Friday, November 30, 2012

Provence Vacation - Part 5 of 5

Back in September, Muschi and Paschi took us on vacation to the Luberon region of Provence.  Here are some pictures and my notes on our time there.  
We stay close to home.  In the morning, we visit the tasting room of one of the regions's candied fruit, or fruits confits, producers.  We have driven by this store several times, and I've been looking forward to sampling a regional product and buying a few gifts.  We try the different fruit and chocolate dipped confections and watch a video on the candying process.  It a sugary petrification: all the water in the fruit is replaced with a sugar solution, transforming the fruit into something that is relatively imperishable (part of why this fruit is used in fruitcake).   The art in the making candied fruit is in the careful modulation of the sugar concentration and gentle handling the fruit so that it retains something of its fresh appearance. The Apt fruit confits makers seem particularly concerned with presentation--they sells melons and and pineapples candied whole.   Fruits that lose color are dyed to keep them aesthetically appealing.

After trying a few of the samples (and looking at some price tags) the boys announce that they are unimpressed and are about to go into diabetic shock.   At some point, Don says, "you know what tastes like candied fruit, but is better and cheaper? Regular fruit!"

But I'm still under the spell of the fruits confits and would gladly continue tasting till my head floats off my shoulders from the sugar buzz.   The gift baskets with their jewel-like fruits nestled in frilly paper sleeves put me in mind of the winter holidays.  Here are the sugar plums that dance in children's heads!  "It's the history!" I insist. People may sing about having Christmas in July (Auntie Mame reference), but, for hundreds of years, the Provencal confiseurs have been engaged in the more pressing task of bringing July to Christmas! 

Finally, I settle on buying a small box of candied orange slices for friends and some candied cherries for a Christmas fruitcake.

After the store, we stop in Apt for a little more shopping.  I have my heart set on visiting a toy store that I'd found online.  I want to buy something for Loulou, who has yet to receive a birthday present from her parents, and something for our Godchildren, one of whom had a birthday at the begining of the month.  We find the store, but it has already closed for lunch.

We return to Le Rosier for an eclectic meal of cabbage, ravioli, and beef patties.  Then we have a dip in the pool.   Only Donnie has been brave enough to try the pool so far, as the weather has been brisk.  But now we all try it, with the exception of Louisa, who doesn't have a great track record with pools, especially cold ones.  She cries when she sees me jump in the water, as though she hadn't quite understood that the quivering blue surface was water and was something that her mother could disappear into.

After our quick dip, Muschi, Paschi, and I return to Apt to visit the toy store once again.  I buy two  sets of wooden farm figurines.  I'm happy to have found a simple wooden toy that both the babies and their older sibling might enjoy.  And they were made in France!

We return home, collect Donnie and Loulou, and head  to the Colorado Provencal restaurant, hoping to eat some wood oven pizzas like the ones Donnie and I had seen (and smelled) the evening before.  Naturally, the restaurant is completely booked.  We head home for leftovers.


We slowly, painfully, stuff the car full of our baggage, souvenirs and leftover food.   I have my feet wedged next to a soup tureen from the Rustrel brocante, and our bag of travel food and our breakfast fougasse on my lap.  I'm paying for my acquisitive ways.  I resolve to adopt a monk-like approach to material possessions and never buy anything ever again.

But then we stop at the Apt Market.  The Apt market is famous for its size and lively atmosphere.  Donnie decides to forgo the market and remain in the car with a sleeping Louisa. The market starts in the same parking lot where the producer's market was, but unlike the producers' market, the Saturday market spills into the city's narrow inner streets, taking up blocks and blocks of the old city.  We see perhaps a fourth of the market during our visit.  Mum buys a sweet ceramic bird whistle for Maria and some beautiful olive wood cutting boards.  We pose for pictures with a dried flowered bouquet and are scolded by the vendor for not first asking permission to take the pictures.   I buy a leopard print silk scarf that I think goes with my recently purchased rain mackintosh.

Tapenade and adorable ceramics for sale,

The illicit photo of Mami posing with the dried bouquet.
When we get back to the car, bubbling over our purchases, we learn that Louisa began screaming the moment we left the car, and Donnie tells me that while the scarf may go with my raincoat, it still looks like a dirty rag.  Well, you win some and you lose some--and it is silk.

On our trip home, we skirt around Avignon and stop at impressive Pont du Gard.

We can't stop for long at the aquaduct because it's beginning to rain and the wind is wipping up.  We return to the stuffed car and eat lunch.  The drive home takes us through pelting rain and traffic jams.  We listen to Radiolab and the NASA press conference following the landing of the Mars Rover.  We finally arrive in Orsay around 9 pm.  Before extricating ourselves from the debris in the back seat, Muschi and I put on our most world-weary faces and Donnie takes this picture.  It's supposed to remind us to be minimalists--no more stuff!

Looking at the pictures from the Apt Market, I wonder why I didn't buy any of those cute tapenade bowls--only three euros a piece!  They would have fit!


The day after our return, Paschi heads back to Charles De Gaulle for his trip home.  Muschi follows a few days later.   Donnie, the girls, and I get back into the routine of work and school in our little Paris suburb.

I've been trying to pin down what is my biggest take-away of the trip, and it comes to this:

We are a bunch of semi-itinerant knowledge workers (or dependents of knowledge workers), and as such, it's easy to forget man's connection with the place he lives--how the minerals in the dirt and the shape of the hills can determine history.  The Luberon's ochre cliffs,  castles, vineyards, and olive groves, all speak of this connection.  Man cultivates the land, and in turn his livelihood and culture are specific to where he lives.   The Luberon had the feeling of a land that is loved, and kept beautiful because of this fact.  Every place should be so cherished.  The place we call home is sacred ground.   

This vacation was also a wonderful family experience.  Different scenery, and the act of deliberately setting the time apart helps glue the memories. 

Thank you, dear Muschi, dear Paschi for this vacation! Thank you, dear Reader, for hanging in there with these posts.  I'd love to hear any travel tips or thoughts you might have.

1 comment:

  1. No, no, the scarf is wonderful! I am firmly in favor of it.

    Also, my dad will be so jealous when he sees the photos of the Pont du Gard! He started asking me to take photos of various engineering marvels in Berlin--such an engineer :)