Keeping Cool in a Provence Village Heatwave

Place de la Fontaine

We’re just back from Charles de Gaulle airport, dropping off our eldest for an adventure away from the nest for TWO weeks. Julie confirmed I’m a fussy mum. Have you got your identity card? Don’t forget this form and remember to … “Don’t worry. I’ve got it, Mum!”

To calm down on the way home, we called Antoine’s parents.  They are in a different world in the south.  As we were talking, stuck in Parisian traffic, they were sitting looking at this view from under the shade of an oak tree in their quiet Provençal village of Saignon.

Panoramic view of Castellet village Provence

Over the past week, this heatwave has continued to hit us hard in Paris. One way to keep our cool indoors is ensuring the shutters are closed: that’s something that my mother-in-law fusses about – even more than me.

Another rule in the south is to take an afternoon nap, or sieste. Call me a rebel, but that’s when I normally sneak out of the sleepy house and head into the village.  Although there are over 1000 habitants, as you can see from the photos I took on our last summer visit in August, most people head indoors during the hottest part of the day.  For me, it’s paradise. Even the cats were sleeping indoors.

shuttered windows in a Provencal village

Turning the corner from their driveway just underneath the imposing rock in the village, the only sounds are the drumming of the cigales (cicadas) hidden in the trees and, gradually going up the steep slope towards the church, the sounds of trickling water come from a small communal washing place or Lavoir, as if stepping back into another century.

Lavoir washing place Provence

I have always loved the chairs just outside some of the front doors.  They’re for the neighbours to gossip, chat, exchange recipes, perhaps?

Provencal village street

As you gradually climb up the village, which is 500m above the market town of Apt, many of the picturesque houses date back to the 16th century. Gargoyles included on some. The cars are far more modern…

Vintage car in Provence

This 12th Century Roman Church of Notre Dame (also known as Saint Mary of Saignon) reminds us of Julie’s very windy Christening there 14 years ago (where did the time fly?) and many other family events, joyous and not as much.

Eglise de Saignon in Provence

Just behind the church, the cinema had prepared the chairs for the night’s viewing. I guess cushions would be a good idea.

outdoor cinema in Provence

It’s also at the back of the church that the steps lead to the imposing rock in the village.  It’s not that much of a climb but we heard the story about some adventurous tourists that had to be rescued from a helicopter, as they went off track.  As you can imagine, the neighbours chatted about this one for a while.

Walk to the rock in the Provencal village of Saignon

This is only the back view of the rock.  On the other side, the view is over the Luberon valley.

Back of the rock Saignon Provence

This is where I found people!  So quickly making my descent, headed for the main lavoir in the village’s centre, the Place de la Fontaine. Just imagine the locals from another era all gathering around here, doing their washing and catching up on the latest news…

Lavoir Saignon Provencal village

with this as their view.

pretty fountain in the village of Saignon, Provence, France

Keep your cool and have a lovely week!  I’m looking to sharing some easy yet delicious recipes from my friends in Provence.  You up for a touch of garlic?


13 replies
  1. Christina @ Christina's Cucina
    Christina @ Christina's Cucina says:

    OMG, what a gorgeous village! It reminds me of my mother’s village when I was a little girl. Unfortunately, they’ve taken away the washing area and the little roads through the village are clogged with parked cars and everyone’s put up gates and fences; it’s extremely sad to see. Your pictures are stunning, Jill! How lucky you are to be able to spend time here! xx

    • Jill Colonna
      Jill Colonna says:

      How could they take away the washing area in your mother’s village, Christina? That’s terrible! I do hope this village doesn’t do this. I love that nothing has changed much in the 23 years I’ve been coming here. I dearly hope that souvenir shops stay well away too! Thanks – the village just loves posing for the camera 😉

  2. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef
    Maureen | Orgasmic Chef says:

    I think a communal washing place might be fun. once. 🙂

    What a beautiful village to live in and I love that it’s real – not a tourist attraction. Now that you’ve told us all about it, we’d better hurry before the hordes arrive.

    • Jill Colonna
      Jill Colonna says:

      There are still tourists here, believe me Maureen, but somehow at siesta time the hordes disappear 😉

  3. David
    David says:

    The heat wave just broke in Heidelberg (where I am traveling now) but it has been beastly. I hope you got some relief, too!

    I have such great memories of visiting Saignon, the day we went to Le Castellas for a fantastic meal among the goats at the farm. Thanks for sharing you memories and beautiful photos!

    • Jill Colonna
      Jill Colonna says:

      It’s a pleasure, David. The heatwave has been continuing – and last weekend we were back in Provence with temperatures around 38°C, hovering around the 100°F figures!

  4. June S
    June S says:

    I love Saignon, who wouldn’t. Seems a long time since we were there with you. Thanks for reminding me about happy times there. Hope to go back some day soon.

    • Jill Colonna
      Jill Colonna says:

      Yes, it was a long time we were there together, Mum. We were hoping to drop in on my beaux-parents as a surprise next weekend but they’re in Corsica. Och well, we’ll be enjoying Provence with friends instead 🙂


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] week reminded me of our favourite Provençal market in Apt. My parents-in-law live nearby in the hilltop village of Saignon, so this is our local market pilgrimage during summer visits. Apt is also where we stock up on […]


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