With any luck, I’ll be able to share in this post many photos that will give you a sense of what we’ve been up to in the last month since I’ve written here. We’ve been traveling and exploring, golfing and painting, and all the while with a heightened awareness that we will be leaving here in just two months. Oh, that now sounds like much too soon. Yet our plans for re-entry move forward with a landing date in SLO of September 7, with a stop-over in Philadelphia for a few days before.
First, a little vignette from a recent day here in the garden in Aix. It was Tuesday, a day when a small group of painters gather to work on various projects, and I was there planning my next painting. Simone, the 92-yr-old mother of Monique (our landlady and art instructor/artist), was sitting in the sun nearby, enjoying all the activity. Along with guiding the artists, Monique was fielding myriad questions from some of the building’s new tenants about school for their children, how to navigate health insurance forms, where to find the best stores, etc. The languages circling around the garden like hummingbirds were Russian, French and English (with strong Australian accent) and the ages ranged from 8-92. In a quiet aside I mentioned to Simone my continuing amazement at Monique’s ability to respond with such openness and generosity to all the demands that her work as artist and proprietor require. Simone replied -” it is UNESCO here”. (“United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – encourages international peace and universal respect by promoting collaboration among nations.”) She went on to explain that this house that has been in the family for six generations has always been like this. Before Monique, her uncle served the same kind of role. But it takes a special kind of open mind and heart to do this. Monique’s passion and joy in life is to bring people together, to connect them to each other and to the pleasures of life in Provence. She is a most remarkable person. As is Dominique, her husband.
Now to the pictures:
From everyday life in Aix-en-Provence you will see Evy at the Barrage de Bimont. She arrived as the poppies came into full bloom. Then you will meet Adrian and Vincent, my two favorite guys. Adrian runs “Coffee to Go” where I get my favorite latte almost every day. Vincent is an instructor at Aix-Marseille University, loves to speak english and explain french to us neophytes. He is a fund of information. Then you will see Jacques, my coiffeur, from whom I’m learning to understand the strong accent of southern France.
Evy came from SLO to spend almost a week here in Aix, her former home during student days not so long ago.
In mid-June we drove to Milan, Italy with Monique and Dominique to see their daughter Charlotte dance principal roles with the Aterballetto company at the famous Piccollo theater. It was magnificent contemporary ballet, and Charlotte is a true star. During our six days in Italy, we also drove to lake Como and lake Garda, and spent a night in the city of Bergamo. The mountains of northern Italy are spectacular.
It’s hard to take photos of these enormous churches. This one fills most of a city block and opens onto a plazza. Like so many of these famous buildings that were constructed and re-constructed over many centuries, it represents many different styles of architecture.
So many old homes all over Europe have been converted to include rooms or suites or cottages for tourists. This one is tucked into a hillside in the suburbs of Bergamo with gardens, forest and swimming pool. The beautiful renovated building is the main one for guests and there is another wing of unpainted stone walls where the family lives. This home has been in the family for several generations. Three generations live here now, the middle one serving as hosts for the B&B as well as holding down day jobs as lawyers in the town of Bergamo.
Our trip home from Italy took us through Turin and into the Alps. It was a thrilling sensation to be surrounded by snow-capped mountains for hours. The roads were narrow and winding along cliffs and by lakes. Quite fun. The only downside to our time in Italy was to see the extent of the serious air pollution in the northern industrial areas, including Turin, which has made its way deep into the mountain landscapes. We were surprised that the mountains didn’t serve as barriers, but instead trapped the foul air in valleys. Further along, into France, the air was much clearer.
I wanted to include in this post our trip to Scotland which we made right after we got back from Italy, but I realize it’s just too much for one sitting. In a few days I’ll write about golf and Scotland and sheep, and share a video of the fiddle & bagpipes I recorded at a little pub on the Isle of Sky.
Stay tuned – I’ll be right back after a quick trip to join Ken at Digne-les-Bains where he is competing with his local team in a regional golf tournament. We will peel off for a little excursion into the french alps and Grenoble for a couple of days. What a life!
We wish you well.
Karen and Ken