Monday, July 26, 2010

A chèvrier without his chèvres.

For the first time since the death of Isabelle I've come to visit Paul Pierre. I'd called earlier in June and left a message on his answering machine. Simply stating that I was here, that I was thinking of him. And he called me last week to set up a time for a visit.

As to be expected, he'd plunged right into movement and activity after the funeral, and then collapsed with advanced pneumonia, liquid in his lungs and more. He has now been through treatments galore, hospital stays, and weeks of bed rest. He is up and about and plowing through the papers that must be attended to. The house is layered (they are relatively small layers) with all that beckons. Health insurance, shifting of names on property deeds, retirement accounts, banks, accounts, etc., It is a truism to state that with death comes a pile of paper work, but being close to it is quite impressive, in a rather frightening way.

It is now two months later. You could say he's been through the gauntlet. What is glorious is a sense, a feeling, a knowledge of what solitude might bring him rather than the loss that he has suffered. He was conscious and present throughout the four years of his wife's illness. He prepared, he projected, he handled it in a mighty way. And now, next?

There are projects. Next year Aurelie will take the goats to her own farm. That leaves space below that is refrigerated, clean, kitchen oriented. Perhaps stages, courses in preparing pâtés and pork products? He's done that before, taken three whole pigs on Friday and by Sunday all who participate walk away with their preparations. It would be fascinating, a learning/teaching experience, and worthwhile.

He has land that could be farmed by another, from whom he could collect rent (not to mention well nourished land with the many years of goat droppings upon it). He has a home that could be rented by the week for vacationers (view of the olive grove included). Why not rent to photography folk during the festival in Arles? and offer transportation morning and evening?

The possibilities are there. He is eager and coping. He is open and sharing.

Yes, we spoke of much. I listened. He gave me a father/uncle/man/s advice concerning the demise of my relationship with JP (I said thank you as I listened, rather humbled). He is encouraged that I seem to be learning, growing -- but agreed I've a ways to go yet.


Meeting an old friend for the first time

I mentioned the pleasure I felt in meeting a woman who follows my blog. Truly, it was touching, surprising and enlightening. There was a moment of cultural confusion -- the written English language is relatively easy to communicate in for those of us from the Americas/British Iles/Australia/New Zealand/ etc., but our accents can be quite different! She with her beautiful Irish lilt that I had to listen carefully to, myself with my speedy delivery with no doubt a nasal touch from my NY/Seattle/Mid-West past.

We found subjects in common -- I'd not realized (or had not carefully read) that she shared a love and knowledge of photography with me. We came together in a city and on a day when there were shows aplenty to see, and so we were able to explore this dimension of our connection. We were able as well to touch on the powerful subjects of the soul mate, the couple, the expectations of collaboration, sharing and love. She has lived and lost what I dearly would like to experience. Having lived such beauty once in her life (for 20 years if I remember correctly) will she be granted another such? or will her knowledge, love and expertise shine on a larger world?

To know each other and yet to not know each other at all. I, the American in Provence, getting her hair done, wandering about a city with her dog, bubbling with nervousness and pleasure at our encounter. She, seemingly more poised, a touch older (but not by much), certainly calmer. Her experiences and direction appeared focused. Whereas I am only just gelling a few ideas into a larger whole.

The world of blogging has offered me a chance to share and to communicate. I love the written word. I've now met two different woman who've been following my blog for over a year. It is startling. I know little of them. I have much to learn. It is my turn to ask questions, to listen. They know intimate details of me. They've read me and mine. My time for sharing is put on hold.

Once the first encounter has passed, will we keep in touch further? Will I hop on a plane to Ireland? I'm tempted, but scared to drive on the other side of the road, I might be a burden. Will we collaborate on future projects?

The written word is a first level. The physical presence of two beings in the same space is another. As many who've tried internet web sites to meet a beloved have discovered, the reality doesn't always fit the words read. I wonder again about my outer and inner self. Is there yet a schism there? Do I surprise? or do I confirm?

