Aiguèze sits above the Rhone surrounded by vineyards on the lower slopes and garrigue landscape on the higher. This village is included in the grouping of Les Plus Belles Villages de France with another 3 villages – Lussan, la Roque sur Cèze, Montlcus – similarly crowned all within 20 kms . . .

les vestiges du donjon et de la tour sarrasine, témoins de l’ancien château fort, les fortifications et leur chemin de ronde (XIème Siècle), que l’on doit au Comte de Toulouse… Des invasions sarrasines (VIIIème Siècle) aux « Jacqueries » (XIVème Siècle), Aiguèze subit – comme nombre de villages à l’époque médiévale ! -, destructions, pillages et autres révoltes qui auraient pu signer sa disparition. Heureusement, il n’en fut rien ! Le village doit beaucoup de son visage actuel à Monseigneur Fuzet, Archevêque de Rouen et « enfant du pays » qui consacra beaucoup de temps et de moyens à sa conservation et à sa modernisation au début du XXème siècle. Ainsi, par exemple, la place du Jeu de Paume, arborée de platanes, où l’on se retrouve pour le jeu de boules, ou encore l’église du XIème siècle et ses façades crénelées. Tout au long de la balade, l’architecture méridionale typique de la région se révèle. La Grand Rue pavée de galets de l’Ardèche, le passage voûté de la « Combe aux oiseaux » ou encore les maisons de pierre claire aux toits de tuile ronde le confirment : nous sommes bien dans le Sud !
 
the remains of the keep and the Saracen tower, witnesses of the old fortified castle, the fortifications and their walkway (11th century), which we owe to the Count of Toulouse… From the Saracen invasions (8th century) to the “Jacqueries” (14th century), Aiguèze underwent – like many villages in the medieval period! Aiguèze suffered – like many villages in the Middle Ages – destruction, looting and other revolts that could have led to its disappearance. Fortunately, it was not! The village owes much of its current appearance to Monsignor Fuzet, Archbishop of Rouen and “child of the country”, who devoted a lot of time and resources to its conservation and modernization at the beginning of the 20th century. Thus, for example, the Place du Jeu de Paume, planted with plane trees, where one meets for the game of bowls, or the 11th century church and its crenellated facades. Throughout the walk, the typical southern architecture of the region is revealed. The Grand Rue paved with Ardèche pebbles, the vaulted passage of the “Combe aux oiseaux” or the light stone houses with round tile roofs confirm it: we are indeed in the South!
https://www.les-plus-beaux-villages-de-france.org/fr/

. . . the interior of the church is a delight and all surfaces painted within an inch of its life – patterns, colour, shapes and joyful decoration – thanks to Monseigneur Fuzet, archiveque de Rouen, who restored the church interior in the style of Notre-Dame de Paris. This little chap, however, looks totally fed up with it all – his toes touched and stroked by all who coud reach . . .

. . . the churchyard is cosy – sheltered from the winds blowing downstream from the Ardèche . . .

. . . narrow streets (les ruelles étroites) provide shade as well as framing glimpses through and beyond. The olives are just turning now . . .

. . . in Grande Rue, an atelier and house of an artist, curioser and curioser . . .

. . . tough resilient yucca snuggling up to an armandier on Rue du Castelas overlooking Chemin de Borian where generations of boatmen and fishermen lived and worked. Tough and resilient pistacia lentiscus is also on show in the garrigue above the village. The resin makes a gum noted for medicinal uses – improving digestion and intestinal ulcers, oral health, and liver health too – so useful but also attractive . .

. . . looking downstream with Mont Ventoux and the mountains to the east . . .

. . . and upstream towards the Ardèche and Drôme – mesmerising with questions to be answered.

Then Almitra spoke, saying, ‘We would ask now of Death.’ 

And he said: 

You would know the secret of death. 

But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life? 

The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light. 

If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life. 

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one. 

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond; 

And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring. 

Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity. 

Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour. 

Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king? 

Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling? 

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? 

And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered? 

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. 

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. 

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.  Death Xx11  Kahlil Gibran

A visit to 2 gardens in the Vaucluse with a group from the Mediterranean Gardening France very much looked forward to, on my part, after lock downs et al. Both gardens in Le Barroux and both with views of Mont Ventoux. Differing in scale and also in character but personal nonetheless. This garden facing south on a sloping site where terracing has facilitated easy circulation as well as the pleasure of discovery of informal and open spaces and created with apposite planting. The owners know what they want to achieve . . .

. . by leaving certain areas to speak for themselves in an uncluttered form. Why clutter up with decorative planting when nature has provided the perfect ambience.

