Friday, February 10, 2012

Win Win

Ah, the decorating domino effect. We really have been careful about what we bring into this new apartment as we already have too much of muchness, especially as far as art is concerned. But when I found this Gobelins tapestry for, I'll admit it, 15 Euros (since several of you have asked), I couldn't resist. As it is gigantic, there was only one place for it that really worked, above the fireplace in the bedroom. We still haven't had the moment to gallery hang it but are thrilled with the peace that it brings. Similarly, I am loving the soft light emanating from the mercury mirror that has now by default been shifted to the living room. Win, win.

Speaking of winning, I was recently given two awards for Lost in Arles. Hooray! The incredible Karin, a veritable one-woman walking Wiki of good taste, was kind enough to give me the Blog on Fire Award in January. Do you know her blog, La Pouyette? To give you an idea, she recently constructed an imaginary dinner party for 12. Her invitées included Frederick the Great, Karl Lagerfeld and Oscar Wilde. Impeccable. Merci, Karin!

As part of accepting this award, I need to tell you five things about myself that you may not know:

1) When I am as homesick for the States as I am right now, I admit that given the opportunity to have either an authentic Sunday Brunch or a menu degustation at a Michelin-starred restaurant, I would, without hesitation, chose the brunch. Tragically, I would probably also pick peanut butter over foie gras. 
2) I have a built-in radar that can hear a champagne cork popping within a five-mile radius. 
3) I once sang "Summertime" for a tribe on Tanna Island in Vanuatu in the Pacific to thank them for performing a dance for me.
4) Secret talent: Killer yoga toes.
5) To my shame? I have the worst memory for faces of anyone I know. Not such a big deal while living in Manhattan when the chances of running into someone you know are slim but in a small town like Arles? Very, very embarrassing. 

Natalie Rapoport lives in Toronto but is a world-traveller who loves to share those special moments, les petites bijoux, that we come across as we go. Hence her charming blog, Jewel yet to find. I love her patient eye and her attention to detail so was very excited when she decided to send me the Liebster Blog Award. Wow! Thank you so much, Natalie.

Something wonderful that both of these awards have in common is that they are in recognition of blogs with under 200 followers. So I am happy to pass on the baton to five of my favorite small blogs and am awarding them BOTH the Blog on Fire Award and the Liebster Blog Award. 

*For the winners, please see the "rules" at the bottom of this already crazy long post. 

1) I dream of. With such a title, I knew that I would be hooked but Jeanne's blog has instantly become one of my favorites. Why? She has so much heart, as corny as that sounds, not to mention oodles of talent. I am predicting here that she will become a darling of the design blog world.

2) Looking Glass. Clare is a classic beauty, a model and an actress but that is where the classicism stops. She always has surprises up her sleeve, including a very frank series where she interviewed burlesque performers. Have to love that Aussie mix. 

3) Shifting Gears. Judith Ross is an accomplished writer whose intelligence and authenticity never cease to inspire me. This blog is dedicated towards "navigating middle age and beyond" and she does so with a light hand. 

4) oh-fancy that. Four really funny and fabulous ladies that have an amazing take on DIY, fashion, food (a favorite post is the recipe for pecan, bourbon and butterscotch bread pudding). Just read their "About Us" and try and not be addicted. For sure they will be wondering "An award from who?" but I love your blog!

5) Concrete Jungle. Heather doesn't post all the time but I never know from what part of the world she will when she does. Girl gets around. An interior designer based mainly out of Thailand, she puts her trained eye to good use, no detail is too small. To boot, she has formed a great charity to help out at home.

There are few other blogs that were awarded at the same time I was otherwise, they would be on this list and are well worth the gander:
and Helen Tilston Painter, who, I am assuming has already been given both of these awards...

Additionally, I would like to give Ben, my Golden Retriever, the Siberian Survivor Award for handling the European cold snap with panache. True, he slightly resembles Ben in a Burqa but a dog has to do what a dog has to do to stay warm. 

