Archive for

The Enigma that is France

Posted on December 24th, 2015

Living in France can be strangely puzzling at times. It’s a country of contradictions, where opposites abound and values and behaviours differ widely. One example is French design prowess. France has given us photography, the cinema, pasteurisation, the metric system, the automobile, the parachute, the ballpen, the Suez Canal, the Eiffel Tower and the TGV high-speed train. The list of French ingenuity goes on, so how is it that SNCF, the French national rail company, managed to purchase more than 1800 new trains that are too wide to pass through stations, so that 1300 platforms will have to be widened? More importantly, the national motto, Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité is widely revered and disregarded at the same time. Yet the French seem unperturbed by such peculiarities, dismissing…

The unexpected

Posted on November 5th, 2015

France is full of curiosities. We learn to expect the unexpected. At our local recycling point I discovered sanglier hooves poking out of the plastics bin, as though a wild boar was attempting to climb out. Buildings are often painted with trompe-l’oeil. Strange signs abound. Follow the link to find more curiosities HERE

Autumn gold

Posted on November 2nd, 2015

The colours of autumn in the Luberon are short-lived, perhaps three weeks. Vines, oaks, cherry trees all turn gold, brown or rust, soon to be stripped bare by the next mistral. The colours are extraordinary, from dull earthy brown oak leaves through to the richest reds of some vines. The leaves swirl around, covering lanes and sanglier furrows. Summer migratory birds have returned to Africa and robins appear everywhere. Smoke hangs in the air from many bonfires across the valley while our evenings are spent by a log fire. Yet another wonderful season, our fifth autumn here. Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower – Albert Camus

Cadaqués – a small town in Spain

Posted on October 12th, 2015

Cadaqués lies just across the Spanish border, at the extreme north of the Costa Brava, four and a half hours drive from the Luberon. Situated on an attractive bay in a national park, the town is protected from over-development. Locals speak a variation of Catalan, similar to that of the Balearics. Seclusion, climate and beauty have combined to create an artistic colony attracting many celebrities down the years, including Dali, Picasso, Miro, Merlina Mercouri and Walt Disney. The town was first documented in 814 following the wreck of a ship carrying saintly relics which were rescued with help from the villagers. Further records detail transactions in 974 and 1030 relating to property and fishing rights. Locals depended upon fishing and farming in those days,…

Salvador Dali

Posted on October 12th, 2015

Salvador Dali lived with his wife Gala in Port Lligat, next to Cadaqués, for more than fifty years, from 1930 to 1982, though he managed to retreat elsewhere during the Spanish Civil War and WWII. Port Lligat is a tiny coastal hamlet overlooking a protected bay only twenty minutes walk from Cadaqués. Dali left his estate to the Spanish State so it is possible to visit the house and gardens. He originally bought one fishermans cottage, but with growing fame and wealth he bought four neighbouring houses to create one dwelling. Even so the house is modestly sized, best suited to a couple, with minimal guest accommodation. The house and garden are full of typically bizarre Dali art, including a penis-shaped swimming pool and…

Lake Como

Posted on October 2nd, 2015

It has been thirty years since I last visited Lake Como and I had almost forgotten how beautiful it is. The journey from the Luberon is eight hours by car, so we stopped for two nights in Castiglione Falletto in Piedmont, near the wine village of Barolo. We really enjoyed our stopover among the scenic rolling hills and vineyards of Piedmont. Some photos of the region can be found: HERE Next we set off for Bellagio on Lake Como. The lake is 50km long, shaped like an inverted “Y” with Bellagio in the centre. We planned to leave the car to use ferries for expeditions around the lake. These included the MV Milano, built as a paddlesteamer in Genoa in 1904 then converted to screw in 1926. While…

Something in common

Posted on September 25th, 2015

I have discovered I am allergic to insect stings, particularly guèpes, frelons and taons, wasps, hornets and horse-flies, of which there are plenty here in summer. The stings produce a major localised swelling which is very uncomfortable and takes several days to subside. In this I am not alone. Our Welsh Springer Spaniel Saffy was stung in the mouth a while back and at the Louvre Museum I found a 2000 year old sculptured head with the same affliction……

Marché aux Puces

Posted on September 25th, 2015

Every Saturday and Sunday there is a marché aux puces, a flea market, at Porte de Vanves, an industrial suburb to the south-west of Paris. It’s easily accessible on the metro, with 380 mostly semi-professional dealers spread around the outskirts of a park. They offer a good range of small antiques at sensible prices and the limited crowd is entertained by an ancient pianist playing an equally decrepit piano. One dealer was selling stamps for making pressed metal badges including one recognising former soldiers of the First World War. A wider range of photos can be found HERE

Apérojazz

Posted on August 21st, 2015

Yesterday evening was all music. First a concert in Lauris, called Apérojazz, in the grounds of a bastide and winery on the outskirts of Lauris. As the sun set, we were treated to a mixture of opera, jazz, funk and scat by two highly talented musicians, Jonathan Soucasse on piano and Cathy Heiting as vocalist. Great entertainment watched attentively by Cathy Heiting’s three grandchildren among the audience. Then we set off for the village of Mérindol for a late dinner of moules et frites at the weekly music party. The entire main street of Mérindol is closed to traffic, tables set up and three different bands compete for attention outside different restaurant/cafés. The crowd is nearly all locals and everyone turns out – you cannot avoid the music if…