Monastère Saint-Paul-de-Mausole and The Dutchman

 

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I had been most anxious to visit this museum/hospital, for some time. When Rita said she wanted to visit the cave projection show, previous post, the plan for her most recent visit took shape. A quiet intuitive individual, I had a feeling that the walls may talk. They do whisper if one is silent and willing to hear.

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Was it wishful thinking or simply artistic license that Van Gogh applied his brushes to create a much more sumptious version of his true quarters? Patients rooms were not decorated with art work and this special guest had access to another room within the hospital for a studio and much of his work was completed on the hospital grounds. Alas, there is no access to his atelier which leads this visitor to believe there is really no trace of it or that it is in the part of the hospital that is still active as a Psychiatric Hospital. 

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Haunted with thoughts of suicide, Van Gogh chose a voluntary admission to the hospital at Saint Remy on 8 May 1889. He would stay there for a year and during this time would restle with bouts of deep depression. During his stay from May 1889-May 1890, he was most prolific in his work and produced a total of 142 pieces including Starry Night, Sunflowers, Irises, and a self-portrait that says so much about the man. If you have a favorite (that is a tough one) you can check to see if it was painted during his time at the hospital at the following site:   http://vggallery.com/painting/by_period/st_remy.htm

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The view from his window of some of the terraced gardens.

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Our visit took place in late October so instead of the stunning flowers that would appear in Spring, we had the lovely colors of autumn. Van Gogh took his inspiration from nature so saw the beauty in all that it offered. 

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Up the steps and just past the chapel, you will find the entrance to where Van Gogh’s room is. While there are other rooms here that once housed patients, those were not open. However, the salle de bains and the kitchen were housed there and I hope you find those photos as interesting as I do.

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The salle de bains (bathroom) is situated directly across the hallway from the entry door to the chambre de Van Gogh. 

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The kitchen, no longer in use, is maintained as it was during the time of Van Gogh.

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An inner courtyard that still had some blooms.

If you enjoyed this at all, I do hope you will check out the book LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT A MAN I KNEW by Susan Fletcher. She weaves a beautiful story about Van Gogh and some of the people who actually resided at the hospital at that time. 

On one side of the property we discovered an ancient site for both Greek and Roman villages. There was so much to see there, I fear that it may take more than one post to share some of its secrets. Like here, my camera just gets carried away…

Bisous,

Léa

 

Carrières de Lumières: Underground Art

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The beautiful village of Les Baux-de-Provence is a sparkling jewel yet small. One must visit and explore, inhale and touch with inquisitive hand, eyes and an open mind. With such exploration, her riches are exposed.

During my friend’s visit, Rita, we headed to Provence for a few days. Besides strolling about Saint Remy we each had a #1 must see and Carrières de Lumières was hers. My #1 will be revealed on a future post but this exhibit quickly had me under its spell. 

Step into the cave and be transported deep into the 16th century. Let yourself go and be awakened to the visions of BOSCH, BRUEGHEL and ARCIMBOLDO. This is total immersion from the ceiling of the cave down to the very ground you walk on. Walk about freely, stop and look closely or sit yourself down on one of the stone benches available on the caves outer walls. 

20171026_130057.jpg There isn’t a cultural event, landmark, museum or other National Treasure, where I have not encountered groups of school children on a field trip. They are accompanied by a their teachers, are well mannered, respectful and it is such a delight to witness their awakening and appreciation. 

20171026_131035.jpg Perhaps this photo can give you a small idea of just how vast the cave is. Unfortunately, you are seeing only one small area. The projections seem to dance across the ceiling, walls and even the floor of the cave. 100 projectors syncronised precisely with the sound system provide a seemless experience. I had little idea of what I would encounter but trusted that Rita knew we would both love it. As ususal, she was right and I was stunned. The show itself is not long in duration. Yet after wandering around through several showings, I found myself mesmerized and frozen on one of the benches. If I have the good fortune to return to a future show, I hope I shall be better prepared camera wise. What you will see here is from my little smartphone camera as my trusty old point and shoot had run out of batteries. Furthermore, I am unaccustomed to trying to capture stills of a moving target in near absolute darkness. I do hope it gives you of an idea of what a magnificent exhibit it is and perhaps schedule some time to view one of the coming shows. Alas, this particular show ended on 7 January, 2018. The next show began in March and the featured artist, PICASSO.

