo, and the second inside the Urban Roots shop and next to a sinfully-scented bakery, it appeared to be a well-attended "plant" lecture. Needless to say, my fellow garden bloggers and myself, generously spent and supported Urban Roots in our brief visit.

Slightly Wet Chickens Love Their Limelight

If you are ever in Buffalo, for Garden Walk, Urban Roots Community Garden Center is a must stop destination, and a "place for you to know". We all could benefit from an Urban Roots model in our communities.

Please share if you have a garden co-op in your community. Please comment on some of the innovative garden ideas you have ongoing in your community.

VintageGardenGal Tidbit Thyme....

If I have given you enough of a tease on on Buffalo's beauty and innovative garden sense and want more, check out Buffa10 for more beautiful writing and photos from my fellow garden bloggers.

Buffalo's "Garden Walk" Beauty in the Details

Picture Perfect Sitting Area Earlier this week I wrote Whoa, Buffalo! A post on Buffalo's Garden Walk from a "broad stroke" perspective. I described what Buffalo's "Garden Walk" is all about, who started it, when it is, how many gardens, and how the neighborhoods and homes are such a part of Buffalo's rich history and architecture. What I didn't mention, is that the beauty of these individual private gardens, is in the details. Incredible details.

The above photo is one of my favorite settings, I saw on my garden tour. This romantic sitting area is in the back garden of one of the Victoria homes which was built in 1845. This home is a perennial on "Garden Walk", and you can understand why. Wouldn't you like to be sharing wine and cheese or casual Sunday brunch with your friends in this garden room.

Vintage Tricycle Charms in the Garden

While strolling through "Garden Walk" you can see everything from antique to whimsical to zen in the gardens. It all works for everyone. The Victorian homes, often brightly painted to show off architectural details give homeowners freedom to repeat those colors in their gardens.

Garden spaces are generally small, yet densely planted and pleasing, which  adds a "secret garden" mystique element to them. With garden space at a premium, home owners are very resourceful where and how they garden. Spacing between two homes can still be a garden, small and beautiful. Home owners garden in the front, side, and back of properties.

Small is Beautiful

Beautiful hanging baskets are plentiful, and punctuate once again style and color. Water features and koi ponds are abundant. Rain barrels are popular for collecting rain. Vegetables and fruit are intermingled in flower gardens.

Beautiful Baskets Welcome

I spoke to one person whose family has been living in their Victorian on a corner, and caring for their garden for forty years. Their garden was an utter sanctuary to one's eye. The busy robin in the garden (you could tell) was right at home, and was quite content to share its garden with visitors.

The beauty of Buffalo's "Garden Walk" is in the details, and actually so much more. It is a sharing of ideas. It is a sharing of plants. It is an interaction between gardener and visitor. It is a mutual appreciation of beauty, garden, and architecture. It is a beautiful thing.

Whoa, Buffalo!

Buffalo's Historic Cottage District If you haven't ever been to Buffalo, New York, or haven't been back since that visit to Niagara Falls, you must plan to visit Buffalo in July for their impressive and innovative annual Garden Walk which attracts tens of thousands of garden lovers each year. Garden Walk is usually hosted the last weekend of July and at the height of Buffalo's glowing garden season. Buffalo's 19th century architecture and Victorian neighborhoods is a stunning backdrop for these gardens and its hospitable citizens.

Buffalo Garden Walk is a free, self-guided urban garden tour which has expanded from 19 gardens initially in 1995, to over 350 gardens in 2010. From the beginning, this special garden tour was founded without prizes and competition. What has blossomed from all of this is a celebration of urban gardens, gentrification of neighborhoods, and pride of community. Frequently, home-owners are on hand to talk about their homes, gardens, and plants.

Marvin Lunenfeld and Gail McCarthy were the original founders and garden pioneers of Buffalo Garden Walk. Fifteen years later, Buffalo Garden Walk continues to grow and inspire everyone, and is a model all of us could start in our own communities. It has become the largest garden tour in America.

