Mon Dieu … I did it!

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Two-year-old Kate’s favourite saying is “I did it!” Today I echo that. I finally figured out how to make a slideshow work here. Transferring it from my iPhoto to YouTube was the secret. You probably already know how to do that but it was a big deal for me … truly, you wouldn’t want to know how many hours I’ve spent attempting to make it work in all sorts of other ways.

So now, if you will, follow the footsteps of inspired artists and writers in Arles … through Place de La Republique with it’s Roman obelisk and the Church of St. Trophime (formerly  a cathedral) with its 12th C. cloister that instantly inspire thoughts of mystery and intrigue, along narrow streets past Van Gogh’s hangout, Le Cafe De Nuit, to the Arena/Amphitheatre and the Roman Theatre where crowds continue to be entertained as they have since Roman times and finally, end with a glimpse of life in the Camargue thanks to some postcard photography.

Now that I finally did it, I HAD to share it. If your speakers are on, Edith Piaf accompanies you.

Have you ever visited Arles? I would love to hear what you liked best about the Bouches-Du-Rhone area. Next week we will be back on the Riviera. I hope you’ll be there too.

When the tech stuff tanks, take a stroll …

If it’s Friday, It must be France …

For whatever reason, I simply cannot download my slideshow of Arles onto this page. I’ll keep working on it.

In the meantime, join me on one of my early morning strolls through our home base of Antibes.

 

Our front yard.

 

Pass through the one original remaining gate in the 500 year-old walls that once enclosed the entire village.

 

Stroll the narrow cobblestone streets.

 

No agenda necessary. Imagine Napoleon attempting to convince new recruits to join his campaign or Picasso rushing through town to his studio.

 

To the other side of the old town. My favourite view of le vieux village.

 

Plan to end up at the daily market with an empty basket to fill.

Where are your favourite places to walk where you live? Do you celebrate your surroundings or would you rather be living elsewhere? Tell me about it.

 

 

 

Van Gogh in Arles

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

I know … I’m sneaking in under the wire to still post this on Friday. On top of that, I’m kind of taking the easy way out today  – but by accident. Honest! I didn’t know these incredible websites existed until a few hours ago.

First I wanted to explain how to pronounce Arles correctly. The most common mistake that North Americans make is they pronounce the “s” and that is just SO not cool. Don’t pronounce the “s” at the end of any French towns ( um, except for a few exceptions … in fact, hardly ever on any French words but then you run into more exceptions and that’s a whole other story  … we don’t even want to get into that now …  ).

So one day our fabulous friends Christian, Lucille and Hubert (with whom we spent such lovely times in France last summer), gave us a pronunciation lesson for Arles. I was going to explain it to you and then I found this website. Click here! Ha! Just place the mouse on the word “Arles” and you will hear the correct way to say it! Amazing! What’s better is you won’t have to put up with me blathering on, attempting to explain it.

Today I wanted to share with you some more of Vincent Van Gogh’s history in Arles and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. BUT … I can hardly accept any credit for compiling this information. As I began my research, I came across a most impressive website about that very topic. The Web is just SO amazing, n’est-ce pas?

If you are in a hurry right now, wait until you have a few minutes and come back to this page. In fact, wait until you have time to bring along a glass of wine or a pastis or a cup of tea or whatever your beverage of choice, so you can just relax and enjoy this. Honest … you’ll love it …

First click on the video here, take a long sip, relax and enjoy … mmmmm …

Wasn’t that beautiful?

Now when you have more time, check out this site below. I’ve already sent them an e-mail thanking them for doing all my work!

Please click here and visit the VanGoghGallery.com to see a finer selection of photographs of Arles than I could ever provide. A painting of Van Gogh is shown alongside a photo of how that same scene looks today. It’s surprising how much of this beautiful town and area has not changed. As you can see, there is a load of fantastic information on this website. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have today. I did spend a lot of time on this when I should have been writing but … c’est la vie! It was worth it and I will catch up tomorrow.

Thanks to Carrie Spencer, our resident WordPress expert from our Wana blogging group, I do know how to set up a slideshow now. Oh, was I excited to receive her simple instructions! I’ll save my Arles slideshow for next Friday as I’ve taken up enough of your time today.

