Even a week there could make you feel human
artists and photographers need somewhere to replenish
their creative juices and what better place could
there be than the Alps de Haute
Provence, a little-known part of the region
In La Colle you awake
to panoramic views of the surrounding hills and can
even get a glimpse of the snow-capped
in the far distance.
Getting away from it all has always been the
point of having a holiday but this is really doing it
In 1995, Rod Cook
home and career in the cut-throat
world of advertising to restore a small-holding on a
hilltop, where he now runs two gîtes
with two more en-route.
Although cut off from the rest of the world
(access is via a country track so don’t bring any
low-riding vehicles or sports cars but normal cars use
it daily) the gîtes have all up-to-date facilities
and there’s even a swimming pool for when the
weather’s warm, which being the South of France, is
a large proportion of the year.
In fact, even in early April when I was there,
it was hot enough for a dip when things got too
The 400-year-old buildings have been lovingly
renovated to reveal original beams and honey-coloured
tiled floors. The
upstairs gîte has large inter-connecting rooms and
huge windows with breath-taking views, while
downstairs is like entering a comfortable Aladdin’s
cave, decorated in warm, rich tones and again boasting
every-mod-con – even an open fireplace which, on
these cool spring evenings, was wonderful to sit by,
sipping some vin rouge and contemplating the
meaning of life until late into the night.
During the day we could spend time either sitting
around in the vast grounds surrounding the gîtes
talking, writing and of course eating (Rod’s
speciality is his legendary cooked English breakfast
and mixed French / Asian from his Chinese heritage) or
we’d go on a photographic excursion to some of the
most intriguing places that only Provence can provide
– little villages with quaint chapels, the mystical
Walk of Kings at Lurs and the medieval town of
Sisteron, resting high on a cliff.
One day we travelled
across Le plateau de Valensole, quite the most
extraordinary sight in Spring with its vast bright
green carpet of fields contrasting with the cool
whiteness of the
stretching along the horizon and
topped with a bright blue sky.
We reached the turquoise Lac de St Croix
where we photographed the Gorge de Verdons, a
mini version of the
before making our way into Moustiers,
a jewel of a town set into the rock, offering
unlimited photo opportunities. Other visits took in
the Roman aqueduct at the Pont du Gard, the Palais de
and the monastery at Lac Enbrun.
One lunchtime we dined at the most wonderful
restaurant in Apt, ten minutes from Minerve where
Peter Mayle (the author of A Year in Provence)
It was a family-run establishment called Aux
Plaisirs Gormands and it certainly lived up to its
had a three-course meal – light salad followed by a
superb steak with delicious vegetables and finished
off with a mouth-watering homemade dessert –
beautifully cooked, unpretentious and excellent value
for money (even including the obligatory carafe of
For something more
lively there was Aix en
, a bustling city rivalling
in culture and elegance and on
Monday mornings there was the market at Forcalquier,
the nearest main town to La Colle, 14 kilometers away.
There you could buy anything from the local
produce (cheese, sausages, bread) to clothes, hats and
bags as well as taking the opportunity to photograph
some typically French characters.
Many of our ‘days off’ were spent
downloading photos from the day before and comparing
pictures – it’s amazing how people can be at the
same place at exactly the same time but manage to come
back with completely different photographs.
It really was the most restful but at the same time
inspiring week that I’ve spent in a long time and I
came back promising to put myself on a strict diet and
to lay off the wine for at least month!
So, if you are dying to take out that new
digital camera to capture some really special shots,
are looking for somewhere tranquil to finish that
book, or if you just simply want to get away from the
pressures of the rat-race for anything from a few days
up to a month – this is the place to come.
Rod plays ‘mein host’ to perfection and
ensures that each evening you’ll return to a tasty
meal with all the wine you can drink.
For more details look on the website at www.holiday-provence-gite.com
or contact Rod Cook direct on 00447796486269
(or email see
One-week photographic tours are run from
mid-November to December and then again from April to
other bookings are available for any other time of the