TRAVEL with pat and lew

Archive for the ‘… France – PROVENCE’ Category

* the lavender fields at the Abbey of Senanque

Posted by Lew Weinstein on December 20, 2010

to learn more about Lew Weinstein and his novels,

go to … http://lewweinsteinauthorblog.com/

the Abbey at Senanque

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Wei Ling’s QUESTION … Hi, I was wondering in your entry re Provence you wrote, “As if the mountains weren’t spectacular enough, we came across one of Pat’s major objectives, a glorious field of lavender nestled in a cleft between the hills adjacent to an ancient monastery.” Can you tell me where exactly that lavender field is and what is the name of the ancient monastery? Thanks!

ANSWER … Thanks so much for your interest. We were travelling along the stunning mountain road (D177) from Gordes to Carpentras. The lavender field was at the Abbey of Senanque.

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see our original Provence post from July 2010 at …

https://patandlewtravel.wordpress.com/2010/07/12/a-cemetery-in-gordes-lavender-fields-a-synagogue-in-carpentras/

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* Avignon … festival performers and magnificent art at the Calvet

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 13, 2010

Palais des Papes

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We had seen the Palace of the Popes on a previous visit, so this time we parked and immediately headed for the street life. And we were lucky – it was festival time in Avignon! The streets were crowded with tourists (like us) and performers trying to get us to attend their shows later in the day. It reminded us of the Edinburgh Festival. It was just grand.

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There is a stunning museum in Avignon called the Calvet, founded in keeping with the wishes of Esprit Calvet (1728 -1810), a physician in Avignon who left his collections to the city of Avignon at the time of his death in 1810. The current collection is quite diverse. Here are just a few of the works I found quite moving …

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la mort de Joseph Bara by Jacques-Louis David

Per Wikipedia … Joseph Bara is said to have been a young French republican soldier at the time of the Revolution. He was hailed as a hero by the leaders of the movement. Having been trapped by the enemy and being ordered to cry “Vive le Roi” (“Long live the King”) to save his own life, it is said he preferred instead to die crying“Vive la République” (“Long live the Republic”). This version of the history of Joseph Bara is disputed and considered as a “republican myth” by some historians.

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Posted in ... 2010, ... France - Avignon, ... France - PROVENCE | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

* Arles … Roman amphitheatre, Van Gogh’s cafe, and French bullfighting

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 13, 2010

We had been to Arles twice before, both for short visits. This time we had a little longer to wander.

Our first stop was a museum called the Foundation Van Gogh, containing works by many artists in tribute to Vincent Van Gogh. It is always astonishing to remember that Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime and that his works now sell for as much as $39 million.

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Roman amphitheatre in Arles

The main attraction for me in Arles was the Roman arena, built around 90 AD, large enough to hold 20,000. It was formerly the site of battles to the death between gladiators, for the amusement of the wealthy Romans. Today, we learned to our surprise, it would be the site of the French version of bullfighting, in which the bull is not killed.

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We found a new hat for Pat and had an excellent lunch in the Place du Forum, looking at the restaurant which Van Gogh painted in his famous “Cafe at Night.” As is frequently the case, with Van Gogh and others, the painting looks a lot better than the real cafe ever did. And the lady looks great too.

Pat's hat, Van Gogh's "Cafe at Night" and the cafe now

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Real bullfights, Spanish style, come to our town of Collioure once a year. Two years ago we went. We will never go again. It is a disgusting exhibition in which the bulls are taunted and weakened to reduce the danger to the matador, then finally killed and dragged out of the arena.

French bullfighting is different. In this form of bullfighting, introduced in 1402 in this very Amphitheatre in Arles in honor of the visit of Count Louis II of Provence, the bull is not killed. There is real danger, but the ones in danger are the young men who run in front of the bull and try to snatch strings tied to the bull’s horns.

The bull enters the ring, walks around, snorts, paws the ground. He is experienced. He knows what will happen. After a few minutes the bull is joined by a dozen young men, all extremely athletic. They take turns running in front of the bull, taunting the bull to chase them. When chased, the young man will try to grab a string from the bull’s horn and then save his life by leaping up and out of the arena, frequently smashing into the higher fence beyond. If he slips even slightly on the gravel, or doesn’t jump cleanly, he is in mortal danger. And sometimes, just to make it even more interesting, the bull jumps over the fence after him.

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* St. Remy de Provence … in Vincent’s footsteps

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 12, 2010

St. Remy de Provence is a beautiful charming place, full of great shops and restaurants and churches and the Roman city of Glanum, plus the very real presence of the ghost of Vincent Van Gogh. But before you get to St. Remy, there is a driving experience unlike any other … an overarching growth of plane trees into which you drive transfixed, on and on and on. (note: all of these photos were taken by Pat through the front window as we were driving.)

