Friday, February 28, 2014

No, no and whoa

There has been extensive behind the scenes clamoring for a house-hunting update (you know who you are). You ask, I deliver. But we have been looking at so very many houses that it is too much to show you in depth, so I have picked just a few that didn't work out for various reasons plus a tasty treat at the end.

We were extremely tempted by the fine renovation work on this rental. It was, as the French say, un coup de coeur. We both loved the mix of modern and ancient architectural elements such as the fireplace next to a sculptural oak and steel staircase.

We visited on a day when it was pouring buckets and the sky was positively black but we could easily imagine this South-facing kitchen flooded with light.

And yet *sigh* there were practical issues. Practicality, you are starting to get on my nerves, that is all I am going to say on the matter. I am warning you.

For despite the fact that there is plenty of room, including a nifty mezzanine that could have been my yoga loft, there isn't the space that we need. I have mentioned before that we have certain pieces that are non-negotiables: our gallery printer, Remi's equipment, the monastery table. But we couldn't even figure how to get our sofas in through the tiny, anciently carved windows and doors. I have a feeling that the people that lived here before us must have a very zen futony lifestyle, mais alas, that is not us. A shame because I think that we just might have fallen for this otherwise. A bonus from the experience? The owner and his Sister are so charming that I am sure that we will invite them over for drinks once we do finally find a new place to live.

In the worst case scenarios, I don't even take photos. And that is saying something as I am usually an obsessive clicker as Remi and I can both see the possibilities in just about anywhere.

This smallish house has a lovely facade and a giant garage with a spacious back room that could be transformed into an office leading to a small outdoor area. French doors, stone walls, wooden beams...promising right?

But then you walk upstairs and see...this. A renovation that has sucked the bone-marrow out of the house's history. Not an ounce remained and worse...

...this is the bathroom. Enough said.

We had difficulties arranging a visit with the charming young owner of this large and sunny home to rent for a very reasonable price.

It turns out that one of the reasons why is that she is still in the midst of the renovating process, especially for the top floor.

She asked us to use our imaginations to picture what it would be like in a few months time and we assured her that wasn't a problem, certainly as there are such lovely features as sublime stone throughout... for where it has been painted over...such as poppy red and hot the same room. Every single room would have to be scraped down, treated or repainted. As we have been through that already, we were pretty sure that we were going to pass...

...and then the toilet, floating randomly in the middle of the bathroom made the decision clear.

Visits like this can be a wee bit depressing. 

Luckily, there exists the stuff that dreams are made on. Such as this Orangerie in Nimes, just ever so slightly out of our price range at 3300€ per month. Remi found the ad for this yesterday and it knocked us both utterly speechless. It is amazing to know that such places still exist. Wouldn't you agree?

Oh my, that makes my heart jump every time that I look at it. A fairy tale world if ever there was one.

It even has something resembling a ballroom opening out onto the lawns...

Here are a few more links. I do hope that these work as they are on a very frenchy website (just click on the photos but do let me know if it is a no go, please) to whet your appetite for some of the fun things available:

Which one would you choose? 
*Edit: I should stress that these are all out of our price range and for dreaming purposes only.*

Oh, how are we possibly on the verge of March? Tell me, how? So while I am a month early, with all of this rain then shine going on out my window, I can't help but share a favorite tune.

to listen:

Thank you for being here and have a lovely weekend everyone!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Windows to the soul

While the immortal William Shakespeare may have written, "The eyes are the window to your soul," I beg to differ. For while we can hide within even the most direct of glances, the voice doesn't lie. This is something that I have been thinking about in recent conversations with my friend Vickie, who is dipping into the realm of author's reading their work (her book is coming out on June 1, so more of that anon). 

Where does your voice live in your body? Is it something that you give much thought to? As a former theatre actress, I most certainly have in my day, for it is the most expressive tool in our art. And yet, my voice has changed enormously since moving to France. It took me a few years to realize it, actually. I would only drop back into that deep alto on visits home to the States. The rest of the time my pitch was nearly an octave higher as I questioningly tested words and verb tenses. Gone was that reassuring flow. And it stayed that way for many years as I learned and struggled and stumbled with a very difficult language. And today? Well, I suppose that my voice has settled with time and the confidence that comes with age into somewhere in-between. It seems like there is a lot of the in-between in my life these days and that too I have to assume, to be more sure (for when are we ever 100% certain of anything) and listen keenly to another voice, my inner one.

