Monthly Archives: May 2012

Visions of Contrast in Provence

The beach in Bandol

Bike Rentals on L’Ile de Porquerolles

Grazing sheep in Gemenos

The Port at Sanary-sur-Mer

The hills above La Roquebrussanne

Purple flowers in full bloom in Sanary-sur-Mer

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Basilique Sainte Marie Madeleine

In the town of Saint-Maximin-la-Saint-Baume is located one of the most beautiful basilicas in all of Provence. The outside unfortunately needs quite a bit of work, but once you step inside it is wondrous to behold.

The construction of the basilica began in 1295 A.D. and the Gothic style was chosen by Charles II d’Anjou. It was he who discovered the tomb and relics of Mary Magdalene in 1279 A.D which had been buried since 716 A.D. The relics were hidden there as protection from the Sarrasins who were pillaging and devastating the region at the time. It is said that Mary Magdalene spent many years in Penance in the Grotte de la Sainte Baume (also known as La Sainte-Baume Grotte Marie Madeleine) located in the hills above Saint-Maximin-la-Saint-Baume.  The crypt of the basilica, which was built in 1316 A.D., contains an ancient Gallo-Roman tomb of the fourth century and four beautiful marble sarcophagi decorated with scenes of the Christian religion and allegedly contains the skull of St. Mary Magdalene. You are allowed down into the crypt to see the sarcophagi and the skull. It is quite an eerie feeling, I must say. Is this really the skull of Mary Magdalene? I couldn’t tell you, of course, but it has been legend for many centuries and the Catholic Church believes it to be so.

In 1348 A.D. due to the plague, construction stopped for a while on the basilica. Work started again in 1404 A.D. All construction was halted in 1532 A.D. after 237 years of being worked on. Due to this, the front doors to the church and the bell tower were never finished.

The basilica’s dimensions are superior to those of the other churches in the region. It measures 73 meters long, 37 meters wide and 26 meters high.

Behind the alter is the seventeenth century work of art entitled “The Glory”. It was sculpted by Joseph Lieutaud. It represents the Holy Trinity who is surrounded by angels. The walls of the choir area were carved from 1681 to 1692 in walnut wood by Vincent and Jean-Baptiste Funel Oleri who were brothers. It contains 94 stalls and 22 medallions depicting the life of the Dominicans and is one of my most favorite things about the church. The delicacy in which these two very talent brothers carved these masterpieces is unreal and rivals none in my opinion. There are also many angels atop the choir area and a large crucifix above the main door leading to the main alter which was installed in 1676 and made of marble. The pulpit was carved in 1756 by Brother Louis Gudet and is made of walnut. It contains seven medallions depicting scenes from the life of St. Mary Magdalene.

The basilica is also home to a magnificent organ. The order of the Dominicans wanted an organ present in the church that would match the magnitude of the basilica itself. They got their wish.

From 1772 A.D. to 1774 A.D, Jean-Esprit Isnard and his nephew Joseph constructed the organ which now resides in the basilica. It is immense and matches very well the size of the church and like the carvings in the choir area, the organ is absolutely marvelous.

I could spend hours in this church just gazing at all the little intricate details that are present. It is truly a work of art in and of itself.

Visions of the Beauty of Provence

Colza Field (aka Canola or Rapeseed) near Allemagne-en-Provence

 

Chateau du Tarascon

Ochre Fields in Roussillon

View from Saturnin-les-Apt

 

French Pastries in a Boulangerie in Sanary-sur-Mer

 

The Art of REALLY, REALLY Great Illustration

Our  daughter illustrates the most wonderful pictures you could possibly imagine (NO she is not 5 years old and NO I’m not exaggerating. The proof is in the post!) The fantastic creativity that comes of this kid is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen! She is truly gifted and I wanted to share her story and show you some of her art illustrations because everything she creates is just ridiculously great!

