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My Dear Friend,

                    Please don't mistake this postcard as if it were from India. The motif on the baskets makes this picture unequivocally Provençal. I'm indeed writing from Saint-Rémy a short distance northeast from Arles.

                    Today we have concluded our visit to Arles and the Camargue region. Considering we only spent one day in each of these places, our sojourn was in fact extremely short. Nevertheless, our days there have been very rewarding - we joined the Cocarde d'Or, we visited many of van Gogh's places. We toured the marshland of the Camargue, and we caught the last ray of sunlight in Aigues-Mortes.

                    St-Rémy wasn't originally in our plan, until we heard about its lively Wednesday market. We decided to take a plunge, as today is exactly a Wednesday. Plus, the town is roughly on our way to Sault.

                    [continues to the next postcard...]

To: My Friend
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Any City or Village
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the World
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[...continued from the last postcard] Local open-air markets are very important in the daily life in the French towns and country, for large supermarkets have found it difficult to compete with the market-going culture deeply engrained in French rural life. Even if they are able to make their ways, they are often unwelcome and unprofitable. Furthermore, local markets are livelihood for many Provençal peasants.

                   Here in the market I met a friendly and animated vendor. The man was selling his homemade foie gras and duck meat. At his stall, he was proudly displaying a picture of his fame published in a Hongkong magazine (although little that he knew that the magazine was a gossip tabloid). St-Rémy market has obviously developed from just a shopping place for locals to a tourist spot!

                    The warm Mediterranean climate, the plentiful sunshine, the proximity to the sea, all make the produce of Provence the best in France and even in the world - fruits, vegetable, olives, herbs, lambs, fish and seafood. Anyone's appetite could be stimulated by the air in St-Rémy. [continues to the next postcard...]

To: My Friend
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Any City or Village
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the World
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[...continued from the last postcard]

                  I especially like the seemingly endless colours and varieties of olives, sausages, spice, wine and cheese slabs, which sometimes could be so huge and heavy that they could be used as boat anchors. Don't you want to sample the olives on the back of this postcard?

                  Just like any other place in France, St-Rémy's market is not limited to outdoor. In fact, shops double as local people's important social venues, where owners and shoppers say bonjour, and greet each other's families.

                  French shops all have unique names pertaining to their specific functions. Before I close off this postcard, here a small language test for you. What kinds of food are these shops selling - boulangerie, pâtisserie, confiserie, épicerie, boucherie, charcuterie, fromagerie, poissonnerie? You may add more to the list too...

                  Cheers! L.G. 05/07/06

To: My Friend
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Any City or Village
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the World
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My Dear Friend,

                  I must tell you an exciting story. Today in St-Rémy's market, I spot Vincent van Gogh. Well, actually he was a peasant selling artichoke flowers. His straw hat and beard just made him stand out among the vendors and market-goers.

                  He had noticed my hiding in the crowd and ready to point my telephoto lens. I felt timid, and only took a snapshot when he turned his face sideway. However, Emilia was more audacious. She quickly took a frontal shot of his face. I am showing this picture in the back of this postcard albeit blur.

                  It almost looks as if van Gogh reincarnated himself. As you know, in 1889, he was voluntarily transferred from Arles' mental hospital to the asylum in St-Rémy in exchange of freedom to paint. His spirit may well be alive!

                  truly yours
L.G. 05/07/06

To: My Friend
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Any City or Village
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My Dear Friend,
I am writing to you from a dinner table at the Hôtel/Restaurant le Louvre at Sault. The picture on the back is the dessert I had. Today is a long day, one ought to treat himself well.

                  Fast food is virtually a non-existence except in bigger cities. The French consider a meal as something that ought to be enjoyed and savoured slowly. Few would choose to sit indoor, no one is in a hurry, although this might pose a problem for travellers like us, who just want to get some quickies and move on.

                  Plat du jour, or set meal, is usually quicker and cheaper. This time, Emilia and I both chose Confit de Canard, duck meat slowly cooked with fat and spice, as main courses. It certainly pleased my tastebuds, and I should start searching its recipe once I get home. At the end, she preferred cheese over pineapple for dessert. All these, with appetizers, only go for 28€ - the best value we have had so far.

                  Truly yours L.G. 05/07/06

To: My Friend
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My Dear Friend,

                  Coming to Provence is largely for lavenders, and Pays d'Albion around Sault is the place to be. Coming late in the afternoon from St-Rémy, we were still able to circle the region before sunset, by first heading south to St. Christol, then turning back north to St. Trinit, Ferrassières, Hautes-Ferrassières, going steep downhill to Montbrun-les-Bains, and returning to based camp Sault via Aurel.