All the better to see you with, my dear.

As for artistic voices? To live a creative life is fascinating and challenging with many colors that blend seamlessly into one another. It takes enormous courage to put yourself out there over and over again, sometimes only to be repeatedly dealt the brutal blow of rejection. But such a life is not chosen, it chooses you. This is why I have such enormous respect for those who endure. I was incredibly inspired by an article on Flavorwire featuring "10 creative women over 80 you should know." I thought that you might be too. 

These women are not bogged down by the cult of personality and none of them are afraid of their vision, their voice. The windows to their souls are dazzlingly clear.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Return to St. Hilaire d'Ozilhan

We have been running, sometimes in circles. For we have had a shift of inner direction in our house-hunting forays to and fro. 

We have been peeking into secret gardens adorned with mysterious staircases that climb heavenwards blindly...

...while wondering what the view might be from above to below.

We have cat-scratched at patinas...

...and followed light's traces from east to west, or is it north to south? To see where her elegant tresses fall...

...and where they remain pulled up chignon tight. 

For what we have realized, is that it is less about falling in love with one particular house...

...but more about the "how" of where we will live next.

We both feel a rousing need for quiet...

...and a speck of order.

Something that Arles with its casual abandon may no longer give us.

And so we are roaming, returning to villages like St. Hilaire d'Ozilhan...

...looking with eyes and hearts wide open until we are sure of what is next.

Have a lovely weekend everyone...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Lingering over lunch at Terroirs in Uzes

It was a Sunday and we all knew it and needed it. Remi and I had picked up our hard-working friends Marc and Bettina in Nimes and then headed up through the winding hills to Uzès. Uzès, how I love thee! Ben knows. He loves it too. But it is in Winter when I prefer it as the town, one of the most beautiful in the South of France, is positively empty. 

Ah, save for at Terroirs, where we grabbed the last outdoor table on the terrace. The gentlemen gave the ladies the view on the Place aux Herbes and backs against the (very much needed) space heaters. We did our best to settle in the dogs and then it was time to consider with anticipation how to give ourselves over to a similarly floppy relaxed abandon.

We puzzled and bantered over the simple yet tempting menu with the charming waiter who leaned on our table and wished that he could join us for a glass of the very nice local wine that he had just poured into our ready glasses. Decisions were made, then changed until promises of shared bites were offered.

I was tired, coming off of a week of not sleeping well. But one of the many aspects of being with our long-time friends is that they take us as we are. There is no need to put on a show or to pretend to be other. So I felt free to be quiet. 

The conversation burbled on around me like little musical notes dancing off the staff. I let my eyes do the talking, taking little snapshots of the view from our table, my camera resting otherwise in my lap. Our food arrived just as my stomach was starting to rumble and I enjoyed my delicious gratin du jour, the cheese bubbling over smoky eggplant to warm me up from the inside so that I no longer needed the polar fleece blanket placed with consideration on the arm of my chair.

We all knew our good fortune at being able to eat outside in February and so we stayed. A second bottle of wine was ordered as it was sold à la ficelle, literally by the string so that you paid only for the level of how much you drank. Because honestly, we just wanted to linger, to pull the moment like the sweet taffy it was.

We were amongst the very last to leave (that was our table at far left) and certainly no one rushed us to go. How quiet the Place was now. Full of Winter.

All the better to take a post-dining stroll, an institution in France.

And when that perambulation happens to be in Uzes...

...well, your eyes will feast as well as your belly has.

Sunday, sweet Sunday...

...I always find a home in you.

Terroirs Restaurant
5 Place aux Herbes
30700 Uzès
Tel. : 04 66 03 41 90

PS. Thank you to everyone from Remi (and me too of course) over the many, many congratulatory comments and emails about the publication of "his" French stamp! You are a lovely group of people, I have to say...