3-22-19 Gardens

After we completed our adventure in Avignon and Saint Remy, we needed a direction to go. Having received several recommendations from friends to visit the New Aquitaine region and more specifically to visit cave paintings, we headed for Sarlot in the Perigord area close to the Dordogne River.  Spring weather, however, changed our days in the Dordogne Region to garden adventures instead of caves as the Lascaux caves have been carefully reproduced for touring, but the actual caves are closed to protect them and the small tram that allows visitors to view the actual painted walls at Rouffignac does not start up until April we shifted gears and went to two different gardens. No regrets.

Proud as a peacock is a phrase from resident of Perigord, so Marqueyssac cock shows off for 3 hens

Marqueyssac gardens perched on sandstone cliffs above the fertile valley of the Dordogne overlooks

View of sandstone cliffs and Dordogne river

Beynac castle, Fayrac and Castelnaud and was abloom with fruit trees and green fields. Six kilometers of shaded walks are lined with 150,000 boxwood trees and rockeries.

Sensuous spring green
yes, it really is this manicured

The topiary art maintained by 5 gardeners by hand offers surrealistic mounds and mazes as well as “stone blocks” near the mansion.

Feels green enough for St.Patricks celebration , oh, and equinox.
David thought this was really strange a Jurassic dinosaur purchased by estate owner to give perspective of how old the valley is . This was recovered from Wyoming!
My boxwood we had in Alhambra was only 40 years old, so I guess I couldn’t have pruned it into marshmallows

The Holm oaks, often limned in moss and lichen, are dark foliaged, and are the reason this is called Perigord Noir.

Janeen was ready to water the garden!
Which of the 5 gardeners gets to prune this terrace? Dordogne views in the distance
Shape matters
Stone block “chaos” under remaining Holm oaks overlooking the mansion at Marqueyssac
stone block topiary which inspired the blocks of Marqueyssac

Returning to Sarlat, center of Perigord Noir, we dined on duck, foie gras, confit, grilled duck breast, and strolled past multiple shops with shelves lined with goose liver. One of the things David had wanted to do was visit a geese farm – alas we couldn’t find any that were open and had an English tour – darn.

When a second day of warm spring weather, blue skies and sunshine greeted us, David wound his way across the back roads of Perigord Noir to Eyrignac Gardens,

Information in English, surrounded by the six other visitors that arrived with us, which did not increase

privately owned estate for 22 generations. Bright green carpets of lawn are edged with gravel paths to let one wander the 200-hectare estate viewing 6 gardens.

one of walkways across lawn carpet, leading away from “resting” signature alley

The defining walkway of yew and hornbeam pruned into architectural shapes was in “recovery” mode.

Hornbeam and Yew arcade during a “rest” before spring budding
Hornbeam and Yew sculptures at height of excellence

It required a postcard to in vision.

French garden controlled by pruning

Formal French gardens are adorned with topiary, benches set in meditative alcoves, and 17th century water features.

Cypress topiary and water feature
collection of non native trees enclosed with boxwood bollards
Hedge around central daffodil filled fountain includes “windows” into the view of the spring green valley

Italian influence is also viewed down an arcade of terra cotta planters and overlooking this arcade, a small English “natural” garden that leads to the family chapel.

Janeen misses the camellias of southern California
former dog kennels with “typical” fieldstone shingle roof

The White Garden, newest of developments, is entered through a crimson Tori gate and graced with multiple fountains, including bronze frogs.

Garden joy for five decades
White Garden with bronze frog fountain and spring white blooms

Seasonal hyacinth, tulips and narcissus defined spring White. Red viewing benches overlook the topiary farmyard, espalier orchard in process, and four meadows: wildflowers, grape varietals, decorative grasses, and “roaming square” being planted.

Espalier apple blossoms in orchard garden
Farmyard squirrel with regional walnut in paws
Farmyard topiary guard dog on alert near White Garden

Both of these gardens were a joy to visit and we had them virtually ours to explore without anyone around. There “might” have been 3 other couples in the garden while we explored.

While we didn’t get to either of the historic caves, we certainly had a wonderful time staying in Sarlat and venturing out to the surrounding villages.

3-18-19 Carcassonne

Carcassonne – A medieval city in the south of France was our next stop. This medieval walled city sits in the luscious valley of the Aude River – the gap between the Pyrenees and the Massif Central mountains of southern France. Slate roofs glint in the sun atop 13th century towers that dominate the horizon.

