Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Back to les Baux



We see what we want to see; we tell ourselves the stories that comfort what we think we know.


I don't take the beauty of Provence for granted. It can be wide and sweeping or minuscule and intimate. An endless variation of songs to light up the dance floor. And how I do love it when I am asked to dance.

But, but after ten years of living here, I can be a snob about certain things, as unattractive as that is to admit. 


For example, I don't like crowds and feel foolish when caught in the midst of them in full on "ooh" mode.


Fanning women who have "A Year in Provence" poking out of their bag and agressive baseball cappers extending a selfie stick towards the sky make me grumpy.


See? Right on time. Snobby.


And certainly no place tends to prickle my skin more than Les Baux-de-Provence.


While I have a healthy respect for its fame, I see its potential and shake my head in dismay at the endless line of identical tourist shops lining the cobblestone streets, those selling fake savon du Marseille and polyester napkins imprinted with bees.


And yet, here we go, the entry to the humbling part...


...of course I wanted my Mom and her husband Leonard to see it while they were visiting in September. 


And they were enchanted.


So how could I not be? Wonder is delightfully contagious.


All of those veils of ideas, judgements and expectations fell away. The crowds pushed around me and yet it didn't matter. Of course, they have the right to stop and point and rave.


By giving in, I found myself back in Les Baux, the one that I know to love in my heart, even when my head tells me otherwise. Stories silenced, vision cleared. In seeing it through the eyes of loved ones, I discovered it anew for myself, Provence plus one.

****

Eh oui, I seem to have written quite a few times about this enigmatic village (and I am not done yet as there will be a post on the main church there in the future). It is fun to look back at them now...especially in seeing how certain places have changed or not over time.

If you would like to understand the history of the village, click here.
Another shift in perspective, this time via a camera trick. To read, click here.
I love everything about this post (save that the photos are so small!): here.
And for my friends in the other hemisphere, you must believe in spring, so please click here.

Oh! And thank you all for your lovely responses on my previous post. For those of you that have been wondering, yes, Ellie arrived safely and is already making her new house a home...

46 comments:

  1. What stunning photos! I don't think you're a snob as much you wish to protect the soul of a place you love. I hate crowds and will do anything and everything to avoid them. I'm glad you took them and opened yourself up to enjoy this place through a fresh-er set of eyes. So glad Ellie's there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know I have never liked crowds. Even as a kid going to the Ohio State Fair was overwhelming! Did you go when you were little?

      Delete
    2. You know I've never been to any fair! maybe I'll go to the Delaware County fair next year. I know damn well I can't handle the state fair. Too many tube tops.

      Delete
    3. I swear we saw Kenny Rogers perform at the Ohio (or Michigan) State Fair one year.

      Delete
  2. Ah yes, I think we would get on well together. i am a bit of a snob in that respect too. I hate being a tourist when I am away from home but when you're in a place for so short a time, what can you do but point and click? So I wish time was infinite and we have all the time in the world to just stop and savour everything. But alas, that is not possible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beautifully said, Loree. I see so many tourists here rushing time to try and "capture" it. I imagine you have your fair share of maneuvering around tourists on Malte also!

      Delete
  3. I feel the same way about Les Baux, Heather. I don't think we are snobs, I think we are realists...it is a very touristy place with a FASCINATING history! Your photographs remind me of what a truly beautiful place it is! Now when we go, we view the town from afar, and go directly to the Carrières de Lumières, a "must see" in my list of places to visit. The first time I viewed the display, I wept. Since it changes every year, there is always something new to experience. (please take Ellie, I think she will love it..and it is wheelchair accessible!) The fact that it is down the street from one of my favorite restaurants in the world does not hurt! Here's a link: http://carrieres-lumieres.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We bypassed Les Baux, although we had fond memories of a former visit, to get to Les Carrieres de Lumieres. That was so amazing - I might return to Provence just to see that again. We saw Klimt and have always loved his work.. just fabulous. Ellie and everyone should see this amazing ultra-video-music presentation in the Quarry. What a party could be had in there (if one's eyes weren't so captivated looking at all the paintings floated around on the mamoth stone walls, floor and ceiling!)!!!

      Delete
    2. Rebecca and Judi, I allllmost put a video about the current show at the Carrieres at the end of the post! It is so amazing, isn't it? Alas, it just didn't work out time-wise to go with my Mom and her husband, a definite disappointment because it was on my "must do" list. Judi, I missed the Klimt show and as I am a fan I know that I would have loved it.

      The only bad thing? Off-season it is freezing in there!!

      Rebecca, of course I have to ask: which restaurant?? L'Oustau or La Cabro d'or???

      Delete
    3. Lou Clavèu in Fontvielle. It has about 12 tables. The very funny husband serves and his wife cooks in the upstairs kitchen. It's a delight, and we make a trip there every year. We are always remembered and welcomed. We found it by mistake, which is how I find all my favorite things! bon appetit!