I usually refrain from blogging about my children. Aside from the occasional mention now and then, you don’t hear too much about them. For one, I feel that if I’m going to make them an object of a post then I probably should consult them to see if they really want to be written about by their mother (you know how sensitive offspring are). Secondly, three out of the four kiddies are adults and are in the United States and therefore aren’t apart of the everyday activities Dude, Tinki and I are experiencing.

But……on this occasion I have broken my rule (the one about making a kid the direct object of a post not about the consulting part).

As I was looking through my daughter’s illustration work, I had the sudden urge to share it with you all. She is more talented than anyone I personally know and I’m not just saying that cuz she’s my kid. You’ll see for yourself, it’s true.

The kido I am referring to is our oldest and she graduated from college last year with a Bachelor’s Degree of Fine Arts in Illustration. Now we all know what that means; long, painstaking hours of intense creativity flowing from the body all for the sheer passion and pleasure of doing it. History continuously shows how unkind the world is to artists and in the modern world it’s much the same. Tell someone you’re an artist and what kind of a look do they give you? Yup-that’s right, you all know the look.

It’s tough to be an artist, and that’s putting it very mildly. The passion must be so intense for the work. It must always be for the work because the monetary rewards are so few for the majority out there. It’s not too say that you can’t make a living at being an artist, it’s just that it happens to be one of those professions where it’s a bit tougher to come by.

Most artists revert to doing something else on the side to be able to eat, put a roof over their head and clothes on their back. They all know, especially in the beginning, that no matter how great they really are, their work isn’t going to do that for them. Starving and artist has become synonymous with each other, but what can you do when you love it more than life itself?! (By the way, she doesn’t get the talent from me. I’m lucky if I can color inside the lines in a coloring book!). Her gift was passed to her by the way of Dude’s two older brothers who happen to be wonderful at any and all kinds of artsy stuff.

From the time our oldest was about 2 she displayed a talent for drawing that I hadn’t seen before. We would give her crayons and a coloring book and she wouldn’t want the book. She only wanted plain paper so she could draw whatever she wanted on it. Coloring books didn’t allow her creativity to flow. She saw the lines as roadblocks. As she grew, she had paper and pens or crayons with her at all times.

We made sure in her early years to put her in any and all art classes that we could find, whether it be at school or through extra-curricular classes in town. Art supplies aren’t cheap and neither were the classes so we told the rest of our three children that since their sister was busy making beautiful art they couldn’t have any extras. They would have to just get their pay back from her when she was rich and famous. This is why I don’t post any photos of them when they were younger. Seeing them in rags just isn’t pretty. 🙂 You’re not really buying that one are you?

In her preteen years she would paint using watercolors and oils and draw with pen and pencil. She entered any contest she could and she won some kind of ribbon or award in nearly all of them.

When we lived in Aix-en-Provence, we were lucky enough to find a couple of art classes that she could attend during the day each Wednesday and in the evening each Thursday. Boy did she eat those classes up. I never saw more of a happy camper than when she was heading out the door to art class in France.

Upon our return to the United States, we enrolled her in the Orange County High School of the Arts, otherwise known as OCHSA (pronounced OSHA). This is undoubtedly one of the best places to go for a teenager who lives, eats and breathes anything that has anything to do with art. Those few years at this school she excelled and was introduced to jewelry making, sculpting and fashion design as well feeding her illustration-minded knish.

After high school graduation she was accepted to The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, New York. She spent the next several years there before graduating last May.

During the last year she has done two book covers, has had her art work appear in gallery shows and has even been lucky enough to sell some of her stuff. That’s not bad right out of college. She of course has a side job and maintains that artist can’t make enough to live on but one day she hopes to.

Her specialty is fantasy illustration and children’s books. The mediums she works the most with are oil and watercolors.

Her goal is to be in one of SPECTRUM’s volumes, and work either at Random House publishing doing the illustrations for children’s books or at Wizards of the Coast illustrating their fantasy playing cards.

I wanted to share this with you all because I am so proud of her. She is an exceptional child (now an adult) in every way possible. She is loyal, trustworthy, conscientious and hardworking. Her work is beyond wonderful and I would like others to know how truly gifted she is and since I have a blog, I might as well use it every once in awhile for plugging something, right? Why not my oldest kido?

