Just thought I would share some of the images from Patchwork & Ornament: A Woman’s Journey of Life, Love, and Art by Jeanette Feldman. P&O is filled with numerous full-color photographs of art and travel.
We’re nearing the end of our monthlong travel odyssey. Today we visit Aix-en-Provence, and tomorrow we travel to France’s Grand Canyon. Saturday we return to Geneva, where we catch our plane home on Sunday. I love to travel–and I also love to go home.
Our stay in Provence has been a pleasant one. We are in Menerbes, perched high on a hilltop, with great views from our apartment. From there, we zip around easily to the spiderweb of towns that surround us, some in the hills, others in the valleys. We have traveled tiny roads where we sometimes need to back up to let another car through. We have visited the summit of Mont Vontoux, where nothing grows because of le mistral, but is made famous by the Tour de France and therefore qualifies, for Henry, as almost a religious experience. We visited wineries, and in one instance found a wine-grower who speaks the Queen’s English (his father Parisian, his mother British).
Picasso once owned a home here in Menerbes, which he gave to one of his lovers, Dora Maar, an artist, photographer, and poet in her own right. Dora was his muse for some of his better-known paintings. She lived until 1997, and her home is now used as a retreat for writers and artists. The selection process is administered by none other than the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston! It is indeed a small world. For any writers reading this blog, it’s well worth checking out as a possible retreat spot.
Then there is the food. As I write this, Henry is at the boulangerie, picking up the day’s supply of fresh croissants and baguettes, just out of the oven and still warm. We have found several restaurants favored by locals, with reasonable prices and delicious food. Since it is fall in Provence, pumpkin often appears as a side dish, either in a soup or a sweet potato-like affair, mashed and seasoned.
The best deals are the fixed-price meals, where one can get a salad or appetizer, a main dish, and a dessert. These combo meals are based on what the chef can get fresh at the market, and the prices beat the individual items on the menu by far.
Still, after all these fabulous meals, I have moments when I long for the simple, the familiar, the known. Last night I announced that I was sick of multi-course meals, that I needed pizza. In Provence, that is easier said than done. The pizzeria in town was closed for the day (every restaurant is closed one day a week, and is sometimes closed even when it’s supposed to be open). We knew of a recommended pizzeria in nearby Isle Sur La Sorge, but alas, it was closed, too. On our way to another restaurant that we knew had pizza on the menu, we found a tiny pizzeria in Coustellet. When the waiter scolded us for ordering red wine with our pizza (I quickly switched to rose, which is quite good here in Provence), I knew we would be okay.
Provencal pizzas are different from Italian ones, but I consider this a good thing. When my veggie pizza arrived, filled with zucchini, eggplant, and black olives, I still felt like I was eating real Provence food.
Today, as we resume our touring, I think I’ll go happily back to the fixed-price meals. For now, I am satisfied with a bit of home, with the simplicity of a single course.
After our decision to end our misadventure in Avignon, we were rewarded with the more charming Arles. On the way there we visited Orange, where a Roman theatre exists with the most intact stage of any left in existence. The theatre once had a tiny village built inside of it that has since been removed! In this part of the world, the ruins are used wherever possible. This stage has been the home for theatre, opera, and rock concerts.
Arles, our new home for three nights, proved to be a lovely choice for us, although it rained so hard when we arrived that we failed to notice the Roman ampitheater right next to the hotel! The next day, when the sun came out and we explored the town, it was QUITE obvious. This ampitheater is used as well, this one for bullfights. I never pictured the French as being bullfighters, but apparently it’s popular in these parts, anyway (yuck).
Eating in Arles has also been a pleasurable experience. We found several little restaurants with a traditional French feel…lovely tablecloths and china, art that often pays tribute to the local bullfighters, and elegant, imaginative meals. We have been brave enough to try the local rose wines, which are far different and better than I expected.
Arles, I realized, has a familiar feel because Van Gogh painted so many scenes from the town. In fact, one can stand at any street corner and imagine replacing the actual buildings and furnishings with his unique brushstrokes.