However, I am also simply grateful. This has been a magical summer filled with much of what I seek: beauty, work, friends and new encounters. Thank you.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A summer of Tango Bals

And so I return to the world of tango. The outer world. The one I visited only in the company of JP and in which I wasn't particularly at ease.

The summer is a time of many outdoor bals tango. Tango en plein air. But not in Avignon. Here we have the theatre festival and the city hasn't given permission to the tango associations to have outdoor events on the glorious Place du Palais or elsewhere. Ah well.

And so, I travel. And I return to the places of yore. I return to the places I frequented only in the company of JP. At first a bit frightened. I contacted a new friend and asked that we dine together beforehand. I was hesitant to be there. And yes, within minutes I saw JP. We waved and I stayed by my friends.

But then I arrived on the piste, the dance floor. And from a place I knew not was in me I found the courage to catch the eyes of a cavalier and nod yes, let us dance. Someone I'd never seen before. After a tanga of four dances we graciously went on to new partners. I saw, greeted, gave the kisses to and plopped myself in front of every person, female and male, that I've crossed paths with over the last two years in the world of tango. And, I danced the night away.

Ahhhhh. No, I didn't dance with JP. He didn't invite me. He says he meant to but... when he came towards me and I asked if he intended to invite me, he replied in the negative. So I said, no problem, I was just about to dance with D. And off I went.

Rarely before did I stay till so late. Rarely before did I dance nearly every dance. But now, three nights in a row and for I trust two more, I am dancing my heart away. I am present, enjoying the women, enjoying the men. Simply happy to be there. No further agenda. I'm not looking for a lover. I'm not in need. I just want to dance. I am invited but many an unknown, I invite those I've known for years. It's a lovely feeling.

I am welcomed back into a world that barely knew me. I sense the shift in my presence, in myself. Where before I was scared, shy, anxious, in the shadow of JP, now I am there, on my own, in the strength and confidence of being a better dancer. I don't feel childish and at odds. Though I do occasionally let slip an 'oops' when I mess up. However, I no longer take it completely upon myself. The guidage of my partner must be clear as well for me to react and complete the gestures.

And off I go, meeting new and lovely people, sharing special moments, joyous and present. What a gift the universe is offering me! And yes, I did manage to find a lovely pair of simple black summer tango shoes on sale half price this summer. They're getting a work-out!

For those who are curious tango in this region is possible nearly all over. Here's the schedule as I know it now:

Wednesday : tango in Montpellier in front of the museum
Thursday : tango in Nimes at the Place du Chapitre
Friday : tango in Nimes at the Place d'Assas
Saturday : Tango in Martigues by the canals
Sunday : tango in Aubais at the winery Aubais Mema and in Aix

This week is the Tango Guinguette in Caromb by the Lac du Paty.

Auntie Mame?

I feel like Auntie Mame. I'm the one off in left field, or more specifically, the one who has leapt across the ocean and added a certain gloss of European education and culture. Were I still back in the US, in Boston or Northern Michigan, I would hold myself a bit differently.

I would perhaps speak less about politics. I would be at ease with men as big brothers and easier in their company. I certainly wouldn't wear a transparent top with a decorative, made-to-be-seen bra underneath. Nor would I flaunt my décolleté.

Yes, when you live in France you do learn to dress differently. You acquire a certain ease with your body being at least partially on display. If you are beautiful, if you have assets worth showing off, you do so. Is it demeaning? I don't live it as such. However, I am careful when back home.

In France it is not considered crass or cheap to wear a lovely black bra under a sheer white blouse. Quite the contrary. You'll see this combination on the most elegant and bourgeois of women, and these of a 'certain age.' And you certainly don't worry if bra straps are in view in the summer under a slip of a top. That's simply summer wear. Accept it as such.

And so I startled and educated the young woman in my care. It is alright, I was careful. When entrusted with a sixteen year old of lovely manners, superb parents, generous spirit and more, I hold myself to high standards of care and attention. But I must say we did remark upon, laugh at, and contemplate these certain cultural differences.