If any of you out there reading this knows someone or is someone who is looking for an illustrator, please don’t hesitate to let me know and I will pass on the information to my daughter. She is always looking for free lance work (as well as steady work).

I know you all are just dying to see if I’m telling you the truth, so here you go, the proof:

Here are some examples of her fantasy illustrations using oil paints.

Here are some examples of her illustrations using watercolor.

Here is an example of her work with Prisma Colored Pencils

Gifts Bestowed

Thank you Meredith AND Jacqui for my Versatile Blogger Award! Both these wonderful ladies nominated me this week for the award and I want to give them a big shout out and thank you.

Meredith is a fellow American who lives in Provence like me (only she lives closer to chic Aix-en-Provence than I do). She is married to a Frenchman and has two daughters. Her blog, entitled Talking Story in Provence, chronicles the daily happenings over in her neck of the woods.

She always shares the best secrets and photos of open market shopping, tours of Aix-en-Provence (and her favorite shopping places there), her life with her husband and children and her crazy dog, Duffy and all the random stuff that happens to her while venturing out to enjoy this wonderful region.

The little snippets of insight into her daily life almost always put a smile on my face. I nod my head in agreement when she and I have had the same experiences and I ohh and ahhh over her photos of the delicious fruits and veggies she’s found while shopping. There have been many times when I have just laughed out loud at some of the stuff she writes about.

Aside from us both being American and loving Provence, Meredith and I also have something else in common; she used to live many years ago in the village that I now live in! She also happens to be the one who let me in on the secret that my village is cursed. After all the mishaps and downright terrible things that have happened with the renovation of our house, I totally believe her!

So all of you out there who just can’t get enough of Provence, head on over and see what Meredith has been up to. I’m sure you’ll enjoy her stories as much as I do.

Jacqui lives in northern France with her husband and son. Jacqui originates from the UK, but just like me, she got bit by the French bug and now has a little piece of earth here, too.  Jacqui shares her stories at The French Village Diaries. She has her own garden where she grows some of the most delicious veggies and she is also the proud owner of some ducks, chickens, a couple of ol’ cats and the cutest mini cooper ever! Jacqui and I became blogging friends thanks to sharing her love of Cantal cheese with me. See, both Jacqui and I are ardent gourmands of that oh so delicious cheddar cheese which happens to be difficult to find in my region. I was grumpy and complaining one day how life just sucks without cheddar and Jacqui chimed in and introduced me to Cantal (I have mentioned this story before, but what the hey, it was life altering for me!). Now she is my Cantal-Cheddar bestie!

Her blog tells of life in her very tiny village, trips she’s taken (she just spent a week road tripping in her mini with her hubby), the delicious things she grows in her garden and her family life ( aka living in France with a preteen boy who happens to have a blog of his own).

Stop on by Jacqui’s blog and say hi. You’re bound to find some delicious food you’d like to try (or grow) and some wonderful places to put on your “to visit” list.

I’ve been told that in accepting this award, I must supply some random information about myself. I guess that shouldn’t be too hard since I consider myself a random kind of person. So, here goes:

