Archive for the 'Memories' category

Le Champ en juillet, 2010

August 2, 2010 1:46 pm

Alain left for a week of vacation and Anna told me that her much younger friend Ferdinand – he’s 80 –  was going to take her to the field. When I finally figured out that he was only dropping her off to work all alone, I decided to drag my sorry ass out of bed early (6:00 a.m.) and go pick her up myself and work with her. Kevin was gone for the entire month, so it would be just us two gals. It was so much fun! I got to her house around 6:15 and first we had a big breakfast of tartines (bread and jam) et beaucoup de café. Then we hopped in their camionette – which I got to drive – and headed off to le champ.

P1050146As soon as we arrived, she started giving me orders, and I followed them. I was, in effect, her slave. She was like a general commanding an army: she surveils the field,  sees what needs to be done, and she just gets to it. As she says, “Le travail est le travail.”

Our first day together began with irrigation. They have an ever-changing web of plastic pipes that connect to a big water pump. You can connect, disconnect, and reconnect the pipes, to direct them into to troughs they’ve dug that parallel the long rows of plants. The water shoots out the pipe and flows alongside the row. You can regulate how far the water goes by damming the trough with a couple shovel-fulls of dirt, or releasing a previous dam.P1050151

If she doesn’t have a sure-fire way of doing something, she improvises.  Anna wanted to irrigate four rows of sunflowers from the top of the rows all at once, but it was set up to irrigate one row at a time. She instructed me to connect what she called “a peasant’s pipe” – a soft rubber tube – to the hard plastic tube. Then she had me cut four holes out of the soft tube as it ran along the top of the rows, et voila! The new system worked perfectly. She cried out, “C’est mon chef-d’oeuvre!” (my masterpiece). I have never seen her so happy as she was that day in the field.

And I was pretty heureuse myself because my next “task” was to pick raspberries. A lot of them didn’t make it to the basket. J’adore les framboises!

Short Trip to Sardinia

May 23, 2010 4:59 pm

Near DorgaliLast week Kevin and I took advantage of a cheap fare from Marseille to Sardinia, and spent 5 days touring the island. In preparation for the trip, I looked up Sardinia on-line and came across this little bit of folklore: Sardinian Legend has it that after completing Her creation of the World [a little editing par moi], God dropped some leftover rocks into the Mediterranean. Then She looked over what She had already created, removed a little of the best from each place, and sprinkled it liberally over one of those dropped rocks which, of course, became the island of Sardinia. It is really really rocky there – a lot like the south of France – and the rock is beautiful, especially set against lots of pines and ink blue or turquoise water. See some of our photos here.P1040724

One of the highlights for us was a hike up to a huge cave – Tiscali – a place high up in a limestone mountain range where one of the mountaintops caved in forming a huge hole protected from the elements. Ancient peoples – the Nuragic – settled in the cave to hide from foreign invaders around 1500 B.C., and the remains of their stone structures are still visible. I had found a website for a hiking cooperative – – located in Dorgali (near the east coast) who arranged the hike. They lead lots of different tours to incredible beaches, caves accessible only by boat, and remote mountain hikes,  and going with them turned out to be a great thing to do. Our guide, Geon Paulo, explained lots about the trees and flowers, as well as the anthropology of the area, and fed us a great picnic of Sardinia cheeses, sausages, breads, and red wine. (BTW, the photo at right shows a little “window” that was created by a falling rock, not the top of the mountaintop that fell in. You can see remnants of the house people made in the rock in the photo.)

Lloc d'Or, B&B in AlgheroThen we moved on to the walled-city of Alghero where we stayed in a lovely B & B, its plain exterior concealing a little urban paradise. It’s run by an extremely genial couple, Gemma and Giovanni, who appear just to want to sit down with you and chat – all the while pouring local wine, setting out little gourmet treats, and telling us about their favorite restaurants and sights. (They can be found at At 50€ a night, the Lloc D’Or was definitely a Bonne Adresse.) One place they told us to visit was Neptune’s Grotto, a beautiful cave along the coast where you have to walk down 600 steps just to get to its mouth.Neptune's Grotto

Sardinian food was fabulous and very reasonable, especially compared to mainland Europe prices; the scenery was rugged but beautiful and filled with wildflowers this time of year; and where we were was authentic and unspoiled by tourism. Plus, you get to hear people chattering away in Italian! Dr. Ruth highly recommends.


