Thursday, July 28, 2011


Vide or empty. I couldn't resist one final post about the apartment on the rue Truchet as I found the structure of it so interesting once all of our things were gone. In the kitchen, the Baccarat goblets were nearly forgotten in a top cupboard, retrieved at the last moment. The floors were scrubbed, the marble polished. The glass floor of the cellar swiped clean so as better to admire the Roman ruins one last time. The wooden doors and baseboards washed with savon noir du Marseille. And then, amidst a soft summer rain, the keys were handed over to the real estate agent and the door was locked.

Vide or empty also describes how I have felt the past few days. Caught up in sentimentality and waves of emotion. Neither here nor there in time nor space. Remi and I realized that we had worked non-stop--and I am talking about very physical activity--for one month between renovating our new apartment and leaving the old. My hands ache and are scarred with nicks. But I am not complaining. Sometimes we have to push hard against the present to open the next door. And open it is.

I am sitting at the Bistrot Arlesien as I type in a rounded wicker chair. Filling myself back up with two café crèmes (two!) while finally attacking the long backlog of emails and blogs from friends who never cease to inspire me. This simple, every day French act is something that I never did while living at the rue Truchet. Not one time! Why would I when I had my lovely garden to hide in? And yet it feels absolutely fantastic to be a part of this haphazard mix of tourists and locals (an elderly pair of farmers are rattling on behind me: "All of these American tourists can go...themselves!"-- I wanted to remind them the income from tourism makes up 70% of the town's income but another time). So this is something that I will do now. Remi and I are aware that our very elegant former apartment was quite isolated despite being in the heart of town and that its massive wooded beams and stone floors carry a psychological weight as well. 

Empty then but light as air and floating in the light of the new. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

First glimpse and a last look

Hello from the depths of movingdom! Oh my, has it been a long week and it is far from finished. We have until Monday at 3pm to clean our old apartment and then we will turn over the keys. So I am taking advantage of having internet to give a little glimpse of how things are coming along. There is still so  much to do but we have already carved out little areas of normalcy amidst the boxes. It will be fun to see how the décor evolves! 

*An important note to my professional design blog friends: I know that you will see me making rampant mistakes. I know it will be painful, but in no way am I looking for free advice from any of you! No! I am just happy that you are here. :)*

Thank you to those of you that expressed concern over Ben. I have never seen our dear boy so perturbed, even though he went through a move only a year ago. We went to visit my close friend Claire, who just happens to be Ben's vet. She kindly suggested a pheromone collar to calm him (naturally) and as you can see, it is working!

And now, to the mop station! I will try to enjoy these last few days here, despite the hard work ahead. It makes me happy to know that I am preparing this lovely space so that it can be a home for someone else, hopefully one involving as many happy memories as Remi, Ben and I have shared here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nimes, Part Three

And finally, the last of the posts from Nimes. Did I take the time to research and double check my facts? Not at all! I do believe that I lost what was left of my sanity in one of the moving boxes and still haven't retrieved it. So bare with me if this is another appeal to the eyes and not necessarily the mind. 

I do have in my memory that the hard to please Henry James made some sort of remark that the Maison Carrée, above, was the world's most perfect building. Quite a change of pace from his descriptions of Arles, I can tell you. Thomas Jefferson was gaga about it too--enough so to design the Virginia state capital based on its appearance. Regardless, it is still heralded as one of the world's best preserved temples from the time of the Roman Empire.

Opulence reigns in the Jardin de la Fontaine or the Garden of the Source where couples stroll with their dogs to escape the heat. It was here that remains of the Roman baths were uncovered in the 18th century and recreated, albeit with an entirely and utterly baroque aesthetic--flying fat cherubs are everywhere!

The Temple of Diana, which is thought to have perhaps been a library, is all that remains in the gardens from Roman times. Here, finally, a little well-earned dust and patina. Much more to my liking. The red scrawls, the broken stones, a lost worship.

Up and up the steps, nearly impossible after a rosé driven lunch but worth the effort for the incredible view from atop the Magne Tower, which was nearly gutted from the inside (we are talking several stories of rubble) by a wacky gardener that had been influenced by Nostradamus to believe that there was a treasure buried somewhere inside. Silly goose.

