⪧ We left our life in New York City to make a new one in Provence ⪦

February 13, 2018

Les Amandiers

By the end of January, Provence already delivers a glimpse of spring. The almond trees confer the first sign. February is a month of brutal winds and colder temperatures - it may be the most "wintery" of all the months. The blossoms seem to appear at the least likely moment. Then spring comes quickly, March feels balmy and April can be hot. Everything else blossoms in a rush - the apricots, the cherries and the apples. The vineyards and the olive trees in their turn. It all starts with the almonds though.

I took the girls and drove into the nearby valley of the Alpilles mountains (Eygalières), rich with olive and fruit groves. The early blooms of the almond trees happen first here. Earlier than our town. I am fascinated by the Alpilles and haven't spent time in them, as they are slightly further away than the Luberon range or the Calanques sea cliffs. Every movement on the map in this region reveals a totally different contour of land. It remains a total thrill to drive to a town I don't know or a field in the middle of no where.

February 5, 2018

January Flowers

I picked up the girls from school the other day. We took a drive in the hills of our town; I was scouting out new running routes. The sun squatting, the light filled our lungs with soft colors and breath. The flowers called us and we pulled over to touch them, to pick some. These white flowers are sown everywhere in Provence in the month of January. They smell of honey - almost sickly if brought inside - and they are wild, maybe even weeds. The girls were beautiful there with the flowers in their hands.


Arles is only an hour from us and we haven't explored it enough. I was doing a bit of research on the region and read about the Roman Arena in Arles. I was fascinated to learn that when Rome fell in the 5th century, the arena itself was transformed into a self-contained city. The walls of the arena fortified a circular town that contained 200 homes, a church, shops - a proper village for 13 centuries. It wasn't until the 19th century that the houses were expropriated and the space was returned to its Roman origins. Men aren't thrown in to wild animals and there are no chariot races now, but there are still bull fights here.

Colette overheard some of my historical facts and got her big, going-down-in-history eyes on. She insisted she had to go with me there to see Roman life. We agreed and we all went into Arles. An unlikely time - cold (for Provence) and drained of the pumping life the city has under the bullish sun. The arena was magical though. I believe in spirits in a place like that - walking in the dark galleries with tunnels of soft light coming through the arched passages coming through - it is otherworldly and thick with the past. Just the place for Colette. She was transfixed and wanted to rebuild Roman life. She did pause to play a game with Romy where on every step and stone ledge, they would pause and Romy would climb up and wait for Colette to get in position for her to jump down into her arms. They wanted to do this on every possible occasion and given the setting, the game lasted a very long time.

We also snaked through the streets of Arles - oddly grim in the season, but beautiful. The girls were moved by the Roman ruins and amphitheater just down the street from the Arena. Romy looks like a tiny speck climbing the stairs of the amphitheater. Colette plunked down among the ruins around the amphitheater and wanted a brush and archeology tools to start making sense of the mess. She just wanted to restore it all to Roman life!

"You didn't even bring a brush? No tools at all?"

January 31, 2018

Fort de Buoux

A sunny January Provence day means that when positioned just right, leaning against a nice rock on a hillside, even the crest of your ears gets heated. We were all running around these ruins without jackets, steeped in sun. The ruins are the Fort de Buoux, deep in the Luberon mountains. We were all alone up here, with a lot of history for company. Troglodyte houses - built into the stone, a medieval fort, early Christian tombs, 13th century church ruins and on and on. It is a special place - I had been before and regardless of the season there are very few others up there along the cliffs. The exposure is frightening (especially with two little ladies; one who is a real daredevil) and you walk away with a real appreciation for the extreme defense measures taken to sustain life in the middle ages. I love exploring places like this with Colette and Romy. Colette is just full of questions about every stone and its original purpose and placement. Romy is just running wild - can't wait to see around the next bend.

This breakneck staircase was built straight into the cliff. It was the only moment in the day when I questioned my judgement as a parent.

January 7, 2018

Queen of the galette

One of our favorite French traditions (and one that we've celebrated consistently over the years) is the Galette des Rois. Most French families fête the coming of the three kings at the Epiphany, ~January 6. The traditional cake of pastry and an almond paste contains a figurine or a fève. The youngest child at the celebration hides under the table and directs who gets which part by calling out names as the cake is served. Romy was a star this year and made her sister Colette the queen.

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