Weekend in Paris

November 2, 2009 7:56 pm

P1030682Kevin set his computer to send him a reminder to buy TGV tickets exactly 3 months before the weekend we chose to visit Paris (a little planning can save a lot on train fare) and off we went at the appointed time. We did the usual touristy things like visit the Louvre, meander the magnificent boulevards and neighborhoods, and dine in classic old bistros. New for me was a visit to the cemetery, Père Lachaise. As a gentle breeze wafted falling autumn leaves through golden sunlight, we had a lovely quiet stroll past thousands of tombs, some belonging to people well-remembered but most others to people apparently long-forgotten. I was amazed to find Chopin’s grave absolutely brimming with fresh bouquets of beautiful flowers. I thought it must have been his birthday, but not quite yet. The 200th anniversary of his birth is 1 March 2010. However, as chance would have it, we found ourselves standing before his grave exactly 160 years to the day of his death. Quelle coincidence …

Albert Kahn MuseumThe next day we were very excited to be going to the Albert Kahn Museum. We discovered this fascinating Frenchman in a BBC production called The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn. Permettez-moi to quote from Wikipedia: “In 1909 Kahn travelled to Japan on business and returned with many photographs of the journey. This prompted him to begin a project collecting a photographic record of the entire Earth. He appointed Jean Brunhes as the project director, and sent photographers to every continent to record images of the planet using the first colour photography, autochrome plates, and early cinematography. Between 1909 and 1931 they collected 72,000 colour photographs and 183,000 meters of film. These form a unique historical record of 50 countries, known as ‘The Archives of the Planet’.” (To check out some of these photographs, click here.)

Unfortunately, our advance planning did not include checking the museum’s website and, to our horror, the photography section of the museum was closed until two days later to prepare for the next exhibit. Ugh! But we were able to walk through the stunning gardens at the museum. Kahn had several Japanese houses dismantled and reassembled in the gardens he constructed in Paris. In addition to a lovely Japanese garden, he built a glass conservatory, an English garden, a conifer wood, and a rose garden. The site was well worth the visit but, I’m sure, would have been even better with the photography exhibit. Check out our photos of our weekend in Paris.


Leonard Cohen in Concert in Nimes

August 21, 2009 3:17 pm

P1030217When a friend told me that Leonard Cohen was giving a concert in the Roman coliseum in Nimes, I balked at paying the hefty 96€ for a ticket. Then, the day before the concert, I thought “Am I crazy? Who cares what it costs? It’s Leonard Cohen!” Plus, I realized, he will be 75 years old next month and he might not be planning another world tour any time soon.

So, off to Nimes last night to see a performer I’ve been in love with for 40 years. Can that be possible? He recorded Suzanne, the first song I heard by him, in 1967. Mon dieu …

P1030200I knew the concert would be wonderful but I didn’t expect that I would say afterwards – without exaggeration –  “That was the best concert I have ever seen in my life.” After literally every song, he received a standing ovation. The audience was all over him. I was stunned that he left the stage for good after only 4 encores. It was all over so fast!

P1030172The concert was in the two-thousand-year-old Roman coliseum, Les Arènes – a superb venue for a concert (and, I suppose, for the gladiatorial shenanigans of yore). The air was soft and warm, the sky was clear and dark, and the music was pure magic.

I have been steeped in Leonard’s music all day today and I am watching and listening to Leonard Cohen, Live in Concert as I write this post. Friends Doris and Hu gave Kevin and me the DVD when they visited recently from California. I highly recommend it. Last night’s show is pretty much the same as this London concert of July 18, 2008.