Carcassonne from the valley side.

Surround by mountains and vineyards this fortified city surrounds 2500 years of history. Carcassonne became identified when the Romans fortified the hilltop around 100 BC. Over the next 1000 years or so it continued its prominence. In 1067 it became the property of Raimond-Bernard Trencavel the viscount of Albi and Nimes. Located along the then French boarder with Spain, it was a central spot for defense of the region. In 1659 this all changed. The Treaty of the Pyrenees moved the boarder well south and Carcassonne’s military significance was greatly reduced.

The Chateau on the left was only accessible from the “bridge” so easily defensible
Here is proof we were here!

The fortifications were abandoned and left to decay. Napoleon basically struck Carcassonne off the map when he declared it not worth caring for. This caused such an uproar that the local mayor convinced the Inspector of Ancient Monuments to reconsider and Carcassonne was made a historical monument allowing it to receive funds and be restored.

The use of internal Wells and food storage is reminiscent of Moorish fortification more than Western Europe or Roman construction, including the double walls.

More winding streets
Narrow streets with little shops

Shops provide child size shields, swords, helmets and other fantasy of the knight objects. The actual Knights who chose this fortification were cruel defenders of the Inquisition of the Cather’s, a religious group which questioned Papal authority, or rampaging armies who sought land and wealth for smaller kingdoms. (Battle of Crecy).

One of of the 52 towers around the place.

Despite the 1659 border change, the Catalan/Spanish influence remains in the language of visitors, the food specialties, and the Pyrenees visible on a clear day.

The Chateau, which has tours, was closed, for a workers strike, very French.
The Outer wall and Inner wall with a no-mans space in the middle.

Carcassonne is the second most visited National Monument of France, right behind Mont Saint Michel, which we visited in December.

Basílica of Saint-Nazaire
Beautiful stain glass at both ends of the place.

The stained glass in the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire is dazzling, even on an overcast day.

There were a bunch (meaning a lot) of these gargoyles drooling water on the misty morning
All the stain glass had lovely depictions of religious scenes.
This was one big bell just sitting there.
Can you just imagine all the fire and brimstone that came from this pulpit?
Huge organ.

The Museum of schools offered an opportunity to try out the pen and ink,

Front of the School Museum
Janeen practicing with a pen and ink
Janeen in her element
This was the first of two classrooms we visited.

and the class pictures were reminiscent of photos of farm schools such as my father attended in the 20s and 30s, with all ages lined up in one room.

Janeen loves her flowers.
Just a selfie of us walking around.
The main drawbridge into the place.

We chuckled a bit at the sign on the Chateau, closed for the day.

Figures, the one day I come to visit the Chateau and ramparts the place is closed.

3-17-19 Saint Remy and Isle-sur la-Sorgue

Ten years ago we completed our first riverboat cruise that ended in Arles. After we got off we actually had to go back to Avignon to pick up our car (rental place was closed on Sunday in Arles) and cruised to Saint Remy to stay at L’Hotel Sous les Figuiers – The hotel under the fig trees. This nice little place has only 14 rooms and it seemed like a good place to return while we were in the area.

Front of our room – room #5.

Saint Remy has a population of about 10,000 and a lovely city center. After we arrived, and before we checked in to our Hotel, we stopped at the Tourist Office to check out the Van Gogh Walk.

Metal disks in the pavement marked the path to follow.

This is about a 1KM walk that starts in the City Center and ends at the psychiatric institution. Over the course of the walk there are some 20 stops to learn about various paintings

One of the signs along the Van Gogh walk.

that he did while in Saint Remy and to view a representation of the actual locations. It was a pleasant walk and we learned quite a lot about Vincent’s time in Saint Remy.

Olive grove and Van Gogh painting of the olive grove.

When we got to the hospital (still in use) we couldn’t figure out how to visit his actual room so we headed back to the city center for some lunch.

Main square and fountain in Saint Remy
Old stone buildings and narrow streets

After lunch, we headed to our Hotel and were greeted warmly by new Owners. Seems writing something on the reservation about coming back 10 years after our first visit to celebrate our 50th anniversary pays off! When we got into the room (the same one we had 10 years ago) there was a chilled half bottle of champagne! Very nice.

