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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Painting the Neighbor's Vineyard

The leaves on the grapevines are starting to change to their fall color....different grape varieties change differently and at their own pace. Beautiful.

Love this painting and the golden light surrounding....
I painted in watercolor up on this old stone wall as Frank was below, painting the same view in oil paint. This may be the last painting before the leaf change....
a great spot from which to paint!
And speaking of vineyards, a few Sundays ago I observed the annual mass to bless the grapes.  With so many farmers and workers tied to the vineyards for their income and so many of us who need the grapes to keep providing, this is serious stuff!  Afterwards, all unpacked their picnic baskets and ate lunch along with the wine and grapes that were available. It was a charming event...
You can see the clergy and the altar boys in their robes, facing the vineyard and sending prayers towards the vines!

During the blessing, from within the old altar of St. Marcellin, Rognes, Provence, France..
Notice the various shades of grapes on the table for sale by a group of old ladies.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Calanque-ing and Canyon-ing on Weekends


We were invited to join a family at Jorgie's school to their "cabanon" aka, a rustic cabin down on the Sormiou calanque. If you don't know what a calanque is, then you will need to do a l'il research to an earlier blog post of last month....ok, now...in the states, I always laugh when someone says they have a "cabin" or a "cottage" and when you arrive you realize it is much better equipped than your full time home and you are probably underdressed.  Well, had I known we were going to a "cabanon" I would have worn footwear for rock climbing and packed our contribution to brunch in Tupperware, not a glass pie pan to be heaved up and over rocks for the 2 miles from the gate where security mandated we park and walk. Though not at all prepared, IT WAS GORGEOUS! And, our host was unreachable (no wifi, no electricity, running water) and late. We had no idea where to go beyond down to the sea. 


ahhhhhh, this view was startling.....on one side the center of the rocky cliffs open up to reveal the dense civilization of Marseille, the other side revealed the Mediterranean off of the Sormiou Calanque. I audibly gasped when the scene spread out before me...cant prove that, no one heard me, you'll just have to believe….

Heading down to Sormiou, outside of Marseille



Found their weekend cabanon, just beyond this tiny port, it was the LAST house before the sauvage coast! Thrilling!
The cabanon, surrounded with this terrain.....it is crumbly limestone and ancient sandy soil with tons of prickly pear cactus, loaded with their thorny magenta fruit,  scrubby indigenous thyme, rosemary, lavender, sage and others. All of these scents, including the air, sea, trees, and other wafting smells are known as the smell of the "garrigue". It is why the south of France smells the way it does, and it is a thing that will always stay with me.




Inside Frederic, Claudia and Lilly's cabanon, built in 1906 by his great grandfather. they would travel by donkey with building supplies, water, etc. Now a very rudimentary pump from the cistern brings up water.

Prepared to take in the view in his own way, Frank opened his pochade box and painted this gem.
(Margi Rosenthal, is this one for you???) There is a pic of me taking in the view my way....eyes shut, mouth open drooling, with a gorgeous turquoise sea backdrop.

Day Trip...The Grand Canyon of France

Eye-scrubbingly adorable mountain town, "Moustiers-Ste-Marie" which is the gateway to the  Gorges du Verdon...there were waterfalls and mossy slopes and mountain goats and a 16th century cathedral, small streets of endless outdoor cafes, pottery tradition of Faience.... and on the OTHER end of the charm, the first public WC toilettes I've seen this trip which was a hole in the floor with squatting footpads....

Pedal boating on the Lac de Ste. Croix through the gorges. BTW, if you have the chance to pedal boat, one hour is sufficient....my quads were screaming!
Blown away by the scene from above....endless canyon and rocky limestone walls.


This week, we had a special guest chef in our home! Our friend Salam Al-Rawi (from Westville's Rawa) dropped by in his jaw dropping 1964 Caddy that he had restored in Lebanon!.....He has spent the last month driving it through Turkey, Italy, Greece, and into France. After having some minor mechanical stuff mended in Avignon, he piloted that beauty up our dead end street and stayed overnight, but not until we got busy in the kitchen....we fused Chinese rice noodles with provencal grilled zukes, lots of turmeric and other ingredients (that stained my "new" old damask linens from the Acco Decco in Aix-en-Provence, c'est dommage).

 Au revoir Salam, it was great seeing you here, even though you think my romantic notion of  "Garrigue" is bullshit!



Friday, October 5, 2018

Rognes: The "Hometown" Village Series


Rognes has so much variety for a small village, perfect for Frank:  ruins, farmhouses, miles of vineyards, churches, cobbled streets, dense village center, charming shuttered windows, doors and cars....here is just a taste of some of those things...