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If you should plan to visit Provence, this is one of the many delights that await you.  

Bisous,

Léa

Kamil Vojnar

“Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be hinderances limiting our vision.” Salvador Dali

 

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KAMIL VOJNAR: LIFE IS A JOURNEY

As my dear friend Rita and I strolled the winding streets of Saint-Remy-de-Provence in the late October sunshine trying not to miss anything we were rewarded with the small Provence gallery/atelier of Kamil Vojnar. 

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The artist was born during the Cold War, 1962, in  Moravia, Czechoslovakia. He studied at the School of Graphic Arts in Prague after completion of his military service (tank commander) and later  The Philadelphia Art Institute and The Art  Student’s League of New York.

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Alas, if I had more skill in the art of photography and perhaps a more than an old point and shoot camera, I could have done justice to his work. Regardless, my purpose here is to introduce as many as possible to  Vojnar’s remarkable vision. To see it up close and personal is to really comprehend its magic. His images reach out to the viewer, enfold them and infuse their message. This was one of those times that I wished I could run everyone out of the atelier, lock the door and be alone with the work that mesmerized me and leaving me to write their secrets behind shuttered doors.

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It is my hope that you will search out where you can view some of his works nearest you. They are most certainly worth both time and travel to do so. To see the artist and learn more about him and his work, I recommend the following link replete with video. https://vimeo.com/90886154 please give it a glance.

 

Bisous,

Léa

French Kiss Gratuit!

Free French Kiss!

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 These brave young men were walking across the plaza in the nearby city of Narbonne with their sign, smiles and three other friends (one female). However, they were the only two willing to be photographed. I suspect they were just grateful that this not so young woman was not going to demand that kiss. This is just a small example of just how friendly the French can be.

 

Despite the brevity of this post, I do believe the photo says it all.

 

Bisous, 

Léa

 

 

Vendange

As per usual, the summer has flown by all to fast for some of us. I must admit that I include myself in those numbers. However, the Autumn does have some delicious things going for it and what could be better than French wine? 

One might imagine that things get rather quiet in a small rural village after the tourist season draws to a close. Yet, that is not the case. As early as late August, the vignerons begin the harvest. There will be some unfamiliar faces as young people from all over europe arrive to help get the raisins (grapes). From before seven in the morning until the last shards of light fade away the streets are a hive of tractors, grape harvesters and vehicles filled with pickers on their way to the vineyards and large trailers brimming with freshly harvested grapes.

The Languedoc-Roussillon is the largest wine-producing region in France. More wine is produced in this one small region than in the entire United States.  A wide variety of grapes are grown here such as Grenache, Syrah as well as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. While Languedoc wines cover a rather broad spectrum, from white to red; sweet to dry and of course sparkling which pre-dates Champagne (but that will be another post and another time). The region proudly cultivates the vines on over 700,000 acres here along the Mediterranean coast. It is thought to be the single largest wine-producing area in the world.
The Languedoc-Roussillon is arid, warm and brimming with sunlight. The rugged terrain of herbs, brush and resinous plants infuse the wine with their scents and flavours. It is the ideal terrain and climate for growing grapes. While the quality became secondary to quantity for a time in the early twentieth century the hard working vignerons  committed themselves to turning it around with remarkable results.

A neighbor, Remy,  makes a lovely collection of organic wines and also grape juice. If I am lucky, I can buy a few of the days pickings that did not end up in the vats. Gait is a manager for Remy and has the “honor” of having the buckets of grapes from all the pickers loaded into the large container on his back (porter). Being quite tall, he must bend to allow the pickers to dump the fruit into the container on his back which quickly fills. He follows around all of the people who are cutting the clusters of grapes and then transports his container when filled to the trailer which will quickly be transported back to the cave and on its way to the vats. While it is true that large machines harvest a vast amount of the grapes, a number prefer the hands on approach. Additionally, some of the terrain is such that this is not a viable option.