                  It was an intense 3-hour working (photographing that is) tour. Taking pictures of lavender fields is much trickier than originally thought. Even for place like Pays d'Albion, they are not always seen by the main roads. When you get in some side roads, you might be limited by private properties. Furthermore, all lavender fields look similar. It's a challenge to create something unique. I'll leave you some local landscapes in the next few postcards (without much writing)...

                  truly yours
L.G. 05/07/06

To: My Friend
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My Dear Friend,

                  This is a farmhouse at Sault. What do you think?

To: My Friend
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My Dear Friend

                  On the stamp is a lone tree in the lavender field near Montbrun-les-Bains. The other side is a scene of typical Provençal farm.

                  L.G. 05/07/06

To: My Friend
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May you have a violet dream

                  L.G. 05/07/06

To: My Friend
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My Dear Friend,

                 When we talk about Provence, it is not always the coast or the plain. Today we are going to a more mountainous Provence.
We premeditated carefully our plan by choosing Sisteron as our gateway. Our itinerary left little time for us to visit the town. But at least by passing through it we hoped to take a glimpse of this amazing 11-century fortress.
Sisteron positions itself on top of a rocky promontary over-looking the confluence of Rivers Buëch and Sasse which form the greater Duance. Below, the deep natural trenches on the rock are like scars testifying its trouble history with wars and disasters. For thousands of years, Sisteron has been at the strategic cross-road at the middle of Marseille-Nice-Grenoble triangle. It is the place which every army wants to seize.
This picture was taken from the very point we planned before actually getting there!

                  Salut from Alpes de Haute Provence
L.G. 06/07/06

To: My Friend
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My Dear Friend,
We couldn't further explore Sisteron, because we had to make it to Entrevaux today from Sault. That would be the apogee before returning from our home base Avignon. Ironically, being as famous as Entrevaux, there is only one hotel there (but closed in the summer!). This force us to settle in Annot about 15km east of Entrevaux.
Annot is a completely un-tourist town in the high Provence, but it has no less charm than any of its peers in the region. Year after year, daily life seems to be undisturbed. The village has your usual boulangerie, pâtisserie and charcuterie. In the narrow alleys, people come home with their baguettes wrapped by a small piece of paper in the middle. At the time we arrived, an itinerary circus had just set up a small tent at the village centre. That's probaby the biggest entertainment event of the year!
The back of this postcard is the charming Hôtel Beauséjour we stayed, run by a friendly interracial couple.

                  Ever yours,
L.G. 06/07/06

To: My Friend
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My Dear Friend,

                 The arches in the stamp on the last postcard were photographed in the street of Annot. Do you notice the covered water basin at the left of the picture? Well, if you don't see it clear enough, it's called lavoir.

                  Lavoirs are very common in rural France. Water is directed from nearly spring. Nearly every village has one of these laundry places. Many of them are beautifully built with sandstone, and believed to be originated from as early as 15th century. You may imagine how laundry women gathered, gossiped while washing other people's dirty laundry.

                  Of course lavoirs have become a decorative site these days. When I was by the side of a lavoir, I noticed these fallen petals and leaves. I thought they would look good in the picture. So I took a shot and send it to you.

                  Hope you like it...
L.G. 06/07/06

To: My Friend
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My Dear Friend,

                  Who says Provence summer can't rain? When it does, it ruins our plan for Entrevaux today. It confined us in Annot's hotel, until it finally took a break later in the afternoon. We rushed to this 11-century garrison village, only to be disappointed by the dull and gloomy sky that made it impossible to take any good picture. We made our second attempt soon after returning to the hotel, as drops of sunlight had finally penetrated the cloud by 7pm. Unfortunately, it was all too late. The golden rays couldn't benefit the maze of narrow alleys amid of the housing forest in the village except during high noon.
Entrevaux strongly reminded me a completely unrelated village thousands of miles in the middle of the Yemeni desert called Shibam. They are both characterised by clusters of tall houses resembling a miniaturistic Manhattan, but in a much less regular pattern.
Entrevaux, a French word meaning "between (entre) valleys (vaux)", precisely describes its geographic situation. The lofty rocky mountain at its back and [continues to the next postcard...]

To: My Friend
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Any City or Village
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Any Country
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the World
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My Dear Friend,

                  Who says Provence summer can't rain? When it does, it ruins our plan for Entrevaux today. It confined us in Annot's hotel, until it finally took a break later in the afternoon. We rushed to this 11-century garrison village, only to be disappointed by the dull and gloomy sky that made it impossible to take any good picture. We made our second attempt soon after returning to the hotel, as drops of sunlight had finally penetrated the cloud by 7pm. Unfortunately, it was all too late. The golden rays couldn't benefit the maze of narrow alleys amid of the housing forest in the village except during high noon.
Entrevaux strongly reminded me a completely unrelated village thousands of miles in the middle of the Yemeni desert called Shibam. They are both characterised by clusters of tall houses resembling a miniaturistic Manhattan, but in a much less regular pattern.
Entrevaux, a French word meaning "between (entre) valleys (vaux)", precisely describes its geographic situation. The lofty rocky mountain at its back and [continues to the next postcard...]