When we visit Arles, we always have a drink or a meal at the Van Gogh café and toast to Vincent and the beauty he left the world in spite of his tormented soul. RIP.

In fact, as I’m typing this, my DH just brought us a glass of wine and we are toasting Vincent again and listening to the Don McLean song for the umpteenth time today. Santé!

Have you visited Arles? If you are planning a trip to France, be sure to include this town. Are you a Van Gogh fan and do you have a favourite amongst his paintings? I love to hear from you so feel free to leave a comment!

Post-Thanksgiving Thankfulness

The Thanksgiving weekend weather in southern Ontario could not have been more perfect.  This holiday is my favourite.  I love it no matter what the weather but it’s even more fun counting your blessings when the sun is shining!

Taking time to be thankful every day is a habit I have long cultivated and the … ahem … older I get the more I think about it. We all have days when issues drag us down into negative territory. That’s life! I like to recognize each day for the gift it is, grab on to it and make it the best I can.

Before  I do anything more with this fine day, there are some friends I need to thank … in fact, I should have done this some time ago.

Thanks to Social Media Goddess and Mighty Fine Lady, Kristen Lamb, whose blogging course a number of people took a few months ago, a group of bloggers came together in quite an extraordinary way. A unique cyberbond was formed. (I need to interject here that Kristen is running the course again so if you haven’t signed up … do it! Go! Right now! I’ll wait for you to come back. Click here for the link.)

Now for the overdue thanks. Recently, Tameri Etherton(A Cup Of Tea and Sorcery) , Kate MacNicol (Hanging by A Moment), Carrie Spencer (Smartass Romance) and Natalie Hartford (Life Out Loud), talented bloggers all, on separate occasions honoured me with the Liebster Blog Award. I was thrilled. It’s always fun to receive awards. Thanks to all of you! For you readers, when you have time, click on those links. You will be glad you did!

However with everything else that’s been going on in the past few weeks I am only now getting around to passing on the award. The whole point of this is to pay it forward and build community. Liebster, by the way, is a German term of affection. Very sweet.

Ok, then, these are the *rules*: this award is meant to highlight newer blogs. So the blogger receiving the award links back to the blogger who awarded him/her, and tags 3-5 people. For those I am about to award, I should also point out there is no obligation to continue this award. If this is not your cup of tea, don’t worry.

Naomi Bulger, Messages In A Bottle, author of Airmail, a wonderful quick read that is quirky, magical and thought-inspiring … just like her unique blog. Don’t miss it!

Linn B. Halton, author of Touched By The Light and founder of the fabulous loveahappyending.com website which brings together writers, readers, reviewers and literati in general around the world.

Barbara Conelli, author of Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita, who writes about Italy in a way that makes you feel you are there!

Patricia Caviglia, author of Masks, and a young woman who speaks to the reality of juggling the demands of parenting, the day job, and being an author.

Congratulations ladies! Pick up the award and put it on your website. This award means you deserve to be recognized.
Do with it what you will!

Then – tadaaaaaa – last week this award arrived from my friend and fellow blogger, Angela Orlowski-Peart, who writes from the heart and has the best smile ever!

Here are the rules for this award:

1. Thank and link to the person who nominated me.
2. Share seven random facts about myself – which I did here.
3. Pass the award along to deserving blogging buddies.
4. Contact those buddies to congratulate them.
I’m passing this award on to Amy at Everything But The Kid, who puts more energy into every single thing she does than anyone else I know … and always with the cheeriest attitude.
Thanks again all of you, for your thoughtfulness, support, and enthusiasm. Blog on, my friends!

It’s worth the drive to Arles

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

We’re taking a little side trip today to Arles, just  a 2-1/2 hour drive  from Antibes and the French Riviera to the area (département) known as the Bouches-du-Rhône (great info and pics on this site). The changing scenery from La Côte D’Azur,  through the dramatic red rock hills of Le Massif De L’Estérel, alongside vineyards and farmland in the Var, guarantees the time on the A8 autoroute passes quickly.

Wow! You’ll be glad you came along. Arles is a UNESCO World Heritage site dating back to the 7th Century BC when it was a major Roman-Gallo city (Arelate). Built on the edge of the Rhone River where it branches into two parts to the sea, established its importance as a port.To say it is a treasure trove of well-preserved  Roman sites would be an understatement.