  1. I have four children of my own, 3 girls and 1 boy, but I also had a baby for my brother-in-law and his wife because they couldn’t have children of their own. Yes folks, back in the summer of 1999 I was busy giving birth to my niece. Not many people can say that, now can they?
  1. I have the biggest crush ever on Anthony Hopkins and I’ve had that crush since I was a little girl when I first saw him in the movie, “Audrey Rose”. Heaven help me, if I could go back in time and write him a letter from my nine year old self and tell him to wait for me, I would so do that. Just as an extra, I also have the hots for Hugh Jackman, in a really big way.
  1. I absolutely LOVE popcorn and orange juice together. There is no way in heck this girl is eating popcorn without having a glass of OJ sitting right there to accompany it, no way Jose. It’s the best EVER and I think you all should try it.
  1. I have an extreme phobia of needles and dolls. I’m not kidding, it’s really bad. A doll holding a needle would put me in the grave in .01 seconds, no kidding. I break out in a cold sweat, my heart starts pounding in my chest and I get clammy hands and feet if I even see a picture of either one. This has been a phobia of mine since I was a kid. I gave birth to all my children without any medication whatsoever cuz there was no way the doctors were ever gonna stick a needle in my back for the epidural. The pain of child birth was a piece of cake compared to that. It’s also the reason why I didn’t become a spy. If I was ever caught by the enemy all they would have to do is show me a photo of either a doll or a needle and I would tell them everything they wanted to know and then some.
  1. It’s a little known fact in my family that my great grandma on my mom’s side (my mom’s mom’s mom-did you get that?) was of Cherokee Indian decent. She was a stout little thing and always wore her hair in a long, black braid down her back. I am also, Italian, Irish, Spanish, Black Dutch, and German. Dude calls me a mutt. Mutts are cute so I will forgive him for that.
  1. When I was 17 I got the chicken pox and because of my advanced age, I missed two weeks of school, one of which was Spring break (thanks stupid new kid who had the pox and came to my school for only one week just to give them to me and then left and never came back!) and I had the worst case possible. I mean those pox were EVERY WHERE.  I hold no grudges, but I tell you, I will kick his old behind if I ever see him again.
  1.  I hate fish. I don’t like the way it looks and I don’t like the way it smells and I will never, ever eat it! Nothing that comes out of the sea will ever touch these lips.

Well, now that you know that I birth nieces, like men with sexy accents, love strange food combinations, have heart stopping phobias, am a mutt, catches disfiguring sicknesses, and would rather have an aquarium of fish that a plate full, I think it’s time to bestow the gift of the Versatile Blogger award to some people whom I really enjoy reading their blogs. Although I read a bazillion blogs (it’s sort of addicting) and love a ton of you guyzes to pieces, some of you just hog up all the awards to I gotta spread the love!!!!!……..

Provence In Ann Arbor

Travel Photo Media

annwebsterblog

the Walk & TALK

Traveling Sardine Class

Visions of Sunsets and Boats on the Mediterranean Sea

Sunset in Cassis

Sunset at Les Lecques near Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer

La Cadiere sur Mer

Another view of the sunset at Les Lecques near Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer

Ile du Petit Gaou near Six-Fours-les-Plages

Visions of Provence

Hotel L’Orangeraie in La Croix-Valmer

La Rotonde in Aix en Provence

Window Decor in the village of Rougiers

Villeneuve-les-Avignon

Rougiers

Les Calanques near Cassis

Ile de Porquerolles – Le Jardin Emmanuel Lopez and La Plage

Taking our leave of the Gorge du Loup, we headed back towards the village. I was interested in seeing le Jardin Emmanuel Lopez. Entry is free and the gardens are open every day from 9:30am-12:30pm and then from 14:00pm-18:00pm.

The garden is enclosed and contains lovely trees and flowers. There are many benches along the trail on which to sit and have a rest. It would be a wonderful place to bring a book to read. While we were visiting, there was only a few other people so, like the gorge, we pretty much had the garden all to ourselves.

I pointed out the things I would love to have in my garden at home, like this beautiful iron trellis. I had visions of blooming Wisteria and grape vines overflowing at my house. Oh, how the mind starts dreaming of all the lovely things to have in a garden when you’re visiting someone else’s  garden!

I really wished the sun would have made another appearance so that I could have captured some of the colors of the flowers. I had no luck in that department. As a matter of fact, the overcast had gotten a bit thicker.

As we made our way around the trails of the garden, I noticed all the beautiful houses that bordered it on all sides. How nice for the owners to have this place as their backyard.

After visiting the garden, it was time to head for the beach. This would be our last stop of the day on the island before catching the ferry back to the mainland.

