Friday, April 27, 2012

Lolligaggin' In Provence - The Biggest Picasso I Ever Saw

Italy has Tuscany.  France has Provence.  Among other things, the enchantment of Provence gave rise to an account of two transplanted Brits who moved to a small village in The Luberon  region of Southeastern France.  A Year In Provence is a witty and heartfelt account of two expats and their dogs living in one of Europe's most intriguing places. Provence is a place where you can experience the eclectic nature and simplicity of country living and small towns where French/Provencal culture has been cultivated and maintained with unbridled and unapologetic passion. Today's post picks up where I left you after  a three day stay in the very cool, very funky hotel/B&B created by an architect and and artist in the heart of Provence in the City of Popes - Avignon (See Lumani - An eclectic oasis created by an architect and artist in the City of Popes-Magnifique!!  posted on 08/07/12).

No Planes Thank you - Just Trains & Automobiles

After riding on air from Paris to Avignon via high speed rail, we rented a car for our road trip through this beautiful region of France with human habitation dating back to prehistory. With typical cruising speeds in excess of 180 miles an hour, in comfortable, roomy seating compartments, you learn two things. One - train travel, at least in Europe, is by far, the superior way to get from anywhere to anywhere and Two - You hate Delta even more than you did before. Even though we would have preferred to travel everywhere by train, the reality of travel in the countryside requires a car. And, it provides flexibility to stop and see things that you stumble upon, especially in a country as rich in cultural must sees as Provence.

After saying our goodbyes to Jean, the architect, and Elisabeth, the artist we headed towards our next destination, La Bastide de Marie, a converted farm house in the heart of Provencal Wine Country. One of the great things about travel in Europe is its size. Because the countries are much smaller than the US, you can actually travel very short distances to experience vast changes in geography, culture and people. Since our hotel was only two hours from Avignon, we decided to take the slow road through the countryside and enjoy the place up close and personal. Just outside the village of Baux de Provence, we stumbled upon one of the most intriguing museums ever created. Now the French love their art. And this "museum" is proof positive that they can create places for art that defy the guidebooks. And our serendipitous discovery of this particular museum, located in the countryside of one of the most intriguing regions of Europe, proves what we are always saying on this blog. You simply must get off the beaten path to find those less well know places that inform and delight all restless Nomads.

Picasso and Copland Underground

As we rounded a curve heading into Les Baux de Provence, we came upon a small parking area with people milling about, apparently on their way to something. After stopping and inspecting the area further we discovered it. Cathedrale D'Images. This "Museum" was in the most unlikely of places. An abandoned limestone quarry. There in front of us was a former rock quarry that had been converted into one of the most unique presentations of art and music one will ever experience. As we paid the fee and entered this amazing place, you could here music filling the huge spaces left by years of quarrying stone. Everywhere we looked, multiple images were projected on virtually every floor, wall and ceiling surface.  All constantly changing in location, size and scope. Some of the massive "rooms" in this dark, cool place towered over sixty feet in height while extending over a hundred feet in length. Immersed in this unique subterranean collection of interconnecting spaces, the visual experience of a fifty foot high Picasso slowly changing to another painting or image, all to the accompaniment of classical music from Beethoven to Copland, was hypnotic.  As we pondered multiple images of masters of the art world in the darkness, guided only by the cast off light from projected images, we gained an entirely new appreciation for the meaning of art and its uplifting impact on us as people. Unfortunately, this unique contribution to the art world has closed, but knowing the French and their love of art, rest assured this closure will be temporary.

Even though we could have stayed forever in the Cathedrale D'Images, we had to leave to get to our destination for the evening. After stumbling upon this unique place of discovery, we both agreed that, while we loved The Louvre and its Mona Lisa, the French do, indeed, know how to take art appreciation, quite literally, to the next level.

You do not want to miss next week's post on our second destination in Provence, La Bastide de Marie, a converted farmhouse like no other with French cooking that will make you cry - and I mean that in a good way.

Video Artist of The Week - The Modern Jazz Quartet - One of the greatest jazz quartets ever. Old school modern jazz at its best. One critic has called them the perfect rhythm section with a vibe. This is music to sit back and enjoy with your best friends and the one you love.

Travel Quote of The Week - "Our architect, an expatriate Parisian, had warned us that building in Provence was very similar to trench warfare, with long periods of boredom interrupted by bursts of violent and noisy activity," - Peter Mayle from the book A Year In Provence.

A la prochaine,


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