After a short nap on the pelouse, or lawn, we were ready to make the slow descent back to Marie's apartment where we were rewarded for our efforts with what? More rosé, of course! Not to mention the remains of the day's luncheon. We sleepily picked at the the last of the toasts ambivalent to the arrival of evening. It was with a heavy heart that we tread back to the car, having spent nearly twelve hours (!) in the fine company of our charming, Nimois friends. In the midst of so much change in my life recently, it is wonderful to know that there are some things that I can always count on.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Last day

 We are in the middle of our last few hours here. And I have the hiccups. Literally. Let's hope all goes well tomorrow. As my friend Frederique wished us--"Merde"!

PS. I still have the hiccups and Remi is still packing at 11:22 pm and the movers arrive at 7!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Order! Order!

Isn't it funny how our oh-so carefully constructed worlds can fall apart in a day? Luckily, I am just talking about an apartment and nothing worse but still couldn't help but smirk over all of the times that I moved a statue two millimetres to the left or right while looking at this mess. Today was my first day doing boxes and I am proud to say that I did all that you see and then some. My oh, we do have things. Some, like Remi's slides, are a living testament (literally, for if you don't know, film is actually alive, I love that) to our world and how it is changing on several levels. As are we. Remi woke me at 7am yesterday so that we could take over our best paintings and such to the new apartment before the traffic restrictions in the  Centre Historique hit. How interesting that so many of our pieces don't interest me in the slightest anymore. They were for another us, somewhere else.

I am on the fence with some of my books. It is a luxury to keep them, trophy-like, on a shelf. But I am not sure that someone as nomadic as myself has the right to hoard so many words. And the clothing, the highest heels of another life altogether? Well, I guess I am not entirely ready to let go of that alter-ego just yet. 

At one moment when my muscles were screaming so that I had to take a break over a glass of water in the kitchen, I spied a green dragonfly perched on the windowsill. Remi believes these crystalline creatures are the harbingers of good luck and so now I take it so. Surtout because at that moment, my random itunes was blaring the famous duet from Delibe's Lakmé. Something so gorgeous in the midst of such chaos and yes, I'll take all of the encouragement that I can these days. Frankly, I am just grateful to not be at the new apartment, where we have been painting/cleaning until 10pm every night this week.

My heart has been on a bit of a roller coaster. Do all Leos hate moving as much as I do or is it just because of the frequent changes of my childhood? As often as I have done this (I now consider myself to be a master packer), a part of me is deeply disconcerted. And yet it is just another address two streets over and not an entirely new life. How odd I am and how important it is to turn towards the new--how fortunate to even have the occasion. Of course, I know that. But for the moment, it is just the prospect of getting to decorate that is getting me through! I am deeply, profoundly tired but still looking forward to what could be. Hope swooping in, making a dramatic save once again.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Third purchase!


Ooh, a little gift from the powers that be. Extremely exhausted, Remi and I left the apartment to go and pick up our boxes for the move. And a good thing too, considering that it is next Monday. Afterwards, we stopped by Troc' Soury, where I happened upon our first purchase for the new apartment. Hooray! Right there in front of me, voila, the light for the entry hall. only 18€ a far cry less expensive than a very similar new version that I had planned to order from Morocco. Of course, with a new light, it would take decades to achieve the patina of this beauty. I am delighted and can't wait to see it lit--but there are spider webs and the remains of a nest inside it! Something to look forward to for the new apartment. But now, it is time to start packing...

Monday, July 11, 2011


I am so exhausted that I can't sleep. The switch is stuck on some sort of "on", one with faulty wiring as thoughts whirl incessantly even if I am too tired to do much about it. Moving day is fast, fast approaching.

Have I packed anything? Not at all. Is our new apartment ready? No, it isn't. Moving is always like this. As many times as I have done it, there is always more than a pinch of drama involved. Not as much, of course, as the time that I moved in NYC by subway. Yes, that is right and oh, the pitying looks that I received. I had an old Army trunk and I remember how loudly it thunked across the station platform.

So now, as then, it will be one of those down to the wire pushes. Because, frankly, for the moment, we are having too much fun. A fantastic couple that we both adore came from Paris to see the highlights of the Rencontres International Photography Festival. So many shows, spread out throughout Arles. Last night was the "Night of the Year" (well, personally that would be the Oscars, but to each his own) and it doesn't get more downtrodden glamour than that. Or at least that is how it seemed to me after entirely too much rosé.

