from Murs

March 21, 2015

murs 1

A magnificent château dominates Murs . Murs was the haven and place where all the protestants (Cabrieres, Lacoste, Gordes) had settled to escape the persecution in mid 16th C.  – women,  children and old men. The feared baron of Oppede sent a lieutenant who started to defile the women and young girls, kill them and burn everything down they could find. Francois Morenas, a great Luberon specialist wrote about Murs:” Five years after the massacres their dried bones were still lying there”.

The walls circling the château are a thing of beauty. The building is privately owned and has quite a good deal of ‘f…k off’ emanating  but it’s not a spa or apparently hideously ruined by the corporate world, maybe  – who knows, all is hidden and discreet  . . .  . the trees are splendid.

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murs wall

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Muscari are appearing in fields and verges. The acres of cherries and olive groves are carpeted with regular lines of  dandelion sometimes mixed with Eruca, wild rocket.  We decided on the Tour de Bérigoule circuit – 13kms – covering the valleys, the ‘balcones’ – the path that follows the contour of the rock face and offers up framed views to the east – and the 5 grottoes of a landscape that has strong historic references.

path

Good to look back and see the path that was covered early on . . .

view

rocks

. . . and the spoon shaped rock face to the west. While views from the balcones across the valley are quite mesmerizing . . .

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. . . dropping down to La Bouisse, passing a cerisaie where good management was evident. Prunings well stacked and just the start of the flowering performance. Of the prunus family, the almonds are in full flower with a delicious scent and apricots too nearer Orange.

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cherries2

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On the return to Murs. a formidable white oak stands sentinel at the entrance to the village – 16m spread.

quercus

It’s 3pm – school is finished and so are we after a long slightly taxing walk but that’s OK.

school

In a house which becomes a home,
one hands down and another takes up
the heritage of mind and heart,
laughter and tears, musings and deeds.
Love, like a carefully loaded ship,
crosses the gulf between the generations.
Therefore, we do not neglect the ceremonies
of our passage: when we wed, when we die,
and when we are blessed with a child;
When we depart and when we return;
When we plant and when we harvest.
Let us bring up our children. It is not
the place of some official to hand to them
their heritage.
If others impart to our children our knowledge
and ideals, they will lose all of us that is
wordless and full of wonder.
Let us build memories in our children,
lest they drag out joyless lives,
lest they allow treasures to be lost because
they have not been given the keys.
We live, not by things, but by the meanings
of things. It is needful to transmit the passwords
from generation to generation.  Antoine de Saint-Exupery

the old village

January 7, 2015

cupressus 1

The terraces in Oppède-le-Vieux hold a decent collection of native plants – all labelled with correct nomenclature and explanation for herbal or culinary use if applicable –  but it’s difficult to concentrate on these when the panorama is so splendid – the Luberon valley, Mont Ventoux and part of the Vaucluse  – like tiers of old stage flats punctuated with pencil slim cypress. Clients often express the misguided notion that trees will block the view but there are ways of planting trees to emphasise the view as shown here . . .

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These terraces are dedicated to Sainte Cécile. Flat plates of Umbilicus rupestris – navelwort – are springing forth now in the crevices not only here but in many dry stone walls in the area. Below is the site of the old threshing floor – aire de battage – now an angular foot print but originally it would have been circular so more practical for the tethered animal to do his or her circuit.

threshing floor 3

From here, the old village is seen spread across the north facing side of the Petit Luberon. The winter sun starts casting its shadow by midday so houses beyond the medieval ramparts are dark, humid and tricky to maintain apparently. The domination of the restored church of Notre-Dame-D’Alidon and the ruins of the castle are felt from a distance as well as within the village streets. I found it a charming and quirky place and many others have enjoyed it and settled here. Following the armistice of June 1940, architect Bernard Zehrfuss founded a commune of artists in the old town, a project that attracted French sculptor  François Stahly and the writer and artist Consuelo de Saint Exupéry. The commune proved short-lived but, interestingly, it was the basis for Saint Exupéry’s fictionalized account, published in 1946, called  ‘Kingdom of the Rocks’.

view to chateau

town hall

Looking at close up details, the clock and bell tower on the town hall and then at even more smaller scale . . .

knocker

figurine stutuette

. . . a statuette, religious of course, as the Popes, based in Avignon, dabbled religiously and relentlessly here. The main route up to the church and castle was the village street; access points of the wash houses and modest homes are still evident . . .

blocked up 1

blocked up 2

blocked up 3

 

chapel of white penitants

. . . they retain a theatrical  feel (like a discarded film set) of the past – very beautiful and evocative. In the 19th century, the inhabitants had enough and started to move down in the valley, dismantling the roof of their houses to stop paying property taxes. By the beginning of the 20th century, Oppède-le-Vieux was a ghost village and a new community was officially established in the valley, with larger streets, cosier houses and farmers closer to their fields – the new village – Oppède-les-Poulivets (“nice view” in Provençal),