I suppose that the character Carrie in Sex and the City put out the vibe of being sexy and smart while nearly always having her bra in view. And many Europeans assume Americans are simply like that. Little do they realize the power of our Puritan past. Nor the fear that sexy demeans. It goes far beyond the surprise of meeting a blond with brains. If a woman is proud of her appearance, elegance and allure, can she run a corporation? Or must she dim it down, and be subdued to earn and keep respect for her intellect and administrative powers?

In any case, in France it is demeaning of yourself to not be at your best. It is appropriate and expected that anyone with a decent level of self-esteem is aware that enjoying her beauty and physical presence is perfectly normal.

And so, we have a choice of lingerie that is quite marvelous. We have boutiques in every village that specialize in such, and when sales time comes along, we stock up.

Thus, in my role as Auntie Mame, I may need to pick up a couple of pretty brassieres for a certain sixteen year old. Decorative, comfortable, in pretty patterns, easy to wear, and most definitely not with added padding. Apparently something that is difficult to come by back home in Boston.

Feminine Power Web Seminar

The link is here feminine power seminar

I've been following this seminar now for five weeks. It is an astonishing and gracious and generous world of women. Quite extraordinary and inspiring. I came upon it by being on the emailing list for Dr. Jean Houston ( and thought, hm, I'm going through some interesting/tough times, why not? I too am seeking inspiration, direction, collaboration, encouragement, clarity. I too will benefit from tools to focus me, strengthen me, reassure me and give me the courage to go forth to share the gifts I have to offer.

And so it is. Weekly there is a two hour seminar, then two question and answer sessions, plus the web based forum where people exchange and share and simply write in. There are weekly questions to ponder and recommendations for keeping a notebook. Power statements (as opposed to affirmations) to define and integrate.

I am in contact with women shamans in Canada, inspired yoga teachers and coaches in Australia, midwives in India, and vastly more. A reservoir of a thousand women seeking to be more, to be all they can be.

It is quite incredible. And all this I have on my iphone in mp3s, and on my computer in pdfs.

Take a look friends. If for nothing else, I deeply appreciate the mastery of language by the two women who run this seminar, Claire and Katherine. The graciousness and skill with which they receive and honor each question, the conviction and passion and love with which they share their knowledge and encouragement.

Such simple ideas, and yet so powerful.

Friday, July 23, 2010

T'is been a while

I am fully in my life these days. Free time to write seems out of my grasp. I have been working intensely throughout the early part of this month -- touring, animating wine tastings, hiking the Luberon, biking the Alpilles. And then once more a visit to the clinic for an operation (same as earlier this year). Once more a day of being completely out and zonked and taking time to recover, yet working the while. And then, down. Late mornings, but still rendezvous, meetings, errands, a lovely evening of friends in my camping garden.

And so I come back to the written word. So much as flowed through me. Where do I start? I've quite a few ideas to pursue, themes to discuss. I'll get to them.

I am reading, The Secret Life of France -- an interesting book by yet another anglo-saxon who has married French. However, her life is quite other than mine as she married wealthy and upper class in Paris, a world I've only barely visited. Her experiences differ quite a bit from mine. I will get into these in future blogs.

I am listening and following an internet seminar for women, "Feminine Power" The essential course for the awakening woman. It is wonderful. At this point I've only been able to download the sessions and discussions after the fact as the timing of the phone calls is difficult for me to manage. But I find them nourishing, inspiring, and focusing. What is feminine power? I'll share more on this in a blog.

I've had visitors to my camp site, in particular the 16 year old daughter of a dear friend from Boston. I'm the kooky Aunt Mame to her more reserved family. With me, we discuss pretty lingerie, bras available on this and that side of the Atlantic, fashion choices, class and crass.

And I've been dancing. Yes, tango is still a lovely part of my life. I'm going out and dancing with many a cavalier. I am reaching out, linking eyes and inviting men to dance. We do our tanga of 4 and then I float on to another, or I'm invited. I am braver, stronger, more assured -- even when I catch a glimpse of a certain person. The desire to be fully me, to take back my power, to revel in who, what, where I am... it is stronger than the disorientation of this life as a single woman slightly at odds in the South of France.

