Yup. It’s definitely Green Acres around here.… And I love it. Two days after moving to Provence from Paris I thought, “What the hell have I done?” But now, exactly one month later, I know I made the right decision and I realized it within three seconds last Saturday. Let me explain…
For the past month, my husband and daughter arrive to Provence promptly on Thursday or Friday evening from Paris after a 2 ½ hour train ride. They go to bed early because they know that their weekend is going to be chock full of my “adventures.” They don’t always want to go but I make them and if they start to refuse, I start to fake cry which usually does the trick. They know that they would be assholes if they refused to take the crippled girl on her “outing.” By the time they are in the car at 8:30 AM, they are committed and their attitude improves slightly.
The first weekend in Provence was spent discovering the local flea markets. Avignon (which Gracie declared the entire town needed to be "power washed"), Beaucaire and Carpentras. Excellent flea markets, not as uptight as Parisian flea markets and the vibe was much more relaxed. Loved it! Gracie has been going to flea markets and antique shows with me since she was zero years old so she knows the drill… And she hates it. Now that she is 20 years old, she attempts to feign excitement. However, she didn’t even have to fake it when she saw a booth of vintage Chanel scarves. She was in heaven. So, because I love her more than life itself and I would literally give her my liver if need be, I bought her a blue and white striped vintage Chanel scarf that she promptly folded like an expert and tied around her beautiful Marella Agnelli swan neck.
The Friday before the flea market we went to a little village called Eygalières. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. Is this town real or am I in a Nancy Myers movie? Charming little village hosting a farmers market offering Provençal olives, ruby red radishes with salt, little olive trees in terra-cotta pots, and piping hot herb roasted chicken and potatoes. The vendors were straight out of central casting… French men (of a certain age) wearing “aged by the elements” dusty jackets, handknit scarves, little hats and of course, cigarettes hanging out of their mouths as they are filling your bag with vegetables which is both disgusting and charming at the same time. The little cafés were exactly what you dream of a little Provençal village… Little wooden chairs, red and white tablecloths and strangely, wild cats just lounging around. Since it was November, beautiful fall leaves scattered around the cobblestone streets. I mean, for God’s sake!
Another Saturday morning in November, my husband and I drove over to the village of Saint-Rémy which is the equivalent of Santa Barbara. This is where the rich people are. Range Rovers, manicures, gourmet pizza trucks, real estate agencies offering $10 million farmhouses, and a Farrow and Ball paint shop! Yes, you heard me, in the middle of hillbilly town is a Farrow and Ball! I felt a bit safer and decided that maybe I wasn’t in a Third World country.
We went to Saint-Rémy that morning for one reason...I wanted to go to the St. Paul de Mausolee which happens to be the psychiatric hospital that Vincent Van Gogh spent one year at after the “incident” involving his ear. But more importantly, this is where Vincent van Gogh painted Starry Night and the Irises. I honestly couldn’t believe that I was walking the same path and looking at the same view that Vincent van Gogh did. It was so peaceful and so serene and so beautiful that I seriously considered faking a psychiatric condition (which wouldn’t be difficult for me) just so I could check myself in to this beautiful place as it is still a fully functioning psychiatric hospital. A large part of the hospital’s program is art therapy and there is a gift shop filled with the patient’s artwork. Take a look…
The following weekend, we had an adventure that I will never forget. Usually my husband is not at liberty to plan our weekends because I am a total bitch and control freak, but this weekend he suggested we go to an exhibit…Carrières de Lumières and I agreed. I had no idea what I was in for. We drove to the little village of Les Baux de Provence which was voted one of France’s top 100 most beautiful villages. My husband forgot our handicap parking pass in our car in Paris so we had to park “amongst the able-bodied.” As I was getting out of the car, into my wheelchair, a little car came ripping through the parking lot and parked in the handicap parking. A man literally skipped out of the car and was proud as a peacock to get the front spot. Not one bit handicapped. I waited to see who else got out of the car hoping to see at least one amputee so I didn’t have to have a confrontation with these strangers. But no, everyone was as physically fit as an Olympian and my blood started to boil. I will admit that his wife had a little difficulty walking but that is because she was fat and that does not equate a handicap. You don’t get to park in the best spot just because you cannot control your fried chicken and French Onion sour cream dip with Ruffles potato chips cravings. #NoteToSelf . To you They rushed into the exhibit and I memorized their faces so that I could give them my “You Are Evil If You Park In the Handicap Parking If You Don’t Need It” speech when I saw them inside. Monsters.