On the DVD, he told his audience that it had been a long time since he had stood on a London stage: “It was about 14 or 15 years ago – I was just a 60 year old kid with a crazy dream.”  Leonard, you’re timeless.


Le Quatorze Juillet

July 15, 2009 11:37 am
Moules Frites en Centre-ville

Moules Frites en Centre-ville

One of my favorite things about living in Provence is the social life that takes place outdoors. Whether it’s celebrating holidays, dining, or picnicking, it’s so pleasurable to sit in warm air with friends, often under the canopy of giant plane trees or in pine forests, and to eat fabulous food. For this year’s Bastille Day, our village offered Moules Frites with a cabaret. Our French friends told us the moules (mussels) had a “Sailor Sauce” (haha!) – that is, “Mariner,” which consisted of mustard, cream, and Provencal herbs. We sat at long tables set up in centre-ville and servers brought large trays filled with the steaming hot mussels. As we finished eat tray, the server set down another one. The moules were delicious, especially with the frites (how and why did Americans ever start calling them French Fries?), and so was soaking up the sauce with bits of baquette, and washing it all down with vin rouge or chilled rosé. The meal concluded with a cheese course, then ice cream. Parfait.

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Les Coquelicots … and Remembrance

June 1, 2009 11:31 am


Flanders Poppies Field

I’ve thought a lot about my negative experience of religious paintings in Valencia since writing my last post. I’ve been feeling uncomfortable about feeling uncomfortable viewing crucifixion scene after crucifixion scene. I’m clear in my belief that I can’t and don’t want to associate that type of imagery with any notion of “spirituality.” However, I have been wondering lately about just what “spirituality” does mean to me.

Then I came upon this magnificent field of coquelicots, the beautiful brilliant red wild poppies with jet black centers in bloom here everywhere at the moment. I had a sort of gentle epiphany. As I stood awestruck before that field, I realized that Nature is the temple I choose to worship in. When in the presence of such natural beauty I can’t help but feel a mixture of reverence, wonder, and an almost delirious joy  –  the proverbial “religious experience.”

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Our Month in the U.S. of A.

March 2, 2009 9:34 pm


No, pas possible! Today is March 2nd and I am only now adding a post about our trip to America. For shame!

We arrived in Gig Harbor, Washington on Christmas Eve and we flew back to France from San Francisco on Inauguration Day – Gobama! And now, about a mere forty days later, I’m finally sitting down to write a post about the trip. (Keeping up with one’s blog isn’t as easy as I thought!) Before any more time passes, I want to thank all our friends and family who took such good care of us.

We were very fortunate indeed to spend Christmas with Mom and Dadums at their home in Gig Harbor. My son Jake flew up from San Francisco to join us and my sister, Susan, and husband Tom and nephews Danny and Billy (who live nearby) were there as well. We were also there to celebrate Billy’s 18th birthday on December 28th. He invited about 40 of his closest friends over, dug a pit in the backyard, and BBQed a whole lamb Argentinian-style on a home-made vertical metal structure. And it worked – deliciously!

On December 30th, we reluctantly said good-bye and flew to San Francisco. We rented a really ugly big American car, and drove to Carmel Valley to stay with dear friend, Lynne. The next day, Kevin and I experienced our best New Year’s Eve ever. What a party! We caught up with old friends Doris and Hu, Donna and Scot, Mary and Gregg, Mark and Elaine, Marv and Wanda, and made new friends as well – Robin and John. It was a perfect gathering of people, with yet another great meal, and hours and hours of crippling dancing. And an after-party the next day. Perfect …

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Quick Trip to Scotland

November 5, 2008 7:59 pm

Cows watching KevinKevin’s expert computer eye spotted a cheap RyanAir flight to Edinburgh recently, so we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to visit our dear friends, Mike and Christina. We last saw Mike, Kevin’s godfather, and his Danish-born wife, Christina, in June at Henley, where they had urged us to come spend some time with them at their home in Scotland. We could only spare a long weekend but – hey – why not?