The Rules for the Winners
 To keep these awards going (and I realize the slightly chain-mailedness of that phrase), please recognize blogs with under 200 followers and...
1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to their blog
2. Choose five blogs to nominate and let them know by leaving a comment
3. Request that the chosen blogs pass the Award on to their favorite five
Copy and paste the award on your blog post
5. List five things about yourself......

Number 5 is just for the Blog on Fire Award, so if you don't want to divulge (it really isn't that painful), there is always the Liebster Award... 

Thanks to all of you that have stayed with me this bon weekend! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Snow clouds and winter berries

We stopped the car, realizing that we were, well, if not lost than entirely on the wrong road. As I got out to stretch my legs, I sucked in my breath from the cold and the sight of a liquid cloud, spread across the sky like an ink stain. "It is snowing in there," I thought to myself with pleasure, imagining all the things in nature that we don't see but are right there in front of us.

Once safely on the other side of the mountain, we stopped in a field outside of a small village. Neither the field nor the village had yet awoken from the night before. Frost glistened and dew dropped from winter berries and their pom-pom fronds.

Further on, the remains of an ancient wall crumbled into the folds of the earth. Forgotten, forgotten the houses here before. Shards of terra cotta roof tiles pulsed with a slight covering of verdigris lichen and roots crawled crab-like to warmer climes.

I sat next to Ben, as patient as ever and took in the world from his point of view. So much life within the tiny patch of dirt near his paws. Two miniscule beads of water reflected or refracted the interior of the earth. Get closer. It is good at times to smell something as vague as life. 

Remi and I had spoken the day before about my timidity in photographing people so when we both saw this Citroen 2CV battling down the lane, he pushed me to flag it down.

I was glad that I did. The gentleman in the drivers seat was perplexed and amused at my request but was willing to concede that certain étrangères might appreciate his car. The truth being that his face, his way of being was far more interesting. Out of politeness, he only and addressed Remi and spoke softly when he did. "Soon, we won't see that anymore," Remi admitted as the blue bug lurched away and he is right. Best then to take it all in while we still can.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Une trouvaille

Hooray! Just a bit of fun. Last night Remi and I were skulking around an especially unpromising Depot-Vente or junk shop in the suburbs of Arles. Each went their separate ways, only half-heartedly in the hunt. And yet, what did I spy tucked behind a bulky dresser? A bit of tapestry. Yes, I know, tapestry can be so old-fashioned as to be sad.  But no, this one is so perfectly faded that its remaining colors only give the tiniest suggestion of what it once was. I called Remi over and with a heave he extracted it from its dusty realm. And as you can see, we swooped it up. For a song. A mere pittance. You wouldn't believe me if I told you.

Especially as when we got it home I spied a label on the back frame: "Panneaux Gobelins". 

It is so long, 2.2 meters that I am not sure where we can put it, but trust me, I will find a place. Aren't such gifts from the world encouraging?

Bon Dimanche, everyone!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Searching for snow

While some fine ladies are willing to take the TGV for hours in order to fill a craving for truly Parisian pastries, I found myself seeking a change of season and was ready to go to equally great lengths to get it. Luckily, Remi had a similar idea brewing. We both were in need of snow. 

As wonderful as Provence is, it can be, well, a bit monochromatic with its skies that are forever blue. I grew up mainly in the Midwest, where each period of the year is marked by wildly different weather. Sweat would drip from the back of my knees as I scampered away from a summer bound dodge ball just as the winter wind would whip up tears that froze on my cheeks. I loved it all and miss that excitement of change.

We piled into the Range Rover with Ben in the back as well as enough clothing and supplies to last us for a few days. And yet we weren't going far. Our base was the town of Sisteron, only a little more than a two hours drive from Arles. I never tire that in France you can shift your landscape so easily.

I have written quite a lot about the Luberon, most recently in my one too many posts on the questionably cute or not cute village of  Loumarin. But we were headed beyond the Peter Mayle zone to the Alpes-de-Haut-Provence, an area relatively unvisited save by Provençals heading to one of the local ski slopes or motorcyclists cruising the Napoleon Road. 

