Travel

Colors Of Provence II: Market Time!

by Becky on July 2, 2013 · 7 comments

in Travel

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Usually, heading to the market means: a hasty list scribbled on a post-it note. And a typical list might read: toothpaste, bagels, shoelaces for Goose’s Converse. And when it comes time to refer to the post-it note, I might realize: Oh, left it at home (which means it’s lost forever). And therefore a trip to the market becomes: guesswork.

But pretty much anywhere in Provence, heading out to the market requires absolutely no post-it note, and guesswork is of course welcome.

No one even minds that you talk to yourself, that you just continaully keep saying over and over, No!–you’re kidding me. (Like when the local macaroon maker insists you try the almond ones, then the pistachio, then the orange blossom . . .) Or that you are heard to exclaim, Oh . . . my! (Like when the endless stacks of Provencal linens frankly just defy understanding.) Or that, to whoever will listen, you insist, Smell-this-smell-this-smell-this! (Like when the fragrant, locally-made soaps make you positively silly.)

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During our trip to France, the Eleven O’Clock Dad and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. By marketing. I couldn’t imagine a grander way to ring in year twenty-six.

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The other day, a fabulous little gem waited for us just outside Roussillon, France.  We were on our way to the market and got sidetracked.  Just so you know, this is one of my favorite ways to travel:  set out, get distracted . . . and go with it.  We missed the market altogether, but the color museum, or Conservatoire Des Ocres Et De La Couleur, turned out to be a burst of happiness in an already bright day.

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First of all, I LOVE color.  I’ve sometimes put myself to sleep at night just thinking of colors that work and play well together.  Second, watching Miss Zinnia, a kindred Color Enthusiast, go neon with joy, also bumped up the color love.

Roussillon’s red cliffs, famous throughout Provence, provide more than just hue.  For decades, locals have mined the ocre to make pigments, and the color museum now lives in the old factory where it happened.

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We stayed much longer than we meant to. Truthfully, I didn’t want to leave. Where else was I going to collide with splashes of color riotous enough to put Crayola to shame? If you ever end up in Provence–especially with artistically inclined kids–you’ve got to stop in for a dose of Happy.

It’ll make you want to sing!  Honest.

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Look: Cherries! Oh Happy Day!

by Becky on June 28, 2013

in Food, Travel

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I delight in stopping by the little roadside fruit stands dotting the back roads of Provence. Everywhere, the trees are dripping cherries, and you can get a kilo of them for two or three euros, depending on which kind you’re in the mood for. Yesterday, a friendly man who looked like everyone’s Grandpa was selling them at a table on the side of the road. Enterprising gentleman. Today, we stopped on our way to Forcalquier. This time, the cherry “stand” was the tailgate of a truck, and the man selling his cherries couldn’t have looked happier to be soaking up the late afternoon sun while he waited for passersby to take the bait.

I’ve decided that the right road trip food makes all the difference. Goose kept himself busy digging for the two-fers–cherries whose stem tops are still connected–all afternoon. His hands and mind stayed busy, and his belly got full, crucial items on the “Musts For A Happy Road Trip” list.

If there’s a road trip lesson here, it’s this: stop for happy food, often. And if the food happens to be bright and beautiful, so much the better.

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Boy With A Yellow Balloon

by Becky on June 26, 2013

in Travel

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Traveling with a Caboose.  Very tricky business.  My teenage daughters could walk the markets and streets of Provence all day.  But my nine-year-old son? Brutal.

Probably because of his aversion to being dragged to one charming French village after another, the universe is kind to him. He always manages to collide with something magical.  Sometimes just the right rock parks itself in his path, begging to be kicked around for thirty minutes or so.  Other times, the perfect stick catches his eye, and it’s love at first sight.  (Sticks make awesome pretend daggers and, moreover, can be used to write cryptic messages in the dirt.)  But last Saturday night’s bit of magic takes the cake.  On the ground in a small plaza in St. Remy, France, an untethered yellow balloon, suddenly abandoned by the baby who had been playing with it, became his!

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Clearly, the gods of Childhood Distractions had bequeathed him a gift.

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That balloon kept him busy all evening.

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No other distractions came close.  Not the red bike with the nifty yellow market basket.

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Not the yellow tablecloth on the table outside the cafe, a place which might easily have distracted his mother.

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Not even the Girl With The Yellow Skirt (though she was a close second).

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Honestly, what could be better than instant liberation from an evening of aimless wandering with a Photo-crazy Dad and a Provence-crazy Trio (mom, teenage sisters)?

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Because with your own Bit Of Yellow, you’re good for the night.