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From the center of town near the Boulevard Victor Hugo past the Tourist Office and onto dusty roadways where there used to be nothing but fields, the city has placed a series of 21 small reproductions of Van Gogh’s St. Remy paintings, done while he was a patient in the insane asylum which is at the end of the trail. We walked the path on a very hot day. There is considerable space, maybe 100 yards or so, between most of the paintings, and the walk was long enough to get a real feeling for the disturbed man who carried his paints and easel into the fields to paint the peasants and their surroundings. Here are two of the paintings set where they might have been painted in 1890 …

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The hospital St. Paul de Mausole is a peaceful place where Van Gogh was apparently quite happy and enormously productive in the last few months of his life, producing some of his finest if somewhat deranged work. Here is his room, the cloisters and the view of the garden through his barred window …

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We didn’t do justice to the Roman city of Glanum, constructed around 25 BC, abandoned in 260 AD, and first excavated in 1921. It was hot and we were tired, so we took a cab back into town, where there was a wonderful Van Gogh documentary at the air conditioned Musee Estrine. This photo is apparently of the partially reconstructed Roman temple dedicated to the cult of the Emperor’s family.

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Back in town, our energy restored by the cool air in the museum, we explored the fine shops of St. Remy and I fortified myself with coffee for the return drive at an outdoor restaurant that actually understood what “cafe American” is supposed to be.

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* a cemetery in Gordes … lavender fields … a synagogue in Carpentras

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 12, 2010

It is impossible to come around the bend in the road, high in the hills after winding along narrow roads, and not say “wow!” when the town of Gordes presents itself. Pat took this photo hanging out the back window of the car as we crawled along the road out of town.

"WOW!"

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The town is beautiful. We were there on market day and it was crammed with visitors, which always adds to the fun for us. We had a simple lunch and good conversation with an interesting couple who live in Singapore and London.

Marc Chagall summered in Gordes, and the Hungarian artist Victor Vasereley lived here year-round but our main objective was to re-visit the cemetery we had stumbled over during our first visit a decade or so ago. There is a small portion of this cemetery where all the graves are dated July and August of 1944, in the weeks after the D-day invasion when the retreating Germans committed unprovoked murder all over France. From what I could find on the web, these people were innocent villagers killed by the Nazis in reprisal for some action by resistance fighters, since Gordes was a major center of the the French Resistance. If anyone reading this blog knows the actual story, please write in. There is a sense of emotion around that cemetery which surely emanates from the heroes who died here.

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The ride from Gordes to Carpentras passed through some of the most beautiful mountain scenery you will ever see. Here’s a sample.

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As if the mountains weren’t spectacular enough, we came across one of Pat’s major objectives, a glorious field of lavender nestled in a cleft between the hills adjacent to an ancient monastery.

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Carpentras was a commercial site used by Greek merchants, and was later known to Romans as Carpentoracte Meminorum, mentioned by Pliny. In addition, it has long been an important center of French Judaism, and is home to the oldest synagogue in France (1367), which still holds services.

It’s the “still holds services” that is the remarkable thing about this synagogue and indeed about the Jewish people. Wherever Jews go, wherever Jews are driven, Jews survive. In the picture below, on the bima facing the ark which holds the holy Torah, there is a card containing the prayers to be said by those called to honor the the Torah. In synagogues as remote from each other as Marrakesh and Budapest, New York and Moscow, that card and the service itself is identical. Surely this consistency of worship is one of the reasons why we’re still here.

the oldest synagogue in France

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Posted in ... 2010, ... France - Carpentras, ... France - Gordes, ... France - PROVENCE | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

* Domaine Rouge-Bleu … a vineyard of special quality in Provence

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 12, 2010

Lew, Pat, Kristin & Jean-Marc

Pat reads “French Word-A-Day,” a delightful and informative blog produced by Kristin Espinasse, who with her husband Jean-Marc, operates Domaine Rouge-Bleu near the tiny town of Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes in Provence. We took advantage of an open invitation on Kristin’s blog to stop in for a visit.

http://www.french-word-a-day.typepad.com/

http://www.rouge-bleu.com/

Visiting on the same day was a couple from Copenhagen, who also met Kristin and Jean-Marc via her blog. We were all treated to a tasting of three wines, a delicate rose, a light red, and a fuller bodied red. All were excellent. My only problem was the instruction from Jean-Marc to pour out what I didn’t drink. I think it’s sacrilege to pour really good wine (or any wine for that matter) onto the ground, but Jean-Marc said, “It comes from the ground, so let it go back.” By the way, the only reason I didn’t finish each glass was because I was anticipating a two hour drive to our home exchange near Aix.

tasting at Domaine Rouge-Bleu

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But Jean-Marc saved the best for last, leading us into his wine cellar for a very private tasting of a premier wine he will bottle for distribution in 2011. The new wine will be named Cuvée Lunatique.

