Monday, October 23, 2006

Vincent's Provence

Today blew in with a gray sky and threats of rain as we headed toward Arles, the scene of many of Vinvent Van Gogh’s paintings. Arles is an ancient town, having been a major thoroughfare for the Greeks and the Romans. The old forum, which has been partially restored, is a reminder of those earlier times. While the boys toured the forum, Kris found the Santons she had been looking for and spent a big chunk of her shopping budget.

I was on the lookout for fabric from which to make a myriad of things I had seen in the markets around Provence. I finally settled on a quilted print featuring the cigale or grasshopper, the symbol of the region. I bought enough fabric to fill a good part of the duffle bag which David had packed empty. I spent much of the rest of our driving time designing the things I want to make.

As we toured Arles on foot, I discovered another specialty of the French, the toilet with two footprints and a hole in the ground. Never before had I attempted to do what I did in that toilet. (At least one of you is saying TMI, so enough about French toilets.)

From Arles, we headed north to Les Baux, a town built on the side of a hill, which seemed to be largely a collection of classy souvenir shops. The good news was that if you held out until you got to the top, the prices were lower. We rewarded ourselves for trekking up the hundreds of steps of Les Baux with the best café au lait we have had in France. Even David decided to go for the caffeine, take his Lactaid pill, and experience the luxury of coffee as only the French can make it.

Our way home took us through St. Remy, the site of the hospital where Van Gogh recovered from his suicide attempt. It’s a good think Kris and I had put together this jigsaw puzzle because St. Remy proved to be a “just missed it” spot as Bill accelerated back toward Lourmarin. (“Just missed it” was coined by one of Kris’s and Bill’s children because of his proclivity to drive right past important sites without stopping.)

The rain never really proved to be a problem, but most things would have probably looked better in the sunlight we have been spoiled with most days.

Tonight we will finish off the daube, eat artichokes, duck pate, and a bottle of new red wine from a vineyard just down the road.

Tomorrow the sun is supposed to return. We’re thinking of staying near home and exploring a maker of scents just up the road from Lourmarin on bikes. The sand of our Lourmarin hourglass is running low…


Blogger Kristin said...

I'm actually a little worried about toilets. From what I understand, Turkey has a lot of the footprint/hole setups and not a lot of Western facilities. I don't suppose I can hold it for two and a half weeks...

2:03 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

When you have to go, you make do. It was actually fine, but different. And there was even toilet paper!

4:28 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

My husband told me about those toilets! So many bottles of little time! Have you had a chocolate eclair yet?!!!!

7:54 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

What are Santons? (Sorry if you've already said but I forget things!

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least the piscine is indoors and not on the street as in days of old. Or, have you seen any of the street urinals? Definitely in Paris I think.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

MOI -- I have not eaten a chocolate eclair yet, but I have eaten so many other decadent things.

Santons are these beautiful dolls that represent the general population. So there would be a baker, a fireman, a woman gathering lavendar, etc. Their faces are so lifelike. Kris's mother collects them, so she was especially happy to find such a good selection in Arles.

OL -- The only street urinal I saw was a high-tech WC on a corner in Aix-en-Provence. I didn't have the requisite coins to use it, so I only saw it from the outside.

5:02 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Love the pic of David drinking ... coffee?? And your fabric is beautiful.

Re: the toilet. That's not a French specialty. On my trip around the world, way back when, what I noticed is that our western "throne style" toilets are the exception to the usual squat toilets everywhere else. In a public toilet, I prefer the squat variety so I don't have to place my precious bum on a seat shared by others. Now is THAT TMI??

One of San Francisco's most pretentious restaurants installed a bathroom with a squat toilet. For heaven's sake!

9:12 AM  

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