Bubbles!

The following day, after a Petit déjeuner breakfast, we headed out to the markets of Isle-sur la-Sorgue.

One of many of the canals in Isle-sur la-Sorgue
Market and restaurant across the canal

This village is famous for its market with LOTs of vendors selling just about anything you could want. We wandered around for a couple of hours but were restricted from buying anything (Where would we stow it?)

Jewelry all over the place.
Bowls, trays lots of pottery
Always wine of course
Oils, soaps all with a Provence theme.

Do  we carry it around for the next 2 months in Europe?) So we bought only some olives, and other consumables. At one part of the walk we were clearly in more of the ‘flea market’ area with tables covered with all kinds of stuff – dishes, door hardware, old post cards, clocks, furniture and LOTs of things.

Need an old world globe?
Trench art – shell casing carved.
We were tempted to get a train that spelled out our granddaughter’s name but it would have been way too long!
Dried fruits, garlic, onions
Antiques and other knick knacks abound.
I decided not to pick these up for Jason.

 

Our stay in Saint Remy and the visit to Isle-sur la-Sorgue were both very pleasant.

Starbucks – self serve station at a car stop along the road to Carcassonne.

 

 

3-15-19 Avignon

Avignon – our next stop on this adventure. Avignon is on the Rhone River and we visited here while on a River Cruise in 2009. It was July when we were here and it was HOT and it was the peak of the annual Avignon Festival. This Festival has been going on since 1947 and showcases all kinds of entertainment – all of which spills out onto the streets of this small town and made our visit difficult. This time, being in March, the town is quiet – not a lot of tourists and the weather is lovely.

Avignon has a little more than 90,000 residents (FYI, Alhambra, where we lived for 40 years has about the same number) and has been around for a LONG time. Between 1309 and 1377 Avignon was the residence of the popes – seems there was some political problems in Italy and Pope John XXII moved there and started construction of the Palace in 1316.

Here we are at the Popes Palace
One section of the Pope’s Palace

Construction continued by succeeding popes through the 14th century with the Palace being completed in 1370. The historic center, which includes the Palace of the Popes, the Cathedral and the Pont d”Avignon became a UNESCO site in 1995.

The Ramparts, built by the popes in the 14th century still encircle Avignon. They are one of the best examples of medieval fortifications still standing. Originally it had 39 massive towers with several gateways.

More city wall with one of the towers.
Part of the walls an a tower around the City.

Much has changed but the walls still remain a tribute to the strength when the popes  were in residence.

We spent three days exploring, visiting museums, riding the mini train and generally having a very relaxing time.

On the mini train.
You get on the mini train in front of the Popes Palace. Ride was about an hour and well worth it.

One of the first things we discovered was the free parking lot that had a free bus into the city center! That certainly solved the parking problem and made the visits much more relaxing.

Most of the streets are narrow and provide for one-way traffic only.

Some of the narrow streets of the town. No cars on this street, which was nice.

Shops range from the local neighborhood stores providing basics for those that live near by to larger markets towards the city center.

Just a lovely place to sit and relax for sure.

Quite close to where the bus dropped us off, was Les Halles – a large indoor market that offers fresh produce,

Vegetables at the market.

meats and fish along with a variety of other goods. On the outside of the building is a “green wall” with some very mature plants. Beautiful.

Les Halles – green wall on the outside of the building
Saw this at a street market, I was going to buy this for Claudia but couldn’t figure out how to ship it to Morro Bay!

We went to the Popes Palace but didn’t go it.

Another view of the Popes Palace – large square in front holds celebrations including the summer Arts Festival

It is a huge 14th century building and we have been into large places with lots of rooms before, so it didn’t have a huge pull to get us inside. Plus any of the original furnishings are long gone so it’s really just a big building with lots of rooms.

On the river side of Avignon is the Pont d’Avignon. The original bridge, built in 1171 by a shepard in answer to a vision went across the river for a length of almost 3000 feet. Unfortunately, over the years, various troubles impacted the bridge and the river has destroyed much of it either during various battles or and it was abandoned in 1669. However, a section still juts out into the river and was made famous a French song, “Sur le Pont d’Avignon – On the bridge of Avignon in the mid 19th century.

Pont d’Avignon from above.
Pont d’Avignon from across the river.