To: My Friend
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Any City or Village
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Any Country
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the World
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My Dear Friend,

                  We have to admit that we aren't exactly early birds. By the time we got to Entrevaux the third time this morning, the sun had already risen so high that it could reach the alleys in the village. We followed the steep stony path to the citadel at the mountain top. The zigzag path was gated by tens of arches along the way, and was wide enough for any man-powered vehicle. The village had long woken up. But the train from Nice had not arrived. There were only two of us in the mountain.
Entrevaux does not have tourism in mind, or it has already built cable cars like many other places. The buildings inside the citadel have long been abandoned and defunct. Their walls are filled with graffiti, some dated back 1940s. Perhaps this is a deliberate act of negligence by the people of Entrevaux to keep their village as original as it can.
Now I have to drop this postcard into the mailbox, before we head to our next destination - the Verdon Gorge. I can't wait to tell more about our adventure...
L.G. 07/07/06

To: My Friend
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My Dear Friend,

                  Although Verdon Gorge is one of the most popular vacation destinations in France, it still does not stop us planning a day of discovery there.
Turning back from Entrevaux, it took us about an hour to reach the Gorge. The deep and immense gorge was created by the turquoise River Verdon cutting through the calcareous land mass. Two narrow and winding highways built on both sides of the cliff connect two enchanting villages at each end - Castellane and Moustier-Ste-Marie.
As soon as entering the canyon, we saw fleets of white water rafts rushed down the river. But soon the water got much calmer. Numerous canoes, kayaks and raft sprinkled along the river, dodging the summer sun under the shadow of the high cliff. Finally, the river came nearly still at its mouth to the Lac de Ste-Croix. Seeing all the water sports, how much I wanted to take a plunge here. I promised myself to bring swimming wear next time, and rent a man-power catamaran with a water slide!
Ever yours, L.G. 07/07/06

To: My Friend
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My Dear Friend,

                  What time of the day do you think this picture was taken? Well, I took this shot around 8pm in the evening. Daytime in Provence summer is very long. Daylight is not unusually around 10pm.

                  The weather repeated itself again like yesterday. The afternoon rain storm refreshed the air and landscape of the gorge. Unlike yesterday, we finally had our luck at the Point Sublime, a popular viewpoint, there were few tourists left. But it seemed to be the most ideal time of the day for taking photos. The dark cloud casting at the background created an even more dramatic effect for the already magnificent mountain.

                  Just about I'm to finish this postcard, it looks like it's going to rain again. Let's end our day of exploration here. Will write you more tonight!

                  L.G. 07/07/06

To: My Friend
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My Dear Friend,

                  There is no doubt that we have so far visited many Provençal villages so far. Landscapes apart, they all shared some commonalities - shops, café and restaurants usually filled by tourists. To acquire a taste of ultimate French rural life, we planned our stay tonight in the unpretentious Rougon. From Point Sublime, follow the ascending and winding one-lane road for 3km, you would be greeted by a tiny chapel, then a small village built at the foot of a big rock, with a population of 85. There is nothing here but a small general store doubles as post office.There is no fancy architecture here, no school either. When we passed in front of the village hall, the Mairie, a few kids stopped playing badmington and said bonjour to the strangers. As for the village's history, it was first documented in 9th century. Does it make you wonder how a tiny village have lived through 22 centuries?

                  Greetings from the top of the world - Rougon.

                  L.G. 07/07/06

To: My Friend
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My Dear Friend,

                  I know it's odd to show one's bedroom in a postcard. But how can I keep this best hidden gem just for myself? Moreover, I have promised Annie to boost the publicity of her little three-room hostel in Rougon.
We thought Point Sublime was the best viewpoint in the Gorge, until we opened the window of this hotel room. See by yourself. It's the best hotel room I have ever had! Not only that, the rooms are exquisitely decorated with matching colours. I especially like the scent of the dried lavander (see the stamp). What could be a better breakfast terrace than the one overlooking the Gorge. Sometimes you can even see the huge vultures hovering above the canyon.
Annie has no internet access. If you want to book a room, you may either write or phone (in French) her at
La Bastide du Rocher
04120 Rougon, Alpes de Haute Provence
Tél : (+33) 04 92 83 73 58
Your truly, L.G. 07/07/06

To: My Friend
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Any City or Village
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the World
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