Morning in Provence

When viewed from our balcony, the cool mornings of late have made for an enchanting vista of mist covered fields; slender steeples of the neighboring towns just peeking above the low clouds, serpentine narrow roads disappearing into the distance as though on a path to nowhere.  The gentle hills and shallow valleys are covered with almost too ripe grapes, ancient fruit trees with branches bowing from the weight of a bouquet of apples, gnarled olive trees, trimmed by generations of love, filled to capacity, slowly dropping their harvest to the earth.  The scent of burning wood and the aroma of freshly baked bread and pastries all jockeying for olfactory supremacy.  A cup of strong café in hand, this is the Provence of my inner thespian.  And in the distance… the call of a goat herder, no too harsh… a songbird? no, too shrill.  Ah, yes… it’s my toddler.  Snap back to reality, as Eminem would say.  Although exquisite, the youngster only has eyes for the yogurt (although I must say, the Yoplait in the ceramic jar is pretty damn good).



There are too many sights in Provence, even just in Vaucluse, to try to see and do everything.  No mad dash to and fro.  The best way to experience the true nature of this region is to take your time and relax.  With our shopping and business out of the way, the majority of the rest of the week is a combination of napping, eating, and short sightseeing excursions (to be honest, personally this means more gluttony and sloth than actual tourism).

This area is, however, rife with the picture perfect; splendor is ubiquitous.  One probably should visit Aix-en-Provence, and Avignon for the history and architecture (although my husband just wanted to dance on the bridge in Avignon with our daughter while singing “Sür la Pont” – crazy Canadians).  Apt and Isle Sur La Sorge have the markets; Fontaine de Vaucluse has the quaintness (the “Fountain” isn’t, most of the year), and Bonnieux, Lourmarin, Ménerbes, and Lacoste for the true classic village atmosphere.  Smaller towns are asleep from about noon to three (lunchtime, so have a long leisurely feast), and dinner usually doesn’t start until after seven, so plan accordingly.  Our favorite haunts are the more subdued like L’Arome in Bonnieux.  Splendidly covered from head to toe with stone, speckled with rather mod art, this would be haute cuisine if not so laid back and comfortable.  Skip the Stark inspired hotel and Michelin starred restaurant – you know who you are – in favor of the cozy.  This land feels as though time has slowed and mellowed, and after a few more days, so have I.  


Isle Sur La Sorgue

A crisp wind on my face, the sun just peaking behind the ridge, Sunday morning means bric-a-brac is on tap.  I don’t witness too many sunrises and it takes a lot for me to actually manually wake the baby early in the morning, but this is definitely worth it.  Twice a year this quaint village transforms into the second largest antiques market (behind Paris).  The average Sunday, however, finds a fairly robust market fronting the existing antique shops lining the Sorgue River.  Known as the “Venice” of France (kind of a stretch), the town is traversed by several meandering canals, crisscrossed by pedestrian bridges and punctuated by large waterwheels, making this one of the most picturesque of the Provençal towns.

The actual antique shops sell everything from high style antiques (Louis XIV writing desk anyone?), to architectural accents (stone pillars from a bygone Chateau), to the weird and wonderful (Oma Frieda’s wedding dress and maybe even her false teeth).  The requisite food vendors abound, having regrouped from the Apt street market yesterday (Saturday mornings).  Fresh produce, amazing flowers, spices, aged cheeses in wheels the size of truck tires – a kaleidoscope of sounds, colors and fragrances to warm the senses on a cold fall morning.

After procuring the final items and solidifying the transport documents for the shipping container, our entire family promptly sat down at the rivers edge and devoured lunch.  A half roasted chicken, potatoes cooked to perfection in the dripping fat, just baked baguette with sharp (and oh so stinky) cheese, still warm raspberry and apple tartlets, glass of wine for me (maybe a sip for the baby? Maybe not? – Better to take an afternoon nap with my dear!) and by two o’clock the whole thing wraps up and is done.   Marvelous day.   



If Walt Disney were attempting to create the superlative French village, he could not have matched the unparalleled beauty of this hilltop village.  Authentic beyond compare, this is the consummate example of Provençal beauty.  The restored castle ruins of the notorious Marquis de Sade, now home to Pierre Cardin, preside over the narrow cobblestoned streets, which cascade down the hillside.  The vista in every direction is breathtaking; as far a one can see, fields of cherry and olive, and perfect rows of grape laden vines, with distant hilltop towns dotting the horizon.  Too picture perfect, in fact, so much that one feels the need to reach out and try to touch the supposed false painted background.  L’école SCAD is in session, so during the day the streets are filled with students – l’artiste est en residence.  At night the sun sets over the valley only to rise again revealing a mist-covered wonderland.  An artist’s dream world, a tourist’s nirvana.



