January 15th-Maurice and I are now in Les Arcs, a ski area in the French Alps. We spent one afternoon skiing. The weather is sunny and it hasn't snowed since December so it is starting to get bare in places but you can't beat the peaks against the blue skies.
A great view at the top
We were in an area near Nice with some friends of Maurice's that he has known since high school. They live in a little town called Le Lavandou right on the ocean and have a great place up in the hills. I think I would like to live near the ocean so we were checking out the area and I'm sure it will be expensive for a place there.
Then we went to Provence to visit some more friends. Maurice has always had a dream to live in Provence and now that he has retired we are starting to look around and see what is available. Jean Marie and his wife took us to five or six little towns and we got a look at the area around them. The whole area is covered with vineyards and the Luberon mountains can be seen in the distance. The ocean is quite a drive away, however. After a while the towns all started looking the same to me-small narrow streets, usually a castle on a hill, and always a cathedral.
A castle in a small village
January 21, 2002
As I said, we have been looking around Provence as a possible place to live, at least part of the time. I don't want to leave Paris. I've really come to love it. I thought I'd talk a little about each town we have seen so far.
Maurice's, and now my, friends Jean Marie and Danielle live near a little town called Villelaure. One day they took us up to another little town called Merindol which has some ruins up above it. It was an enclave of several villages and churches that had all converted to Lutheranism. The Catholics attacked and destroyed all of the villages and killed most of the inhabitants. There is a kind of monument at the top of the hill. You can purchase one of the ruins and make it into a house if you want, as a few people have done. Terrific views.
An interesting town we saw was la Tour d'Aigues. It had the usual narrow winding streets and was on a hill. At the top was an old ruin-11th century-and instead of totally restoring it, the bare outside walls were left standing and the inside was an open air concert area. It was very clean and neat in the town, which most French towns are. One really neat town we saw was called Lourmarin, which is very expensive to buy in and Jean Marie said it was called gauche caviar to give you an idea of the prices.
The facade of the ruin. Concerts held on the other side
A statue in a church. Even the priest didn't know who he was.
Maurice and I both like a town called Ansouis. It had a huge square pond in the town center surrounded by trees and a castle on top of the hill inhabited by a Duke of some sort. Some of the buildings on the hill had been made into really neat little homes. We probably won't get something like that as we want a little land and maybe a pool since Provence gets so hot.
Maurice and mewith the castle in the background
I thought this was a strange statue in the church
We did make a swing through Bonnieux. It's a beautiful town on a high hill with fantastic views. We took a long walk to the top of the hill. It was so cold. The sun was starting to set and as soon as that occurs the temperatures really drop. There is heavy frost every morning. I guess this is normal around Provence although I sort of thought it might be like Arizona with warmer temperatures in the winter.
We haven't done much skiing as we have been tearing up old carpet and relaying new. It was hard work. I am starting to get cabin fever so we are going to ski this afternoon even though snow is still needed. I hate skiing over rocks or ice. Yesterday we walked through a little village near here. It is really old with everyplace built of stone. Like many areas, the old buildings are being bought and remodeled into really nice homes. The town is in an area called Bois de Lune-the forest of the moon-which sounds so romantic but Maurice said they name it that because people used to come up to the forest at night to steal wood. There is a restaurant there with the same name.
The church is the village
Some old stairs with snow
Back in Paris and the temperatures have been in the 50's. I don't even need my winter coat. The skies are often gray here in the winter, with or without rain.
While we were in the Provence area we stopped at a local winery to by some bottles of wine that Maurice's friend, Jean Marie, recommended. I didn't get a picture of the place, but I wish I had. When we walked in there was a small line of people with empty wine bottles or, like one little old couple, 5 huge containers which must have held 4 or 5 gallons that they brought to get filled up with the local cheaper wine. It was like a gas station with hoses attached to huge containers with nozzles just like at the gas station that they used to fill the empty containers. I was amazed. I wondered how long it would take the little old couple to drink all of that wine. Probably one week.
I did get two great shots of Les Arcs as the sun was setting outside our window. One is early sunset, and the other late. The sunsets were always incredible there, if the sky was anywhere clear, which it was while we were there.
I've seen skies like this in Arizona