The Chapel of the White Penitents is set half way up the stepped ramp path, beautifully laid, and then, in the full light at the summit sits the church (12C) and the medieval fortress.

church steps

Spacious steps with integrated landings below cantilevered gargoyles lead to a rocky unmanicured area where temporary safety fencing protects the castle – an engineered structure integrated within the natural environment. Work due to start in 2015.

gargoyle

chateau 2

chateau 1

chateau

chateau detail

A line of Renaissance villas line the north facing rock face – a mix of superbe, mysterious and the fairytale. Glamorous and expensive.

renaissance villas

villa detail

Sitting in the cemetery, something I do in a regular fashion, and looking beyond the walls, the tiers of vegetation – ivy in flower, Viburnum tinus in berry, olive, oak and pine gave me goosebumps. And then the surface of the wall, encrusted with stonecrop. Marvellous.

vegetation layers

cementary wall

Despite the open window in the room of long absence, the odor of the rose is still linked with the breath that was there. Once again we are without previous experience, newcomers, in love. The rose! The field of its ways would dispel even the effrontery of death. No grating stands in the way. Desire is alive, an ache in our vaporous foreheads.

One who walks the earth in its rains has nothing to fear from the thorn in places either finished or unfriendly. But if he stops to commune with himself, woe! Pierced to the quick, he suddenly flies to ashes, an archer reclaimed by beauty. René Char.

dimanche après-midi

December 29, 2013

maison carre

Eyes up within the portico of the Maison Carrée  in Nimes – the stepped entrance, fluted columns and the compact nature of the portico – encourage the upward gesture. At this festive time however, action and noise compete to steer the glance across to the ice rink installed as a gay, colourful and interactive lower platform between the old and the new –  in an architectural sense. The new is the Carrée d’Art de Foster which becomes a fitting background to the leisure requirements of the Nimoise today .. . . . .

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carre d'art

. . wandering around to the Boulevard Victor Hugo, late afternoon sun arrives on the  facade and the light pushes the foreground elements – branches and street decorations  – into strong definition.

boulevard victor hugo

quai de la fontaine

Turning left to wander along the Quai de la Fontaine on the way to the Jardins, the beauty of the plane trees  arching discreetly to their opposite partner frames the sedate but apposite water feature .. .

jardins de la fontaine

. .  the usual activities are happening on the ground. And the usual effects are happening on the vertical elements . . .

jardins de la fontaine 2

jardins de la fontaine 3

jardins de la fontaine 4

. . . in the park, families engage in their own festive enjoyment and the permanent inhabitants oversee all.

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jardins de la fontaine 6

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The Jardins de la Fontaine were the first public gardens constructed in France,  50 years after Versailles built by the King for himself. The town is justly proud of this great garden and it is well used by all generations. As so often the case in France, the scale remains superb – the pattern and the form still have an integrity – with proportions that many designers nowadays can only dream about.

jardins de la fontaine 8

jardins de la fontaine 9

Wandering back by the Arènes, starlings provide the performance skywards. A murmuration  – exquisite formations    – float with exact organisation forwards and backwards across the sky gathering before coming home to roost . . . .

murmuration 1

murmuration 2

murmuration 3

. .  at the junction of Rue de l’Ecluse (home/roost) and Avenue Carnot stands a palm. Phillippe Starck has created an installation  – Abribus –  inspired by an ancient Roman symbol which is found on both the coin and on the shield of the city, and features the two symbols of the city, the crocodile and palm tree. The marble design is a small line of solid cubes that reach the tree and are the tail and neck, and a large bucket, supported by its four vertices showing the animal’s body. As the light falls and decorative lighting comes to the fore. A strange and succesful installation  that typifies ‘ the seen and the unseen’. That typifies The Little Prince.

abribus1

abribus 2

“People where you live,” the little prince said, “grow five thousand roses in one garden… yet they don’t find what they’re looking for…

They don’t find it,” I answered.

And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water…”

Of course,” I answered.

And the little prince added, “But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.”

Antoine de Saint Exupery  The Little Prince 

a Christmas present to myself

December 26, 2013

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Walking in a landscape with trees is one of my most favourite things. A suggestion that we might get out from family Xmas indoors stuff was grabbed at. We needed to go to a landscape that would be user friendly for the youngest member of the family and his special Xmas present, so we came to the Barrage de Bimont which along with the smaller Barrage Zola holds most of the water for the town of Aix. The main path weaves its way easily through the rocky surroundings. Blustery wind and threatening clouds moved around us – along with other families, runners and singletons . . . .