Backyard Cameo, Buffalo's Cottage District

In 1868, Buffalo had the good fortune and foresight to enlist Frederick Olmstead (the architect of New York City's Central Park)  and his partner, Calvert Vaux, to create a series of parkways and parks for Buffalo and the beginning of Buffalo's recreational park system. Olmstead  also championed for  land preservation from industrial development and encroachment surrounding Niagara Falls. It is evident that Buffalo has been passionate about its parks and gardens for a long time.

Besides Buffalo's Garden Walk, there is a lot more of Buffalo to explore in the way of its parks, botanical gardens, architecture, fine dining, local nurseries, colorful shops, and warm hospitality.

Please share if you have been to Buffalo's Garden Walk. Please comment if your local community hosts a free garden tour.

VintageGardenGal Tibit Thyme....

I was visiting Buffalo for Buffa10, a national gathering of garden bloggers, hosted and organized this year by Elizabeth Licata of Garden Rant, Allentown Gardener, and Jim Charlier of Art of Gardening. Many thanks for an incredible visit and experience of Buffalo!

I'm in awe of my fellow garden bloggers, and new friends representing all different growing zones, geographic regions, and voices of gardening. The Buffalo News happened to catch up with our group and wrote, Plant It, Grow It, Blog It, with an honorable mention of VintageGardenGal, and new friend Dee's Red Dirt Ramblings.

Hillcrest Farmers Market Day Excursion

Sunday Morning Hillcrest Farmers Market Thank goodness there has been a renaissance in the popularity of farmers markets in the last ten years. If you are not able to grow fresh organic vegetables, believe me, there is someone at your local farmer markets that does.

Farmers markets are a signature of European lifestyle. Europeans generally shop every few days, if not every day for their fresh baguette and croissants. Why not frequent a farmers market one day a week, and introduce it into your lifestyle. You will be guaranteed seasonal selections.

Farmers markets tend to draw colorful and lively people, and it is a fun experience. It is also a way of supporting people who are passionate about growing fresh, often heirloom and organic produce. There are also plant and flower farmers, too, who specialize in amazing heirloom vegetable selections and healthy herbs, to take home for your own kitchen garden.

The Hillcrest Farmers Market on Sundays 9am-2pm (rain or shine) is one of the best in the San Diego area. It is located at 3960 Normal Street, at Lincoln, adjacent to the DMV parking lot, San Diego, CA 92103. It is a worthwhile treat to visit on Sundays.

You can easily make it into a Hillcrest Farmers Market day excursion. This little excursion can be done with your car or if you are adventurous, a bike. Make sure you bring your camera and a cooler to keep your purchased produce.

Start your Sunday morning off, with a little breakfast and an aromatic cup of coffee at the popular Bread & Cie, 350 University Ave., San Diego, CA 92103. Sunday hours are 8am-6pm. (tel) (619) 683-9322.

Proceed with a 5 minute car ride to the Hillcrest Farmers Market, where you will find a bustling hub of excitement. Nearby parking spots are sometimes hard to find. Let your senses fuse with all of the color, aromas, activity. Plan your meals for the following week, with what is in season. I like to purchase interesting vegetable seedlings to supplement my kitchen garden. Look for the unusual such as flavored honey, fresh gourmet mushrooms, fresh hummus, or Greek pastries.

When you are finished at the farmers market, hop into your car for another short 5 minute car ride, and you are in Balboa Park. Visit the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden, free to the public 365 days a year. This public rose garden is one of the best in the country with 2,500 roses of 200 varieties. Peak season for this spectacular rose garden is April to May. It is located across from the San Diego Natural History Museum.

If you worked up a little appetite, and want a tasty bite for lunch, Mama Testa is a reasonable lunch, serving "rave review" tacos from recipes around Mexico. Just down the street from Balboa Park, Mama Testa is located at 1417a University Ave. San Diego, CA 92103. Sunday hours are Noon to 8pm. (tel) (619) 298-8226.

Whether you live in San Diego, or plan on visiting some day. Be sure and put the Sunday Hillcrest Farmers Market on your calendar or itinerary.

Please share if you frequent your local farmers markets. Please comment if you have been to the Hillcrest Farmers Market in San Diego.