By the time we arrive, the clouds had really rolled in so the color of the water, though still a beautiful blue, was not as captivating as it had been earlier that day. There were a few boats anchored in the harbor and the beach was scarce of people. Nearly everyone was gone so once again we were able to have part of the island all to ourselves.

The island has a real, sandy beach that stretched for miles. I say ‘real’ since I don’t consider rocky beaches to be a ‘real beach’. I’m not a fan of rocky beaches. I want to feel the soft, warm sand between my toes as I stroll along. I don’t want to be in pain and watching my every step as I hobble along next to the water!

I made a mental note to come back next time just to stroll along this beach and to see where it would take me. As far as I could see, it rounded a bend. Hmm, what was on the other side? Another adventure I presumed and something to look forward to.

The water was calm, but surprisingly cold for this time of year. They day had been warm so I assumed the water would have been warmer than what it was.

There was one enormous yacht anchored not far from where we were.

We decided to have some fun with picture taking.

Believe it or not, this is harder than it looks and I didn’t get the photo exactly perfect like I had wanted, but it turned out okay. I was my first attempt at trying something I had seen others do with the Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, etc. I must try and perfect this technique as it is fun to do and when done right, the pictures end up coming out terrifically.

It was finally time to head back to the ferry. On our way, we spotted a restaurant whose many, different, colored tables lined the edge of the water. Now that would be a nice place to have lunch!

My list of things to do on my next visit was growing ever larger. I had now planned to do a biking tour, visit the other forts on the island, take a stroll along the beach to see what was around the bend and dine at a restaurant near the water’s edge.

Yup, I’d say all of those were the best reasons to come back for a visit.

If you’ve been to the Ile de Porquerolles, I’d love to hear what you found interesting to do. There is always room on my list to add a few more things 🙂

 

Ile de Porquerolles – Hiking, The Lighthouse and The Gorge du Loup

When we last left off from our cliffhanger on the island :), my family was at the Moulin de Bonhour (which really wasn’t). From there we headed left and down the hill until we came to an intersection that gave us four choices. One way was back to the village and in two other directions was the way to separate beaches. I was more interested in strolling through the island vineyards; there are 200 hectares of them, and olive tree groves and then hiking up to the lighthouse.

In the end, that was the direction we took. We headed down hill towards the center of the island and passed beautifully manicured vineyards which abruptly stopped just at the edge of the island “forest”.

Then it was onto the olive tree groves

 

and after that a mixture of crops ranging from wheat, to corn, to flowers, to palm trees and many other crops and groves that I didn’t recognize. Remember, I’m nowhere near to being a green thumb (I am a self-proclaimed lover of LOOKING at nature not dabbling in it) so there are many plants and flowers of which I have no idea what they are.

Kilometers after kilometer were beautiful crops and some scattered houses of inhabitants lucky enough to own a piece of the earth on this island.

Just before making the turn to head in the direction of the lighthouse, we came upon this little shack.

At first I thought it was just some broken down thing that was left by the way side but as we continued along the main road, we noticed that it branched off onto a small trail and ended up at the little shack. To our surprise, it was a brand new shaded area with a bench to be used as a rest stop and bird watching area! We were lucky enough to have it all to ourselves and enjoy the chattering of the large amounts of birds that came to bathe and drink the water of the pond we were next to.

After a quick bite, we brought a backpack of snacks with us onto the island; we headed off in the direction of the lighthouse. The wide trail had been newly graded and compacted and to the side of the road there were surveying sticks every few kilometers. We wondered if this area was being prepared for building houses or condos. It would be a beautiful place to live, but what a shame to spoil the natural beauty of the landscape. There were no signs to tell what was to take place so I guess I’ll just have to wait and see until the next time I come by for a visit.

After rounding the bend, we came across a tiny collection of apartment houses (no more than 5 or 6) and then it was up the hill towards the lighthouse. Once we reached the top of the hill we could see the lighthouse, called Le Phare du Cap d’Arme, through a gate. It was built in 1837 but looks like it has been restored.