For those of you who are Patrons* text me if you fall in love with a sweet 5x7" (notice dimensions of all paintings in captions below) and I will ship it off once it is dry! But no need to rush, there will be many more to come...
Traspigut Vines. 10x20"oil painting by Frank Bruckmann®
Chemin in Rognes. 5x7"oil painting by Frank Bruckmann®
Traspigut Bastide. 9x12"oil painting by Frank Bruckmann®
Vineyard.Mas.Mountains 5x7"oil painting by Frank Bruckmann®
Eglise in Rognes 5x7"oil painting by Frank Bruckmann®

*Patrons have funded Frank's trip by buying a painting ahead of time. The $1000 down payment comes with a fantastic extra bonus, a gem of a 5x7" oil painting that I will send to you during our sabbatical in Provence! If you want to know more about becoming a Patron of Frank, get in touch. 




Week 5: Balades to Ansouis...Lourmarin...The Camargue



New French word to share: Balade (noun)-a ramble, wander, amble, jaunt.  You get it.... Later I'll come up with a word that expands balade as it is coupled with easels and a picnic (ideally).  We have been doing a lot of this in discovered or recommended beautiful villages and/ports all over Provence. And yet, we have BARELY scratched the surface and feel the weeks sifting by too quickly. Okay, right, live in the moment.


Ansouis came recommended by Jean-Luigi who sold us our FIAT Panda, as a lovely old village, barely 20 mins NE of Rognes. So while the teens slept in last Saturday am, Frank air lifted me to the summit of this village and then returned to his spot below, to paint, looking up at the village. I was quickly smitten with alleyways, stone paths, ceramic signs, pergolas covered over in grapes, hops, wisteria, cafes, dogs, plants, views, ancient cathedrals, all that charm in reach.
Frank and the FIAT...Look up to Ansouis above...Can you see me waving from the tippity top, next to the  cathedral???

From the top of Ansouis where the 360 view was more of this!


When he is finished with the Ansouis painting, I will post. Equally as charming, and even more of a destination for visitors/tourists is Lourmarin, with a castle and tons of shops/galleries/markets and a massive cafe culture.  We ambled, jaunted and browsed the Saturday "brocante" some antiques, some junk. Frank and I painted together but Frank returned a bunch of times to catch the light just the way he wanted it....





Lourmarin, Provence. 10x20" oil painting by Frank Bruckmann


We took a balade to the Camargue region of Provence, to the seaside town of Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer, including a visit to St. Gilles, a canal port where we'd been 18 years ago (me: preggers with Arlo who btw turned 18 this week!) to pick up our bateau de plaisance (barge). I was flooded with memories as we walked along the port... 
....and pretty sure that this little barge hadn't budged since then....
(no, we didn't rent THAT barge)

The Camargue is mostly known for it's cream colored roaming wild horses and the pink flamingos that visit on their migratory path...we visited at the Parc Ornithologique where I admit at times I have felt like this ruffled up lady with her head down in the muck....




We found a "great" place 
(because Jorgie liked the 70s-80s disco music) for lunch in Stes Maries, where in years past my bro and nephews and I had clambered up onto a cathedral roof/terrace and gazed over the Mediterranean.  This trip we witnessed the Camargue cowboys herd bulls down Main Street and into the bull ring...
The day ended with a visit to the fortified walled city of Aigues-Mortes... saw the massive tons of salt piles lining the flats, looked up to the fort's ramparts (closed), got scolded for not paying enough attention to Hazel who was sniffing and planning to lick licorice in a barrel (well...it was placed right at the height of her mouth!!!)  then hit the road to catch the sunset on a beach near a town called Grau- du-Roi. Lots of sunset seekers were parked and also sneaking dogs onto the beach to catch the last glimpse of the day....

what is that thing about owners resembling their pets????




Saturday, September 15, 2018

Swimming, Painting, Eating....Warning

The Calanques of Cassis are limestone fjords for swimming and boating.  Last weekend we drove to Cassis at the end of the day and found a parking spot near the Calanque where you can bring your dog, and hiked up and down and up and down to find a very cool swimming beach with very salty buoyant water. Even Frank swam.

Les Calanques 

Near Cassis near sundown

Add caption

JumpingJorgie:  into the warm salty water

photos by Jorgie

Sitting across from the nexus of our village, Frank painted a postcard size painting of the road to Lambesc, to the right of his easel in the photo, and moved up to this larger canvas.

Frank painting the main road in Rognes
This car is in our backyard, over the property line. Perfect for a photo shoot. Baguette, dog and kid only add to it....

Arlo, Baguette, Car, Dog.....photo credit, Jorgie.

