Yesterday we celebrated the annual truffle festival in Aups, Haut Var. It was a beautiful day- clear blue sky, a crisp but sunny day and definitely a chill in the air, but marked with the overtone of a truffle aroma. The market square, was full of people who had come to spend a winter’s day, with foodies and locals alike, all inspecting the coveted black truffle, on sale at the various stalls. This was the market for gourmet foods. Not only were truffles for sale , but also brushes to clean the fungus and implements to slice them in the wafer thin slices, all that is required to transform a simple dish into the flavorsome heights, loved by those who have taste “Le Diamant Noir”. Such is the flavour of the black truffle that many other delicacies were on sale, enhanced by the addition of truffles. Oils and vinegars, aperatifs, savoury cakes, stuffed cheeses, various pates and spreads, to name a few and here fast food took the form of “brouillard”- scrambled eggs with truffles.
Aups is the truffle capital of the Haut Var and here there is a passion for all things “truffle”. We were invited to demonstrations showing how the trained pig finds the truffles buried in the soil. It is not only humans who have a taste for this delicacy!
To add a splash of colour to the event, the local fokelore group performed some provençal dancing. All dressed in provençal costume the group showed that provençal traditions are being lovingly preserved.
Half an hour from Le Diamant Noir, Aups, in the Haut Var is a provencal treasure, not to be missed.
Situated on a hilltop village, La Verdière in the Parc Naturel Régional du Verdon is the largest private chateau in Provence, with features from the 10th to 18th century.
This castle had been lovingly updated in the eighteenth century, from a fortress. Louis-Roch de Forbin and his wife transformed the castle into a palatial home, creating a “mini- Versailles”, embellished with stucco work considered to be the most beautiful in Provence. Despite the unrest of the revolution, the castle survived. However, an old marquis, without descendants, had lived there more recently and allowed the castle to deteriorate. It fell into such a state of disrepair that it was not longer weatherproof. Sadly a thousand years of history was being lost. Valuable stucco work, furnishings and artwork were ruined. The castle was abandoned.
However, with new owners, the castle has now undergone 11 years of restoration work,the results of which are being shared with the public.
Do visit this treasure. a well- informed historian acts as guide to a wealth of historic information,with visits to the restored rooms exhibiting great examples of furnishings, artwork, and costumes costumes. On certain evenings there are candlelight visits to add to the atmosphere of life there in the eighteenth century.
The lavender in the garden at Le Diamant Noir, Aups, is in full bloom, so we decided it was time to go to the lavender fields. We were not to be disappointed. Our route took us up onto the lavender plateau on the edge of the Lac Sainte Croix. We drove through the honey capital of Riez and onto Valensole.
Life in rural Provence revolves around the rythmn of the seasons. Up on the plateau the agronomists were highly active the grain harvest was underway. The scenery was beautiful, with a patchwork of lavender, golden fields of ripened barley and here and there sunflowers. What a sight! The combination of colours was magnificent.
With pulled off the road for a picnic lunch of pan bagnat, typically provencal, and listened to the honey bees gathering nectar from the lavender. Families cycled past, as we basked in the sunshine- an ideal route for cycling through the fields of lavender.
On the road between Moustiers Sainte Marie and Sainte Croix du Verdon we were lucky to find both sunflowers and lavender on either side of the road.
We drove back via the Lac Sainte Croix, which was as still as a mill pond and beautiful as ever.
Back home for a glass of chilled rosé under the pergola!
We feel privileged to live in such a diverse area.
It is hard to believe that the holiday season has come round again and we have already welcomed international clients from Europe, Norway, Canada, and of course the UK, to our corner of Provence. One of the perks of our job is meeting lovely people from all over the world.
Life in Aups continues at its provençal pace, and the bustling twice weekly market attracts people from far and wide, with a wide selection of products. Clinking of boules is never far from earshot as the enthusiasts practise for the summer competitions. The shopkeepers have been at work with the odd lick of paint and refurbishment, to continue to provide several inviting shops to tempt the wallet.
We have been enjoying asparagus and strawberries and are now moving on to cherries and melons!
There is always a ” brocante “or a “vide grenier” taking place in a local village and as the season progresses, the villages find all sorts of excuses for a “party”, with various local festivals, usually surrounding local produce and attended by local musicians.
We are surrounded by several very quaint villages, all steeped in history and very welcoming with summer café culture.
Four seasons fountain Cotignac
The pool is heating up nicely and has been in use already this year. Almost warm enough for us- we are getting too accustomed to the hot summers.
As the garden becomes more and more established, every section becomes more private. The roses this year are beautiful.
The temperature is increasing and the communal areas are ready for entertaining.
The first barbecue evening of the season was a great success, as we celebrated the 65th birthday of a Canadian guest.