Tucked between the limestone cliffs of the Luberon Valley, this land of lavender, olives and honey soothes the soul and restores the spirit.  The frenetic pace of Paris is left far (and fast – the TGV moves like the wind) behind.  Unbelievably quaint and picturesque hilltop towns and walled cities replace the monolithic architecture of the city.  Don’t get me wrong, if you want grandiose architecturally stunning sites; just visit the home of one half of the dueling popes in Avignon.  I, however, prefer the solitude, solace and charm of the smaller towns.  There are actually six départements of Provence, ranging from the mountains to the sea.  The last time we were here we spent most of the time in the Var and Alpes-Maritimes (read: summer sitting beachside in St. Tropez, Cannes and Nice).  

Come October, however, the tourists are gone, the locals back at work, children back in school, and highways and byways empty of traffic.  This is the ideal time to visit the Vaucluse.  All the wonderful names reside here:  Avignon, St. Remy, Aix, Bonnieux, Arles and more.  Our home for the next several days will be Lacoste.  Perched precariously on a hilltop with stunning views of the surrounding valley, this will serve as our base of exploration.  I will share more in the next few days


King George

Of all the hotels in the world, and I do love hotels, the George V Paris has always been my favorite.  Ah, if only so rich to call this place home each time I visit this great city.  Opulent yet understated, luxurious yet not flamboyant, this bastion of style and refinement is a haven for the who's who of the who's who.  Discretion is paramount, privacy has primacy.

"Good morning, Mrs. Danyluk, shall I call you a car?  Good afternoon Mrs. Danyluk, how was your shopping excursion?  Good evening Mrs. Danyluk, your dinner reservations are confirmed."  The counter behind the concierge overflows with the ribbon bedecked boxes of every major luxury design house from Avenue Montainge to Rue St. Honoré.  The spa - heaven, equipped with a pre-treatment relaxation room overlooking the Romanesque pool - befitting the Queen herself.  My husband came back from the gym remarking wouldn't it be nice if someone always handed him a chilled, mint-infused towel halfway through his workout.

If not impressed with the marble on marble on more marble architecture, the accompanying Greg Leatham orgasm of flowers is enough to make one well  ...enough said.

Alas, our fairy tale ends tomorrow.  Can't stay here too long, the creditors will soon find us.  Got to keep moving anyway, there is much to do and see.  Tomorrow it's off to the South.

Marché Aux Puces

Sorry for the short absence. Shopping-a-rama! After a one-year hiatus from the markets of Paris, I have had to achieve some major catch up. The stalls are packed in anticipation of the fall/winter shopping season. Buyers from around the world can be heard haggling in broken French, calculators at the ready, hoping to score a bargain (yeah, right) on the latest must have antiques. My credit card is cracked, my wallet's bare, and my poor husband's back worn from wear and tear (hey, I should be a poet!). Our familiar vendors are somewhat spooked about all the "Demolition Hardware" knock-offs (photos interdit), but nothing like a hunt for the next big thing to get the blood pumping. I think we are on to something, next weekend we will try to firm things up in Isle Sure La Sorge; but you have to wait until Christmas for us to spring it on you.


The Paris Auction

One of the highlights of this trip was the SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) Paris Auction benefitting the restoration of the Maison Basse, a medieval complex of structures located on SCAD’s campus in Lacoste, France (www.scad.edu/experience/events/lacoste-auction). This star-studded event was held in the fabulous ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel George V. Guests from the Americas, Europe, and Asia mingled with SCAD students, alumni, staff and faculty; a sophisticated mix of young and old, student and professional - academic yet glamorous. Representative from the worlds of art and design, fashion, luxury goods, branding, marketing and more had their first taste of SCAD, and everyone was coming back for seconds.

The marble walls were covered with SCAD artwork, models wearing the latest SCAD fashion couture strolled proudly through the admiring crowd, exquisite auction items filled the entry hall, and in the background a sultry chanteuse played the crowd to perfection.

Box seats to the next Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monaco – no problem, Bejeweled private dinner at Boucheron – done, hand-made-to-order couture gown – say it ain’t so- and on and on and on. The crowd initially timid became increasingly exuberant. Not a bad way to become a philanthropist. We walked away with a fantastic Greg Eltringham painting which was decided should become the theme around which our toddler’s new room would revolve.

The night ended with a little too much champagne, oh so much conversation, and some wonderful new contacts to add to the ‘France’ Rolodex. SCAD continues to amaze, what a great part of Savannah, what a way to “Wow” the world.


Avenue Montaigne

Just steps from the hotel, tucked between Avenue George V and Avenue Des Champs Elysées, sits the street of fashion dreams. Valentino, Vuitton, Prada, Chanel, Dior, Gucci and more - you name it, it’s here. Like a stroll through Paris Fashion week, windows mirrored in the latest fashion magazine, holy-Euro, I’m in heaven. Uber-cool statuesque brunettes line the seats of the Hotel Plaza Athenée, was that Giselle Bundchen at L’Avenue? High society, higher heels than you’ve ever mustered, and yet even higher prices to top it all off.

