Essence of Aix en Provence
Ruby and Marianne sat at the fountain at one of the lovely squares in Aix (pronounced X) en Provence discussing new settings for the next in series Draker novel.
“Setting is more than just the physical surroundings. It’s the essence of a place, that feeling that gives the scene it’s mood,” Ruby said.
I agreed and allowed all my scenes to absorb the atmosphere. A white-haired man with a cane walked past, casting a long look in our direction. Ah ha, I thought. I have a suspicious character who might have thoughts of doing Ruby some harm. He disappeared into the crowd only to be noticed a few streets over in the historic section where the shops displayed designer hand bags and clothing. Definitely suspicious. Yes, this is material that I can use.
Aix is famous for Les Deux Garcons, a restaurant touted to have been frequented by Paul Cezanne. We decided to enjoy a cappuccino in the front patio where another character caught my eye. From behind, the woman appeared lithe and sophisticated, her hair styled in a layered bob. She wore a dark green well fitted jacket with skin tight leggings. Everyone seemed to know her and came to greet her with air kisses and hugs. I assumed she was someone important. Then she turned to catch the attention of a waiter. She caught me completely by surprise. Her darkly tanned face was creped with deep set wrinkles and her nose had a crook at the top that reminded me of older women in impressionist paintings. I would have liked to have taken a photo but that would have been rude, so I committed the image to memory for future reference. Ruby approved.
The balmy heat of the day locked the smells of diesel and freshly baked pastries into the narrow allies where the crowds tightened. A feeling of claustrophobia gripped my stomach. It was time to leave – or perhaps escape as I would craft the scene as I write the new mystery.
Tomorrow Ruby will show us her home (or at least the inspiration for Fairhaven, the Draker safehouse in St. Jean Cap Ferret ) Join us for another day of exploration and imagination. See you there.
Moustier Ste Marie
Winding Roads of Provence
Taking A8 from Nice to Figanieres, I thought I might have been mistaken about the roads. Mais non! This super highway is like our North American highways, busy with traffic yet reasonably straight, albeit drivers are exploited by toll stations. As for the winding roads, the French hide them. Well – not exactly. The winding roads are further North and less traveled; however, one still finds compact cars racing the tight turns. So many race cars drivers in Provence! Perhaps every road is the Grand Pris of Provence. We were on a day trip to one of the many ancient hilltop villages.
Moustiers Ste-Marie is a delightful mountain hamlet high in the Alps-de-Haute-Provence. Twisting and bending at ever increasing elevation the road runs past the turquoise waters of Lac de Ste Croix. Now this is what I envisioned the Provence countryside to look like.
Ruby (the protagonist of my novel Finding Ruby) paused to take a photo with me and then helped me do some shopping. Such delightful shops! Moustiers is famous for pottery. My suitcase going home will weigh considerably more than when I arrived. Paul is complaining that I’m spending too much money. In defence I replied, “it is necessary”. At another shop, I found un chapeau which I just had to purchase.
Au revoir mes amis and visit my blog again tomorr0w.
The Yachts of St. Tropez
I’m not that easily impressed, but the marina where the St. Tropian’s moor their boats took my breath away. I suppose that most were better described as yachts. Although, I’m not sure what point a large boat makes the shift to the richer designation but I’d wager that majority were in that category.
St. Tropez is a coastal town in Southern France located on a bay off the Mediterranean. Old buildings of yellow, pink, and orange encircle the harbour, contrasting with the azure of the sea , giving the scene it’s distinctive Mediterranean flavour. Numerous artists have set up booths in front of the boats where they sell their painting. The area screams of coastal Provence. Tres charmante.
The day Paul, Andre, Ingrid and I visited was a special day of sort, an annual celebration of military history, the participants dressed in period costume. The narrow streets were barricaded to allow the parade to pass to the delight of the onlookers.
Exploring further into the back streets, we found wonderful shops. I purchased a note book and little tea pot painted in the blue and white so characteristic of Province.
Ruby and Allyson, Ingrid and Marianne’s fictional novel characters approved, posing for a photo with the ocean in the background.
Tomorrow – a trip to Vence and St. Paul where evidence of Medieval France still prevails.
Till then, we wish you as pleasant a day as we’re having.
The Farm House in Provence
A8 from Nice into the gentler parts of Provence did not resemble the meandering country roads of Provence that I imagined. In fact, it was the French equivalent of Ontario’s highway 401. “Mon Dieu!” Who knew that Peugeots and Renaults and our little rental Citron could imitate race cars. And, motorcycles! It appeared that the white divider lines were their personal race lane. I asked Paul if it could be legal for the them to zip along it that way. He replied with an expletive. OK; so, we raced along with the locals until we could exit to Draguignan and then on to Figonieres.
