"regular, unvarying, habitual, unimaginative, or rote procedure".
My everyday routine sometimes feels like a circus act.
Day in, day out, it's a juggling act ---
- part time ringmaster (at least in the laundry room),
- high-wire act (trying to age gracefully),
- chief lecturer (I'm really good at this),
- pitchman (promote regular home repairs and Paris escapades),
- juggler (what to make for dinner tonight) ....
The Daily Grind.
In Paris, they refer to this as metro-boulot-dodo
suggesting the same old tedium of subway-work-sleep.
I guess you can feel stale in every language.
That's why, when we actually get away,
we totally axe the Barnum & Bailey routine.
Count the money, pull up stakes and skedaddle.
No to-do list, no emergencies, no boundaries.
For me, the reward of a life well-lived embraces art and food.
If there's one place in the world to find these gifts in abundance,
surely it's Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.
Saint-Rémy strikes a balance.
Art, history, food, wine.
It's easy to say yes to long days and starry starry nights
filled with such blessings.
Throw in some chocolate, a circuit of plane tree lined streets,
a bizarre wind and a famous predictor of world events ....
It a place to tune your inner piano with good vibrations and a fresh melody.
of Provence is one helluva place to start your journey.
Vincent van Gogh's lifeblood is still front and center,
his own complex journey played out for all to see.
I can't imagine the art world without this mysterious bearded man.
His work bridges the gap between reality and fantasy,
much like his own complicated life.
I wasn't prepared for the emotion that bubbled up inside when I first entered the hallowed wooded walkway that leads to van Gogh's asylum-atelier.
Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, still operating as a psychiatric hospital,
bears the spirit of the van Gogh legend.
My eyes teared up as I slowly walked past the same overgrown gardens that
once upon a time inspired some of his most recognized paintings.
Upon entering the artist's spartan bedroom, I couldn't believe my eyes.
It was a painting -- his painting that we know so well.
I could feel the melancholy, re-live his pain and imagined
how it would feel to be so totally isolated.
Though not allowed to paint in his bedroom (the staff set up
his easel and paints downstairs), it's said that the magnificent
"Starry Night" was his impression of the view from his room.
I longed to stay until the stars came out.
Van Gogh entered the psychiatric shelter in May of 1889.
Hoping to battle his demons, he sought refuge from both his physical and mental disorders, keenly aware that cutting one's ear off was not in the normal range. Suffering from bouts of depression and a form of epilepsy, it was here,
in the monastery-turned-mental-hospital that he created
mountains of masterpieces, many of which are thought to be his best work.
to immerse myself in Vincent van Gogh's fascinating and lasting legacy.
What an emotional roller-coaster it must have been.
Energy and confidence vs. isolation and frustration.
Light and shade mixed with melancholy and creativity.
Roses, irises, butterflies, poppies, cypress trees, fields of wheat.
Mother Nature gives and takes as an artist's soul swells and constricts.
Surrounded by the beautiful Alpilles mountain range
while confined to a hospital filled with mental patients.
Did Vincent van Gogh find some kind of balance and harmony here?
He certainly painted with abandon, producing some 140 canvases in one short year. Unfortunately, knowing the end of his story -- the suicide barely a
year later, we have to conclude any peace he found quickly faded
after leaving safe harbor in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.
But what a legacy.
Elizabeth Taylor owned the oil "View of the Asylum and Chapel of Saint-Rémy".
It sold at auction following her death for nearly sixteen million dollars. Countless coffee mugs, t-shirts and tatoos still exploit the great man's genius.
If he lived today, no doubt van Gogh would have his own signature perfume
and perhaps a sports franchise or two.
Come to think of it, there is a perfume named after him .....
Saint-Rémy's Wednesday market is a stunner,
the centerpiece of any trip to southern France.
The energy here is pure performance art -- blue skies and
pastel shuttered houses make for the best theater you've ever seen.
I wanted to eat EVERYTHING.
But first, In my market frenzy, I made a dash to film the whole extraordinary
scene so I could run home and show it to every grocer in my city and shout,
"See, this is what escarole SHOULD look like --
and how about these leeks, can you see, they're ALIVE with personality --
imagine this, an apricot loaded with something called FLAVOR ..."
A nibble here (local olive paste)
and a whiff there (honest-to-goodness chevre)
and I finally came to the conclusion I should just be happy TODAY.
The escarole so green, the strawberries plump and precocious ...
today at least, I'd probably choose asparagus over ice cream.
There are plenty of other temptations, too, -- local arts & crafts as well as
beautiful textiles and sachets filled with the local lavender.
But I prefer to drool over the incalculable artistry of the food -- GENUINE FOOD --
as it's bought and sold the same way your grandma probably shopped.
Charcuterie, spices, olives, roasted chickens, lavender honey,
fig jam, olive oil and fruit confit ....
There's no better place to revive yourself both body and soul.
local son Nostradamus, the famous seer born in 1503.
His predictions have been both feted and challenged over the years.
Did he really predict all those awful events?
I have no earthly idea but I do enjoy a good mystery.
Perhaps his "vision" came in on the legendary mistral,
the forceful wind that swoops down from the Alps.
I've always wanted to experience this wind and just like the saying goes,
be careful what you wish for.
Luckily, the May mistral was warm for I doubt I could survive
a winter wind that blows that hard.
On a perfectly bright & sunny summer day, the mistral appeared suddenly
in late afternoon, whipping everything (including me) in its path.
It was wild -- but not a storm -- as the sky was crystal clear.
This mistral will definitely throw shade to your activity.
The locals just live with it and the mood swings it
allegedly triggers whenever it lasts for days on end.
We were lucky.
It lasted just long enough to experience the wonder & the aggravation,
leaving as suddenly as it arrived.
After a day or two of the mistral, it's easy to find a few places to console yourself.
Joël Durand is a chocolatier who concocts the best cocoa magic with
combinations of intriguing ingredients such as lavender, violet and anise.
Memorize his ambrosial address: 3 Blvd Victor Hugo
Or, if you can never get enough of the sweet stuff, head to
Lilamand Confiseur, founded in 1866, purveyor of candied fruits,
calissons and syrups guaranteed to wake up your tastebuds in a jiffy.
Recollections of wonderful meals -- aioli and veggies, colorful salads,
lamb shanks and fruit confit -- will keep us sated for years to come.
Our very favorite memory though, is surely the sweet people we
encountered and the little kindnesses extended along the way.
Our host (we rented a historical house for a week) welcomed us with
freshly picked heirloom tomatoes & cherries, a true taste of the Provence sun.
He and his wife, ever generous with their smiles and a desire to please,
bid us a warm au revoir with even more goodies as we sadly made our exit.
Fresh, colorful, priceless.
Don't stay stuck in the Lost & Found.
Forget the next big thing. Do your own thing.
Whether you love van Gogh, stinky cheese, little french villages
or Elvis painted on velvet,
invest in yourself and lean in to your good vibrations.
Starry Nights and Market Mornings.
That's what I call a Masterpiece.