On the recommendation of our friends Tony and Gloria we booked into a restaurant called Les 5 Sens (The 5 senses). It took a bit of hunting to find the place as it is situated off a clothing shops street in what might have been a patio in earlier times.

Front of the restaurant

To make things more difficult, the entire street was closed off with all the shops putting sales racks on the sidewalks and lots of people about.

Janeen doing some shopping

It was well worth finding, as the meal was wonderful – see pictures.

Our starter  celeric and tonka soup.
Saint Jacques, Scallops, rice from Camargue, sorrel mousse
Guinea fowl and Pithivier pistachio, mushroom, spinach and juice
Monk fish in salted butter, bisque tagliatelle, seaweed condiment
Braised pork, spelt pilaf style, carrots caramelized with rosemary, short juice
Chocolate, crispy pecan, mandarin, coffee ice cream
Lemon curd eclair with meringue Limoncello 

 

All in all we had a nice visit and now it’s time to head on down the road.

3-9-19 Antibes and Michelin Restaurant

On Saturday Ryan and Chris few in from Bordeaux to spend a couple of days with us and explore the area. After picking them up from the airport in Nice we ventured to Antibes. Antibes is one of many Mediterranean resorts along the coast. Situated between Cannes and Nice, the place sticks out into the Mediterranean and has a long history.

After finding a parking place, we wandered through the old town taking in the views, visiting the Market and generally having a lovely time. As with all villages and towns the old section is filled with lovely winding streets, colorful buildings, small shops and hidden treasures.

Old for sure
Just another street
This market had books and household items.

Walking through the market, it is always a colorful experience. Fresh fish, meats, cheeses, spices, flowers all the things you need. For some reason I am always drawn to the display of spices.

Cheese – lots of cheese
Cruising the Market
Fruits, vegetables, other produce
Spices – very colorful
Herbes ready to scoop and take home.

After a tasty lunch we walked along the coast taking in the views of the water and beaches.

Along the water at Antibes
The beach at Antibes
Lovely!

Once we were done with Antibes, we headed back to Vence to the apartment to get ready for dinner at The Bacchanles Restaurant. This is a one star Michelin place very close to our apartment. If we had walked it would have only been about 10 or 15 minutes (but a LOT of up and down) so we drove. No big deal. We arrived about 15 minutes before our reservation and relaxed prior to heading to our table.

The greeter looking for handouts.

I was unaware that Ryan and Chris had never been to a Michelin Star Restaurant. It was great to see their reaction to the place.

The restaurant is small – maybe 24 seats – as we entered the place it was clear there is a relationship with local artists. Modern art was displayed throughout the lobby and again upstairs around the dining room.   Welcoming us as we came up the stairs was an older golden lab – must be the Owner’s dog as he just hung out in the dining room the entire time hoping for a treat to find its way to the floor for him to clean up.

The food and presentation where outstanding.   Our reservation was for 7:30 and I don’t think we left much before 11 – just about right for a Michelin star restaurant in my opinion. Each of us had several amuse bouche, a couple of starters and at least one main plus dessert.

Fish from the med with pistachio glaze
Cheese course – roasted goat cheese with greens
Duck
Fish course
Cuttlefish, sea urchin, potato
Roasted cabbage with fava beans
Duck for the soup

Percorino with ham
Little “mushroom” cap treats
Bread with a pesto sauce

All in all it was a delightful evening and a treat to show Ryan and Chris was a Michelin star restaurant is all about.

Chef Christophe Dufau

03-06-19 Birthday Lunch for Janeen

The last two years, Janeen has spent her birthday in Macomb Illinois – first for her dad’s 100th birthday and the following year for his 101st. When asked where she wanted to be in 2019, she chose the Violet Festival in the south of France. Early spring seemed a nice remembrance of Dad Harold. As reported in prior posts, we are in the village of Vence about 14 miles from Nice. So to celebrate her birthday I found a lovely 2-star Michelin restaurant in Nice called Flaveur.

Flaveur is really a story of passion and family. Gaël and Mickaël Tourteaux, two brothers, share the kitchen and create wonderful foods.

Janeen loved the use of wood throughout the restaurant

They are both different and yet complementary bringing different approaches to the kitchen. We left Vence with lots of time to find the restaurant and find parking. After we spotted the location, and got ourselves parked, we found the street of the restaurant to be filled with construction equipment.

The front of the restaurant, not very imposing for sure.