The Arena had been divided into sections with running photography slideshows, accompanying music and for some reason, hundreds of smudgy candles, that while appealing, smelled appalling. How insanely decadent to wander the halls of the Arena with invitations of images in each corner. Bands of twenty-somethings swayed to the DJ's spins on the sands where the bulls run. I loved it, until I had to go home. Immediately.

The lure of the Rencontres was evident the next day as we baked under the roofs of the former factories that repaired the trains on the Marseille line, known as the Ateliers SNCF. More about that another time, as this particularly down-trodden lieu holds the key to Arles' future. Rusted iron beams, cracked walls make an oddly appropriate setting for the avant garde of the photography world. Apparently, it is a fitting enough for Frédéric Mitterand, France's Minister of Culture, who toured the exhibits as we eyed his bodyguards. I love that France has a Minister of Culture and that his role is considered to be so important. Let's hear it for a country that still believes in the power of its creativity.

The issues that I raised in my previous post were present in some of the pieces presented, such as one made of a collage of images that had been taken off of Flickr or the "Chicken Museum" with ridiculous photos from the internet and pecking chickens making a commentary on our society. We were left with much to think about and highly inspired. The Rencontres is running through the rest of the summer and is well worth the time and the effort. But speaking of efforts, now I really must apologies in advance if I post less in the upcoming week! 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A photographer's rights

Remi and I just returned from participating in a manifestation or demonstration that was organized by France's union for professional photographers. The point was to raise awareness about how the decline of the droit d'auteur, or the price that a photographer is paid for the use of his images, is drastically hurting photographers worldwide. This is a subject that is very dear to my heart, as it has affected me directly. 

As many of you know, my companion, Remi Benali, has been a professional photographer for over twenty years. His work has appeared in leading publications throughout the world including Time, Newsweek, Vanity Fair and National Geographic. Due to the economic crisis, magazines are producing less content, which means fewer assignments. That loss of income was partially balanced by the sales of Remi's images that have been distributed to image banks such as Corbis and Getty. However, with the arrival of websites like Flickr, where images can be obtained and used without charge, the image bank sales have also taken a nosedive. Remi has been told of photo editors at magazines that are given a bonus for coming in under budget and they do so by sacrificing the quality of the content by using free or inexpensive images. Everyone loses in that case as the public loses interest in the magazines, as they no longer offer a unique perspective. We know of at least five photographers that have been forced to give up their profession due to this turn in events. Press photography as we know it, is endangered. 

I know that this a tough subject to bring up in the blogosphere, where little thought is given to a photographer's rights and need to be paid for their work. Why, for example, are there several of Remi's photographs (along with some of my text) on Pinterest despite the fact that they are clearly marked as copyrighted on his website? Musicians have fought to stop illegal downloads of their work, as has the film industry. Photography should also have the same protection, one that goes beyond slapping on a photo credit on a stolen image.

I was happy to see that Lucien Clergue also participated in the demonstration. As the first photographer to have been elected a member of the L'Académie des Beaux-Arts de L'Institut de France, he is putting a very public face to this increasingly alarming problem.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Nimes, Part Two

Oh my goodness, I didn't intend for this to be my next post but time is of the essence these days, so I hope that you will excuse this largely visual offering! Remi and I are really making progress on our new apartment. Frustratingly, he is doing all of the painting alone, as my scrawny Olive Oyl arms aren't strong enough to properly cover the stucco. And of course, we have already had at least one radical paint turn around--we'll see if there is another! In the mean time, I am scrubbing off years of dirt that is layered on the doors and windows. It feels wonderful to be bringing elegance back to this apartment.

But back to Nimes. Yes, there is more to show of our day but I want to get my facts right and don't quite have time to do so now. Instead, I hope that you will enjoy the architectural details on buildings in the Historic Centre of Nimes. I found the patina truly remarkable and the workmanship, especially on the massive wooden entry doors, very impressive. Here and there are even Roman era statues that are embedded in the walls. I was fascinated and would only move along when my friends called after me. The quality and timelessness are something that I long for this all too temporary society!