A French Interlude, Part 3

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May 23 – June 5, Haut de Cagnes

This most recent trip to France was the first time I’ve returned to Europe in 50 years. I was last there in the summer of 1968. We travelled for a couple of months, driving from London to Rome and back up to Denmark and Sweden. I still remember key moments from that trip. But the one that’s haunted me ever since was my experience at the Foundation Maeght in St. Paul de Vence. I was twenty years old with no sense of who or what I was. But walking through the sculpture gardens there I felt a profound sense of self-recognition. It was years before I fully understood this experience. Which was an awakening of my artist mystic self. It was so powerful however, I never forgot the place or the way it felt inside me.

And this is the memory — what we’ve taken to calling my “through the stones” moment, that was the inspiration for this most recent journey. If you’re wondering if I felt the same mystical sense of aesthetic rapture in 2018, the answer is “Yes and perhaps even more.” If you’re wondering why it took so long to return, well, that’s a question for another time…

We decided to spend our first week in Paris because really, how can one go to France for the first time in half a decade and not go to la Ville Lumière — and to then head south and spend two weeks in Provence. Ideally in a medieval village halfway between St. Paul and the Côte d’Azur. Which is how we ended up in Haut de Cagnes, a place neither of us had ever heard of. And hats off again to Coby, my amazing daughter who discovered this place so many artists call home, it’s been nicknamed the Montmartre of the Côte d’Azur. Talk about perfection…

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There is something exquisite about living in a medieval village. I think this has partly to do with the abundance of stones. One has the sense they’ve seen everything. Not just seen it. Sheltered it. Supported it. Protected it. Haut de Cagnes dates back to 1340. So  those stones have some stories to tell…

IMG_3691.JPGIMG_3686.JPGOne of my favorite activities was wandering around the village. I loved walking down to the market in the morning. Even loved walking back up the hill. Which was so steep that  depending on how full my basket was, required two or three rest stops. How great though, to sit for a moment to catch my breath and gaze at the Mediterranean. And then come home for le petit dejeuner and feast on warm croissants with butter and jam, apricots, peaches, and comte, the ubiquitous cheese of Provence. OMG. I never eat this way in the States. I’m allergic to wheat and have lactose intolerance… In France, we ate croissants in the morning, cheese and baguettes in the afternoon and evening. And I always felt great. Vive la France...IMG_3792

The doors in Paris blew me away. They are stunningly majestic. Clearly I am not the only person to think so. Check out Raquel Puig’s book, Doorways of Paris. She also has an Instagram account.

The doors in Haut de Cagnes are built on more of a human scale. Which makes them very welcoming. Even when they’re closed.

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On one of my first walks down to the market I discovered Modigliani’s house and garden. Just a few doors down from where we were staying. It’s not clear in this photo but if you peek through the arch and over the trees, that’s the Mediterranean off in the distance. I loved walking by this dreamscape every day and breathing in the creative magic still alive there…IMG_3632.JPG

Another thing about living in a medieval village is the sense of timelessness. There’ such a strong connection to the past. I mean really, it’s right there. Right here. Ancient past and immediate present have merged into one. Which has a very softening effect I think on that ego-driven sense of our own importance. Life comes into a much truer perspective I think in a place like this. I can only speak for myself but for me, there was such a comforting sense of my infinitesimal place in the great matrix of time and space.

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3 thoughts on “A French Interlude, Part 3

  1. I love these interludes. And wonderful photos – many I have not seen. They truly capture the STEEP hills and beautiful stones everywhere. Bravo. Magnifique.

  2. I too have taken two trips to France, separated by decades, 1980 and 2009. The first visit was to Paris, the second exclusively outside Paris, arriving from the southeast, driving from Geneva to Citeaux and Dijon, then to Troyes for a few days and then back south to Talloires in the Savoie region by Lake Annecy, where we stayed a week. I know what you mean about the stone. I especially loved touring by car through tiny villages with old stone houses pressed up close to the road and seeing the medieval structures, some eight centuries old. In Talloires I took one walk down to a little book store run by a French man who knew Anandamayi Ma, of all people, and then I walked back UP the long long hill!
    Thanks for sharing all these beautiful pictures with your account of your sweet and arduous morning walks and the precious thoughts that came from them.

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