We fretted as we drove north. The ground was dry until Gap. Was our search in vain? As we turned up the long hill to the Abbaye de Boscodon, smiles spread slowly across our faces. The higher we climbed, the deeper the snowfall. Success! Ben, our Golden, had never experienced more than a mere dusting and so did not quite know to make of such snow but soon enough he was bouncing like a bunny and shaking every stick he could find with ferocious glee.

We had climbed to 1150 meters in altitude in a rather short period of time and I felt slightly dizzy and out of breath. The silence was so total that I could hear my blood pounding in my ears like waves in a seashell. I was filled with wonder at all around me, from the strange sight of mistletoe that had grafted itself onto a pine tree, to the comforting trickle of a stream in a gorge dangerously deep below.

We crossed fields where there were no other footprints but our own and I took care to put my feet in Remi's tracks, to leave as little trace of my passing as possible.

How utterly drained of color the world seemed to be. And yet not in the least of joy. I couldn't stop smiling. The cold makes me feel so alive.

Quiet voices echoed on the other side of the monastery walls. Incredible to think that the first monks arrived at the Abbey in 1142 (and that when it was returned to the church in 1972, its magnificent chapel was being used as a stable). Today the Abbey is renowned for its mixité, an openness towards multiple religious congregations. The pine covered mountains wrap around the buildings like a blanket. It is a perfect setting for contemplation. To go inwards. I felt myself doing the same and looked forward to what discoveries the next few days would bring...Can you feel the quiet?

We had an excellent time and I will be spreading the results of my visit out (again!) over a few posts as I think that it is an opportunity to show a side of Provence that so few people get to see.

And as a completely, utterly unrelated postscript (as I know that many of you are fellow dog-lovers), I would highly recommend the article in on the New York Time's website: Wonder Dog about dogs that are being trained for placement with children that have special needs. The article is long but very worthwhile as is the accompanying short video.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Faded elegance in the Luberon, trois

Remi, Ben and I are heading off to explore for a few days, so this will have to be practically wordless! The last of Loumarin. For now...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Faded elegance in the Luberon, deux

Do you know those tourists that spend so much time with their camera glued to their faces that they don't actually experience anything? I am embarrassed to admit it but that was me last Sunday after our wonderful lunch in the Luberon. Blame it on Loumarin. I do. There is just something about this village that wheels up my ooh machine to a manic pace. It is vaguely perfect with just enough fuzzy old acheyness around the outer edges to keep it from being whimsically cute.

I was fortunate in two ways. One is that my honey is a professional photographer that has made me endure hours in dusty nowheres to capture 'magic light' and that the friends that accompanied us not only support my efforts but probably think that I am just "being American" in snapping feverishly at broken flower pots. When they see that gleam in my eye and I start to stalk like a cheetah on the plains of the Serengeti that has just spied a witless baby gazelle, they all wisely wander on.

And so I got a little Canon Crazy. I can already hear Remi chiding me for my lack of editing skills as he leans over my shoulder, calmly scanning the screen. "Non...non...non...ok." Embarrassed as I am to stretch into an eternity, I will put up one final post in this series soon. After all, when it concerns such a day, in such a phenomenal place, how can I not?

Before signing off for the weekend, I would like to give a heart-felt thanks to Christina Fluegge. Many of you might know her from her gorgeous blog Greige as well as her design company of the same name or its online shop. In her most recent post, Christina kindly mentions me and Lost in Arles. I especially loved that it came as something of a surprise, one that I learned about after having woken up from a particularly unsuccessful nap that had left me feeling groggy and disoriented. I needed something to snap me back into gear, back into the joy of this whirly bird life, which is, at it would turn out, is exactly what Christina wrote about. Kismet! 

For those of you that are visiting for the first time, bienvenue. Having come from the hard tack world of the press, the generosity of spirit in the blog world is a constant source of wonder and one of the main reasons why I keep going. It never ceases to amaze me the fascinating people that discover my little blog. Blame it on Provence. I do.