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. . . .  this is a pine and holm oak landscape with a few cedars sprinkling the edge of the pathway network making up the tall structure – cistus and lentiscus the prevalent second storey. Careful management of the twiggy planting gives the ground plane a presence, filters the wind and also provides beautiful visual effects – the trunks of the holm oaks carefully cleaned to show the character of the plant.

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Heavy rain on the gentle slopes had left ‘fun’ elements . . . and he only needed a push on the odd occasion – such energy, resilience and joie de vivre.

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I couldn’t have wished for a better outing – like a pig in muck.

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Back in town, festive activities are of course totally human based – some want to exercise for leisure and some need to entertain for a few coins; some require churches to reflect and worship in. I simply put myself back within the barrage landscape. Won’t forget it and lots of love, T, C + H..

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In a house which becomes a home,

one hands down and another takes up

the heritage of mind and heart,

laughter and tears, musings and deeds.

Love, like a carefully loaded ship,

crosses the gulf between the generations.

Therefore, we do not neglect the ceremonies

of our passage: when we wed, when we die,

and when we are blessed with a child;

When we depart and when we return;

When we plant and when we harvest.

Let us bring up our children. It is not

the place of some official to hand to them

their heritage.

If others impart to our children our knowledge

and ideals, they will lose all of us that is

wordless and full of wonder.

Let us build memories in our children,

lest they drag out joyless lives,

lest they allow treasures to be lost because

they have not been given the keys.

We live, not by things, but by the meanings

of things. It is needful to transmit the passwords
 from generation to generation.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery  Generation to Generation.

quietude

February 24, 2013

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Still frames are revealed in winter – there’s a clarity which the summer light diffuses – projections, simple statements, unexpected compositions. More wonderment on the exterior wall of Saint-Martin, the main church in San-Rémy-de –Provence,  than within the dark interior – the organ is famous not only for for the sound it produces but also its ‘chest’.

san remy church interior san remy cloisters portrait

Another religious building to the south of town has a cloistered garden. Saint Paule de Mausole is still a psychiatric hospital  – van Gogh was treated there before returning to the north and ending his life. His output during that year was prolific mainly focused on  the gardens and the countryside of Les Alpilles. Enclosed gardens are a big draw. This cloistered space was shut to visitors but, a small door was left enticingly open, so the opportunity to breathe in a little of the peaceful atmosphere was quickly taken!

san remy cloisters

Iris unguicularis just coming into flower . . . van Gogh painted the many of forms of iris flowering here.

iris unguicularis

san remy tour

Purity in another form – of stone and architecture – just close by at the ancient site of the Roman city. The mausoleum of the Julii and the triumphal arch stand intact. The carved dedication: SEX · M · L · IVLIEI · C · F · PARENTIBVS · SVEIS
Sextius, Marcus and Lucius Julius, sons of Gaius, to their forebears.

san remy tour 3

san remy arch close up

Corinthian columns support the  chapel with a conical roof carved in a fish scale pattern. Gorgons, quadrifons, putti and cupids are also included in the carvings of mythical and legendary scenes of battle between the Greeks and their enemies – Amazons + Trojans. Acanthus foliage, the plant of the Roman mortuary, included too as a sign of eternal rebirth. The image below shows the scale.

san remy tour 2

The triumphal arch, the Northern gate, to the city of Glanum is carved with figures of Gaullish prisoners showing the power of Rome and the threat of what might happen if . . . .

san remy arch san remy arch landscape san remy arch 2

. . high above Eygalières, stand the ruins of the château and the Chapelle des Pénitents. Pine trees surround the 17C buildings which dominate the olive and vine filled countryside lining the path of the Durance river.

pine church landscape church walls view

A peaceful Saturday with a little activity for those who play Pétanque.

view 2   petanque “When I opened my eyes I saw nothing but the pool of nocturnal sky, for I was lying on my back with out-stretched arms, face to face with that hatchery of stars. Only half awake, still unaware that those depths were sky, having no roof between those depths and me, no branches to screen them, no root to cling to, I was seized with vertigo and felt myself as if flung forth and plunging downward like a diver.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand, and Stars

In the crazed mirror of my eye
the world is flawed irrevocably,
I walk without the grace of sight,
who made my whole world visually.

What giant hand above my head
shattered the mirror of the sky,
and left me with a blinded face;
dependent on an inner eye
to recreate the universe,
to force into the face of light
a world so faceted and bright,

refracting light, reflecting love,
out of an eye so picked with pain,
that none can see it, none can build
such private glasshouse in the brain. Dorothy Hewett  The Glass-House

writers in the woodland

October 17, 2012

One side of the path in the sunlight with soft, buttery grasses in late summer contrasts with the other side – slightly shadier and consequently with a greenish layer on the floor plain of ferns. This point is the start of the walk  IGN Map 2543 (St Gervais), and by the fitness trail, for those who enjoy a randonée . . . .

