L’abbaye Saint-André / Saint André Abbey in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon
Tuesday January 13th 2009, 7:38 am
Filed under: Gard,garden,photos,Provence,tips,travel and places,travel tip

We were lucky to stumble upon a charming, 14th century, fortified medieval village called Villeneuve les Avignon (Region: Languedoc-Roussillon, Department: Gard), which sits atop Mont Andaon and is situated just a couple of miles outside of the city of Avignon, across the Rhône River. Instead of passing by it, we decided to see what was within the walls. No regrets because inside those walls we found a hidden gem, particularly the abbey and the Italian style gardens of Saint André.

During the same time as the Avignon festivals (July/August), Villeneuve has its own festivities, Villeneuve en Scène, with over 20 groups performing concerts, musicals and plays. Here’s a quick slideshow of some photos I took.

Saint André Abbey in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon

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Friday France Photo: Pumpkins and Squash
Friday September 05th 2008, 11:43 am
Filed under: food and drinks,garden,photos

pumpkins and squash

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Friday France Photo: Sage
Friday August 01st 2008, 12:19 pm
Filed under: daily life,garden,nature,photos

sage in the garden
Sage in my garden.

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Spectacular Deadly-Looking Spider But Harmless
Tuesday July 29th 2008, 8:25 am
Filed under: daily life,garden,photos

yellow stripe spider harmless garden variety

Last night’s untimely tempest left the garden marvelously wet and alive this morning so I stepped outside early to take photos before work. Just above my blueberries was this spider, which caught me by surprise and created a blood curdling scream (from me), the kind of scream that shatters anything shatterable. If anyone in the neighborhood was still sleeping beforehand, they certainly weren’t after that.

There are actually two webs side by side with another smaller spider, so after googling “scary striped yellow spider” I was relieved to discover that these are very undeadly garden spiders. Whew.
2 spiders

According to wikipedia, the smaller spidey is the male and the larger (photographed above) of the two is the female. When they do this side-by-side web thing, it means they’re getting ready to mate.

After mating, the female lays her eggs, placing her egg sac into the web. The sac contains between 400 and 1,400 eggs. These eggs hatch in autumn, but the spiderlings overwinter in the sac and emerge during the spring. The egg sac is composed of multiple layers of silk and designed to protect its contents from damage; however, many species of insects have been observed to parasitise the egg sacs.

Aren’t you happy you came to my blog today? Ew. Over a thousand of these creepy crawly things in my garden. Of course, I shouldn’t complain because at least they aren’t deadly.

This ends today’s arachnaphobic Arachnid lesson of the week.


The Hidden Gardens of Paris
Saturday June 28th 2008, 1:53 am
Filed under: art/culture/design,articles,garden,news,paris,travel and places,travel tip

From the nyt:
gardens in paris
“Next to the Palais de la Découverte, just off the Champs-Élysées, is a flight-of-fancy sculpture of the 19th-century poet Alfred de Musset daydreaming about his former lovers. As art goes, the expanse of white marble is pretty mediocre, and its sculptor, Alphonse de Moncel, little-remembered. For me, however, it is a crucial marker. To its right is a path with broken stone steps that lead down into one of my favorite places in Paris, a tiny stage-set called Jardin de la Vallée Suisse.

Part of the Champs-Élysées’ gardens, this “Swiss Valley” was built from scratch in the late 19th century by the park designer Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand. It is a lovely illusion, where nothing is quite what it appears at first sight. The rocks that form the pond and waterfall are sculptured from cement; so is the “wooden” footbridge. But the space — 1.7 acres of semitamed wilderness in one of the most urban swaths of Paris — has lured me, over and over again. My only companions are the occasional dog walker and the police woman making her rounds.

On a park bench there, I am enveloped by evergreens, maples, bamboo, lilacs and ivy. There are lemon trees; a Mexican orange; a bush called a wavyleaf silktassel, with drooping flowers, that belongs in an Art Nouveau painting; and another whose leaves smell of caramel in the fall. A 100-year-old weeping beech shades a pond whose waterfall pushes away the noise of the streets above. The pond, fed by the Seine, can turn murky, but the slow-moving carp don’t seem to mind, nor does the otter that surfaces from time to time.

The Swiss Valley is one of the most unusual of Paris’s more than 400 gardens and parks, woods and squares. Much grander showcases include wooded spaces like the Bois de Vincennes on the east of the city and the Bois de Boulogne on the west, and celebrations of symmetry in the heart of Paris like the Tuileries and the Luxembourg.

But I prefer the squares and parks in quiet corners and out-of-the-way neighborhoods. Many are the legacy of former President Jacques Chirac. In the 18 years he served as mayor of Paris, he put his personal stamp on his city by painting its hidden corners green.

“He took some of the pathetic, shabby squares and gardens and transformed and adorned them,” said Claude Bureau, one of the city’s great garden historians who was chief gardener of the Jardin des Plantes for more than two decades. “He appreciated….”

Read the full article


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