Across the street from the restaurant is a major construction project but access was still possible to the restaurant. Arriving for at 12:45 for our 1:00 reservation, we found a small room decorated with figurative wooden sculptures, reminiscent of fish shapes, chic table art with beautiful glasses and a relatively camouflaged bar area behind which we surmise is the micro kitchen.

The menu had two options – the first was a menu that included starter and main or main and dessert or a tasting menu that covered a 6 or 7 different dishes. We opted for the all inclusive lunch menu.

The pictures tell the story of the meal – so I won’t speak too much about them expect to say it was wonderful. I would say, however, that the number of amuse bouche was amazing. There must have been 6 or 7 different little bites that were where served before the first course.   Very nice.

Amuse bouche smoked mackerel
Amuse bouche – cube of halibut and a delicious sea foam cream
Amuse bouche – sardine paste
Amuse bouche – squid ink ball
The bread tray
Amuse bouche – something wonderful but don’t remember.
Amuse bouche – quinoa sesame broth

 

We were in the restaurant for almost 4 hours! Certainly not rushed and the pace of presentation of the various things was relaxed and quite enjoyable.

Smoked sword fish with salted lemon confit
Seasonal local mediterranean tuna, squid, octapus with bouillon of vadouvan, cauliflower lovage. This had a hint of curry in the juice.
Beef from Piedmont with eggplant and tamarind with wild pepper and oxalis

Our waiter guided us on what we had and suggested an approach to eating them when there where multiple items at the same time.

Dessert – Apples three way s from the tree in the yard
Dessert – Glass tube had a lime water to drink with the quince on the top plus bits of taste treats
Dessert – Plum confite
The final dessert – Tasty treats

At the end of the meal we asked to have a picture taken with the Chefs’ who joined our gallery of gourmand. All in all Janeen had a wonderful birthday in Nice.

Brothers and Chefs Gaël and Mickaë Tourteaux Restaurant Flaveur in Nice
The Birthday Girl!

03 – 2 & 3 – 19 Violet Festival and Restaurant Clovis

The Violet Festival has taken place in Tourrettes-sur-Loup since 1952. Violet production became this village’s main agricultural activity in 1880. Today, only the Victoria variety is cultivated in Tourrettes-sur-Loup.

Every year in March, the Violet Festival rounds off the violet season and celebrates spring. The village streets are full of activity from in the mid morning with serenades and local dances. The whole village is full of flowers and the sweet scent of early spring. A Floral Procession starts in the early afternoon. This is why we came to this part of France – to see and be part of the celebration of violets in this little village.

The village grew out of the top of the mountain.

Tourrettes-sur-Loup is small with only about 4,000 folks.

Along the path into town – the village hangs off the hill.

Many of these have come to be part of the artisan community – potters, weavers, wood carvers, jewelers, painters, and sculptors – lots of people creating interesting things through the town. In fact, the City Council has encouraged artist by providing work areas within the old city.

Flowers decorated many of the shops.

We visited on a couple of days – just prior to the actual festival and again over the weekend during the actual event. On our first day it was quiet with little activity throughout the area. On Saturday, the first day of the festival, it was much busier with tents set up in the parking lot, musicians performing,

Music and period dress were around the city.
Music!

strolling groups of performers Rose, Violet and Lily of the Valley dancers on stilts, and flower bedecked music float. While Violets are the reason, flower decoration was happening in several areas using local flowers. It reminded me of float building for the Rose Parade.

It took the better part of all day Saturday to complete this.
The finished product.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK, not so much as what happens in Pasadena on New Years Day but people decorating structures with pretty flowers was nice to see.

Violets spilling out of the basket.

The tents had various vendors showing off their wares and selling stuff, including a contingent from Japan. We picked up some local olive oil and balsamic both of which are lovely. When we first got into town on Saturday it wasn’t all that busy yet so we stopped at the boulangerie for a Coffee Long and a taste treat.

A coffee long and a taste treat.

When we came back on Sunday, admittedly it was later in the day and Sunday was the “big day”, the place was mobbed!

These three stilt walkers did a wonderful dance around the area. See Janeen in the background?
Event the kids get into the decoration act.

The decorations around the square where beautiful, the stilt walkers were doing great and other musicians were pleasing the crowds.

Violet Festival decorations on many places.
Decorations of flowers on even the various artworks around.
Happy to be here.

