Friday, June 29, 2012

Sense of summer

A rustling in my head and shuffling of my feet. Bending over head down deep. Taking in the scent of the earth, the prickle of wheat upon my skin. It is summer we are in. Loving the light as it pours forth to glow. A forever sense of possibility. Hello. Hello...

I want to thank you all so dearly for being here and for all the joy you bring...

Bon weekend!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thin Line

I was reaching to close the shutters against the invasive noon-day sun when I was startled by a scream directly below me. There is often noise in the center of Arles but this...the sound caught my stomach, resounded in my bones. I looked down to see a woman in a heap on the ground, her young son helpless at her side. She was staring at her cell phone and then began to yell "Mon frère! C'est pas possible! C'est pas possible!". She started to sob, raised herself and began to wander blindly all while continually repeating the same phrase. My brother, it's not possible, it's not possible...I was ready to go to her but saw the men from the café across the street were already at her side. One tried to calm her in vain while the other phoned for an ambulance. Her cries rose and were joined by her son's who kept asking "What is it Mother?" He had not yet understood. Very fortunately, our doctor lives across the street and came out at a run. She firmly but calmly grasped the woman and issued her inside her office. I stood staring at the shut door while the quiet rearranged itself. How quickly it had all happened.

Such a thin, thin line. Between before and after. Better then to take a moment, right now if you can, to appreciate your loved ones, your friends, your pets, your community, your family. I am sorry that today's post is a sad one but I know that we all need a reminder now and again. Not to take any moment for granted because we have so many gifts everyday, right in front of us. My heart goes out to that anonymous woman for her loss. 

Monday, June 25, 2012


...but not quite. Still, hmmm. My eyes had nearly popped out of my head when I saw the ad for a house near the Arena (those of you that have been paying attention might remember that is the choicest neighborhood in Arles) with a garage, a cellar and a whopping 126 square meters of surface for only 138,000€. Pardon? I was on it. We came close to hounding Monsieur Meyson, the realtor, to be the first to see such an opportunity--one that was so below the price list of Arles that already Remi and I knew we would have to pounce or it might be too good to be true.

When Mr. Meyson gave me the address before our visit, I headed out the door immediately to check it out. Holy cow, the house is indeed huge! 

And it seemed as though there were two garages on the ground floor, say what? Private parking is something of an extreme luxury here in the center of Arles, a town where unfortunately many a fine car left in public parking has been scraped with a key by jealous passer-by. When we did meet, it was with trepidation and a little thrill that we waited as the large door on the right was opened...

Interesting. Not a second garage but an arched space--could it become an artist's atelier? An area to paint? If we replaced the garage style door with polished glass and steel?--with an open drop leading to the cave or cellar below, which had a nice voute but was not really large enough to convert into say, a home theatre as some folks do here in other homes.

To the right was the garage with the possibility to break the simple partition separating the two rooms.

Talk about patina! But yet these beams were quite solid.

Ah, the first glimpse of the winding stone staircase. The small stones on the opposite wall are called pierre froide and have traditionally been used in walls that are less important than receiving areas.

The first floor is one large room, meant to be kitchen, dining and living. As pitiful as the kitchen area might appear, I can assure you that it is far grander than the space where we cook up our little miracles in our current apartment.

Yes, there is a crazy sort of 1950s gold and light blue cement tiling on the floor but that could be easily covered with parquet...

...which would complement nicely the absolutely gorgeous wooden be painted a bone white perhaps?

A closed off arch is a reminder of a time when this house was part of a far grander residence.

Can one buy a house simply for a staircase? We were smitten. By the staircase. What is called an escalier à vis, something akin to a corkscrew staircase. Although the rest of the house seems to date to the 18th century, such stairs were in place long before...

Charming details of the past leading into a positively huge bedroom...

...with are you ready for it? Because I honestly don't think that you would believe me if there weren't photos to prove it--a bathroom entirely covered in a thick wine-colored velvet. Which I loved.

Are you sure we can't buy a house for a staircase?

Up to the grenier or attic--a wide open space just begging to be carved into a terrace and living area...

Yep, that is a toilet and a sink for no reason in the middle of the grenier but that means that there is already water coming up and water going back down! So easy to make renovations with that already in place.

Ooh but the roof. Well, if the plans are to take away half of it anyway...

...and this is the electricity. Oops. 

