Alan and Beryl's Newsletter - mid-July 2000

Dear Friends

It has been two and a half months since I wrote a newsletter and I felt you deserved an update on what has been going on. When I wrote the last one, Beryl was in the UK visiting her mother, who is, I'm glad to say doing pretty well. Beryl returned here on 4th May and we got down to getting the last few jobs finished (painting halls, toilets, etc.) before our first visitors arrived on the 15th, Beryl's sister Pam, Bill and niece Sally from Florida. They duly arrived after a long journey and quickly fell into the Cote d'Azur way of life. The next day we took them to Lorgues (inland) to a very good street market held there each week, followed by going on to Sillans la Cascade for lunch at Les Pins, one of our favourite trips and restaurants. On the way back, through the wine growing country of Cotignac, we stopped at Chateau Carpe Diem for some wine and a tasting session which Bill enjoyed. On the 19th, they all (accompanied by Beryl) went by bus to Ventimiglia, just across the border in Italy where there is a huge market. They visited all the places of interest including several visits to St. Tropez and had a good time, leaving for home on 27th May. We enjoyed their visit, the downside being I put on 4 kilos which I have not yet been able to shed!

On May 31st VIAC had organized a visit and lunch at Moustiers St. Marie, in the high Var. It is almost 2 hours drive from here through very pretty country which gets more and more dramatic as you get close to Moustiers, which is at one end of the Grand Canyon of Verdon. It is a pretty little village with a long history, nestled part of the way up an immense rock wall, cleft by a canyon. At the foot of the canyon emerges a spring which provides the reason for the village's existence and its water. Perched high above the village is a chapel built by monks centuries ago, which you can hike up to if you have the energy. We settled for the guided tour which VIAC had arranged and which lasted two hours. It was in French, but one of the members offered to translate for those who did not understand the French, which led to some amusing moments when other members disagreed with the translation and arguments ensued, much to the amusement of the guide. At the end she said it was one of the most interesting parties she had ever done the tour with! After the tour we were glad to repair to the bar for the aperitif followed by a good hearty lunch at the Auberge. After lunch one could then do the town on one's own, in our case looking at the various shops selling the faience pottery that the place is noted for.

I have mentioned the Chateau de Berne in previous newsletters for the jazz picnics it puts on during the summer months, and the first one of the season was on 4th June and we were there with a good party from Plan de la Tour. As usual the jazz was excellent and the food and wine great, as was the weather, so a good time was had by all. We were there again on 2 July for the jazz and on July 7th for a concert, of which more later.

We were very happy to receive a visit on June 11th by one of my old DREO colleagues, Brian Barry and his wife Elizabeth, who were in Cannes attending a software conference. They came to lunch and we had a good opportunity to catch up on what had been going on. Brian is now CEO of Object Technology Inc. in Ottawa.

On June 17th it was Art in the Street in Plan de la Tour and the streets were full of people painting, sketching, doing pottery, and even selling art. It was interesting to wander around and see the different approaches taken by the artists to capture the scenes before them. After a bit of this we got warm and went to the bar in the main street for a drink, where we were soon joined by several friends, and by the time everyone had had a drink and bought a round it was time for lunch.

June 21st was Music day throughout France and in Plan de la Tour it took the form of players performing in the streets and public places from about 4 pm onwards, followed by a jazz band concert in the main street beginning at 1030pm. The street was closed to traffic of course. We went down to the favourite restaurant for dinner so heard what was going on from there while eating, and then wandered down to the concert when it started. The ambience was great and the music good. We didn't stay around to see if they really played until dawn, as advertised!

We had decided to have a lunch party for Canada Day again and invited 19 people. Some could not attend due to other commitments, but 15 of us sat down to a splendid lunch of salmon, barbecued beef and the usual goodies, followed by Pecan Pie. We had as guests French, Belgians, and expat Brits, and we had two tables, one of which became the bilingual table and the other the English one, so it was a lot of fun and I think everyone enjoyed it.

I mentioned above that we went to a concert at the Chateau de Berne. It was the All Souls Orchestra, which we gathered is a subset of a BBC Symphony Orchestra which supports religious causes. The concert was in aid of children of the third world. The setting at the Chateau for concerts is idyllic, as the orchestra is seated on an island in the middle of an artificial lake, with the audience seated around the shoreline on concrete terraces, a bit like an ancient Greek arena. The moon was shining and the stars were out, and it was beautiful. We had gone with a group of friends and we picnicked in the grounds before the concert. The Chateau provides good picnicking places, the only condition for use is that you buy your wine from them, no hardship as it is good wine at a reasonable price. The programme was a mixture of classical favourites and popular items like The Saints and Porgy and Bess, but the piece de resistance was undoubtedly the duet between the soprano, Sarah Ownsworth, and the orchestra's principal trumpet, who performed Let the Bright Seraphim, by Handel. Truly a memorable evening.

As you can see, we still have lots to do living here and this year we have got behind on our plans for visiting new places. The garden is looking good and with the good start from spring rains and assiduous watering since, the lawns are nice and green too, a rarity in this region. Beryl has added a new bougainvillea and a datura, not to mention loads of geraniums, pansies and so on. We have stopped doing jobs inside until the fall, for one thing it is too hot most of the time, and the pool beckons! Best regards to you all, and keep in touch. Love - Alan and Beryl