On Monday we went back to this little village for lunch at Clovis. To say the place was quiet would be an understatement for sure. Many shops were closed, no crowds, all the tents in the parking lot had been removed and most of the flower decorations had been removed. However, our lunch at Clovis was wonderful.

Julien Bousseau Bistrot Gourmand Clovis

Chef Julien Bousseau, opened the restaurant in February 2012, dedicated to a creative, fresh and tasty cuisine. All the products he uses are chosen with the utmost care. They work as much as possible with local producers and our fruits and vegetables are largely from organic farming. The wine list was a surprise with some local and little known wonders and will also with renowned big estates.

‘Croquettes’ made with duck confit leg, cooked egg sauce made with rare peppers, fresh green peas and fava beans with mint
Sea weed tartar and potatoes, stew of smoked Kambu, herrings roe and oyster sorbet
Roasted sea bass with almond crust, fennel, green apple & sea fennel slices
Poached duck filet, mandarine sauce infused with fresh violets, turnips and honey carrot and celeriac.

 

The menu is created on a two-week cycle to be able to capture all the seasonal variations that occur during the year. This is a Michelin 1-star restaurant and has been on the list for the last 7 years.   We had a delightful lunch and would certainly consider returning for another menu.

Very happy to be here!

03-05-19 Vence and the Chapel of the Rosary

Vence is our home village for our stay for the next couple of weeks.  Located about 14 miles from Nice in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France Vence is home to about 19,000 folks.  The history of the place goes back to a Roman settlement of Vintium and subsequently became the bishopric and domain of the Villeneuve family.  The remnants of a Roman triumphal arch still remain including several “Marsellais Columns”

Vence our Village for two weeks.

Within the historic village, a medieval walled village, there are numerous interesting sights and monuments.

Porte du Peyra Gate
The Peyra fountain was made in 1822 by architect Etienne Goby. It replaced another fountain dating back to 1578 and had replaced a fountain built in 1439 and is fed by the water from the Foux River.

The Peyra Gate was remodeled in 1810. The fountain was rebuilt in 1822 replacing an older one dating from 1578.   Strolling through the area are various courtyards, dining areas and art displays.

A lovely plaza with fountain and monument.
Walkways with restaurants along narrow streets.
A little art decoration along the walkways in the old section of the city.

 The castle is today the Fondation Èmile Hugues,  a modern and contemporary art museum.

The Vence Cathedral – Built in the 14th century on the site of a Roman temple, it is the smallest one in France

The cathedral was built in the 4th century on the site of a Roman temple. The stone of the western façade dates from 239. Another, on the right, was engraved in December 220. Other stones in the external walls represent funerary dedications.

The stones on the wall around the cathedral represent funeral dedications to characters little-known from inhabitants of the City of Vintium during the Roman Period. This stone shows a dedication made by a Roman soldier Lucius Veludius to his wife Vibia Paterna, daughter of Mucius.

Also on the western side of the church, the Pierre du Tauroble evokes the cult of Cybele  and also the Great mother of the Gods of Mount Ido.  A chapel in the cathedral has a mosaic by Marc Chagall, dated 1911.

This passageway allows you to continue through the old town.
In the past the Bishop’s palace was built against the side of the church similar to the one above the arches.
Janeen at a lovely doorway

The rue des Portiques is a section of the old Roman road.

Rue des Portiques part of an old Roman road

After our stroll, we stopped for lunch across from the Plaza du Grand Jardin.  This Plaza is where the local markets are held plus various events.  Surrounding the Plaza are a number of restaurants and shops – well mostly restaurants actually.  Sitting on a wide sidewalk enjoying the afternoon sun was a treat.  After our lunch we headed back to the apartment to drop off the car and walk to the Chapel of the Rosary.

The Chapel of the Rosary, or also know as Chapel Matisse is a small place just a 5 minute walk from our apartment. 

The Chapel of the Rosary is small but very beautiful.

After major surgery in 1942, Henri Matisse went too Nice to recover.  During his recovery he met Monique Bourgeois who was his night nurse.  During his recovery they became quite close and she modeled for Matisse on several occasions.  However, she felt the calling and entered the convent and became Sister Jacques-Marie. 

The view of the Chapel of the Rosary from across the small valley. The vertical windows are filled with stained glass.