So after dragging my poor husband around for four hours trying to find the perfect dress (I did, but the 6995 Euro price was a bit much – almost peed my pants) for the gala party tonight (more on that tomorrow), I ended up splurging on a to-die for pair of Valentino shoes. Ah, pure delight!


George, Gaby, and Chris

Well my good friends, without much notice or fanfare - hard with a year and a bit old toddler in tow – we have left Savannah and arrived in Paris. The next three and a half weeks will be part business, part plaisir, and one hundred percent blissful adventure. Contact has been established with our intrepid reporter-in-residence: Reba. Itinerary is in hand, soirées RSVP’d, locations scouted, and secrets confided. Our adventure begins today. By the way, the title connotes: V, Chanel, and Louboutin respectively. Connoisseurs rejoice; the extravagance begins.


Postcards from Paris: {Quickly Through the Pompidou}

With it's inside-out exterior appearance, and the magnificent works within: The Pompidou is a favorite of mine. During Nuit Blanche Saturday night, I was able to browse quickly through the Pompidou. I realize that perhaps looking at photographs of paintings or installations doesn't do any justice to the actual work of art. It really is an extraordinary point of view to get as close as possible to the brush strokes, and to imagine the hand of the artist making that mark at the moment it was actually made. It is actually quite amusing realizing that these paintings that I have seen on numerous occasions either in an art history class from a slide or printed on paper in a book, actually have dimension.
What a wonderful city Paris is for hosting so many well-known works. I am ashamed to admit that I have yet to see every museum in Paris. Each day I have the opportunity to visit a museum and opt for something else there is a bit of guilt that rests within my conscience. I have had the pleasure of the Pompidou on a couple of different occasions, and each time I can honestly say that I feel inspired.
Now for some other museums....
I will keep you posted.



Postcards from Paris: {Sleepwalking, Nuit Blanche}

The first time that I heard the phrase, “Nuit Blanche” was from an 18 year-old French boy who met me one late afternoon for gouter. He said something like, “I had a nuit blanche last night, and this is my first meal of the day.” Which I found peculiar since gouter was typically around 4:00 in the afternoon.
Nuit blanche translates as White Night, no sleep after the sun has set, and the night continues on just as lively as it would be as if it were still day.
This past Saturday, the 2nd of October was my first Nuit Blanche here in Paris. It was pretty official, and I shared it with several friends and many strangers. The evening started out at the Pompidou Centre, with free entertainment and full access to the entire museum. We listened to a performance with trumpets and swing dancers, and moved on along the city; from Hotel de Ville to Notre Dame there were people out and about past the hour when the metro usually closes. My friends and I went to our favorite late-night boulangerie and indulged in chocolate-filled pastries. We continued our white night on the east side of Paris in Belleville then walked towards the Ile-Saint-Louis where we had the pleasure of meeting a french group of three. They were obviously beside themselves with the events of the evening and had a couple of different vices to share amongst themselves, which they offered to us Americans as a sign of hospitality. We generously declined their offerings of such and such, but continued with conversation as we waited in line for ended up being my favorite installation of the evening; a series of vacuum cleaners sprawled about in this lovely, elaborate room, where the textured ornate wallpaper matched the drapes and gold sconces on the wall offered dim lighting. Connected to each vacuum cleaner was a harmonica, and each machine would go off at a different time blowing air into the harmonicas. The result was some form of music, but describing more accurately a sense harmony and chaos, thus the title of the installation, “Harmonichaos”
More adventures and telling-tales occurred, and the hours spent awake, somewhat in a state sleepwalking, ended with tired feet and heavy eye-lids. We had exchanged a nuit blanche for a jour noir, as the following day was spent dreaming of our time just hours earlier.


Postcards from Paris: {EAT A CHEESEBURGER}

It's been on my mind, constantly.
I am certain some of my friends thought to themselves, Reba won't shut up about that. And with that possibility I would provoke the craving even more by description.
There are also fast-food chains, where one can get a quick fix. Believe me, Mc Donalds, also known as "Mac-Doh" is scattered generously about the city. But when I get this craving, I can't just settle for a quick fix.
I need the real thing.
If there is one thing I urge my fellow Americans about when ordering off a menu, is that every cheeseburger I have ever eaten in a Paris cafe has been my favorite one. They are all just so incredibly satisfying. I have been back in France for almost a month, and have yet to fulfill one of my favorite tasks; partaking in a much needed dose of iron and protein. So after numerous occasions of sharing that particular craving aloud to some friends, they urged me to just go ahead and follow through. Which I did, so happily in fact that I almost missed the entire experience. Our friendly French waiter who coined us for Australians informed us that the cheeseburger we were about to order was; yes, was offered with Cheddar cheese, but was not an American cheeseburger. With a toasty bun topped off with sesame seeds, it was juicy and filling, and we indulged.
Not only was the meal satisfying, but the thought that it is only a few blocks away makes me joyfully content.