      Delete
    4. Oh my gosh! I have never been there but of course I know where it is! How fun! Maybe next summer...
      (ps. Can you tell just a wee bit that I am looking forward to meeting you in person?)

      Delete
  4. First, I understand about Le Baux. I have only visited once, and at once was charmed by it, but horrified that there seemed to be no village left, only shops with pottery that chirped as I walked by. Ghastly, really. Second, thanks for the news of Ellie, I have been wondering every day how it went, etc.
    bonnie

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for keeping the crowds away in our little tour of les Baux...I am also not a big fan of the crowds...and not a selfie stick in sight!! Yay !!:-) Just back from a trip to South America and found the number of selfie sticks being used by people around amazing and a little hilarious...I suppose they could double as a hiking pole when not in use! ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my gosh, that last line made me laugh!! I am kind of horrified fascinated by them, I really am. And how fabulous that you went to South America! Would love to hear more...

      And seriously, the crowds were swarming while I took most of these photos!

      Delete
    2. South America was wonderful...I love exploring different cultures and people... we are all so amazing and creative in interrupting our world which is fascinating! We were also caught up in the earthquake that happened in Chile as we were flying down to Santiago. We had to stop off at Iquique Airport to go through customs and as we were reboarding the plane there was a bit of commotion amongst the staff and we were told that everyone was to evacuate the airport building to the carpark as there were three very big tsunami waves were about to come though! We were wishing we could have pinched the lifejackets off the plane...luckily we didn't have to swim for it after all! The joys of travelling!! :)

      Delete
    3. Also...talking about cameras...I did a travel sketchbook for the first time. Great fun and made you look much more closely at your surroundings!
      (PS ok... I did take photos too...)

      Delete
    4. Wow...Gretel! That is a crazy story! I am so glad that everyone was ok!!

      I agree with you heartliy about how important it is to travel and connect with people in different cultures. I honestly think it is the most eye-opening thing that I have done in my life and I have learned so much from those experiences. It makes me happy that we are on the same page... :)

      Delete
    5. Gretel, I love that you did that! And wish that I could sketch so am a wee bit jealous. ;) How awesome though to slow down that much...

      Delete
  6. We can see your renewed sense of wonder in your photos!! I love the light and clouds in all the photos (especially of the last one, the church), and is is just me or does the photo of the dk. blue/green door look like a painting?? At any rate, how could Mom and Leonard's enthusiasm not be contagious?? Ah, yes - I remember ridiculing the tourists in NYC on a regular basis - why such snobbery? (are we the snobby sisters??). I love your first line: "we see what we want to see; we tell ourselves the stories that comfort what we think we know." A line of dialogue from our Imago Therapy goes, "..and the story I'm telling myself about that is..". Meaning, you aren't necessarily doing something to me; I'm interpreting what you're doing as THIS! But I just like the line - yours - sounds like the first line of a (YOUR???) novel.....: )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my gosh Sister, you always take it to the next level! Wow, that is so interesting about the Imago Therapy and it is something that I am deeefiniiiitely going to think about for the future. I love you!

      Delete
  7. I try to love being a traveler, and not get too snobby - but, it is difficult sometimes. I'm all about the awe moment, so visual, it's almost tiring in a way - so much to take in, to enjoy, to remember for the future, to reminisce about the past. We loved visiting Les Baux a few years ago, but last year there were just too many tour buses lined up to get in; we just couldn't bring ourselves to get in line, too. As someone mentioned, time traveling is limited - and Les Carrieres was pulling us in to its beauty - so it won the visit for the day. We did like getting lost circling around the forest and rocky area surrounding Les Baux! I loved seeing your photos, so beautiful - through them I can picture all over again, the lovely nooks and crannies of Les Baux. The view wasn't too bad, either!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Judi, I love that image of the beauty being so strong that it can tire you out! That rings so true with me. And it sounds like you found your own experience of Les Baux, which means that it was the perfect one. :)

      When/if you come back I will take you to a secret shrine that is right there and yet no one knows about it!

      Delete
  8. Believe me when I tell YOU I have never seen a SELFIE stick in use or sitting on the floor!!!!
    This Contessa needs to get OUT more!!
    I think I have passed this village but not stopped is it close to that Isle de Sorgue?You know what I'm trying to SPELL!!We stayed outside up a hill from there below a Nunnery in a cherry Orchard once a long time ago!!!!Tis time to do a Repeat of that trip but with new people!!You and Madame D!!!😘Xoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, yes, yes! There will be so much to see together! Please....