Once she took her vows, she and Matisse continued to communicate and when she came to Vence he visited often.  During one of his visits he learned the sisters were beginning the design for a chapel – a small chapel due to the facilities available.  Matisse offered to help design the interior and he was granted the commission.  Over the next four years of intensive and exclusive work in collaboration wit the Dominican community a final design was created and built.  Henri Matisse is quoted as saying “Despite all of its imperfections, I see it (the chapel) as my masterpiece…It is the result of a life devoted to seeking the truth”…”What I have done in the chapel is create a religious space…To take an enclosed space of very reduced proportions and give it, solely by the play of cloys and lines, the dimensions of infinity.”

The Chapel is quite small and he created a space filled with light and color. 

A view of the Interior of the Chapel of the Rosary designed by Henri Matisse

In addition to the Chapel there is a small museum of his work – many sketches for the Chapel as well as other subjects.

The Museum part of Chapel of the Rosary with works by Matisse.

The entire day was relaxing and filled with new sights and sounds.  All in all another wonderful day in the South of France.

03-01-19 South of France was Calling

About 6 months ago, I asked Janeen where in the world she wanted to be for her birthday. After careful thought, she came up with Tourrettes-sur-Loup France. It seems that every year they have a harvest festival in March for the end of the Violet season. This has been going on for some time – with Tourrettes-sur-Loup being the center of the activities. Originally the festival had floats and parades but all of that has been scaled back in the last few years. The festival is first weekend in March (the violet’s growing season ends in early March) and includes various events including a conference on making perfumes, musical events, displays and lots of interesting activities.

Once we knew where we were going I started looking for a place to stay ending up at a Vacation Rental by Owner in the village of Vence (about 2km from Tourrettes-sur-Loup). The apartment is nice – 2 bedroom, living room, full kitchen all the things you need for an extended stay. After arriving in Marseille, we picked up our rental car and headed out. In hindsight, it would have been better to fly into Nice but I wasn’t thinking straight when I made the reservations. A little over 2 ½ hours after leaving the airport we found our way to the apartment.

Prior to arriving we had stopped at the market to pick up some essentials but really all we wanted was a place to settle in and recover from the flights (Dulles to Charles de Gaulle and then to Marseille). After a quiet dinner of cheese, fruit and beverages we hit the bed for the night.

The following day we headed out to Tourrettes-sur-Loup to check out the place and figure out parking and all the other stuff related to visiting a small village (maybe 4,000 residents) on a busy day.   Well, on Thursday it was quiet – a bit chilly and without anybody around! A tasty meal of lamb and frites, was prepared by a French Vietnamese chef and staff and topped off with espresso.

A nice lunch – really wasn’t a busy spot.

We stopped at the Tourist Office and got all the necessary maps and schedules and then spent some time wandering around the old section of town.   As you can imagine, it’s OLD with all the things that go with Medieval – cobble stone streets, old buildings, winding narrow passages and lots of great views of the Valley.

Shops and apartments along the path.
I wouldn’t want to have to walk these every day – particularly in the rain!
The cat isn’t anyone’s in particular, it just lives in the area and poses for pictures.

The City Council has made an effort to encourage artisans to create a workshop and sales space within the old section. This results in some interesting places – olive wood, pottery, metal work, sculpture and other shops are scattered among the more traditional gift shops

One of the gift shops along the way.

and restaurants. We had a very pleasant conversation with a jeweler (from Mexico) who is one of the craft people along the way. He recommended a restaurant (Bistrot Gourmand Clovis – a Michelin star restaurant) we are going to check out next week.

Olive wood bowls, platters and lots of other things. Great prices!
Need a wooden spoon and fork?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After walking around a bit, we went to the Bastide aux Violettes – the museum of the history of Violets. Along the way we stopped in to a little chapel – very small with very modern art on the walls.

The chapel along the way.
A modern take on an alter scene.
A neat depiction of the flood and Noah.

After stopping for a few minutes, we continued on to the Violet Museum.

The Violet Museum
Cute artwork!
These had a number of these “planters” arranged around the outside of the museum. Very cute.

This is much more than a museum; this space is a really meeting place with past traditions and culture of the violet “Victoria”, cultivated in the village since 1880. The museum covers the history of growing and cultivation of the violet

Early violet production tools.
More displays

and gives insight into the use of violets (primarily for perfume). There is also a green house where they grow them but only during the October to March growing season.