And, I'm being with dear friends. New ones (from my blog! a meeting in my part of the world with one of you who've been following me), and old ones, ones who've become closer and dearer. It is magical. The universe is being generous.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Testing the Waters

Hmmm, the single life. It's interesting. There are moments that are quite precious. Going out to concerts and events with friends, sleeping in, moving at my own pace, eating or not, just being with my dog Filou. But there are also curious and unsettling moments. I'm not truly sure what I want.

It is a chance to be with me. I need this. Of this I'm fully aware. It's a chance to shift directions, to go deeply into myself and my potential, the possible of my life.

I'm living a blend of lots of work, time alone, being with friends, and going out on my own. The tango world is there to amuse me, but also to throw me off balance a bit.

With the temptation of many an evening of dance this summer I agreed to go out with a dancer I'd danced with here and there over the past two years. It was truly a lovely date. But not.

The evening after I'd spent days cleaning my house for the renters, still exhausted, not completely present, stressed from the general over-fullness of the month of June. I said yes to an invitation to the opening night vernissage of the summer art show in the Palais des Papes and the Petit Palais. I said yes to mingling with the mondio of the Vaucluse and Provence. And I said yes to dancing by the canals of Martigue, a little Venice, under the full moon. But then I said no.

The thought, the act, the physical realness of a man groping me (somewhat gracefully, but also in a very deaf way), just made me ill. No, I'm not ready. Thank you, the evening couldn't have been more lovely, but, no. I can't. I've just come out of something intense and I just can't. I can dance, I can go out, I can chat, but that is all I can offer.

So, take your hands of me and take me home. Bye.

I saw him again Sunday night, after my day feeding guests at JP's and after my tango class with one of my favorite teachers. Not unexpectedly he was obnoxious. Les femmes sont des drôles de bêtes, he said. Yes, and no. I am simply not ready for more than being spun around the dance floor.

And so I was, by others, by my teacher, by pleasant unknown men who were respectful and amused. And then I went home alone.

Back to my cocoon of a camper van, back to my dog, back to my very good stack of books.

Yes, it is interesting being where I'm at. I'm discovering myself what I can and cannot handle. I am realizing daily what is possible, what I want, what I can tolerate, what I seek. The lessons are many.

A meal for wine

Though it's not completely easy at this point, I am periodically working with JP as the chef to his wine tasting courses, or the co-host for his Japanese guests, etc., And, I rise to the occasion. I'm never paid enough. But is anyone when it comes to food prep? It's a wonderful world to be a part of, but it is not one where the hourly wage is particularly high. Thus, I do it for the experience, and to learn myself.

This time the givens were: 8 guests, wines of many a varietal discovered during the tastings, a very hot summer's day, and a specific request for both fish en papillote and meat in sauce. So, I went to work:

I do apologize that there aren't photos here -- I was focused on the other tasks at hand and completely neglected to visually document the event and its components.

First course: a cold summer fruit gaspacho:

1 large melon and 1 small (orange flesh, but honey dew would have been lovely too)
1 large cucumber
the juice of 2 lemons
two tablespoons of fresh lemon thyme, though mint might have been interesting
salt and sugar to taste
3 small apricots diced
1 yellow bell pepper roasted, peeled and diced

I mixed the first three ingredients in the blender -- it made two blender-fulls, about 2 1/2 quarts. I poured these into a large bowl and added salt and sugar to taste. I then went to the garden to get the lemon thyme, snipped it and sprinkled it in. I put this blend aside in jars in the freezer for the next day.

The next morning I took the jars from the freezer to defrost. When I could, I poured them into the soup tureen, stirred them a bit, then added the diced yellow bell pepper and apricot before serving.

For the soup -- completely lacking in fat and having the acidity brought by the lemon juice and the fresh apricot -- we decided that amongst the possibilities for accompaniment the lusher viognier (though this was a relatively tart viognier, not heavy on the honey and apricot direction at all) and roussanne blend from the Languedoc were far more agreable than the tart sauvignon blanc or chablis.