Did I mention round-a-bouts? Our GPS lady, or least the female voice that told us where we should go (we wanted to tell her where to go) insisted that we take the fifth exit on the round-a-bout. Clearly, she had been drinking French wine because it was the second exit that pointed to Draguignan. We continued with our ‘c’est la vie’ attitude until we arrived at the bucolic little farm house tucked away among the trees and vineyards that led to Le Petite St. Pons, the charming farmhouse where we would stay with two other Canadian couples.
Ingrid came to greet us first. We exchanged hugs and air kisses. Andre, hearing the commotion came out to the tiled veranda. “You made good time,” he exclaimed. We were about half an hour later than we expected because we took several wrong turns and had to retrace back to the correct road, but none the less, we were here in the beautiful French countryside. Paul and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Lyse and Guy pulled into the gravel driveway one hour later. They had come from Marseille. Directly off their Air Transat flight they picked up their rental Peugeot, feeling like zombies because of jetlag. They too had similar problems navigating the highways and roads of Provence. We shared mutual transportation foibles, and we roared with laughter. Ah, ces tourists!
Tomorrow we go to St. Tropez where the Mediterranean harbours more yachts than anyone can count. You must come back to visit this blog as our adventure continues. Perhaps Ruby and Allyson will meet some ‘unusual’ characters. See you tomorrow.
Jetlagged in Provence
For a writer, there is no story without some element of drama. We started our trip to Provence with a familiar travel dilemma. The flight from Toronto to Zurich to Nice, except for ‘un peu de turbulence’ was unremarkable. However, trying to sleep in an upright positon is a challenge not easily accomplished. Add a six-hour time warp into the fray and a vengeful case of jetlag takes its hold. Sleep deprivation is a personality altering infliction so by the time we landed in Zurich, Paul and I were in a foul mood. Being told that we had to transfer to another terminal was an event that quickly turned from an inconvenience to a traumatic circumstance as we only had one hour to find our way. Regrettably on this morning, ‘Die Schweitzer sprechen kaum Englisch’. We relied on pictorial signs to guide us to a train shuttle that took us to an adjacent terminal, with half a minute to spare before take off time to our final destination. We persevered, barely able to keep our eyes open, making the final leg of our journey in a state resembling the walking dead. Something about the anticipation of a wonderful holiday kept us going.
A few hours of sleep in a pre-arranged hotel room cured the problem. Partially rested and now in holiday mode we explored the tropical city where Ruby and her pseudo family the Drakers hid from a notorious psychopath.
Tomorrow we pick up a rental car and find our way to Figanieres. Please pop into this again for more adventures in Provence.
Marianne Scott, author Finding Ruby
Two authors, Marianne and Ingrid, their husbands in tow, are meeting in Provence this year at a rental Air B&B. Their acquaintance came because of a virtual friend – Facebook. Neither remembers the post that cemented the two into their lasting friendship. Ingrid and her husband live in Ottawa. She writes romance with titillating intimate scenes. Marianne and her husband live in Cambridge Ontario and she has a flair for intrigue, writing mystery thrillers filled with spies and psychopathic killers. When promotional business took Marianne to Ottawa, she decided to look Ingrid up and meet her in person. It was like they had always known each other. But, with two completely different genres, you’d wonder what they had in common. Perhaps the universe conspires. The chance meeting was probably meant to be. Now together in a peaceful dreamy French landscape, these two ladies are ready to shake up and rewrite the way most of us see the bucolic nature of Provence.
Both ladies will be guilty of smuggling their fictional characters along with them and to that end this blog will report on the daily interludes not only of the couples on vacation but the adventures and perhaps the foibles of the beloved characters in their novels.
With a mixture of fiction and reality this visit to Provence will be filled with surprises. I hope you follow my blog so you don’t miss a single amazing day of adventure. Click on the follow button and you’ll receive an email with each new post.
An author never knows what her characters will find. Certainly, in the French Rivera, anything is possible. See you soon mes amis.
Watching TV used to be a lot easier. These days our new super duper TV sends us messages. Why this is necessary I’m not sure but it appears that new technology is subject to software updates occasionally. This drives me crazy! It seemed like a simple thing to press that center round button on my universal remote agreeing to ‘update now’. So I pressed the button expecting the update to engage. No, nothing happened! So I called our service provider who informed me it had nothing to do with them. Call the television manufacturer, they said. I uttered several expletives. OK, to the Internet where I found a phone number and a nice man from El Salvador answered (FYI – Canada has zero people involved in customer service). He started to coach me through the procedure. It took a while to figure out which of our four remotes to use. Sorry – but more expletives later the correct remote started things happening. Forty minutes later the update was complete and I can again watch the news and the weather station in peace without annoying messages on the screen.
Just one of the frustrations of the digital age. Geesh!