DELICIOUS!
DELICIOUS!
Tomek
Tomek (seasonal worker from Poland)

Most of the workers are seasonal and some speak little french.
The perfume of fermenting grapes begins to fill the air as fêtes de vins fill our weekends with tastings, dances, music and more. They last well through November even though the last grapes have been harvested. While these photos are all taken at Domaine Sainte Juste, and Embres – Castlemaure there are a several wonderful options in just this small village alone (pop. 700). There are many more vineyards just a few kilometers away. Embres – Castlemaure is a cooperative and Durban has a wide variety of Vigneron (wine grower) There are at least thirteen seperate caves here. In addition, there are many who have smaller vineyards and make wine just for personal use or sell to a cooperative. If you want a workout, try your hand at the porter’s job. The receptacle on his back hold 60 kilo or just over 132 pounds. They carry those on their backs up hill and down for several hours a day during the harvest. 

Vineyards are everywhere
Vineyards are everywhere
Porters, Corneilus and Yost
Porters, Corneilus and Joost

If you want an extreme workout, try the porter’s job. The receptacles they carry on their back hold 60 kilo or a little over 132 pounds. They are carrying these up and down hills and then taking them to the awaiting trailer to be hauled of to the cave.

Fill those containers and keep moving!
Fill those containers and keep moving!

In our village, a huge party is hosted after the vendange for all who participated. There is music, dancing and refreshments. This lasts well through the night.

Alas, this year, March was quite warm and enough to coax out those early shoots. April followed with two separate nights of frost and destroyed crops all over France. While some did not have severe losses, one of our local vignerons reports a loss of about twenty percent. Losses could be found on one side of a road with the opposite spared. 

With the wine safely pressed and in the vats, the wine festivals commence. They are everywhere and one can pick and choose which to attend. 

 

Remains of the day
Remains of the day
Embres - Castlemaure Cooperative
Embres – Castlemaure Cooperative
Fruit on the vine
Fruit on the vine

Bisous,

Léa

 

 

 

 

Remy owner Domaine Saint Juste
Remy owner Domaine Saint Juste

 

 

Semaine bavaroise

Semain bavaroise or Bavarian Week was the theme in Narbonne last week. I hadn’t noticed any mention of it in the paper but there are so many such events year around and even more in the summer when crowds of tourists line the streets. I first glimpsed the little white chalets set up for selling traditional food and drinks. The were set up in the center square in Front of Place de Ville and facing the Via Domita. Then as I turned and walked up Rue Droit (Right Way) I began to see men and women is costumes heading toward the center square. 

The participants gathered on the steps of Place de Ville for a brief welcome was given and an invitation for people to come to the performances of singing and dancing in the evening. The traditional food would also be available in the evening so no chance of sampling it. Alas, I knew I would not be able to remain.

Enjoying a café in the square is something I usually do once a week. It is delightful when the sun is shining. Of course I always have a book or two in my purse and on my table you will see one of the books I am currently reading. 

The group assembled on the steps. Inside you can walk about and perhaps as far as the massive ballroom on the upper floor. The offices of the mayor and his council are all there as well.  Extra tables with canopy had been set up to accommodate the additional guest and so that the cafés were not over burdened. 

Unfortunately, there were throngs of individuals trying to photograph the group and being rather short, I was quickly pushed back to where I couldn’t get more shots. They group reassembled for more photos on the Via Domita but once again, I was unable to get any closer and they didn’t remain for long. 

There are events and festivals all year around but through the summer, there is always something on. If you are traveling to France and would like some idea of what may be available in the area you plan to visit, just look on line for the area and the local Office of Tourism. Information is available in both French and English. It will also give you a much broader picture of what you can expect to find. 

Bisous,

Léa