Modern Day Barn Raising

Our Barn Emerging My husband, John, wanted two things out of our remodel, a garage and a wine-making room. Just kidding. Part of our remodel involves a stand alone barn which will house a two-car garage, wine-making room, and a guest apartment upstairs. Our architect, Bill Bocken, was very clever to cloak all of this into a barn. Our trees and landscaping soften the barn, and immediately give the barn a presence as if it has been on our property for a long time.

The two large openings you see in the above photo will be actual sliding barn doors, which will look west to our garden, vineyard, and the ocean horizon. Our barn will be multi-use and functional for a variety of activities. It will be a working barn.

On a recent trip back to the Chicago area, traveling south and west into the farm heartland, I was captured by the beauty of the many working family farms and open land of rich earth. Trees were carefully planted around the family home and center of the farm for protection. You could often see the original barn of the farm homestead abandoned for safety reasons, but sometimes still standing and making an aesthetic impression on the landscape.

There is a great green movement to recycle precious floors, beams, and materials from these abandoned barns and buildings, rather than have them lost to landfill and further decay. Theses materials can live on, be re-purposed and enjoyed for anther 100 years.

Some barns, like this white barn in the photo below, still function and thrive today. This former dairy barn is part of an 1830's farmstead in Woodstock, Illinois, majestically morphed into an ideal setting for a garden antique business, Kimball & Bean.

Old Dairy Barn Reincarnated Into A Garden Antique Business

It is nearly impossible to photograph with true justice this incredible barn. I wasn't able to capture and show you the massive length of this barn, or that it is two stories high. Hopefully, I was able to show you its charm and enduring presence.

If you are ever near the community of Woodstock, Illinois, take the time to visit their picturesque town square and Kimball & Bean Garden Antiques, a few miles outside of town. My husband and I hope to recreate some of the charm and enduring presence with our own barn, that we saw in the barns in the Midwest farm heartland.

Did you visit or have a barn growing up? Please share, if you know of a barn now that has been saved and reinvented for something wonderful? Please comment on why you think barns are so wonderful.

Provence: Special Restaurants

Salut Provence!  Outdoor Terrace at Les Abeilles I've been lost in writing about Provence for nearly a month. If that is not proof enough of how special Provence is to me. I have so many more postcards to send you from Provence, but my own garden, in my own Mediterranean climate is beckoning me home.

I'm going to end "Postcards from Provence" mentioning two very special restaurants in Provence that completed our visit. It is hard not to get a truly delicious meal any where in Provence. All of the bistros and restaurants are just divine. You can't go wrong. The menu and ambience's of Les Abeilles restaurant in Sablet, and Le Mas de Tourteron restaurant outside of Gordes, are however, special dining experiences.

Les Abeilles Les Abeilles in Sablet, centrally located to many places of interest like the famous village of Gigondas and its hearty Rhone wine, as well as Mount Ventoux, one of the highest peaks in the area, and famed as a route often on the cycling Tour de France. Les Abeilles is also a small hotel, restaurant, and bar. We stumbled upon this gem towards the end of our visit, and couldn't ask for a better dining experience. Chef Johanes and his wife Marlies, make sure everyone has a wonderful dining experience and visit.

Our dinner at Les Abeilles was something like being in the midst of an ongoing "three-act play". I have never had that dining experience before. Each table in the tiny restaurant had its cast of characters and drama. Although my husband and I were into our own dinner and dining experience, we couldn't help but observe the other tables and their perspective dramas unfolding. Maybe there is a play to write, about this dining experience in my future.

Besides having a wonderful dinner, we happened to meet a new lifetime friend that night, just part of the ambiance of the evening. A young German doctor, who is also a serious bike rider, and enthusiastically rides Mount Ventoux, whenever his vacation time permits. Restaurant Les Abeilles, 4, rue de Vasion, 844110 Sablet, (tel) (0)4.9012.38.96, Les Abeillles.

Entrance to Le Mas de Tourteron, Gordes

Le Mas de Tourteron Le Mas de Tourteron, like the Bistro du Paradou, was also a restaurant we had tried to dine at on our first trip to Provence, and eventually succeeded in having a Sunday lunch there, our second visit.

Le Mas de Tourteron is a very unique and romantic restaurant, owned by self-taught chef, Elizabeth Bourgeois, and her sommelier husband. It is a lovingly restored centuries-old mas, (farmhouse), which also use to be the site of an old silk cocoon farm.