The Rosa banksia Lutea is mature and splendid . . .

. . . the centranthus ruber hosts the papilio machaon (swallow tail butterfly) and carpenter beetles. In this part of the Vaucluse, if space allows, then a lavender field is sort of obligatory, and in this garden a shady seating area overlooks and offers a view of Mont Ventoux to boot.

We moved onto the second garden very close by, where again Mont Ventoux made a splendid backcloth and, turning the eye to the north the Abbey of Le Barroux, a traditionalist Benedictine abbey and built fairly recently (40 years old), sits in splendour. The monks were busy with noisy tractors working in their vineyards – good for them.

This garden is defined by the owner as a sculpture garden. On arrival, the Five Arrows by Walter Bailey placed in broad bands of Pennisetum by the apricot orchard is well sited. . .

. . . other pieces are equally well placed; the bespoke furniture made by the ferronier and menuisier adds to the creative character of the garden.

The journey around the site moves in 360 degrees – views out and cross views within – ensuring a complete experience. It’s a tantalising and exciting voyage but, at the same time, can be meditative (seating well and thoughtfully positioned) and speculative . . .

. . . another mature Lady Rosa Banks’ rose (it’s that time of year – hallellujah) in the rill garden . .

. and ferula making a statement alongside sculpture on a sloping bank. Another seasonal statement of a tamarisk front of stage against the blue Provencal sky. Hello and good-bye Le Barroux.

Back near home and, in a wider agriculural landscape, the Pont Roux, our beautiful, graceful and well proportioned water tower, seems to survey this valley packed with produce bursting out of the ground and from vines and fruit trees. Newly planted asperge at over 1.5m high now will be harvested next year.

Plants native to the garrigue are filling the banks and close up Muscari comosum or Leopoldia comosa – tassel grape hyacinth – intirgues. Apparently the bulb is a culinary delicacy . . .

. poppies abound – so joyful. In the garden – it’s starting to be riotous with Rosa odorata Mutabilis duetting with the phlomis so hence the choice of poem.

I can’t turn a smell

into a single word;

you’ve no right

to ask. Warmth

coaxes rose fragrance

from the underside of petals.

The oils meet air:

rhodinal is old rose;

geraniol, like geranium;

nerol is my essence

of magnolia; eugenol,

a touch of cloves. Jo Shapcott Rosa odorata

mainly trees

January 23, 2022

cold winter weather provides spectacular sunrises beyond the cupressus at the far end of the garden . .

. . . on a brief visit to Ceasar’s Camp at Laudun to walk with a friend, we came across this specimen emerging quite confidently from the footings of a wall. The walk turned into a route march as I chose the wrong path – there was a good deal of grumbling but quite rightly . . .

. . . the site, way up overlooking the Rhone, offers interesting remains and, of course, marvellous views. We were taken with the cloud formations that day and the tones in the sky but unfortunately the images don’t do justice . . .

. . . plenty of Smilax aspera (sarsaparille) giving a seasonal uplift but around my village lining the streams and water courses it’s the poplars that take centre stage now . . .

. . . catkins so – spring soon? wandering back through the village streets and admiring the thick oak or it could be poplar as roofing structure supporting the wall . . .

and on down to home passed the madonna in a niche in the magnanerie wall high above and looking upwards herself. Got quite found of her – I don’t know why – but I do know that there is a general fondness for the neighbours who inhabit the small pasture only 4 metres from the kitchen window – lovely boys.

The persimmon (Diosoprys) called kaki here, as it is in Italy, was laden with fruit this autumn/winter and the starlings loved it . . . .

. . . a trip to the neighbouring village of Le Pin where ‘un pin parasol’ hugs the clock tower . . .

. . . and muriers platanes shade the small place by the mairie.

Over the birthday weekend two trips were made with the furthest to the sea – it only takes an hour though – and the small port of Le Grau. As it’s a ghastly month to be born in all the quayside restaurants bar one were closed – hey ho, the sun and light were lovely though and on to the beach past the etangs . . .

flamants roses, grands cormorans, martins – pêcheurs visible and anguilles not so visible although there was a muge (mullet) flapping around on the surface of an inlet. Cannes de Provence (Arundo donax) are just dying down – the canes cut for all sorts of purposes – the fluffy seedheads magical.

Pointe de l’Espiguette has a wild but preserved part to the east . . . the sea was perfect and such a wide beach can soak up quite e few visitors. Family groups were picnicking intermittently along the 18 kms of flat sand and dune.