Carefully removing the wine from the keg where it is patiently aging, he offered us each a little taste. It is already quite magnificent!

Jean-Marc is planning to have each bottle engraved with a moon on its shoulder, and also use raised labels and wooden cases, so the packaging will rise to the quality of the wine. This will be a limited production. We’re planning to watch the Rogue-Bleu web site so we can make a purchase as soon as it becomes available.

advance taste of a special 2011 red

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Although we would like to have seen the sunset across the beautiful vineyard, we reluctantly said good-by to Kristin, Jean-Marc and the dogs, and headed home.

Smokey and Braise

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* Aix en Provence … colors, light and panache

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 12, 2010

Aix-en-Provence is the perfect place to just wander. Every corner opens a new vista of glorious color. Here is the marketplace on a Sunday morning…

Aix-en-Provence ... marketplace on a Sunday morning

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We had outstanding weather all week in Provence. Warm but not too hot, cool enough for a blanket at night. But even so, a fruit blend is a refreshing delight. Now why can’t we take the same ingredients and achieve the same result?

strawberries and bananas, lemon juice, crushed ice & sugar

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Everywhere you look in the center of Aix, there is something very old and very beautiful, and sometimes funny and surprising and delicious.

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And then it’s time to relax with a Provence panache, which we first enjoyed in Arles many years ago at the suggestion of a friendly French waiter. It’s equal portions of beer and lemonade, ice cold.

panache & Le Monde

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Provence is known for the artists who worked here – Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gauguin, Monet. Provence’s photographers also bring an extraordinary eye to capture the beauty of their surroundings. Here is Jurek Nems, who often works not far from his home, in the first minute of sunrise and the last minute before sunset. We bought two of his works, the spectacular shot of the Marseille harbor at dawn that he’s holding and a field of lavender under puffy white clouds at dusk.

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* St. Tropez … more than expected

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 8, 2010

We took a day trip from our home exchange just outside of Aix-en-Provence and spent 4th of July Sunday in St. Tropez. It turned out to be a more pleasant city than we had anticipated, with great beaches, a lively port scene, excellent shopping, and a great salads for lunch.

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the beach at St. Tropez

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St. Tropez port

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After lunch, I got a new hat … 10 euros, made in China, 100% paper. If it lasts the week, I’ll be ahead of the game. It was the 4th of July, and there were American decorations in St. Tropez, which reminded us of another 4th of July in Monaco where American flags were placed in honor of Princess Grace.


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There’s always a serious note in France for us. On the way out of St. Tropez, Pat spotted a memorial to Jean Moulin, a hero of the French Resistance in WWII. Moulin was captured and killed on a mission from Charles De Gaulle to try to coordinate resistance cells across France in the months before D-day.

Now there’s a guy who knew how to wear a hat!

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* Marseille … the 2nd largest city of France

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 6, 2010

We have an 8 night home exchange just outside of Aix-en-Provence, and decide to spend a night in Marseille first. The train trip from Collioure to Marseille (changing in Narbonne) is a pleasant trip, during which I figure out how to end the novel I’m working on.

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Bay of Marseille - prison from which Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo escaped

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Marseille is one of the oldest cities in Europe, dating to well before Roman times, and it was a center of intense resistance to the Nazis during WWII. There is a small but very moving museum called … Memorial des Camps de la Mort … (Memorial of death camps) … located at the end of the port quai. It is well worth a visit, and it is free.

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Walking near the port, we found a wall of posters that captures the spirit of Marseille, as one of the second largest cities in various countries around the world.

other 2nd largest cities

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The highlight of our Marseille visit was the Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde, situated high above the city with spectacular views of the port and sea below.

Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde seen from port below

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We got to the Basilica on the tourist train that leaves from the inner end of the old port. On the way up, we were treated to descriptions of the sites we were passing (in English) and were stunned to hear the golden statue atop the Basilica called the “Blessed Virgin and the kid.”


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the spectacular altar of Notre Dame de la Garde

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There are two excellent shopping streets in Marseille, rue Saint Ferriol and rue de Paridis, located a few blocks from the old port. Many designer shops and an excellent Galeries Lafayette.

We concluded our Marseille visit at the Musee Cantini. It advertised a Picasso exhibit, but there was only one Picasso. The attraction of art is always in the eyes of the beholder. You judge …

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