When Van Gogh lived in Arles, the locals weren’t excited about him. It’s understandable, given his erratic behavior, but the net result is that not a single Van Gogh painting exists in Arles. Undeterred, the locals came up with a unique and exciting idea: to create a tribute museum, where artists would create their own interpretations of Van Gogh paintings, or portraits of the artist. It sounds like an odd idea, but it works really well. I was moved by the art in the museum, all of which was high quality and honored Van Gogh in a special way.
The next day, we drove to Nimes, Uzes, and Pont de Gard for still more Roman ruins. We saw the arena, main temple, and Temple of Diana at Nimes, and we enjoyed a pleasant lunch outside on the main square. Quick factoid: the fabric denim originated in Nimes (de Nimes, or from Nimes).
Anyway, the high point of the afternoon was the Pont de Gard, a huge aqueduct in excellent condition. We finished our day by returning to Arles and yet another awesome meal. By the way, we were told we would be sick of olives by the end of this trip, but last night was the first night we were served any! We have both now had dishes made with olive oil, and the flavor is much richer when tasting fresh, locally made oil. Yum!
We are in our last week of the trip now, high on a hilltop in a town called Menerbes. The view from our apartment is fabulous, and since it’s another nice day we’ve opened up the windows to let the fresh air in. Although we plan a longer trip tomorrow to Cassis on the Mediterranean, we will spend most of our week tooling around the little hilltowns here in the Luberon. There are some wineries we want to visit, and we’re going to seek out those out-of-the-way Michelin-starred restaurants to see what all the fuss is about.
We made another swing by Rousillon to get more pics of the ochre in the hills. I’ll get these up on Facebook as soon as I can. Hopefully this time I captured the rich colors better.
When Jenny Feldman died, I had no idea how quickly I would be swept up into a book project, or how involved it would be. The result, now at the printer’s, has gotten me thinking in a whole new way about family legacies. While I know others have written on the subject, I have the distinct feeling that there’s another book idea brewing. Some have suggested a companion workbook to Patchwork and Ornament that helps people get started on their own family legacies. Hmmm. I can see it, the size of the book, the style of pages, the illustrations…I’m drooling already.
When my stepdaughter Sarah saw me working diligently on her grandmother’s memoir, she said, “I guess when you die I’ll need to do this for you.”
“I hope not,” I said. Not because I haven’t enjoyed working on Patchwork. This project has brought me great joy and satisfaction. I do hope, however, that as a writer, I get everything on paper that I want to say, that I publish as many of my ideas as possible, that when I leave this earth I will have expressed all that I need to. At this point I’m not sure who my legacy is for…I don’t have grandchildren yet, so I don’t know at this point who cares. I do know this, however: Jenny Feldman didn’t think that people cared about her writings, and many people do. So it’s not my place to decide who may or may want to receive any legacy I have to give. It’s only my place to offer it, with a full heart and the best of my writing ability.
Here’s the draft book cover for Patchwork and Ornament:
Yesterday we found one of NYC’s great bargains: the Fringe Festival of plays and musicals, a massive undertaking involving several venues and a plethora of new and emerging work. We went to see Mom: A Rock Musical by Richard Caliban, one of Henry’s playwriting teachers. For $10, we were enthralled for two hours by the story of a group of moms who form a rock band and find unexpected success, along with the challenges of sudden fame.
As a middle-aged stepmother, the story hit home. It’s so easy to take care of other people and to not nurture our own dreams. I’m getting better, but it’s still a challenge. I find comfort and motivation through music, often in the musicals that we attend in our visits to New York. One of my favorites is “A Way Back to Then” from Title of Show. And, as of yesterday, I have a new song for when I need that extra boost. It’s called “Don’t Hold Back,” from Mom. It’s a tear-jerker, a song about what a middle-aged woman would sing to the five-year-old version of herself if she had the chance.
All of us who create, whether through writing or other arts, have to deal with those days of sinking spells, discouragement, and frustration. A little bit of music, whether it’s heavy metal to shake us out of lethargy, or lullabies to soothe our nerves after a rejection from a publisher, goes a long way to heal wounds.