Next up was the salmon en papillote on a bed of yellow squash. I sprinkled anise seed below and above the salmon, a pinch of salt, a tiny squirt of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil before wrapping up my packets and baking gently till done. The softened squash really added a lovely additional texture to the dish, and the delicate anise was just the right note. We found that this softer dish was enlivened by a non-oaked chardonnay, and not bad at all with the tart sauvignon, though I also appreciated the floral rosé from the Costières.

The pork roast I fixed with sun-ripened cocktail tomatoes, onions and roasted garlic. I added sprigs of rosemary from my garden, a drizzle of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of honey and salt. Super simple. I browned the roast, then removed it from the pot. Added the onions and more olive oil and cooked till soft, then I put in the tomatoes cut simply in half, and the garlic cloves whole. I simmered till reduced and put the roast back in. I put the sprigs of rosemary on top, let cook 20 minutes or so covered and then removed from the heat. This was all done the day before the meal.

The next day I took my pot out of the fridge and brought it over to the winery. I put it on the stove top and simmered it gently for another half hour, drizzling the honey over top. I then turned it off and awaited the moment to serve. It simply improved in its tart/sweet juices.

We paired both a rich Tavel rosé -- deeper in color and higher in alchohol than the pressé directe that you find often on the market these days, and a spicy, fruity syrah with this dish. With the tart/sweet notes and the white meat, it is truly a very flexible dish for pairing.

The last dish was a straightforward mousse au chocolat noir. And I mean noir! I don't like my chocolate mousse too sweet, it is 'écoeurant' to my palate. I had a barely sweetened fresh raspberry purée to accompany it, but put it on the side so that the wine pairing could occur with just the chocolate notes.

For our dessert we appreciated the rich and syrupy aged Jardin Secret from Domaine Cabanis (syrah dominant) from 2001, a younger and more on the fruit syrah from a neighbor that had been aged and concentrated in new oak, and a white rum. A smokey/toasted whiskey is also quite marvelous with chocolate.

And thus the meal concluded. Yes, there was a cheese course between the pork and the mousse, and it showed a perfect pairing between a creamy cheese of the Loire and the farmy Pinot from Burgundy. The latter which had not shown up well during class here revealed sweet and lush notes when paired with the subtle fats of the cheese. Hmmm

Next course? in November 2010. Then menu will then reflect the fall. We shall see what inspires.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A quite day amidst chaos

How strange to simply lie abed. Still, quiet, surrounded by the sounds of my island. The birds singing as the sun rose gave way to the screeching cicadas. The distant train to the west competed with the road across the Rhône to the east. My little camper van was at first a touch chilly, and then gradually warmer and warmer. The mosquito net over my head (a recent purchase) kept the pesky bugs at bay.

I slept in.


A slow emersion from my cocoon. A book came to hand. And why not? What a luxury to read in bed in the morning before my tea and breakfast. No immediate agenda before me. Just a couple of possibilities. Thus, slowly, leisurely, I awoke, became vertical, straightened out my little space, did a bit of sweeping, enjoyed the gentle breezes in my green world, read more, sipped my tea, and eventually dressed and headed into town to lunch with a dear friend: she of the Thai massage skills. As we sat and nibbled a simple vegetarian menu many an actor, dancer, singer came by to give us their pamphlets (tractes), with some looking really quite good. I'll be able to plan my last week in Avignon before heading to Michigan with pleasure.

Yesterday I finished my Five day bike tour of the Provence villages in the Alpilles to acclaim from my very lovely guests. Ahhhh. 120 kilometers or so we accomplished this week. Much of it late morning. Between and betwixt I nestled in visits to my artisans, some nice lunches and even a nap upon the rushes of the fresh clipped olive branches in the shade of the olive trees. And truly, at least three of us could be heard to snore!

It was an energetic week to put it lightly.