So second trip was to Ste Alexandre (thank you Nikki and Stephen for the heads up on Auberge Le Bienheureux) and on to La Chartreuse de Valbonne with church, cloisters and numerous chapels all to discover at a later date BUT those roofs clothed in varnished tiles in the Burgundy style on the church and bell tower were admired there and then.

birthday treat – thank you Anny.

texte de Ghislaine Cuvellier, gravures de Marc Granier,

inside/outside

October 13, 2021

In Avignon to enjoy some architecture and some lunch sitting opposite the ramparts built as defence in the 13/14C. They circle the town with a running length of approx 4kms and were wrapped originally so the city was moated. In some places the double set of walls is easy to see . . .

. . . wandering into Place Crillon and gazing upwards at the Ancienne Comédie d’Avignon the composition in carved stone above the entrance is intricate in content as well as craftsmanship. Beside the theatre a charming but also modest balcony . . .

At the Collection Lambert the current exhibition is ‘How to Disappear’ . . . make of that what you will . .

but good to see that the kids haven’t disappeared from the classroom.

Interesting pieces from Cy Twombly, Nan Goldin and Sol LeWitt amongst others.

In a little while

I’ll be gone

The moments already passed

Yeah, it’s gone

And I’m not here

This isn’t happening

I’m not here

I’m not here. Radiohead  How to Disappear Completely and Never to be Found

In the cours the writing is on the wall and outside the cours in Rue Violette something left for . . . or ruinée and I’ve been here before

A morning looking for birds organised by COGard https://cogard.org. The group met at Lac de Codolet where the river Rhone meets the river Cèze. A lake created when gravel extraction was needed to construct the Rhone canal. Looking N/W Camp de César is visible above Laudun https://www.beyond.fr/sites/cesars-camp-laudun.html.

The research centre at Marcoule forms a landmark – it’s a nuclear site and power plant . . .

. . . we heard bouscarlede de Cetti (Cettis warbler), chiff chaff, alouette, and saw cerf volant rouge (red kite), martin pecheur (kingfisher), pic épeichette and pic vert (lesser spotted and green woodpeckers), cormorans, hérons cendres grandes, cygnes, mésange à longue blanche queue (long tailed tit) where poplars and hawthorns border the lake . . .

. . . we were well informed too by Marion who led us to the whirlpool and the Barrage de Caderousse where choucas (jackdaws) nested in the drainage holes. Flotsam decorated the edges of the old Rhone and a few locals scavanged the timber detritus.

Sorry not to have added photos of the birds but so busy with the jumelles – maybe next time.

When we first emerged, we assumed

what we’d entered

was the world,

and we its only creatures.

Soon, we could fly; soon

we’d mastered its grey gloom,

could steal a single

waterdrop

even as it fell.

Now you who hesitate,

fearful of the tomb-smell,

fearful of shades,

look up – higher!

How deft we are,

how communicative, our

scorch – brown wings almost

translucent against the blue.

Deserts, moonlit oceans, heat

climbing from a thousand coastal cities

are as nothing now,

say our terse screams.

The cave – dark we were born in

calls us back. Kathleen Jamie.

Arles encore

August 4, 2021

This new urban landscape is refreshing – renovated industrial buildings, new landmark tower and parkland accesible to all until early evening – and stimulating in conception and realisation. read about it here

” its nearly cubist geometry, coupled with the spectacle of its 11,000 stainless steel panels, inscribes it definitively in the Arles landscape. Conceived as an ode to the ancient town, Luma Arles has become like a tower of Babel for modern times” says fisheye. ” It’s clear Frank (Gehry the architect of the tower) hates the French” a comment on Dezeen.

Existing buildings have been refaced . . . the end of the Grand Halle will be covered with wisteria in a couple of years . . .

. . . and inside a work of Pierre Huyghe ‘After UUmwelt’ where worlds with animals, artificial intelligence and materials compose their own stories – sculpture and video – and manage to instil a sense of familiarity in an imense space (5,000m2). Interesting floor too . .

In La Mécanique Générale, I was taken with the aroma from the bands and swathes of eucalyptus forming the soft structure for Kapwani Kiwanga – Flowers for Africa – based on images that show floral arrangements and, in essence, that’s what it was which were present at a moment of historical importance when an African country gained independence. The flowers and foliage are left to dry so the decay evokes history, nostalgia and a sense of melancholy showing the failings of modernity and political degradation – social transformation, disenchantment and collapse. Stunning.

The park is only recently planted so work in progress and difficult and unfair to comment at this stage.  I shall return  . . .

. . and have lunch under here again.

In the Drum Cafe in the Tower, some walls are made of sunflower pulp and concrete and the pipes are exposed . . .

. . . and in The Main Gallery also in the Tower, Maja Hoffman’s Collection/LUMA Foundation is an eclectic grouping of conceptual pieces and labelled impermanent so presumably more to see in the future . . .

