I will tell you a little story. Some of you may know it already but I find that the best stories bear repeating often. Especially if you have a muddle of a memory like I do, it keeps them alive and in a row, like counting beads on a rosary or a mala.
Sometimes good does indeed come from bad, light follows the dark. So it was that we discovered Arles. Remi, my incredible professional photographer companion and I had made the long grumbly drive down from Paris, where we had been living together in very cramped quarters for two years. We didn't dream of the South like others did, didn't fantasize about Provence or the Luberon. No. We headed to Perpignan for Visa Pour L'Image, widely heralded as the world's most important photojournalism festival. But somehow the sadness of the photographs that we saw overwhelmed us that year, the peacock strutting of competing photographers clashed as utterly inappropriate. So we left. Before the final ceremony, before the last pop of a champagne cork.
We drove towards the Camargue with the windows of our old Saab rolled down. Waves of hot wind slapped our cheeks, flamingos flapped off into the distance and white horses stomped through a bleached out landscape like galloping ghosts. It cleared our minds. "Why don't we stop in Arles?" Remi suggested, breaking a silence that seemed heavier than air. All I knew of Arles was Van Gogh. But that is enough, isn't it? "All right."
The doors opened for us. Literally. We found a charming room available at the Hotel de L'Amphitheatre, one that we could afford, on a busy Saturday night, the first of September. Already as we ran our hands over the cool, cream stone walls and gazed out at the whistling leaves of the platane trees dotting the tiny square below, something was stirring. We got our first glimpse of the Roman Arena as we stepped out into the late afternoon. We let ourselves get swept up in the crowds rolling down the hillside towards the remaining exhibitions of the Rencontres d'Arles, another photography festival and yet a world away. A warm, golden light wrapped around us as did the notes from a jazz quartet that had set up camp on the cobbled street. Inside an abandoned church, we looked at the work of Harry Gruyaert's "Rivages". We turned ourselves towards beauty and that stirring surged up into tears. We knew. This was where we were ready to be.
It took us over two years to make the move. At the time, we were travelling nearly non-stop as a photographer/journalist team for different magazines in the French press. But it was worth the wait. In 2005, we packed up a truck, arriving in the dark at 1am with a Mistral wind roaring off the Rhone River to welcome us. Eventually, we welcomed an incredible Golden Retriever, Ben, into our family of two. I am as charmed by those old stones, by that light that is like a friend (albeit a moody one) as I was on the first day. And although I don't know if I will be here forever as Remi and I are nomads in our hearts, for now I am happy to be Lost in Arles.
I want to thank the lovely Vicki Archer at the exceptional blog French Essence for having mentioned me, this blog and Arles today. I thought it only polite to introduce myself with a little curtsy to those of you that might be visiting for the first time. Bonjour et bienvenue!