Unfortunately, you can’t go through the gate or onto the grounds to see the lighthouse up close. I was thoroughly disappointed as the lighthouse is on the map and there were never any signs along the way to say that you weren’t allowed to visit it up close. We only saw signs pointing us in the direction of the lighthouse. It seemed others had the same idea as us and the same disappointed look as we gathered around the fence peering in.

After a brief rest and some grumbly words coming from my lips, we headed off down the road and onto a little trail towards the Gorge du Loup. The trail is very easy to follow and hike on. It leads you through trees instead of groves and fields.

As you approach the gorge the trees open up into a wide open space overlooking a gorge with a view onto the Mediterranean. The gorge is a small one, but beautiful nonetheless. There happened to be a small sailboat anchored near the edge and some divers taking advantage of the beautiful day. This was another perfect spot to pull out a snack and sit and rest for awhile and enjoy the view. There were only two other people we had to share the view with. It was amazingly quiet and sheltered.

By the time we were ready to take our leave of the gorge and venture off to our next site, the clouds had started to roll in and it was getting a bit chilly. I put on my sweater and off we went towards the gardens and the beach.

What’s this?? Another cliffhanger??? More to come 🙂 ……

 

 

The Sunshine Award

I’m such a dork. Not that you all didn’t already know that, I’m just putting it out there in writing.

How this particular confession came about is that I was reading over passed comments on my blog (I try and do that every now and then cuz a lot of them just give me a giggle) when I realized that Leigh over at bluegrassnotes had nominated me 2 whole months ago for the Sunshine Award!!! Can you believe it, what a DORK I am for not jumping on that one cuz it’s the first (and only) award I have ever received.

Thank you so much Leigh for nominating me. Even though I am a late bloomer on accepting awards, I am super excited to be a winner! Leigh writes all about her spiritual journeys through life and the power of healing your spirit. In her own words she writes, “It’s a journey that covers mind, body and spirit so topics will include health and emotional issues as well as spirit.” She is also a grand lover of something I have yet to experience which is yoga. Thank you again, Leigh, for nominating my blog. I appreciate it very much!

So without further adieu, here are the rules of how to play nice with this award.

  •       Thank the person who gave this award and write a post about it.
  •       Answer the questions on your favorites below.
  •       Pass on the award to 10 fabulous bloggers, link their blogs, and let them know you awarded them.

The thanking was done just up above (remember it was just after the giant word DORK for me).

Here are my favorites in no particular order what so ever:

Favorite Color – Purple/lavender (please peeps, haven’t you seen my new garage doors??)

Favorite Animal – Turtles. They are slow, like me. On the other hand, they are quiet and I’m not so I guess we balance each other out.

Favorite Number – 19 (duh)

Favorite Drink – Coffee and Dr. Pepper. I have two favorites but I don’t drink them together cuz that would be really dumb.

Facebook or Twitter – Hmmm, I don’t really know. Can I just choose WordPress?

Your Passion – Travel and reading books. It’s super awesome when I can do both at the same time, that’s skills I tell ya.

Giving or getting presents – Giving, hands down. I love to watch people’s face light up when they open a present. It just gives me that warm, fuzzy and happy feeling.

Favorite Day – My birthday, of course. Otherwise known in my house as Queen’s Day.

Favorite Flowers – Lilies (never mind they were traditionally for the dead) and carnations.

Here is my list of nominee/winners. Even though I love reading so many wonderful blogs out there, I really tried to select winners who haven’t received the award, yet. I love to spread the warmth around, it’s part of that giving thing I wrote about up above 🙂 I will do my utmost best to let all the winners know right away, but as I stated, I’m kinda slow like my favorite animal.

Please click away and check out some of these blogs. If you’re on the list, please pay it forward….

  1. Sablet House/Our House in Provence
  2. A French Frye in Paris
  3. Going Dutch
  4. Bliss Travels News
  5. Belle Provence Travels
  6. French Village Diaries
  7. Travel with Laughter
  8. Meg Travels
  9. Word by Word
  10. Writingfeemail’s Blog
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