The interior reflects the exterior perfectly. Arles and the Arlésiennes are lucky.

 

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.

And a post from before.

a verge or two

May 5, 2021

Oh, such delightful eruptions of iris this year on the road side – starting off in early April and full on in recurring displays through to May. It’s the outward curve in the stem of the plant set off by the cascading flower en double tier that is show stopping . . . seen in groups around the most modest sentiers. Of course, they love the drainage that a bank offers up. All photos from the roads and sentiers around the village . . .   

 . . . in some points a garrigue type planting has taken hold – a tapestry of cistus, thymes, lavandins, rosmarin, euphorb and aphyllanthes that looks like sisyrinchium, merge in a tapestry effect which can look shrubby and rough – many plants in this habitat have aromatic foliage and thus oils and monoterpenes will leach into the soils from leaf litter. This asserts the dominance of a plant over its companion and ensures the characateristic open spacing and, so restricted flora in the garrigue. 

And sometimes opuntia (prickly pear) throw out an aria on a bank situation (drainage again) – soprano, so middle C to high A, methinks – just to disconcert and mix in the exotic. 

From up close of the verges into longer views and back to understanding what this small in size,  agricultural in commerce, landscape here ( St Pons la Clam) is about – vines, apricots and cherries and asperges . . . 

from dawn to dusk the gatherers are at it. Lifting asperges – green and white – for the marketplace. The plastic that is used to force is a horrid development – presumably in the past sacking was employed . . . or the produce wasn’t forced.

The fruit is turning red already and promises much. 

In another environment, but not far away, this little blue flowering gem was noted in the verge – buglossoides purpurocaerulea – it’s a borage – but the little sweet thing below remains unnamed. I think its lamiaceae . . . 

 . . . and saw it wandering around St Gervais, near Bagnols, on the route to discovering Les Célettes, a charming hameau with good vineyard, Domaine Sante Anne, and with a forgotten but discovered again feel.:

Of course the poem stands as it does and now the term ‘weed’ is known as the right plant but in the wrong place but my thought on selecting it is that ‘they move in and colonise, if the environment suits them, and that’s what I love. Ah plants, so much more beautiful than human beings. 

Long live the weeds that overwhelm
My narrow vegetable realm! –
The bitter rock, the barren soil
That force the son of man to toil;
All things unholy, marked by curse,
The ugly of the universe.
The rough, the wicked and the wild
That keep the spirit undefiled.
With these I match my little wit
And earn the right to stand or sit,
Hope, look, create, or drink and die:
These shape the creature that is I.  Theodore Roethke

epitaph: roadside in the Camargue today – iris pseudoacorus in fosse plein d’eau. 

hope springs eternal

January 2, 2021

I hang my head in shame – refuse to blame covid or indeed political issues – and promise myself that in 2021 I must try harder . . .

to think about and organise and produce more posts to keep sane and hopeful. Today, January 2nd, it’s cold, windy and a tad grey – even here in the south of France – as the photo shows, but I appreciate the composition in the quickly snapped photo of the upper garden, the fore shortening and pixelation both of which have given the image an abstract quality. I appreciate and revel in the tones . . .

. . . as in the big view, the tones in winter are more beautiful and harmonious than in other seasons. The vines are mostly pruned and stand silently like battalions waiting to charge . . .

shame about the turquoise plastic collars around the new plants but they add a touch of something . . .

a cluster of poplars by the stream have the similar quiet attributes of clematis still now after scrambling along the verges – the fluffy seedheads still hanging on . . .

. . . returning home this winter musing is thrown up in the air like a jugglers ball when the persimmon greets me and shouts out ‘always to be blest’.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me. Emily Dickinson

bamboos and beyond

November 3, 2020

It’s been a while since the last post and, also, since the last visit to La Bamboueseraie a couple of years ago – how bizarre that the images are almost the same – eye to brain to camera to laptop to wordpress . . . and how strange that I selected a Neruda poem too. . . .

. . . and I see I mentioned the ‘endless photos of tall, upright” stems but I find them still so beautiful and evocative. The density of the spreading crop ensures complete shelter and seclusion from the surroundings. For a historical overview of this estate open the post of four years ago.

Installations from Pascale Planche using a few poles woven into ‘rhythmical dances that set a ‘ribbon of bamboo in motion. The ribbon rises and falls, sketching out its path and coils through space. It opens windows onto the landscape, providing an array of recollections in the minds and imagination of each person’. Materials used: phyllostachys bambusoides, viridiglauscens and Flexuosa; rubber and annealed wire.