The surrounding countryside is lush and green and there are wild flowers everywhere. The wild thyme is in flower and the fragrance of wild herbs underfoot, adds to the pleasure of any walk .
For keen walkers there are several walks in this area and especially in the Gorges Likewise this is an area for keen cyclists.
The Gorges du Verdon and the Lac Sainte Croix are as spectacular as ever, not to mention the fresh early mornings and sunsets!
Bookings for accommodation are steadily rolling in and some of the high season weeks are now complete.
We are offering a special rate for a couple to occupy l’amandier, as we realise that family occupancy is restricted to school holidays.
Meals from our freezer takeaway menu have been very popular, especially defrosted for an easy first night’s meal, so we are continuing with this service and our wine tasting and BBQ evenings, as everyone seems to enjoy themselves.
It look as though we may have fresh figs on the menu!
We are looking forward to meeting our new guests and to welcoming those who are returning to Le Diamant Noir
Sandra and ColinNew
For a beautful picture postcard view of the Lac Sainte Croix, take a short drive from Le Diamant Noir, Aups in the Var region of Provence , to Aiguines
see route below
A drive to this wonderful little village is like a drive to the top of the world and the views are rewarding. Breathtaking views over the turquoise waters of the lake and the lavender plateau beyond are not to be missed.
Lac Sainte Croix
Aiguines is the gateway to the rive gauche of the Gorges du Verdon. do stop at this village though and drink in the wonderful vista.
There are several bars and restaurants in the village, which is home to several craftsmen, from production of provençal santons, to wood turning, with some lovely pottery galleries.
Spring has arrived. The birds are singing, the springtime plants are in full bloom and new and tender shoots are appearing everywhere.
The maintenance programme is well under way and Spring cleaning is in full swing, as we prepare for our guests.
The time has come to take the winter cover off the pool, unpack the garden furniture and look forward to the season ahead.
We look forward to welcoming old and new faces to Le Diamant Noir, (Aups in the Provencal region of the South of France)
We still have some summer spaces, though we are taking bookings daily, and filling in the gaps in our availability calendar Don’t be disappointed!
A short drive from Le Diamant Noir, through Aups and on to the Lac Saint Croix, takes you to the lavender plateau, a world away from the 21st bustle of day to day life.
Here nature is taking its course, allowing the carefully cropped lavender plants to rest over the winter months, before gathering their strength to produce the most spectacular sight of lavender plumes again in the summer.
A beautiful warm February afternoon, showed the peace and beauty of this region at its best. In the distance the snowy caps were a reminder that here too it is winter, but today there was a feeling of spring in the air.
The day dawned cool, bright, but windy. However as the morning progressed, the wind dropped, resulting in a perfect day for the twenty first truffle festival in Aups.
Crowds gathered for the demonstration of man and pig in search of truffles. The wise old pig was able to sniff out the buried truffles without any problem
Meanwhile a market selling truffles and derivatives was well underway.
The products on sale were very extensive, with several artisanal products, from local saffron falvoured jams, to truffle flavoured aperatifs. Local cheeses, olives, olive oils, nougat, patés , honey adorned the stalls. The truffles were priced up to €800 per kg- a valuable commodity. Brushes to clean the “diamant noir” were for sale as well as special cutters for slicing the truffles wafer- thin. Also on sale were packs of gnocchi with truffles, risotto with truffles, pasta with truffles, dips made from truffles, truffle oils——
The bars and cafés were buzzing, and while enjoying beverages of choice, the crowds were entertained by the local fokelore group, before descending on the local restaurants à midi, for special “truffle” menus.
2014 has now arrived and we turn our thoughts to the forthcoming season ahead.
We are pleased to be filling our calender with bookings, and will be delighted to welcome new guests in the months ahead, as well as those returning to share our corner of provence.
The weather so far this winter has been kind to us, with lots of sunny spells, and crisp clear days. The scenery is as beautiful as ever.
Christmas and New Year festivities ended last night with La Fête des Rois – Epiphany. This is another excuse for a party and the “galette des rois” is the culinary delight to be shared on this day.
In the north of France the cake is in the form of an almond pasty and in the south it is an orange- flavoured brioche with crystalised fruits. a charm is hidden in the mixture pre-baking, and then the person who gets the piece of cake containing the charm, wears a crown and is the king or queen for the rest of the party.
All good wishes for 2014 from Le Diamant Noir, Aups
At Le Diamant Noir, Aups in the Haut Var, we are proud to provide an ideal habitat for many species of insect life that inhabit the Verdon region.
We become the home to many visiting butterflies, which are attracted to our garden by the numerous buddleia bushes.
Continue reading Welcome to The Butterfly Garden!