The Green House with my love looking at me.
The end of the growing season, sadly.
Proof positive we are both in the greenhouse.

More about the Violet Festival, Tourrettes-sur-Loup and Vence as we continue our exploration of the area.

This is the start of almost 3 months in Europe. We start in the South of France, head to Bordeaux, Belgium, Amsterdam (two river cruises start in Amsterdam) ending in Switzerland (after a 10 day tour) before heading back to Paris and flying home on May 15th. So there will be a lot to see and report. Stay tuned for more as we progress along this European adventure.

 

 

1-23-19 Why Swirl a Glass of Wine

OK, it’s true we love wine. And yes, there are a variety of traditions and rituals we seem to follow from time to time. I was thinking about this recently when I ran across a blog on this very subject – and as I am not one to pass up good information I have borrowed liberally from it for this update to our Blog.

Tasting wine with friends is always a treat. Here we are with our besties Jessie and Phil.

Wine lovers develop certain habits that may seem strange in polite company. These customs and rituals are part of wine appreciation that you pick up as you progress through your wine education. They are also easy to ridicule, and become the essence of wine snobbery to the uninitiated. Yet they (almost always) serve a role in enhancing our enjoyment of the wine.

Drinking Pinot Noir with the winemaker is always a treat. This time Stoller Vineyards with winemaker Melissa

Did you know that we hold our glass up to the light and gaze intently at the liquid within as if it holds the secret of life? In truth, it may only hold the secret of the next few minutes, but this visual inspection allows us to evaluate the wine’s clarity. Similarly, by tilting the glass against a white background, we can see the wine’s color and discern a clue to its age and condition.  The color of the wine around the rim changes with age, and if the wine (white or red) seems murky, it may be over the hill or have been stored improperly and exposed to heat.

Janeen with a bottle of Native9. Winemaker James Ontiveros’s a night generation farmer in California and celebrates his heritage with the wine he makes from his family’s 8-acre Rancho Ontiveros Vineyard

 

This visual inspection is also why we hold the glass by the stem; fingerprints on the bowl are unsightly, and our hands may warm the wine. True wine geeks will hold the glass by its foot, with or without the pinky extended. This shows sophistication but requires care in performing the next tasting ritual – The Swirl. Swirling the glass becomes second nature to wine lovers – we’ve been spotted swirling water glasses, juice drinks and the occasional cocktail in unguarded moments. Yet it serves two purposes. First, it completes our visual appreciation as we note how the wine cascades down the side of the glass. Try this experiment: Take two identical wine glasses and fill one with water no more than a quarter to the top. Then pour an equal amount of red wine into the second glass. Swirl each glass. The water will simply fall back to the bottom, but the wine should form rivulets that flow more slowly, as if clinging to the side of the glass. These rivulets are called “legs” or “tears,” depending on whether you’re feeling sexist or emotional. A wine that has “nice legs” will have good body and will taste richer, perhaps with more alcohol, than one that leaves little to behold after a good swirl.

I really am of the opinion that lots of glasses on the table is a good thing.

 

The swirl’s second purpose is to release the wine’s aromas into the bowl of the glass so we can perform the next step: Stick our nose in the glass and inhale deeply. (Swirling and sticking one’s proboscis below the rim are two very good reasons not to fill the glass too high!)

Champagne – Always an enjoyable beverage

Finally, after all this rigmarole, we actually put the wine into our mouth. But we don’t swallow it at first. Rather, we gargle it or swish it around the inside of our mouth. By aerating the wine and swishing it noisily around our gums, we theoretically release more of the wine’s flavors. We certainly annoy anyone around us.

Even after we swallow (or spit if we’re at a wine tasting and have a LOT to taste), we’re not done. There’s still the “Oooh – ahh” of sucking in air to enjoy the wine’s leftover flavors that linger in the mouth. This is yet another way of accentuating the wine’s flavors.

And then, maybe we’ll smile. But there’s still one more ritual: We pull out our smartphones and post a photo of the wine on social media. Facebook and apps like Delectable or Vivino make it easy to catalog and brag about the wines we drink. For what’s the point of enjoying a wine if we can’t share it?

From time to time it is a treat to open a BIG bottle. In this case it’s a 1995 magnum of Sparkling wine from Argyle.