Charmingly medieval streets, narrow and winding, pass between ancient buildings. Who can resist them? Not me!

The major Roman sites, such as the Arena and the Theater, are uniquely integrated into the houses and buildings of the town, and used today for concerts, plays, and even bullfights … gulp, yes still … more on that next week and modern changes to the ancient sport. Also I’ll fill you in on Van Gogh’s stay in Arles – as colorful as his paintings, let me assure you!

I’ll just include this teaser now . One memorable evening, Vincent Van Gogh chased his friend, artist Paul Gauguin, down the street holding a razor. Um … there’s a reason for the bandage in this self-protrait.

Van Gogh’s stay in Arles was relatively short but he still managed to complete over 200 paintings while there.

Here’s a quick look at the Arena. I’m going to figure out how to include a slideshow for next week. I hope you will plan to drop by for that.

 

 

 

Have you ever been to Arles? You know I love to hear from you so please share a memory or two. À bientôt!

Actually it’s Saturday and it’s Toronto …

If It’s Friday, It Must Be France … 

Sorry I’m late with this … yesterday was a little busy …

Although our idyll in France is over and we returned to Toronto yesterday, I’m going to continue posting about the south of France for a while longer. I receive a lot of e-mails about these posts with great questions and I’m happy to keep sharing information and my photos. People seem to prefer sending e-mails to leaving comments and that’s just fine with me. I’ll get back to you either way … avec plaisir!

All summer in France we intended to go and see the Woody Allen movie “Midnight In Paris” at one of the English movie theatres in Nice. Somehow we never got around to it. It seemed kind of fitting then, as I settled into my seat for the flight to Toronto from France yesterday that this was one of my movie choices. I loved it!

First of all, the camera caresses Paris throughout the film and truly gives you a sense of being there. Secondly, the main character writes screenplays and is an aspiring novelist. Hmm, a lot to which I could relate. I had no idea of any other details although I had read in the Nice-Matin (my morning French lesson newspaper) that Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the wife of the President of France, had a small role. They seemed quite proud of that.

The fact that other artists and writers factored into the story in such an interesting way was a completely delightful surprise. This isn’t a film for adventure seekers or a chick flick. Funny and charming, it’s a romantic comedy – a love story about a city and a culture as  much as about some people who have very different views of what is important in life.

That takes care of the movie part of this post. Now for the music. A French friend told me about a popular singer here called Zaz and I was SO glad she did! I’ve been playing her music on my morning walks all summer. This song is my favourite and I was amazed to find a video showing english lyrics. It’s fun and energizing and  a great motivator in the morning!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stbR3z-Cz68

Now that we’ve looked at some recent entertainment from France, here’s the beloved Edith Piaf to take us back to the past.

Next Friday, this blog will be visiting the beautiful town of Arles. I hope you will be along! Is there some place in the south of France you would like to know more about? I’m always happy to share information, photos or answer any questions you may have.

I have a confession to make …

Okay, here are my excuses for not having a post organized for today:

1. Our wifi was down for five days.

2. Every time I went to an internet cafe I was distracted by all the cool stuff going on around me. Even in the quietest location it was all just happening … um, maybe my timing was off … happy hour is always happy, isn’t it …

3. I’m packing and organizing to return to Toronto after our four and a half months in Antibes.

4. Our French friends keep organizing “au revoir” moments (Seriously, my hairdresser is even closing her shop so a few of us can share lunch there tomorrow, how sweet is that? It will be my last opportunity to stumble through a social engagement entirely in French with three women whose laughter is contagious and who patiently explain until I get it too.)

5. With the internet unavailable at home the “distraction quotient”, a common writer’s issue, was greatly reduced. I got on a roll with my manuscript and made great headway this past week. A few unexpected characters  found their way into the story and I’ve been having a fine time developing them. I like it when that happens. I feel energized about the story and hopefully will be able to stay on track and complete it by December.

Now that I’ve shared my list of excuses, I hope it explains why this video has nothing to do with anything except entertainment. One of our kids sent it to me a few months ago and I watch it from time to time (did I mention the “distraction quotient”?) because it is just so much fun. It’s been around, so whether you are viewing it for the first time or the umpteenth, enjoy!  Then send it on to someone you know who will smile just as much when they watch it. Tillman rocks!