And yet it remained a great deal. Remi and I knew that we could do all of the cosmetic work ourselves just not the electricity and the roofing. Underneath the horrible yellow wallpaper gorgeous blocks of cream stone were waiting to be revealed as we had seen in the grenier. The house was sain or healthy but something was missing. It didn't call to us. And to invest so much of our time, energy and money into it just didn't make sense in that case. But it will find it's new owner in a New York minute of that I can assure you. Let's just hope that they appreciated its potential as much as we did!

Friday, June 22, 2012

My favorite store in Aix

...and perhaps the world. I am completely serious. And yes, that is saying something. 

Meet Zaia. She opened her boutique in Aix-en-Provence last October, having chosen an up-and-coming neighborhood in the South of France over her previous digs in Paris. 

In France, surprisingly I find that we can rarely call any retail environment "curated" (a word that is slung around a little too loosely in the States) save for Colette and Caravane in Paris and a few worthy exceptions. But every object in Le Sérail has been considered down to its finest detail. 

Zaia works with not only artisans but designers in both India and Marrakech to create exquisite pieces of the highest quality possible. Her direct relationship with them keeps the prices incredibly reasonable considering, what the French call un rapport qualité-prix. The above clutch is of such finesse that it would be deeply treasured and handed down--how often can that be said for an item that costs 248€?

I came across the store in my wanderings with the beautiful and very glamorous Dash and she was drawn to the tunics in the window like a moth to a flame. All hand stitched in India and yet, can I tell you? Even in Rajasthan, I did not come across such fine craftsmanship. Can you see the delicate beading along the collars? Amazing.

In my excitement, I admittedly forgot to do my job as well as I should. I did not take any photos of the giant heavily grained leather shoppers that any woman would want, let alone ask the price. Nor how much are the metallic woven pillows that line her shop. Folks, I know it is in poor taste to play the "I have travelled the world card" but in this case, let me insist with all honesty (and of course with absolutely nothing to gain personally) that I thought this to be one of the most finely curated (there is that word again) boutiques that I have seen anywhere. 

And it is tiny to boot! Quality trumps quantity everytime. And are you ready for the good news? Yes, she ships internationally. She doesn't have a website yet but I am sure that if you contact her, she will be willing to help you as best as she can. 

Le Sérail
5, rue Jaubert
Tel. +(33) 4 42 63 03 26

or for those of you visiting Morrocco:
Boutique Akbar
Place Bab Fteuh, Medina Marrakech

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fête de la Musique

Just a little break in our regular programming as today is the Fête de la Musique in France! All across the country--from the swarms of wandering millions pulsing the streets of Paris to a single accordion player in the tiniest country village--there will be notes filling the air and dancing to go with them. Perhaps I write about this every year but it never ceases to amaze me. It is the France that we all dream of, where culture is what rings in the first day of summer. 

And so I want to share a bit of music with you! First above, the song of the martinets flying outside my window this morning at 7 am, making their last swoops and swirls before the heat kicks in. And below, what I will be listening to for the next few months: "Mira" one of the tracks off of the new album The Absence from one of my favorite artists, Melody Gardot. The video celebrates all of the joy and exuberance of the season ahead...

Vive l'été et vive la musique! 

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Dash through Aix with French Sampler

This is when things start to get interesting. A smudge of the thumb and the fine line between virtual and  real is erased. Within...shall we say...two minutes of having met Dash from the amazing blog French Sampler, I sensed that she was exactly the kindred spirit that I had hoped. But to have her sitting across from me at a small café just outside of the train station in Aix! I scanned her face eagerly. Would there be signs of her panoplie of knowledge, her distinct elegance? I had long appreciated her honest writing,  been inspired as she worked hard to improve her photography and was always beautifully surprised by her subject matter. Our tastes are mind-bogglingly similar, it is true but had I misjudged her and she me? A warm smile spread out across her face. We started talking and didn't stop for the next six hours. And it passed like the blink of an eye. We were still at lunch after three and when finally we pulled ourselves out of our comfortable volley to move, we  wisely abandoned our best laid plans and let our feet and cameras lead us. How wonderful to be just two women wandering. Alright, I'll say it, deux blogueuses. Both looking, discovering with no one to hurry us in the least sense. Cameras in hand, focusing at the eye and click. Quite like a good connection. I have written about the wonderful city of Aix many times and it was lovely to watch her discover its rich diversity. We decided to make mutual posts, revealing our farandole on the same day without showing each other in advance. So I will look forward to finding where her eye landed nearly as much as I will spending time with Dash again...

Now, as quick as you can name the name of Lartigue's favorite muse ("Renée!"), let's hop on over to Dash's wonderful blog:

And for those of you that are visiting for the first time from chez elle, a very warm welcome indeed.

Have a wonderful week everyone!