To cap it off, I enjoyed an evening out with my new Franco-American friends aswirl in the crowds of the Theatre festival. Till, that long in coming "coup de pompe" fell upon me and home and bed were all I truly wanted.

And thus, a day between days, a day between outings, a day of my own making. Hmmmm Maybe next time I get one of these I'll find time for yoga?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Friendship in a Foreign Land - the most recent installment

When you live in a land far from your family, friends count for a lot. So do memories -- perhaps relatively recent for others, but strong and present for yourself. The occasion will arrive (oft repeatedly) when you realize that you've put certain people into the box of 'dear friends' and they barely remember your name. No, it is rarely as bad as that, but it comes as a surprise to both parties when these different feelings and sense of importance come to the fore.

The other evening I was invited to a friend's house with my two guests. A seemingly simple evening became very complex. This friend is someone I've known for over thirteen years, since I was pregnant with Leo. She was present at the creation of Erick's and my first business, the Association Cuisine and Tradition. In fact, I do believe she was the president of our little association. She came often to our house for meetings, and joined us at the dinner table.

Later, as lives became more complex, we saw less of her, but we were still on the list of invites for her wedding to a fellow dear friend. And so life goes on.

Since I've lived in Avignon, her husband has become a major player in my existence. He is my plumber, aka my guardian angel. When I call, he comes. I pay him faithfully and immediately upon work done -- anxious to not abuse the friendship. And oh what a relief it is for me to have at least one person I can count on. I'm afraid when it comes to doing work around the house and garden, my car, etc., I've not a full hand of these people.

I was particularly touched that these friends can still be such even though I've divorced their much-loved friend, the father of my boys.

In my mind, I'd built up these two. The former a woman with Jewish roots, a mover and shaker, a smart and sassy lady who got things done, armed with a legal degree and a will of iron. In her I saw many women I'd known and loved in New York. Many colleagues of my mother's whom I admired and hoped to emulate. Not just hot air, but intelligence and focus and generosity all wrapped up in a great package.

In fact, I've seen very little of this woman I so admire. She briefly helped mediate between Erick and I, but I thought it best not to mix friendship and divorce. So, I've run into her here and there, but mostly worked with her husband whom I always feed when he works for me, chat with, share news about Erick with, etc.,

And so, here we are, on our second night of dining together in the same week. Once at my place, once at her's. And, this is the last night my friends from the States will be with us, and the only evening another friend might meet them. And so, it seemed possible to add two to the mix, with salad, wine and bread as offerings, for our dinner party. I of course called to check. But all seemed well on the phone.

And then we arrived -- Filou in tow (hard to leave him back at the camper van)-- and as the proverbial saying states, all Hell broke loose. When she saw Filou she flipped. So I put him back in the car. And then she disappeared having had a row with her husband over the banishment of the dog. I assured her Filou was fine in the car and apologized for having foolishly brought him. But, the event was not over.

When I'd arrived, the gate to the house was open, so I pushed it further and called out, Allô, and walked in with my now four friends - two American and two Avignonais. And it came across as an invasion of the most rude and dramatic sort. A major whoops occurred as my friend expressed her dismay and confusion and I felt horribly out of my depth and confused and tried to figure out where I'd so over-stepped the bounds of our friendship.

And here we are at the crossroads of very different shared memories and experiences. Thirteen years is a lot in my life -- it goes back to my arrival in Arles. And here was one of the first people I met, someone who was there while I was nursing Leo, someone who had been so instrumental in our professional lives, and also personal. One of the first to invite me to a marriage, etc., etc., Not to mention she resembled so many loved ones from home. And then, her husband was a savior in my eyes (which she actually found quite distasteful, as he is so for many a client and thus she finds his work bleeds into their home life, so I clearly touched a very sore point on that one), and, and, and... I felt so close to her, down right cuddly and grateful. But for she, I was simply that little American wife (now ex) of her dear friend, and well, a client of her husband.

Yes, whoops. However, where it is painful and rather frightening to hear how you've upset someone, it does permit you to try to right the wrong. And so I considered and reflected and then went to help her in the kitchen and try to explain myself.