. . . a randonée through La Forêt deas Ecrivans Combattants, in memory of writers who died in combat in both wars – allées and paths are named after them, so, for example, Rond-point Maurice Bourder, Belvedere P Chanlaine and Allée de Lt – Col. De Malléray are to be seen.  It’s an evocative place and pleasingly organised – thoughtful in concept and implementation. Also to be seen now are the sweet chestnuts gorgeously fruiting on the lower slopes. Such abundance!

The monuments resemble tomb stones although made of concrete. I realised that my knowledge of French literature was dire and in need of much research. Good to be pulled up!

Small bee orchids were seen shyly appearing through the burnt out grassy sward . . . .

. . . and pine woods spread over the higher, more exposed land above the Gorges de Madale.

A couple of months ago  this view would be a sea of mauve when the calluna flowers profusely. A sheep fold, unused for many years, is a rather beautiful building at a distance and also close to . . . .

. . .  now it houses an equally beautiful decrepit chestnut.

Just a sheep fold but great craftsmanship from whoever constructed the stone walls. Winding paths through chestnut and oak woodland lead back to Combes almost alpine in feel. If the auberge is a destination, it’s lunchtime opening is short. Hélas, too short in my case.

In a house which becomes a home,
one hands down and another takes up
the heritage of mind and heart,
laughter and tears, musings and deeds.
Love, like a carefully loaded ship,
crosses the gulf between the generations.
Therefore, we do not neglect the ceremonies
of our passage: when we wed, when we die,
and when we are blessed with a child;
When we depart and when we return;
When we plant and when we harvest.
Let us bring up our children. It is not
the place of some official to hand to them
their heritage.
If others impart to our children our knowledge
and ideals, they will lose all of us that is
wordless and full of wonder.
Let us build memories in our children,
lest they drag out joyless lives,
lest they allow treasures to be lost because
they have not been given the keys.
We live, not by things, but by the meanings
of things. It is needful to transmit the passwords
from generation to generation.   Antoine de Saint-Exupery  Generation to Generation

le cirque nouveau

May 24, 2012

There was a walk I started recently which I couldn’t conclude – frustrating and unsatisfying although around a beautiful landscape nevertheless. Yesterday I went back and hurrah!! found the correct path to the summit and the view of Lac Salagou. The last stretch was mountain goat territory but nonetheless fine, as the goal turned out to be quite breathtaking. It’s a recent man-made lake and reservoir excavated from the basalt rock formation – the strong burnt sienna tones seen in the image below on another day. 

The descent is circuitous but strangely evocative of a journey of discovery.  . . .  glimpses through vegetated vistas . . . the odd fellow traveller (one with a mountain bike on his shoulder!!)  why!! must have read the wrong guide book . . .

 . . passing down by The Orgues , fluted and awe inspiring although these formations not as dramatic as those seen here . . .

 . . it’s a strange feeling being encircled by majesty and the natural environment – humbling. Ah, Little Prince, what wise words were written for you to speak! 

“Good evening,” said the little prince courteously.

“Good evening,” said the snake.

“What planet is this on which I have come down?” asked the little prince.

“This is the Earth; this is Africa,” the snake answered.

“Ah! Then there are no people on the Earth?”

“This is the desert. There are no people in the desert. The Earth is large,” said the snake.

The little prince sat down on a stone, and raised his eyes toward the sky.

“I wonder,” he said, “whether the stars are set alight in heaven so that one day each one of us may find his own again . . . Look at my planet. It is right there above us. But how far away it is!”

“It is beautiful,” the snake said. “What has brought you here?”

“I have been having some trouble with a flower,” said the little prince.

“Ah!” said the snake.

And they were both silent.

“Where are the men?” the little prince at last took up the conversation again. “It is a little lonely in the desert . . .”

“It is also lonely among men,” the snake said.

The little prince gazed at him for a long time.

“You are a funny animal,” he said at last. “You are no thicker than a finger . . .”

“But I am more powerful than the finger of a king,” said the snake.

The little prince smiled.

“You are not very powerful. You haven’t even any feet. You cannot even travel . . .”

“I can carry you farther than any ship could take you,” said the snake.

He twined himself around the little prince’s ankle, like a golden bracelet.

“Whomever I touch, I send back to the earth from whence he came,” the snake spoke again. “But you are innocent and true, and you come from a star . . .”

The little prince made no reply.

“You move me to pity–you are so weak on this Earth made of granite,” the snake said. “I can help you, some day, if you grow too homesick for your own planet. I can–”

“Oh! I understand you very well,” said the little prince. “But why do you always speak in riddles?”

“I solve them all,” said the snake.  And they were both silent. Saint-Exupéry The Little Prince

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