Catalonia Art

yesterday we went to visit the Catalonia art museum
I mostly spent time walking through the modern art exhibit
rooms and rooms of paintings, sculptures, furniture, drawings, metal work, photography
you name it
the great thing was that I only knew very few of the artists
there might have been one Picasso and one Dali
of course there were some Miro
but otherwise I really didn’t know much
and how refreshing
and exciting
to discovery all this art
here is some of it

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December 21st
it’s hard to believe
I see the Santas here and there
a few decorations
but really walking around Barcelona
wearing a light shirt under a sunny sky
I don’t feel like Christmas is in a very few days

My son Sam joined us this week
we had said good bye to the hills of Provence
spent a day in Marseille
got off the bus really early one morning in the city of Gaudí
and a few days later Sam was here, on our door step
not in my computer talking to me on skype
but right there in front of me
sleepily standing between his brother and sister who picked him up at the airport
Could I possibly want anything else
my three babies for Christmas
my three adult babies
maybe that’s even more special

Barcelona is great and I should tell you all about it
but in a way
at this point in our trip
it is more like a shell that holds us all
a beautiful shell I must say
it is where we get together as a family for a precious amount of time
where we walk and talk
shop (mostly for food) and cook and drink
laugh and snuggle
where we just hang out and enjoy being together

it is precious isn’t it
once the kids grow up
once life takes us apart
when we all fly our own direction
to be able to take the time
make a pause
and reconnect with our dear ones

of course there’s always someone missing
make that a plural
my son’s fiancé
our moms and dads
brothers and sisters
nieces and nephews
the list goes on

But for what I have I am thankful

I wish you who may read this blog a happy Christmas
I wish you to spend time with anyone who is dear to you
may it be family or friend, make the best of it
Merry Christmas!

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coming to an end

as this day wears off so does this part of our trip
two days ago Isaac and Haley left for Paris
Isaac taking his belle to the last leg of her trip
she will be going home for Christmas

these past two days were spent doing small tasks
going one last time down to the village
enjoying the 2km path through the woods
looking again and again at this beautiful scenery
soaking it in
saying good bye to the butcher
buying one last almond croissant (make that three actually)

over a month has gone by already
our long time dream of Provence to be over


today for the first time since the beginning of this trip we had nothing on our agenda
first day of no work, no visiting, no traveling
I walked around the property
I took my time
I walked through the olive grove, into the woods
Geraldine was telling me how wild this place was ten years ago
the way she speaks makes me think of an archeological dig
it was all forest
they did an enormous amount of work to bring it to what it is now

I admire the stone work
some has been redone, some, in the woods, is barely visible
I can’t help to think about the past
who built these walls
what were they for
olive trees?
in places huge trees have taken roots
how old are they

I walk some more
at the spring I pick up the clay cup and I have a sip
I go by tall rosemary bushes
it’s hard not to
I rub my hands with their essence
I look down at the rolling hills
in the distance I see the village
on my back the cliff stands tall
no clouds are caught in it today
I look at the olive groves all cleaned up
much work was done there

this week, working away in the sun, I stopped for a moment and thought how content I was to be outside in such a beautiful environment
yes, this experience has been good

our work is done here and our journey to continue
tomorrow we will be off to Barcelona
this coming week we will reunite with our son Isaac and our son Sam who is joining us for the holidays
now that for me will be Christmas

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Monsieur Robert

monsieur Robert
is a gentleman
of provencal decent

at 82 (almost three)
he embodies
the essence of his time

one short meeting
and we are invited to his dwelling on the hill
an offer to a typical meal follows

salade sauvage is on the menu
excited we walk alongside the wise men through the olive grove
looking for a leaf an another that really
to me
looks like dandelion

the cabanon is simple and oh so cozy
in the corner an open fire burns
I – love – the – fire – place
it looks like olden days
later he will put a grill on the coals and roast some lamb chops
cooking on an open fire in an open room
I want this

Monsieur Robert speaks provencal
he speak french with a southern accent like everyone here
but he also speaks provencal
which has it’s own twist and flavor and sounds a little spanish to me
way cool

the meal starts with “l’apéro”
today an anise liqueur diluted in water
one may add currant syrup and call it “une tomate”
one could add mint syrup instead and call it “un perroquet”
fruit or bird it’s a good way to start off

we try anchoïade on croutons
anchoïade is an anchovy paste mixed with garlic and olive oil
yes, it is salty
and what is salty is also tasty
and addictive
add needs to be washed down with “l’apéro”
one must know how to dose
it’s all good