It was Kevin’s second and my first visit to Scotland, a[nother] country I have always wanted to see. We arrived in Edinburgh Friday night and took the two hour train ride to Stonehaven, just below Aberdeen on the east coast. Unfortunately, it was too dark to really see anything, but Mike picked us up at the station and drove us back to their beautiful cozy cottage and converted barn, and he and Christina fed us a hearty meal. When we woke Saturday morning, the view from our bedroom window was just what I imagined Scotland would look like. We were nestled in low rolling lime-green hills filled with heather and grazing cows and in the near distance we could see the North Sea. It was all sort of wild and wind-swept looking. Beautiful.

After a brisk walk through the surrounding countryside, we drove to Stonehaven where we visited our first pub and dined on fish and chips. From there, we visited a local castle, and then another pub. And thus the theme was set: we seemed to spend most of our time eating great food, drinking pints, checking out gorgeous scenery, and having a wonderful time just hanging our with our hosts. On Sunday, Christina, an expert horsewoman, even gave us riding lessons on her horse, Fred. Their menagerie also includes the hard-of-hearing but still frisky old pup, Sascha, and their black kitty, Nelson.

Monday, we took a very scenic day-time train back to Edinburgh where we had several hours to kill before catching our flight back to Marseilles. Edinburgh seems spectacular, but it will take another visit to really explore it well. Meanwhile, check out a few of our photos.

Thank you Mike and Christina for a wonderful visit. Much love,


Grandma Remembers, Part Deux

February 13, 2008 5:29 pm

IMAGE1(5)My maternal grandparents were known as Mama Davis and Papa Davis. They had sixteen children, but lost four in infancy. Many of my family have quite interesting names. Papa Davis was born James Madison Davis. Mama Davis was named Bertha. Their daughters were Olive Bertha, Flossie Etta (also known as Momo), Sadie, Alice, and Bernice. Their sons were Jessie, Grover, Edward, Comer, Hollis, Clay, and Clifford.

Papa Davis was very talented. He owned lots of land which was forested and also good for farming. He “thinned” trees which were sent to paper mills. By thinning the trees, the other trees grew better. Papa had a wonderful workshop that many of the local men enjoyed using. He was also the local horseshoer.

Mama and Papa Davis had 48 grandchildren. Lord knows how many great and great-great grandchildren they had. Papa lived to be 92; Mama made it to 89.

Here are some more good family names. I have cousins named Ouida Faye Bagley, and Lucy Belle, Minnie Belle, and Lucy Kate. Then there’s Marian Earl Chaney and Virgie Chaney. Berta Davis, Lovey Mae Hicks. Zula Mae Pea. Ester Butts and her sister, Lucy Butts. (John said to add Lucy Bowels, but I won’t.) Oh, and my Aunt Momo was married to Uncle O.C. The initials didn’t stand for anything. Their daughter, Boyde, had a son named Freddy Funches. My sister, Frances, is married to Luther Smith, also known as Smitty Smith.

Ruthie’s named after John’s mother, Ruth Marie. If we’d named her after my mother, you’d all be calling her Olive Bertha. Now wouldn’t that be fine?

Grandma Remembers

February 12, 2008 5:14 pm
IMAGE1(10)My maiden name is Olive Juanita Haskew, but you can call me Nita. I am what you would call a Southern Belle. On February 12, 1926 I left the comfortable environment of my mother’s womb and saw the world for the first time. I truly believe those simpler days had more to offer than the world we live in today. But that is another story. I am here today to let you know the story of my life.

I was born at home, not in a hospital. That was a usual event in rural Alabama. My father, Albert Comer Haskew, was a farmer. My mother, nee Olive Bertha Davis, was a devoted housewife and school teacher. I have three brothers – Percy, James, and Ned; and three sisters – Maggie, Alma Ruth, and Frances. I was born in Nettlesborough, a town with one store, but attended grammar school in Thomasville. I have to mention that my sister Maggie lives in Lower Peach Tree – a bit of a strange name as there is no Upper or Middle Peach Tree.

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