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Pizza Night In Provence

by Becky on June 24, 2013 · 1 comment

in Food, Travel

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Makes perfect sense that my first little dispatch from Provence would involve praise of the local food.  Saturday night we stopped in St. Remy, wandered, got hungry, stumbled onto this pizza wagon, a little outfit calling itself Pizza Pierrot, and the rest is history.  We wolfed down two large pizzas:  a Provencal and an Olive With Ham. I have capitalized the names of both because they deserved capitalization, as all Memorable Meals do!  I believe I could have eaten a whole pizza by myself. The Provencal was especially, well, special:  marinara, roasted vegetables, cheese, and provencal herbs (a bag of which I picked up at the market in Arles earier that day.)

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The Olive Pizza_4995

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Folks’ve gotta eat, right? I love it when the right meal just sort of shows up, like it was waiting for us. And who says it wasn’t?

(More pictures and stories to come!)

 

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View through the arch to the castle_1086

About an hour north of Barcelona, on the famed Costa Brava, sits Tossa de Mar, one of my favorite spots on earth. We happened upon it last fall, the day before my birthday, and we headed up again last week, for one more visit. It’s all there: the Roman ruins, the medieval fortress up on the hill, the little sapphire bay dotted with candy-colored buoys, and an effusion of beach glass all along the shore.

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Up on the hill, tucked behind the archway of the old fortress, is my favorite cafe-with-a-view. As in, like, ever. The petals and I stumbled onto it last October, several potential birthday cakes flirting with me from a cart on the porch just inside the entrance.  We sat together on the terrace that fall day, shared a piece of cake, and gazed out across the general Mediterranean splendor of the town.

And here was the cake once again, actually calling out to me this time, saying, You know you want to be good to yourself for a minute.  (Wouldn’t you have been tempted, were a piece of cake using that kind of language with you?!)

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The cafe_1065

So we grabbed a moment that involved chocolate mousse cake and views.  Felt like my birthday all over again.  And of course we walked and hiked, Tossa being an ideal place for both, the streets of the old city an enticing place in which to lose yourself for a couple of hours.

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The cannon_1033

View down the street toward the mar_1152

View back up the same street_1199

But I have to confess that perhaps my favorite thing about Tossa are the shards of beach glass that wash up along the shore. I could spend hours just sifting through the sand, searching for the perfect piece in that magically translucent shade of aqua. Not kidding: I could live on that beach and just fritter away my mornings hunting for glass; waste my afternoons in cake and gazing; and spoil my girls by bringing them up to do the same. (Yes, yes, of course I am kidding.)

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(But you should see my collection of treasures tumbled smooth by the sea! Anyone want to teach me how to drill holes in them so the petals and I can make pulseras?–I mean, bracelets?  Wouldn’t they make fabulous gifts?! . . .)

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Lavender field

By Becky.   Image by Andyblind.

So we’re planning one last road trip before our move home. Friday we’re heading up to the south of France, to Provence. But so many places are calling out to me. Naturally we’re going to hit Avignon and the Luberon villages, and of course Aix-en-Provence. Gordes is on the list. And the Senanque Abbey. If you can believe it, I am scheduling our stops around the markets. Isle Sur la Sorgue’s is on Thursdays. Lourmarin’s, on Fridays (the fabrics look amazing). Arles’ market, held on Wednesdays and Saturdays, is known for its textiles. But Aix’s big market happens on Saturdays, too. Oh gosh–

Mostly I think I just want to stand smack in the middle of a lavender field that goes on forever, along with the petals, who will no doubt look like they have always belonged there, two flower faires at home in a riot of fragrant purple.

I have such high hopes for this trip! Any ideas about what we shouldn’t miss??

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Textures of Baeza, Spain

by Becky on June 17, 2013 · 2 comments

in Travel

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Wood.  Water.  Stucco.  Iron.  Moss.  Stone.

And:  faces.

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Jaén, Spain

Jaén, Spain

Jaén, Spain

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How Do You Style A Baguette?

by Becky on June 13, 2013

in Food, Travel

Bigote/Mustache

Finding the right baguette can be the work of a day. Or a stay. That is, since our arrival in Barcelona, I have been tireless in my quest to track down the tastiest bread.

Bigote/Mustache

Good news, folks.  I found it!  It’s the Pan Artesanal at the Forn de Pa down the street from Park Güell. Perfect crunch, perfect texture, perfect flavor. We dip it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Or slather La Vieja Fabrica’s peach jam on it. Or just carry it around and gnaw on it.

The great thing about a baguette?  You can style it any way you want, as Miss Lavender aptly demonstrates.

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Lourdes, France: Quicksketch

by Becky on June 12, 2013

in Travel

Peeking through the stone_3365

Take a peek at Lourdes, France, in the French Pyrenees.

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Climbing vines in Lourdes_3340

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Miillay and Goose in stairwell_3319

And another peek at Miss Zinnia and the indefatigable Goose, tucked away in the tower of the chateau-fort up on the hill.

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