This week helped remind me that I need to spend less time on internet demands and more time on actual writing. I’ve got to keep Kristen Lamb’s words ringing in my ear!  If you are a writer or a blogger and haven’t taken her awesome blogging and social media online course, click here and sign up now. She puts it all in perspective.

Enjoy these last few days of September!

Gentillesse Gratuité – Free Kindness

If It’s Friday, It Must Be France …

My friend author Naomi Bulger (don’t miss her Messages In A Bottle blog) is in France and Italy right now on a wonderful holiday with her family. I know they are having an awesome trip making memories that will last a lifetime.  Naomi has such a quirky, creative eye and the ability to discover beauty in the most unusual places, I can’t wait to hear about her adventures and see her photos.

I was delighted when she asked if I would contribute to her blog in her absence! Since it’s Friday and she’s in France and so am I (although we will miss each other by days) and  I always write about France on Friday, here it is!

Last week I wrote on my blog about random acts of kindness and it was awesome to hear from so many of you. Thanks for the e-mails! There’s a lot of good stuff going on out there in this big wide world of ours and your stories are inspiring. Keep spreading them! In France the term translates as Gentillesse Gratuité – Free Kindness. I like that, don’t you?

On November 13, they celebrate La Journée de la Gentillesse in France and the number of people participating each year is growing.

Apparently November 13, 2011, is now officially World Kindness Day,  a day that encourages individuals to overlook boundaries, race and religion. According to modern psychology, altruistic acts increase our own happiness in a profound way.

The mission of The World Kindness Movement, introduced in 1988,  is to inspire individuals towards greater kindness and connect nations to create a kinder world. The WKM encourages individuals of all nations to set up their own kindness movements and join the WKM. Currently, membership includes representation from France as well as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Dubai, England, India, Italy, Japan, Nepal, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Scotland, South Korea, Thailand and the USA.

This post isn’t as much about France as other Fridays and I’ll make it up to you next week, I promise! But I did find this video which has that je ne sais quoi flavour to it.

Why can’t we make every day a kindness day? I mean, wouldn’t we all be a lot better off?  Let’s each start our own personal movement right now and see where it takes us! Let me know how it’s working for you and pass the message on.

If you go to www.giftofkindness.com you can order these cool cards.

Be the change you wish to see! La gentillesse a toujours du bon!

Request Free Cards Via Mail | Send Your Name and Mailing Address to Cards@GiftofKindness.com

Kindness Card (2 sided – back image of card below)

Request Free Cards Via Mail | Send Your Name and Mailing Address to Cards@GiftofKindness.com

Thank You Card (1 sided)

Request Free Cards Via Mail | Send Your Name and Mailing Address to Cards@GiftofKindness.com


Les Amis – ours and Saint-Bernardin’s

If It’s Friday, It Must Be France …

Mon Dieu! It’s a good thing there’s a time difference so I’ll get this post on my blog on Friday somewhere! We had six very special friends – 5 adults and one absolutely adorable two-month old Alice –  for lunch (le déjeuner) today and it did go on, in a very good way, until well into this afternoon!

This morning I dashed off to the market to pick up a few items and to have a fromage (cheese) consultation with my friend Jacques (who has now asked me to use “tu” with him, which means we’re tight … we’re friends … I’m so pleased ). Did I mention he is the model for one of the main characters in the novel I’m currently writing? But I digress …

I  just want to share this one comment of his with you because it demonstrates something that I love about the French and their traditions. He asked if our friends were French or English. When I said they were French, he replied, “Le Brie, c’est obligatoire!” In other words, when serving cheese (always after the meal, NEVER before in France except for little cocktail chunks of cheese which I’ll explain some other time) to your French friends you  MUST include some Brie. Then he chose a Bleue and a Beaufort to go along with that. I’m having quite an education in the art of cheese.