Monsieur Robert made us a “gratin dauphinois”
the french are very clever in naming dish
all sounds terribly fancy
when in fact all is mostly terribly rich
a gratin dauphinois is a potato casserole with lots of cream, some garlic
it is topped with cheese and if that was not enough Monsieur Robert likes to finish off with a yolk glaze
now we all have to agree that gratin dauphinois does sound regal
and it is
hence the spelling

Monsieur Robert treats us well
the chops are cooked to perfection
wine is served
conversation flows
all are content

after a little while
when we think we are done
one realize we forgot the salad
“Oh mon Dieu!” we can’t skip the wild one
and so it is washed and dressed and we all get a good portion

at the table I am facing: my daughter Charlotte, my son Isaac and his beautiful fiancée Haley
as we are all eating the most bitter salad we ever got to taste
(imagine a full bowl of dandelion leaves)
I refrain a growing amount of laughter from cascading out
everyone’s face is slightly distorted as we chew
it simply tastes awful
to our palate lets be clear
we’re just not use to this
we all do our best and mostly finish it all
Monsieur Robert, innocently asks us how we like it
he knows
secretly he is having fun with us Canadian

hours later after coffee, a shot of Chartreuse, some ice cream
after the game of Rugby
on tv
Toulon won
that was a good thing
hours later we leave
cheek, cheek, kiss, kiss
with this provencal saying:
“À l’an que vèn ! Se sian pas mai, que siguen pas mens”
which means:
“Until next year! If we are not more, let’s not be less”

Thank you monsieur Robert


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La Sainte Baume

c’est une grotte a flan de montagne
dans une forêt domaniale
où des rois, des papes, et multiples pèlerins ce sont rendus
où l’apôtre du Christ aurait vécu
33 ans
c’est ce qu’on dit

c’est un sentier que l’on emprunte
et plus ça monte plus on se tait
plus on s’imbibe du lieu

je ne sais trop à quoi m’attendre
je ne pratique pas de religion
je suis par baptême catholique
j’aime pourtant visiter les églises
les petites, les mine de rien, me plaisent beaucoup
Notre Dame m’a déçue
trop bruyant, trop de touriste, trop imposant, trop de gargouille
qu’est ce que c’est tout ça

à la monté on entend les cloches
la beauté du son à travers la forêt

en arrivant au sommet un panorama époustouflant
il a plu beaucoup ces derniers temps
ce jours là, les nuages s’accrochent encore
une vallée, des montagnes à l’horizon
des nuages qui se prélassent et ne sont pas pressés de se dissiper
du coton

à l’entrée de la grotte les portes sont ouvertes
à l’intérieur un service religieux est en cour
un groupe d’écolier participe à la messe
nous attendons
je ne souhaite pas déranger

je regarde autour
une petite boutique de souvenir attend son moine pour l’ouverture
à côté une porte ouverte offre un abri au voyageur
je vais voir
c’est tout simple
ça besoin d’un coup de balai
au coin on peut faire du feu
quelques fagots de bois, des allumettes, l’âtre
c’est tentant avec l’humidité qui règne
une grande table permet la convivialité
une bouilloire pour une tasse de thé
sur des étagères se trouve plusieurs boites de jeux de société
pour tout âge
quelques vieilles peluches ornent une tablette
quel âge ont-elles?
qui les a aimé?

Cet endroit me plaît
d’une simplicité et d’une générosité désarmante

un brouhaha attire mon attention
le service est fini
les enfants sortent
quelques jeunes serveurs de messe, vêtu de blanc, s’amusent avec leurs chandelles
c’est bruyant, ça rigole, le silence de la montée du coup s’évapore
le moine, le père, le frère
comment les nomme-t-on?
sont joyeux
rien d’austère dans ce tableau

nous pénétrons dans la grotte
le silence reprend sa place
interrompu méthodiquement par le ploc ploc des gouttes d’eau
nous sommes dans une grottes où la pluie s’infiltre
de partout

dans la grotte il y a l’autel
des bancs tout simple qui peuvent être déplacés
quelques statues
des plaques de remerciement
des bougies à allumer
des bougies pour faire pause, penser, prier
j’en allume une pour ma sœur Dominique
une autre pour ma tante Lucie
de l’eau salée sur mes joues

le temps passe
je ressors
je vais au petit magasin pour voir
quelques enfants s’achètent des médailles
des prières
des souvenirs
un père béni ce que les enfants achètent
j’attends que la foule passe
je regarde
j’hésite entre deux petites médailles de la vierge
j’en choisi une
j’aime bien une autre médaille
c’est qui, je demande
je souris, parfait, je la prends
et puis finalement l’autre de la vierge aussi
trois petites médailles dans ma main
le père est toujours là
debout près du comptoir
je lui demande s’il voudrait bien bénir mes médailles à moi aussi
ça peut pas faire de mal
et finalement ça me fait très plaisir


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