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November 23, 2013

Avignon

By Maryanna Gabriel 

Palais Du Papes
The Madonna
"Sur le pont, d’Avignon
l’on y danse, l’on y danse"


Ahhhh, Avigon.
This ancient walled city is teeming with life, people, shops, cafes, and at its heart on the Rhone River, is the famous bridge, the Pont D'Avignon which is only half there because it was blown up. The commanding Palais Du Papes is the focal point of the city. Here the kings of France fought for possession of Avignon and the popes of Rome came to live. The streets are cobblestone and it is here one can walks and sense the ages. We had a great hotel between the bridge and the famous palace and I was sad to say goodbye as some of us parted ways. The rest of us prepared for the next leg of our journey, onto Languedoc and the Cote Vermeille. 

Restaurant In Front Of The Palais
Merry Go Round & Theatre

November 15, 2013

“Les Pappesses” - An Art Show In Avignon

By Maryanna Gabriel 
  
Palais Des Papes
The Stairway Was Covered With These
I love to go to art galleries and modern art galleries in particular. I feel I can sense the mood of the people, the temperature of the culture, and more particularly I am curious how the modern French express themselves. I walked into a show called “Les Papesses” set in the Palais Des Papes (Palace Of The Popes). Five female artists were expressing their thoughts on the historic papacy, a particularly strong bastion of patriarchy, in vivid visual iconography. The papacy moved their headquarters to Avignon for a period. The Palais Des Papes was where they lived.  Pope
Larger Than Life
Joan was a feature of the show and why the show was given the name. (It is told that Pope John VIII was a man dressed as a woman. Her gig was up when she gave birth while parading the streets on a horse. The story goes the mob killed her. The Vatican denies this story but there are discrepancies in the historical record, there is a missing pope in the numerical sequence. Proof enough for me. I digress.) I wandered through the palace with my jaw dropping at the glorious expression of femininity, at times not so pretty. Next to the sarcophagus of dead cardinals, for example, was art so shocking it verged on sacrilegious yet in today’s culture the art show was all very respectable. I had to grin at the shifting sands of what is culturally sanctioned. 


Enormous Metal Spider In The Nave

November 8, 2013

Menerbes

By Maryanna Gabriel

“We loved the vines – the ordered regularity of them against the sprawl of the mountain, the way they changed from bright green to darker green to yellow and red as spring and summer turned to autumn.” Peter Mayle


Restored Houses
Walled Ramparts
Ancient Architecture
Maison De La Truffes Et Du Vin
Vineyards In The Valley Below
Menerbes is situated on a hill and is a charming medieval village considered by many to be one of the most beautiful in France. It overlooks the Luberon Valley and is flanked by Mont de Vaucluse and Mont Ventoux and the foot hills of the French Alps. Peter Mayle’s book “A Year In Provence” wrote of life here and the Provence Guide states “Menerbes has survived centuries of strife and Peter Mayle remarkably well.” The former was because of religious warring between the Catholics and the Protestants with extensive cannonball damage and the latter certainly accelerated a migration and tourist influx contributing to the restoration of the ancient buildings. There is an air of wealth amid the stones and shutters and one can look out from the walled ramparts to the vineyards in the valley below. We went for a wine tasting, of course, at “Maison De La Truffes Et Du Vin”, a pleasant experience.  Menerbes is very close to the de Sade chateau and was home to Picasso’s Dora Maar and other notorious individuals. I enjoyed a quiet walk through the town to the very top where the uncomplaining residents there enjoyed the best view in the local cemetery. 


November 3, 2013

Lacoste

By Maryanna Gabriel

“...[we were] living among men and women whose interest in food verges on obsession....”
Peter Mayle
  
Lacoste
Luberon Mountains
Time Seems To Stand Still
Peter Mayle, author of “A Year In Provence” lived between Lacoste and Mernerbes and I can see why. It is beautiful and unspoiled. His book was so successful he was inundated by “lookie-loos” and he eventually had to move. They moved to Martha’s Vineyard and it would seem they have relocated again to Languedoc – location undisclosed. Lacoste is set in a sweeping valley of cultivated fields, overlooking the Luberon mountains and is an area of charm, rife with history. Here is a bridge that dates back to the first century built by the Romans. Lacoste’s most notorious resident, the Marquis de Sade did contribute to theatre and the town has an artistic reputation. Peter Mayle writes extensively of mouth watering details on culinary day trips to local eateries in this valley that are often difficult to locate and known to the locals in homes and courtyards. In Lacoste I walked by a window that had numerous tables and chairs with no sign on the outside. We hiked up behind the medieval looking town to luxurious more recently built residences but they hadn't the stupendous views. I guess the time to buy was 100 AD.