February 25, 2018

The Camargue

I like to call it "going on safari" and I think it might qualify as such, when catching sight of wild flamingos is part of the day. On a February Sunday, Colette, Romy and I climbed into the car and headed to the Camargue. Not far, just about an hour away, between Arles and the Mediterranean Sea, where marshy plains reign. We really did feel as if we had found a new land. The Camargue is famous not only for its flocks of flamingos, but also for wild white horses and its bulls. We didn't know exactly where we were going, or which path to take, but I like it that way. We got out and walked along a salt flat and saw flocks of flamingos flying in formation - magnificent in flight. We counted fourteen together with some other French kids.

Romy made sure her baby had a good view of the flamingos

Then we made our way to a beach. I sort of thought the adventure was over, but another one unfolded there. Colette forthwith ran to the sand just on the edge of the water and started her work creating Egyptian pyramids. Romy had fallen asleep in the car and I gently carried her out to the shore and sat in the sand with her in my arms. Her hand fell down on the warm sand (the day was chilly, but the sand had a warming effect - heated by the sun). The touch of the sand called her from her sleep and her little eyes fluttered open and a huge grin broke out on her face. It was so sweet - she was just enchanted to awake to find the ocean in her ears and warm sand on her skin. She spent the rest of the afternoon throwing herself onto the sand, laughing almost madly and then running to the water to call out songs, hands spread in the air. Pure performance. Colette's work was more serious and her pyramids eventually took beautiful form, one hand checking the angle the whole while. With very few people around, it was a moment dangling in time - all our own.

A mountain of the famous salt, the "Sel de Camargue" produced here

February 22, 2018


Our other life in New York seems so far away...we are approaching two years in Provence and it just feels golden. I have an unfading list of places I'd like to go, all within an hour's drive of our house. I read this thing about "flow" - the mental state of total engagement, forgetting time, etc, and I feel that so much of the time here, just out exploring and breathing in the world around us. The other day I was in between two things and found myself driving through the port town of Martigues. Fascinating spot, with its 13th c. origins, canals and waterways like Venice, its gas lamps, cobblestone streets lining the ports and its hue-medley of houses and shutters. So photogenic.

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 12, 2018

Spitfire drives

We love taking this little roadster for spins around Provence. Xavier's been bricolaging it for days. I think he is going to open his own shop at some point.

February 5, 2018

February 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.

February 4, 2018


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?"

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