In the meantime, my Avignonnais friend was doing a masterful job of smoothing things over, helping, discussing the situation, sharing notes on friends, imposition, expectations, etc.,

In the end, we came to a new understanding of our relationship and both of us are desirous of deepening it and getting to know each other better. How could a lady from Avignon have any idea that her simple Jewishness meant so much to me? Her spunk and her smarts, her education and her general energy? And, how startling for myself to have the foreignness of my being yet again thrust into the light. The relative importance of years lived, years shared, thoughts conveyed.

When you lived cut off from your family and childhood friends -- not the common experience here for the locals -- it is quite normal to give a supreme importance to friends. As the cliche goes, you can't pick your family but you can pick your friends. And so, I've often described to these friends their importance in my life, que je construit ma famille française, that I've sought to know and surround myself with marvelous beings. That I revel in them, that they are tremendously important to me.

I do not make the distinction between family and friends when it comes to being needed or called upon. I'm there for them both as I am able. And, a gifted juggler and a master of Plans B, C, D, and onward to infinity, I will do my damned best to respond.

Yes, I think of a certain person and his clear limits and distinctions between these two worlds. And I know, I never crossed the line into his box for family. I stayed outside. And thus no, he would not be there for me as he would for his mother or his daughter or his brother.

It's strange for me to confront such a way of thinking. But, I'm a traveler, I'm a recent arrival, I'm trying to dig my own roots and create a sense of belonging in a world onto which I might be permitted to graft, and in which I often struggle and flail.

Yet more lessons in humility.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Des Réparages

My first bike tour. And I'm busy checking out all the details. I've biked the two routes I knew least: up and over the Alpilles from Mouriès to Eygalières, Eygalières (and our favorite organic winery in the region) to St Rémy de Provence, then St Rémy de Provence to Avignon.

I was a bit apprehensive for the first. I've always been someone who loved to bike. For years I only had a bike not a car (in my past lives in NY and Seattle), but it'd been awhile. Could someone who walks lots and does somewhat regular yoga be able to ride over the steep Alpilles hills? And yes, no problem. Thus, if I can do it so can my clients. It's 6-7 kilometers going up and up at a relatively stable slope/pitch. I shifted gears, drank water, stopped to photograph a bit on the way, and managed fine. Oh yes, far more experienced individuals did pass me. But that's okay. I wasn't racing, I was enjoying the views of olive orchards, vineyards, shaded roads, majestic rocky cliffs. T'was well worth the ride.

I was greeted with joy and liquids by my friends at the winery (Domaine d'Eole, see their link), got my bearings and headed off to St. Rémy de Provence. There's a lovely road that parallels the main road that I could take. It is the ancient Via Aurelia (think Roman times) and is lined with some of the most spectacular country estates...

I arrived in St Remy, if not fresh, then certainly not exhausted. The total for the day was 20 or so kilometers. And though the thermometer read 41C (101F), I was easily refreshed with a cool white chocolate and fresh mint drink (or two) at the chocolatier's. Ahhhh

My second day's tour (St. Rémy to Avignon) was done in the company of dear friends from Boston/Arlington. Off we went on rented bikes, water and fruit in our sacs. We took the route I'd wanted to take, along all the smallest roads, through my favorite villages, saw the reassuring sign that noted that my favorite baker in Maillane will be back from vacation in time for my group next week (yes!) and toodled along up to the bike rental shop just beside the ramparts in Avignon.

Though we set out at 11:00, and it was already beastly hot, we managed the not-quite two hour ride with ease, though our faces did get a bit red. Many of the roads are shaded with the wonderful plane trees of Provence (aka sycamores) and biking along we felt a lovely breeze. All sweat was whisked away by the dry air, but we kept ourselves replenished with water.

Thank you friends! and thank you Provence for being so lovely. I'm now assured of the ease and pleasure of the routes I'll be taking, and bonus -- there'll be lavender fields, sunflower fields, vineyards, rocky cliffs, olive groves, canals, and sweet villages to bike through and past. Photo-ops aplenty.