But I have a confession to make (and I don’t intend to tell my good friend Jacques, I hope he doesn’t read this … he did ask for my website … ok, I might have to confess …). We were having such a good time and our friends brought this amazing dessert and I forgot to serve the cheese. I can’t believe it!  After all that! I know Jacques would be as disappointed as I am. Never mind, some dear friends of ours are arriving tomorrow for a week and I’ll serve it to them. They aren’t French but I know they will enjoy it almost as much!

Speaking of friends, last evening my DH and I had tickets to a Bach violin oncert in the 16thC, La Chapelle De St.-Bernardin in the old town of Antibes (where we are living for just two more weeks … wiping tears so I can continue to type …). After all the amazing jazz we heard in July with the Nice Jazz Festival and then our own Jazz À Juan, this would be quite a change.

I often pop into this small church which is built on the site of Roman ruins, as are many buildings here. It’s on my way to the market and I’m in love with the doors. I like to touch them (you’re allowed to)  and think about the people connected to them. They’re 500 years old and the wood is simply beautiful with a colour so intensely rich and warm they almost feel alive. The date, 1581, is carved into them.

If I don’t go into the church, I look at the doors at the end of the narrow alley leading to them every single time I walk by. Did I mention, I love them? I’ve posted about these doors before but will just remind you of the story. In the 1500’s there was a terrible plague in the area. The survivors arranged for these doors to be carved and donated to the church in thanks. Beautiful.

Part of the wonderful story of this little chapel is that it almost didn’t survive the passing of centuries and the change in society’s approach to religion. Like many churches during the French Revolution (1789-1799), the church was taken over and it’s riches plundered. After that the building fell into disrepair and abandonment. In the late 1970’s there was a fire in the building after which a group of local people founded Les Amis de Saint-Bernardin. Through their dedicated efforts the chapel has been restored to it’s former glory. Every detail was carefully researched and returned to it’s original appearance. They were able to uncover and clean one fresco in such condition that it has been left in it’s original state. It’s very moving to view.

The before and after photos of the work accomplished in this project are incredible. When the doors of the church are open anyone may go in at no cost and in fact there is no place to even leave a donation. It was declared an historical monument in 1985.

The concert, performed by renowned Olivier Charlier, was beautiful and the setting simply intensified the experience. Click here to visit his site and actually hear him playing.

I’m certain Les Amis de Saint-Bernardin feel proud and satisfied by their efforts. We stand in awe. It’s wonderful what friends can do.

Have you worked on any special projects with friends of yours? It would be great to hear your experiences.

Have you forgotten to serve something special to your friends when they were over for a meal? Please leave a comment below and tell me I’m not alone!

Windows, wandering and wondering …

If it’s Friday, It Must Be France …

One of my favourite buildings in Nice is where the artist Henri Matisse lived for many years beginning in the 1920’s. There is no plaque marking this history  of the building and the space is not open for viewing. It was after a number of years of visiting this fabulous city that I learned about it. But I had always loved the building. It’s right at the end of Cours Saleya, the market street in the old town, and can’t be missed. Most tourists probably have a photo of it in their vacation collection because it literally hollers at you to take it’s picture.

I spent today wandering around Nice with a BFF who is visiting us for a week from the States. If you’ve read my novel, The Bridge Club, she’s the character Cass and we were in Nice together 44 (yikes!) years ago when we were 21. We shared a lot of memories today and laughed way too much! It was so much fun.

She’s a photographer too and we took a lot of window shots as we wandered. You can’t help yourself!

 

The colour combinations of buildings and shutters are striking. Old, restored, peeling, pristine.  Don’t ask how many photos I have of  them … it’s crazy …

These shots fall in the restored and pristine category. I’m saving the old and peeling for another day.

 

 

I often wonder who looks out the windows I photograph.

 

Sometimes I see faces in the windows as my shutter clicks away and I hope they don’t mind.

But as we wandered and reminisced and laughed and photographed and appreciated the beauty around us, we became increasingly aware of a very strong police presence throughout the city.  Unusual.

We speculated as to the cause and realized that Sunday is September 11. Everything that day symbolizes remains strong and clear ten years later and we wondered if that was the reason for the seeming increase in security visibility. We thought about the windows in the Twin Towers. How life can change in a fraction of a second.

We reminded each other that none of the horror or heroism of that day will ever be forgotten. We wondered if the world will ever truly be at peace. Everyone, every day, must work towards that goal.