I was fortunate enough to be invited to Nimes, an important Gallo-Roman city on the other side of the Rhone that is home to the Maison Carée (one of the world's best preserved temples from the period) as well as an Arena that looks as if it has been blow-torched by pollution to crispy crême-brulée status. As it is still, just barely, the holiday season, I wasn't there to hunt the old stones but rather to take tea with Frederique at our amazing friend Marie's vaulted ceiling apartment on the ground floor of a hôtel particulier or bourgeois mansion. As if it isn't glamorous enough to be able to list your address as the 17th century Hôtel Villard, the building is located on the rue Dorée--a street of gold!
The style of Marie's apartment is French charm personified. A million books--all of which she has read--stacked amidst family antiques and wonderfully delicate glass treasures brought back from her yearly archeological digs in Syria. And let me tell you, she serves a proper tea. We were so thrilled with the delicately oriental flavor that we bundled up and headed around the corner to discover its source, the Palais des Thes--a tea palace! Here we were able to smell such treats as Geisha's tea, Lover's tea and a black Russian tea that immediately transported me back to long winter days spent in Saint Petersburg.
Next up, Marie led us through the maze of criss-crossed byways to the Galerie Jean Louis Fages, an Ali Baba mash-up of antiques and the most unique lampshades that I have ever seen. Stately bears, gayly colored parrots or Marie Antoinette like powdered ladies were all lit up from within. The owner of the shop is so proud of his work that his business card clearly announces them as an abajouriste or lampshade maker, something quite rare, I think, even in France.
As I stepped out of the shop, my eyes glittery with delight, Marie made a snarky remark about what a shame it was that I didn't have my camera with me, that this would be perfect material for a post! Oh and how she was right! Of course, the more I struggled with that, my two friends harped on me until it was declared that I was a "blogueuse du dimanche"--the blogging equivalent of a Sunday driver!
To make matters worse, everywhere we walked turned out to have been the perfect photo opportunity. The sun's last rays were not only brilliant but a burning rose gold against the orange stones. A tiny 1950's style cart was decorated as a choo-choo train selling hot chestnuts. At every turn, Marie would just look at me and shrug as if to say "mais oui." She worked that joke to its end! But who is the victor? For here I am, sans photos, determined to write about a lovely day spent laughing against the cold in the ancient town of Nimes.