The youngest member of our party working out how the bamboo water feature works  . . .

and he was sort of impressed with the laotian pigs in their well constructed, exotic habitat.

The Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ never disappoints – elegant, stately, self assured – along with the bamboo tunnel which received a small thumbs up.

Then we took the steam train from the small Bamboueseraie station on the Anduze – Saint Jean du Gard line which runs across viaducts over the Gardon nudging the edge of the Cévennes and saw fire ravaged but spectacular scenery as opposite to the landscape of bamboo garden as possible. The poem, well, it reminds me how the touch of an experience simmers for a while and then can grow, and overwhelm, in a delightfully meaningful way.

“I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.” Pablo Neruda  If you forget me.

what’s happening = not much and no excuses. Me, and the cat, have been lolling around trying to fill our days. He’s much better at it than I am. I was brought up in an industrious household where folks were always busy doing six things at once and shame on you if you didn’t follow suite.

We have had serendipitous tulip planting in the pots in the garden.  Interesting as I thought I bought soft pink and dark burgundy tulips but have ended up with strong reds and yellows . . .

. . . no matter and it’s good to be shaken up. The Bengal crimson rose is in full throttle – the cane and plant pot hood denote the position of a dahlia – such a jolly rose and marvellous value. Really I love it to bits.

Am also totally gone on the combination of Hardenbergia violocea (tender as an Australian native and so needs fleecing up in cold months) scrambling through Solanum laxum ‘Album’ (a South American native), evergreen, fast and easy to manage. It’s a romper.

Other containers are in party mode  – well it’s easy before they suffer from high heat  – before drying out – and there’s the perfume too. The osteospermum has a strong aroma thats reminds me of a lovely spliff . . .

. . . Iris ‘Bel Azur’ from Cayeux  – the only really decent Iris suppliers – with Solanum rantonetti, a marvel – goes on and on – and easily manageable.

At the allotment or ‘jardin’ across the square/ place,  I notice that I should contemplate hanging a new gate . . .

. . .  but we’re all ready to go. Although it looks bare under the earth  potatoes and sunflowers waiting to thrust through. Never have my grass paths received so much attention . . .  but looking upwards to the boundaries, my neighbour’s plot has espaliered pears that are showing beautifully . . .

. . . but the other neighbour needs to do some pruning here.

Across the small path, Chemin des Jardins by the lavoir, a plot that has always until now been a home to a couple of horses. However,   no more – what is this instead? some discussion on a possible art installation or just new trees . . .

. . .  good news to us all is that the lavoir is full.

Fumitory abounds in the verges and a delicate low sedum over the walls. I will do better. Somehow . . .

It was a perfect day
For sowing; just
As sweet and dry was the ground
As tobacco-dust.

I tasted deep the hour
Between the far
Owl’s chuckling first soft cry
And the first star.

A long stretched hour it was;
Nothing undone
Remained; the early seeds
All safely sown.

And now, hark at the rain,
Windless and light,
Half a kiss, half a tear,
Saying good-night. Edward Thomas Sowing

 

In the Soulages rooms at the Musée Fabre – a retrospective ‘(Re)découvrir Soulages. Montpellier is where he studied and he has given works to be hung and kept in the city . . . .

. . . there are many ‘outrenoirs’ – paintings that have evolved from applying layers of paint – some textured – where the light is reflected. The intense weight and deepness of tone magnify the effect. Interesting to see the exploration of technique and result.

I am still obsessed with figures in space but I become obsessed with the canvases too.

Other colour tones are shown – this shows the use of brou de noix (walnut ink) – ‘L’acrylique et le brou, plus fluides tous les deuxque lapeinture à l’huile, permettent un étirement, d’où cette qualité spontanée de la trace’.

L’accord noir/bleu est un classique de la peinture, qui a toujours retenu Soulages: ‘Le rapprochement d’un noir et d’un bleu, me confiait-il en 1996, toujours quelque chose d’assez sensuel, on s’y livre avec une certaine volupté”.

Now I feel ashamed to stick the camera up to the canavs to take details – what was I thinking – how crass. But, perhaps I could learn something from the composition . . . . such vital, joyful work – so positive hence the choice of poem.

 

The days of our future stand in front of us
like a row of little lit candles —
golden, warm, and lively little candles.

The days past remain behind us,
a mournful line of extinguished candles;
the ones nearest are still smoking,
cold candles, melted, and bent.

I do not want to look at them; their form saddens me,
and it saddens me to recall their first light.
I look ahead at my lit candles.

I do not want to turn back, lest I see and shudder
at how fast the dark line lengthens,
at how fast the extinguished candles multiply.  Constantine P Cavafy

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