Elizabeth is near legendary for her farm recipes, and has a large kitchen garden. Le Mas de Tourteron has its own garden setting, and just exudes romance. My husband and I were celebrating an early anniversary Sunday lunch, but I could imagine someone's very special evening, and "being proposed to" here.

Inside the restaurant, Elizabeth's antique and vintage bird cage collection hung throughout on its stone walls, woos diners with charm. Le Mas de Tourteron is very special, and very pricey. I suggest reservations, as days and hours vary slightly throughout the year. For a treat, dine at Le Mas de Tourteron, chemin de St.-Blaise, Gordes, (tel) (0)4-90-72-00-16, Le Mas de Tourteron.

Salut Provence! Your magic, beauty, and charm simply astounds me! I hope to return, once again, as soon as I can.

Provence: Rural Countryside & Villages

Lower Rhone Valley And Town of Sablet Provence is so large and diverse, it really is hard to describe it all. When traveling by car, one is often fooled by the distance and time it takes to get around. Although there are some highways, a lot of the roads, are secondary roads which meander and wind through the small villages, towns, and countryside. In fact, "the mode" of getting around Provence seems to support the relaxed tempo of life here.

Approaching the Medieval Village of Gordes

In the Luberon region of Provence, the large regional Luberon Park protects the countryside from random development and preserves its wonderful valley floors and rising Luberon foothill views.

The wind can be a factor in Provence. There are actually several winds which occur in this region. The mistral, probably the best known, originates in Siberia and barrels towards Provence through the Cote du Rhone valley, sometimes with violent force and sometimes for days. During a mistral wind, everyone has a favorite legendary "mistral story" to tell.

Overlooking The Village of Bonnieux

Many of the hillside villages are from medieval times, and some started as Roman beginnings, when that was the best way to defend yourself from invaders. Often well-preserved, and with commanding views, these villages have wonderful bistros, weekly markets, honey-stone churches to explore, village tradition, artisan crafts, and lively local culture to take in.

Provence is soothing and peaceful visually. How can you not be moved looking out at its verdant quilted patchwork countryside, gentle rising foothills, valley floors, and vast blue horizon, seemingly untouched for centuries. Incredibly, you can still experience fields of happy sunflowers, acres of scented lavender, flocks of sheep migrating, producing olive groves, and noteworthy vineyards, as part of normal everyday Provencal life.

Springtime in Provence, when these photos were taken, show how simply beautiful the countryside is. Much of the landscape in spring consists of budding vineyards, gnarled mature olive trees, towering cypress, blossoming fruit trees, climbing roses, blooming wisteria, and the dramatic red poppy in mass.

Have you been to Provence in the spring? What is your favorite memory?

Provence: Beautiful Plane Trees

Plane Trees In Cucuron One does not travel and explore Provence, especially if you are a gardener, without noticing its beautiful and awed plane trees. Plane trees are found everywhere in Provence. They line its country roads, often approaching and leaving a town or village. They are a focal point in many a family's courtyard, providing umbrella-like shade, and a spot to place an inviting outdoor table. They are often strategically planted in village centers and town squares. They can create a majestic and impressive grand boulevard style in their maturity and beautiful foliage.

Plane trees are the type of tree, in maturity, that create their own environment. They can reach 100 feet tall or more. Plane trees can be shaped and groomed into a variety of shapes, and provide welcome shade, especially in the warmer months of the year. Plane trees were planted prolifically, because they were a durable tree to population pollution, grew quickly, provided excellent shade, looked beautiful, required little water, and could be planted in poor soil.

Provence plane trees are a hybrid of the Asian and American sycamore trees. They were created, quite by accident out of Oxford, England in the 16th century. In the 19th century, plane trees were imported to Southern France, and planted extensively. Napoleon was responsible for extensive planting of plane trees throughout Southern France, for the purpose of keeping his marching army cool, under their great green canopies.

Tops of Plane Trees in Gigondas

Wouldn't it be wonderful to live in a region, like Provence, where plane trees are so prolific, so enduring, and so much a part of the charming character of the countryside. Plane trees are yet another reason, why the Provence countryside is so endearing.