Archive for February, 2017

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Haute Provence

February 7, 2017 @ 10:55 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

Turquoise waters of the Verdon Gorge

Thread your way north from the Côte d’Azur to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and enjoy winding through gorgeous natural landscapes to one of the most beautiful sights in France – the Gorges du Verdon at Lac Sainte-Croix.  Several years ago, my daughter and I planned ahead and stopped in a village square to pick up fruit, cheese and bread.  Soon we arrived at our spectacular destination, where turquoise waters spill from the Verdon Gorge into the sprawling, man-made lake.  We spread our picnic in the spring sunlight by the lake, seemingly the only people on the planet.  What an idyllic moment – mom and daughter sharing a trip in Haute Provence!

On to Moustiers Sainte-Marie, we found relative quiet and few visitors compared to the rush tourists in the summer.  Carved from the hills and divided by a rushing stream, we are not in the least surprised that Moustiers is  designated  one of the “Most Beautiful Villages of France”.

Alas – the main attractions here are the little pottery shops – Faïenceries – offering artisan plates and dishes created from centuries-old designs.

Village buildings seem to emerge from rock

We enjoyed a serene visit, wandering among the quaint boutiques, past village fountains and statues and by the 12th-century Notre-Dame church.  High above Moustiers, the Notre-Dame de Beauvoir chapel watches over the village. 

The “supply” of beauty and historic charm in France seems endless.  When we think we’ve “used up” that supply, we round another breathtaking corner. Our next ‘corner’ was to be Antibes along the Mediterranean, where the enchantment continued to prove our endless supply theory.

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Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

 

Père-Lachaise – A Sense of Place and Time

February 4, 2017 @ 11:15 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

The ornate tombs of Père-Lachaise

Our approach differed, as we planned our outing to Père-Lachaise.  My husband read about the most famous cemetery in Paris and told me, “According to the author of this book about the cemetery, ‘The French cultivate death as stately, a final performance….’ ”  He rattled off the names of philosophers and musicians, poets and statesmen, bankers and revolutionaries.  “Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Moliere, Balzac, Chopin, Jim Morrison and Isadora Duncan.”

I was absorbed by the lives represented, the stories that lay beneath the sculptures that honor their lives or demonstrate the depth of the grief of those left behind.  I wondered, “If we could cultivate their collective talent, and discard their misdeeds and misfortunes….”  Who knows?

These were our perspectives, as we began to tread lightly through the avenues of loss and remembrance.  The famed and unknown lay in proximity, their lives entwined in death, as they may have been in life.

So many impressions wash over us.  The sun casts shadows over the graves of past heroes and ancient bards.  The intrusive sounds of current city life drift over the high walls that encircle Père-Lachaise, the automobiles and sirens and cell-phone encumbered walkers.

They begin to fade, replaced by the soothing sounds of birds from the trees above, as we wind our way to the interior.  Visitors point and whisper in quiet conversations. We overhear a tour guide noting the life and accomplishments of Frederic Chopin to her small group.

Each grave tells its own story, touching every joy and sorrow man has known.  The grave of an infant who lived for six days rests next to his father who lived sixty years.  Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein rest together with a shared tombstone.   Collections of grave sites and memorials to bravery reflect the grief and losses of all the wars and revolutions that have touched Paris and the world beyond.

I am drawn to the flowing sculptures, sad guardians of the dead.  One majestic statue depicts a woman defeated, her aged marble head in her hands.  Another reveals a serene matriarch, hands in lap, her simple shawl draped around her shoulders, as if calmly watching over those who have joined her and those who will follow through the years.

France remembers you

Finally, we are stilled by the stark simplicity of one war memorial.  We stood before a white monument with a small child posed, reaching upwards to write her sweet inscription on a broad expanse of marble.  “France souviens-toi.”  “France remembers you.”

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Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

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