We eat every day and some meals don't require photos....but this morning we ate a fried egg over the leftover onion tart I made the other day with tomatoes that are REAL tomatoes and, omg, the Provencal melon...but, to clarify, these are the tomatoes and melons of my youth, the ones we'd eat from the local farm near my Grandparents' home in Glen Mills, PA. Just biting into these delights and the local nectarines zipped me back in time to hot summer afternoons at Grandma's, with my brothers, eating pounds of incredibly juicy and REALLY fresh produce that I thought I'd never taste again......until now......so I am so appreciative of this small but really satisfying revelation....

Just a pretty breakfast
Caption contest: What was I risking hiking down this way????

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Our "Home" Town, Rognes.....

We chose well! This tiny village has already charmed us, and Frank has started what will be a very very productive phase. Although the narrow streets of Rognes barely accommodate two directions of traffic, this weekend enormous trucks are parked and popped open wide to create a carnival and weekend long “Fete Votive Rognes”. 


The bandstand blared with a French pop band doing covers of disco era music (lead singer looked like Barry Manilow with a very stiff wig and more make up than Tammy Faye Baker; back up singers in purple and pink satin.) All contrasted by the day time scene of cobbles, Cyprus trees, stone walls, fountains, outdoor cafes and pigeons. (see fountain photo in last blog entry!)

And this attraction, slide into a deflated water balloon, and then get blown and thrown into an inflated pool, pretend you are in a hamster ball....

Hilarious, and would NEVER be approved in the States.....

And....Frank and I married ourselves in front of my family and 2 friends, at the gorgeous Chapel St. Sixte in Egalyieres, Provence, 18 years ago....today we returned to show the kids...lovely.

Yesterday, Frank and Arlo resurfaced our gravel driveway to accommodate a BOULES court. It works. Just a bit chunky and clunky....


And after a quick dip to cool off, Frank went out to catch the afternoon light. Hazel and I met up with him on his way home.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

"When Can I Paint?" asks Frank Bruckmann while Acclimating....


Sorting out all the stuff that needs to happen (car, phones, bank stuff) has stalled Frank's focus on getting out there to paint....naturally. He has slipped away a few times locally and yesterday a trip to the airport car rental place was rewarded with a drive to the coast of Marseille where the limestone rocks tumble into the turquoise Mediterranean! We found a tiny port in a jumble of curvy roller coaster-y narrow streets and soaked in the smells and breezes for a while...and Frank had packed our paints, so we both got out there and sketched for an hour. Lovely....

Back in our new village home, I shot some pics of the surroundings:
 
and the Pamplemousse corner store sells chanterelles:

Frank walking away from the house and towards his on-site studio with determination!

That day he snuck away for a few hours to practice French with those passing by and painted this lovely little "sketch"


Thursday, August 30, 2018

100% Style, All the Way!

To the airport: 
The BRV (big red van) came with 2 overly considerate chauffeurs, Tim and Jaime, a fully stocked fridge and Riley came along as the cherry on top!
Piled into the BRV with the Kanes




Even Sushi!
At JFK posing with all our luggage (and Riley)
Across the Pond to Paris:  
Air France with personal touch screens and hours of movies, music, meditation exercises, real time flight screens; sleep masks, blankets and “refreshing wet towels” in flight. 


Touchdown at Orly, Paris.


“Comfort” Hotel in outskirts of Dijon: 
Let’s just say, the best part of the Chinese buffet (ugh) at the hotel, besides the location, was the gelato. Side note: Arlo and Frank conspired to have me unknowingly eat Kermit. And 2nd side note, not what I envisioned for my first meal in France. 

To the South of France: Le Renault Espace: roomy enough for our 4 bodies, 5 large suitcases, 4 carry-ons, dog crate and dog, but barely able to fit down village streets.

All along the autoroute: rest stops are stocked, pleasant and don’t sell dog food, but a ham sandwich sufficed. The cashier showed me pictures of her dog.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Don't Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out!




















Last days of scrambling around packing and being lured out for coffee, dog walks, dinner with friends who love Matt's cooking, a bon voyage garden party, a salty morning dip in the ocean, delightful family dinner at Rawa or just one game of darts....Frank's studio already closed, gardening tasks totally undone, dog just hoping for one more ball toss, Arlo off somewhere....

Who remembers the "Beach House" on Compo Beach in Westport? They closed the year Frank and I started dating.....one of the relics Jamie bestowed upon us is the scale we've been using to make sure all of our bags are within strict airline regulations.....it isn't the bulky things (like an old rusty scale with layers of cheese stickers) so much I love holding onto, but without them I'm afraid I will lose the attached memory. Just like Frank and I started out together then, we are moving off on another adventure together....next post from France (unless something interesting happens first)