It's beginning to feel a lot like . . .  Noël !
Bonjour.  Joyeux Noël !    (#9 December 2019)

For Aussies, Christmas in France is quite something! For a start all the festive traditions finally make sense: fairy lights and baubles to brighten leafless street trees; Santa dressed in a heavy costume and hat, with a long beard to warm his otherwise chilled face; holly twigs with red berries decorating pastries and cakes in the bakeries; rich foods like paté and fois gras, an obscene variety of oysters, roasted duck and goose, marzipan and chocolates galore; not to mention the huge selection of wines, spirits and special liqueurs that come out of the cupboard for the festivities! Amazing and overwhelming!
We attempt to enjoy most of these things in Australia, but we really don't have the climate for it. Chocolates are often quite melted by the time they're gifted, while trying to eat a heavy, traditional Christmas lunch on a hot day, accompanied by champagne, wine and beer is definitely a recipe for over-indulgence that most of us regret! 
Experiencing the festive season in Provence has been a real treat for us - even the very early sunsets and chill air are enjoyable for a while, particularly as the sky is so often a crisp blue on many days throughout Winter. There are also numerous special Christmas markets that take place in Aix-en-Provence and in many of the surrounding villages right up until Christmas (read about the Santons markets below), so there are plenty of tourists in the region and a constant buzz of excitement right through until the New Year. Experiencing Christmas in Europe really is something you must do at least once - preferably in Provence, of course!
Wishing you all a joyous, safe and fun festive season, Fiona + Jean-Louis

PHOTO (above): Père Noël has a favourite spot on the main street in Jouques at this time of year!
 'Bechard' is a well known and wonderful patisserie in Aix-en-Provence, which always has a fabulous window display - but at Christmas time it is next level! I love the reflections too!

Bûche de Noël is the traditional Christmas cake of France - shaped and decorated to look like a forest log, covered in butter cream or whipped cream which is sometimes mixed with cocoa and dusted with icing sugar and baubles.
One of our favourite boulangeries in a nearby village always has a wonderful display outside the store - near to life size deer and a polar bear, plus pretty trees and lots of snow!

The other special cake served at Christmas in France is the 'Galette de Roi', or cake of the King. Far less rich than a Buche de Noël, it is a brioche style sponge decorated with glacé fruit. Wonderful for breakfast or a snack.
(below) The seafood course from our festive lunch last Christmas: a platter of oyster from Brittany. sea snails (I've tried them now, that was enough!), and smoked salmon. Served on antique Villeroy + Boch plates that I was lucky to find in a brocante.
Here is STUDY #5 in the series called ‘Feel flows’, from Jean-Louis' current body of work.
This theme is partly inspired by the Beach Boys song of the same name and also based on the nearby river Rèal here in Jouques - he is experimenting with many layers of the oil-encaustic medium and exploring its translucent quality.
Below are two details of study #5.
Fiona's original images - This old Plane tree is in the church square just around the corner from the end of our street. The Plane trees are of course leafless at this time of year, even in the south of France, so many of those in the village are decorated with fairy lights and a variety of Christmas decorations. The lights on this one are not very obvious, but the whole scene was an irresistible picture in the evening light! To see more images, visit our Gallery' page

'Santons' a Provençal tradition

Santons (little saints) developed as small, clay, hand-painted figurines which became popular in villages in Provence during the French Revolution because, at that time, many churches were closed and any public display of religion could have met with terrible consequences. Creating a small 'crèche' (nativity scene) inside the home was a way for ordinary folk to keep religion alive for their family.

Seeking refuge in religion was one way to cope during the harsh times following the French Revolution. Perhaps that is why santons became ever more popular, with many more crafts people beginning to make them. During that time Provence developed its own santon style - whole village scenes were recreated, including buildings, animals and many of its inhabitants. Clever craftsmen customised figurines, others made larger versions, dressing them in traditional fabric costumes and paying greater attention to the details of the face and tools of the trade that the individuals might be carrying - it was no longer just about honouring the Holy Family.
Today in Marseille and Aix-en-Provence the Santons markets are a Christmas tradition. I love to go each year to choose a few new pieces to add to my still modest collection.

PHOTO (above): here I am at the fair of Santons in Aix, where about eight different crafters sell their Santons - each has their own style and specialty.

(above) A close up of some of the Santons in just one of the stores at the fair in Aix. It's difficult but fun to choose which to buy - as you can see there's so much choice!

(left) From my own collection: the first two Santons I ever bought were this cute little 'fermier de cochon' (pig farmer), as well as this adorable donkey with his load of sticks. As you can see the detail on many of these characters is incredible. (right) I recently bought this shepherd carrying a lamb, I love his swirling cape and his small leather bag.
INTRODUCING the little fountain on rue Saint Pierre

One of the most wonderful things about Jouques, is that it is blessed with abundant water! There are seven very old fountains (and two more recently added) that run with spring water 24/7. We collect delicious drinking water daily in our glass bottles. It feels so good to not have to filter tap water or buy bottled water like so many French people do habitually. 
It's part of our daily ritual to walk to our modest little fountain and fill the bottles - thoroughly grounding. I often think of girls and women in developing countries walking much further than the end of their street to collect precious water, which may not even be clean. How fortunate we are!
Here is 'our' little fountain at the end of two streets: rue Saint Pierre, the lower street and rue des Baumes, which is the upper street. Our house lies between these two streets - just beyond the arch on rue Saint Pierre and around a bend, on the left.

NOTE: We are taking bookings for June thorough October in 2020, for one-day drawing + painting workshops and four-day Retreats (which include accommodation). You can see details here on our website. Information sheets and prices are sent by email once we receive an online request. Email us: or book direct on AirBnB for our one-day art-workshop. We'd love to see you in Provence next Summer!
if you know anyone who's planning to travel to Provence, please tell them about our accommodation and workshops.
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