Friday, July 26, 2013

Les Baux-de-Provence

The village seen from the castle ruins

Last week we took a short drive to Les Baux, the site of a now-ruined castle perched on top of the rocky Alpilles mountains. The area was inhabited by the Celts around the 2nd century BC and was the seat of a feudal lordship in the Middle Ages. The castle has a really rich, varied history, ending with it's destruction ordered by Cardinal Richelieu in 1632 (all this from the wikipedia site, if you are dying to know more).

We were with our friends from Portland, and the girls were real troopers. It is a huge site, and it was a bloody hot day, so we even though we were there for hours, we only saw a fraction of the ruins.








The highlight of the day, at least for me, was a trip down the hill from the castle to Les Carrières de Lumières, the site of a former rock quarry that has been turned into an amazing sound and light show. Apparently the show changes annually — we were lucky enough to catch one featuring Monet, Renior and Chagall, although many other artists were represented. Imagine walking into a massive rocky quarry, with walls 40-feet high, and rooms hundreds of feet long. You're in total darkness for a moment. Then, one by one, the walls around you are covered with art. The art is constantly changing though, in time with the music that's also filling the space. You are free to roam around the space, every moment a new discovery. We stayed for at least an hour, and had the pleasure of discovering a 2-minute-long bonus show with images from nature starting with a storm in the quarry and ending with a trip through space. The whole thing was fabulous.


Can you see Anna spinning Mattea around in the foreground? The girls began dancing to the classical music the minute we entered the quarry.



Anna and David become part of the art.

In some cases the projections went along the floor as well.


The walls “filled up” with water starting at the bottom. Here we are surrounded by floating jellies.




Sunday, July 21, 2013



Last year when we came to France I brought tons of art supplies, most of which sat untouched all summer. This year I decided to keep it simple; I brought a small sketchbook and a few pencils and it's been a revelation. I sketch everywhere: in museums, in parks, but especially at the beach. Having really only ever drawn models who stay still for many minutes, I had no idea how much people really move around. I'll start in on a sketch and a few seconds later, the pose is gone.











Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The not-so-pretty parts of my day

Ok, let's start right off by saying I have no right to complain. I am in the South of France, and I am damn lucky to be here. I know that, you know that. So let's not consider this a complaint, just a balancing of the scales. I have shown you beautiful art, beautiful architecture, beautiful beaches. Now I'm telling you about the other part of my days. This is the underbelly of my days; the part I try to ignore, to suck up, because how lucky am I to be here.


There are just a few things. Like the fact that I literally cannot walk the 10 feet from the house to the laundry line without getting several large, French mosquito bites. At any given time I seem to have about 8 of them. The interesting thing about French mosquitos (les moustiques) ls that although they are fast as hell and apparently really fucking hungry, the bites (on me) fade away after a few hours. I can't say the same for Anna, but I'm not sure if that because she scratches at them more or if she's just more of a delicate flower than I.

Also, this:

Hey little guy!

That guy was crawling across our living room floor this morning. A long, long time ago, a lifetime ago, I went on an archaeological dig in Israel and from time to time, we would encounter scorpions. In fact, compared to Israel the bugs in France are puny, so really I should shut the hell up right now. But time has gone by, and I have become wimpy in my old(er) age. I do not enjoy sharing my home with scorpions, and I certainly do not enjoy sharing my daughter with them (delicious though she may be).

In all honesty, I have other complaints. I will just fess up to that now, list them here and be done with it:

• We cannot walk anywhere from where we are staying. This is because there are no sidewalks, not even a shoulder, and the road is full of crazy French drivers whipping around curves haphazardly. The good news is there is a bus very close by that takes us right into town. The bad news is the bus stops running at 7pm.

• It's hot. I know! It's the South of France, what did I expect anyway!? I'm just sayin', it's hot, and if you open a window, 7000 moustiques move in and basically own the place.

• There is not much art here. There was. In fact, there were 57 Picassos here that I was very much looking forward to looking at for the 2 months that we're here. But instead, there is a temporary exhibit called Nuages (Clouds) and all 57 Picassos have been taken down. Ok, I said, after I stopped twitching. Perhaps we should give it a chance. Here's where they lost me: The peanut mounted in such a way that it's cast shadow resembled a cloud. 57 Picassos. 57. Ok, yeah. I'm still twitching.

Okay, okay. I know. You're hot too, and your mosquitos are even worse. You've had scorpions sharing your bed for ages now and you just roll over and flick them out.It's true, I'm whinging and its boring. I'll stop now. I'll go drink my cheap, good wine and eat my cheap, good cheese. I'll plan my next trip to the Mediterranean and get over myself. Just as soon as I stop twitching (and scratching!).

Monday, July 15, 2013

Nice: the rest

Well, somehow days 3-6 went by in a whirlwind of art and sun and mosquitos and ice cream. Here are a few pics which capture the days:

A trip to the Picasso Museum in Antibes, to see the art where it was created. Picasso actually lived and worked in the Chateau Grimaldi (which later became the Picasso Museum) in 1946 and he and his family subsequently the donated many of the works there.

The beach in Antibes, which thankfully has tiny stones instead of giant ones like the beaches in Nice.

Anna and I have been doing a lot of drawing, and she has started writing a story as well. The first installment is finished and will be posted on her blog soon. It's truly adorable. (ok, I admit to bias!)

A Calder at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nice. I have to say, it was more contemporary than modern, and mostly just not my thing. I forgive Nice this museum, since they have so many others that I loved!

The anti-hovel. After four nights in a tiny, boiling, mosquito-infested hovel, I found this place on Airbnb for our last 2 nights. After 2 nights there, I've almost stopped twitching.

What you do when you can't build a sand castle. We were really surprised to discover that the beaches in Nice have no sand. Instead they have giant, foot-bruising, ankle-twisting stones. Fortunately for us, we all had Tevas, so we just walked right across the stones and into the Sea.

Our last night in Nice was Bastille Day, so at 10pm we headed to the beach for the big show. It was Anna's first time seeing fireworks. They didn't disappoint.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Nice, day 2


Our time here in Nice is jam-packed, but it a really good way. We get up and out of our Airbnb flat (which I've taken to calling “The Hovel”) early and spend the entire day sight-seeing.


Day 2 started with a walk to Confiscerie Florian, a candy-maker since the 1940s where they still hand pick and preserve fruits and flowers from the region. We had no idea what to expect, but ended up with a private tour where the entire process was explained to us, after which we could taste almost anything we wanted. It was amazing and we left with a small box of candied vervain (the green candy in the photo — a sort of minty flavor that's hard to describe) and a jar of rose preserves.

From there we headed up the 345-or-so steps to the Colline du Chateau, a former citadel and park, with a man-made 17-th century waterfall and amazing, panoramic views of the coastline.









After lunch in the park we took a bus to the Chagall Museum. Most impressive was the first room you enter, where they had the entire series of (very large) biblical paintings that Chagall originally did as a series for a chapel in Vence.





As always, David's pictures of the day are amazing. See them here.