      And I bet you are thinking of Gordes. They look fairly similar but Gordes is much closer to L'Isle sur la Sorgue.
      xoxox

      Delete
  9. "Each footfall begets separation.” Or a return to places we learned to love-"the one that I know to love in my heart…” and discover them again. One place I learn just now: "Les Baux des Provence, one of the most picturesque villages in France...so alive the light...gorgeous and then…”.
    We come back to them because it is ephemeral and remains precious. For you, this place, I have to add: so personal. One of your many treasures: "Treasures in the palm of a fallen blossom.”
    With your photos and narrative present and past a place I will wish to experience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know that you will find your own version of it if you do, Edgar.

      Delete
  10. I've only visited Les Baux once and was both enchanted and disappointed. We rented a motor scooter in Avignon and went out to Le Pont du Gard for a visit and a swim in the river. Then we rode the bike through the countryside and waves of scented fields pushed against our faces - olive groves, fields of I don't know what, and it was lovely, lovely. Then up the road to Les Baux. All those shops were a disappointment but the vista amazing. And the history. In my mind I wafted away all the tackiness to grasp at the essence of the place. I think I may have caught a teensy bit of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lorrie, I love that you rented a scooter to go swim at the Pont du Gard! That is something that locals do! :) And that mix of authentic and touristic is a real part of what Provence is today...at least it sounds like you had a great day...

      Delete
  11. OK, I officially feel like a hick! I've never been to Les Baux. Know nothing about it. I'd probably be one of those tourists staring and ooohing and taking photos. Sorry about that. But I would not be wearing shorts, baseball cap, or flip flops. But I would be trying to speak French and winding up speaking Spanish. Oh well.
    Sandra Sallin www.aparfrommyart.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh don't worry, we can go when you come over with La Contessa. :) And you can speak Spanish!

      Delete
  12. I'm with you, detest the tacky shops, and busloads of tourists. But, it is enchanting all the same, and I feel very lucky to have been there several times. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you ever come back, you know what you would love? My idea at the end of one of the posts...to go in to the chateau towards the end of the admissions, sneak in wine and snacks and have an amazing apero!

      Delete
  13. I understand and agree with so many of the comments above about crowds, tacky shops etc, and wish that back in the day there had been more control to stop the creation of the theme park atmosphere. And yet - and yet - if you can lift your eyes from the path and look at the stonework against the sky, the doorways you can't go through, the unbelievable view from the ramparts of Provence spread out in front of you like some gorgeous carpet, there is still some magic there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jenny, the thing is that Les Baux was in ruins until it was renovated...so the local government could totally have prohibited this escalation of tackiness but they only promoted it! There are equally touristic towns like Honfleur in Normandy that are nothing but art galleries, which would be perfect in this environment! But yes, there is still good things to be had.

      Delete
  14. how does one tell the difference between real savon de Marseille and fake? (asked the girl who has bought her share of the stuff)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The real stuff is much heavier and much, much more dense than the cheapy stuff that is often sold at the markets, almost clay-like. Once you feel it, you know.

      Delete
  15. Ahhh...Les Beaux.....I love it. We all want to be there...off season. Very few people around...
    Then it is perfect.....Thanks so much Heather.

    Ali

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eeeexactly. Or go in the summer but after 8pm when it is still light out and all of the shops are closed!

      Delete
  16. Les Baux! Would you believe, after all these years, I've only seen it on TV? Thanks for another glimpse of this beautiful place! xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Another reason to come back to Provence then? ;)

      Delete
  17. Heather, how did you manage to shoot these photos without even one person on it?

    It was so crowded when we were there in May. Et je n'aime pas la foule.

    The one place which is really worse in terms of crowds is la Cité de Carcassonne... (;

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooh, Carcassonne - le pire!!! We were there for maybe an hour and I was like, "Get...me...out...of...here...".

      As for the photos, you will notice that a lot of them are shot pointing upwards. ;)

      Delete
  18. The moody skies, the beautiful textures, the quality of the light... It never gets old, does it. Especially as you capture it all in words and images.

    xo

    ReplyDelete
  19. Maybe that is why I am taken with the part of Greece in which we find ourselves. The tourist-guide-toting-sightseers are few and far between and those who come here are willing to explore a bit off the beaten path and find the treasures that are hidden from mass marketing. Beautiful photos. . .as always, Heather.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I'm not a fan. Though I still have a lovely souvenir in a very faded red dress I bought in one of the shops ten years ago. Funny, an equally touristy village I don't have an aversion to is st paul de vence. I can't say for sure what distinguishes the two for me. Is it done better? Maybe just I like lunch at the boules court and the connection of visiting the galerie maeght.

    ReplyDelete

Your responses are what makes this blog so special to me. I love hearing from you. Thank you for visiting!

* Comments left on posts two days after publication or more will be published after moderation. So not to worry, they will arrive and again, I appreciate them all so very much...Merci! *

If you prefer, feel free to email me directly at robinsonheather (at) yahoo.com...