After schlepping all over Italy and braving crummy roads and worse drivers, I am finally at home in Provence.
I only get to spend two weeks at my house this year, as I have rented it out for portions of the summer. (Still some weeks left in mid-July!)
Am busily dividing time between the markets and drives I love so well and working on the house.
My village, Vaison-la-Romaine, has had market on Tuesdays every week since 1532. In fair weather, the market swells to giant proportions, colors leap from tables and locals fill their rolling carts with the bounty of France as it comes into season.
The cherries are gone; the asparagus is gone. Soon, the peaches. With the last of the cherries I made a clafoutis and then a tarte. Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Saw Walter and Patricia Wells at market last week. Patricia tipped me off to a vendor who sells plasticized linen that looks just like linen (since it is linen).
It feels a tad odd, but you simply wipe it down. It costs €15 a meter and is about 1.40 meters wide so to buy a square for a table cloth costs you about $30.
I bought several and then went to another vendor who sells Provençale-style jacquarded napkins at $5 each—no bargain here. Still, I got some nice gifts and an easy solution for tenants in my house who might not want to wash and press my cotton table linens.
ON TO UZES
We made a day trip to the Roman city of Uzes, which is about an hour from my house and on the other side of the Rhone. I call it Saint-Rémy for grown-ups.
Traveling to France? Check out our slideshow guide to Auvergne, France.
It is very similar to Saint-Rémy in architectural style but is not touristy and does not have as many chi-chi shops (or people).
The entire medieval town is hidden, so you park on a ring road that appears to be the main street with the regular shops you may expect (but few chains) and then you cut into allees that lead to squares and small shops and water fountains and more charm than you can imagine.
The food and the shopping are very ethnic here—influences from North Africa and India, as affected by trade routes that once led to nearby Marseille.
PAINTING THE TOWN JAUNE
Prices for most things in France are high, especially items like paint and decorative supplies.
One of my bathrooms got a sudden case of the Black Death—walls and wallpaper had to come down and be reconstructed. I looked at stone-tiles that cost over $200 a square meter. I didn’t buy them, but I was horrified.
What I really wanted to buy was any one of the many carved stone sinks that define rustic—they seem to be reasonably priced, beginning around $200. Alas, I have all the sinks I need.
Paint costs about $50 for a 2.5-liter tin—this isn’t even a gallon (actually closer to one-half gallon). Nonetheless, my terrace is now painted buttercup yellow which picks up the yellow in the design of the Italian tiles and sets off the sunshine with a golden glow.
The great thing about looking at paint in French hardware stores is that the colors are so gorgeous—if you’re willing to pay the money you can have all of Provence at your fingertips.
Paints are sold in jars of pigment, or to be mixed to your directions or by color themes, much like in the U.S. There are also waxes and chalk colors for a more rustic look.
I’d write more about the food and the lavender fields (just turning hazy blue and not yet full blown) but the delivery men are here with the new dishwasher and stove top.
My house has what is called a cuisine Americaine which means open kitchen. I had already replaced the stove top, the oven and the fridge, but now I am getting one of those fancy ceramic tops and the dishwasher so that everything will be brand new.
The delivery men say they do not understand my French, which is odd since everyone else here does. I guess they are foreigners.
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