At the top of the village is a gigantic quarry… And a little door. This is where my husband wanted to take me. All I could think about was finding those people. We paid for our ticket and were ushered to a nondescript small door. The door opened and we were led inside. Total blackness. Then, suddenly, the exhibit starts and you realize that you are inside of an enormous limestone quarry as big as you could ever imagine and then… All around you, left to right, top to bottom you are in the middle of a Renaissance painting. The masterpieces of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael are projected onto the limestone walls, floors and ceilings of the quarry at a gabillion times magnitude. And the best part is that it is set to booming opera music echoing off the limestone walls. As I sat there with my jaw hanging open in complete awe, I thought to myself, “This must be what heaven is like.” Truly. I was so filled with wonderment and peace that I didn’t even want to kill the handicap parkers anymore. Saved by artwork, they were! Take a look…
Our next weekend, we went to the little village of Fontvieille to check out the Foire Gourmande au Gras which translates to The Market of Fat. My kind of market. French cheese, Italian cheese, prosciutto, sausages (deer sausage, mushroom sausage, truffle sausage, boar sausage, herb sausage), Corsican honey, black truffles, truffle butter, champagne and… Hold your horses, foie gras. Yes, the politically incorrect foie gras. You cannot escape it in France. It’s here, it’s queer and it’s here to stay. But this farmers market was different. They didn’t just have foie gras in nicely packaged cans. This was the ultimate farm to table. Right smack dab on the table was a plump gorgeous duck. And I’m talking PLUMP! As we were walking by the first booth, the farmer plopped one of the ducks on the chopping board, slit him open like a pathologist performing an autopsy, and ripped out the liver and offered it to us. Gracie literally turned white and her eyes started to roll back in her head and we feared/hoped that she would faint. David and I make a point of placing Gracie in the most uncomfortable positions that we can find (so we can laugh) and this exhibit was more than we could have dreamed of. Gracie already looked out of her element dressed in her all black Parisian uniform and now with her hand clasped over her mouth gagging at the site of foie gras, she could not have looked more foreign in the middle of Provence. I am sure that forcing one’s daughter to visit a foie gras farmers market constitutes child abuse in America, but in Provence it is de rigueur.
On a different Saturday, we visited a store called Leclerc. It’s basically the Walmart of France and the clientele is not much different. It’s funny how white trash translates country to country. Yes, I know I am a brat, but it’s the truth. For example, after we saw three gypsy families enter the store, we saw their young son, aged 8-ish, linger behind… To smoke a cigarette. Swear to God. It was the greatest and worst thing I’ve ever seen.
Now, I’m going to be very honest even if you hate me. It was the first time in my life that I felt like, “I don’t look like anyone here.” It was a strange feeling. There was no one speaking English (not that they should), no one blinged out in designer jeans and designer purses, no one shopping for kale for their green juice, and no one cared that the eggs weren’t refrigerated. Going to a Walmart in the middle of Provence definitely gives you pause. I was surrounded Provençal “country folk.” I’m not saying that it was bad, just different. The funny part was that everyone was looking at me like I was the weird one. And they were right.
On our way home is when I realized that I loved living here. We were driving down our little country road to our house, fields on either side, and we suddenly saw what looked like a man that was actually a woman in the middle of the road flailing her arms begging us to stop. Gracie, who has watched too many horror films and lived in a city for too long, yelled that we should not stop the car because "THIS IS HOW PEOPLE GET MURDERED!!" She was convinced that the man/woman who was in the middle of the road was going to pull out a knife and slash our throats or at the very least kidnap us and sell us into a sex slavery ring in Albania. We were actually confused and didn’t know what to do and didn’t know what this person was doing in the middle of the road until… Until we stopped our car and out of nowhere came a herd of sheep crossing the road. We all just sat in the car speechless. And this is when I decided that Provence is the greatest place on earth. Psychiatric hospitals, feral cats in the street, smoking produce vendors, foie gras farmers, Gypsy children, buildings that needed to be “power washed”, unrefrigerated dairy products, exhibits in quarries, and boar sausage… Green acres is the life for me.
*Well that was a fun Thanksgiving Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale! I’m so glad you liked everything. And I’m super excited that the blue-and-white was a hit! Each of the blue-and-white had 10 pieces available and there are a few left if you need it! All of your packages are being wrapped up and getting ready to be shipped this week. The blue-and-white will be shipped within 10 days. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. The next sale will be in January for my French antiques but the shop will be open all the time for blue-and-white. Now, let's start getting ready for Christmas! But first, make sure you don’t miss tonight’s season premiere of The Housewives of Beverly Hills! #TeamYolanda