Cruising the Canal
Thursday, April 26, 2007 Vias, France
Yesterday afternoon we met a fellow American, Colin, in Vias’ internet spot, and invited him to stop by the house. He and his wife, Patricia, have spent the last several years cruising the canals of Europe on a canal boat they bought in the Netherlands.
He encouraged us to stop by the boat after dinner, and we did. Jill is a long-time sailor, and her son has sailed solo around the world, and Colin and Patricia also sail, so we enjoyed lots of interesting tales of adventures round the world.
They invited us to join them in the morning as they began their cruise northwest to Toulouse, and we eagerly accepted!
After stopping at the bakery around the corner to pick up some croissants for breakfast on the boat, we found a parking spot near the canal, and walked to the boat.
Shortly after we all devoured the pastries, Colin smoothly pulled out into the canal and off we went!
A few kilometers up the canal,Kirk helped tie up beside a barge, and Jill and Anne got off to walk back to the car, needing to be in Vias for an appointment.
Walking along the canal, we
passed fishermen relaxing on the banks, horses in adjacent fields, and picturesque boats chugging along the canal.
Kirk enjoyed the experience of going through a lock.
We gals picked him up later in the nearby village of Portiragnes, and we headed for a good lunch spot.
We highly recommed Le K’Lamar in Tamarissiere, on the banks of the Herault river, for the most gourmet meal in the area, at a very reasonable price.. Tagliatelle in nearly-black squid ink, with tender-chewy squidlets for Kirk, grilled fish for Anne, lamb shanks for Jill, and apple tarts with calisson (a typical candy of Aix en Provence) ice cream. Yum!
Wednesday, 25 April 2007
Just a bit of sightseeing on our first day here – we drive north to Pezenas to show
Jill this lovely town. Filled with elegant historic homes from the 15th century, it makes for a wonderful evening stroll.
Then home for a bountiful salad dinner in the courtyard, a stroll around the circulade
– the circle of Vias’ historic old town, then bed, where we fall asleep to the sonorous eleven o’clock bells.
Wednesday is market day, and we load up our market basket with all sorts of goodies – an assortment of green and black olives from big wooden tubs, tapenade, nuts, cheese from the Pyrenees, a roast chicken from our friend Matie, who’s always happy to see us and tries out her English to welcome us, some sweet onions from the nearby town of Lezignan, pale green spring artichokes, plump purple eggplant, so shiny you can almost see your smile in them.
We duck into the church, whose side door, usually closed, is open for shoppers to stop in for a quick prayer of thank you for the bounty of the season. The vivid stained glass windows toss their colors across the floor as we quietly walk through.
Returning home, we greet Alain, our neighbor, who shows off his garden-fresh produce and gives us a bag full of fava beans that he’s just picked.
Then we all three start cleaning the house and adjoining studio apartment before lunch.
And what a feast we reward ourselves with! First course – Alain’s beans, pulled from the pod and dipped in sea salt – drizzled with a bit of olive oil.
The table’s groaning with our market haul – roasted eggplant, red pepper, and onions, steamed artichokes, roast chicken, and a chilled bottle of rosé from the Faugeres area, an excellent wine producing region of the Languedoc, our province of France.
We're sure thankful for the beauty and bounty of Vias!
Tuesday, 24 April
The birds are swooping over the courtyard, twittering a welcome. The sun is shining, the neighbors greet us with kisses on both cheeks. Welcome to Vias!
An hour before I had to leave for the airport yesterday, Kirk found out that his work project was delayed for at least a week, so he could go too! I immediately got on the phone, searching for a frequent flyer ticket. After nearly an hour of searching, the United agent could not get him on any flights with our hundreds of United miles, but I hit the jackpot with Delta skymiles, via Air France. They can get Kirk on the Tuesday night flight. Kirk walked in the door half an hour before I had to leave, and I was still on the phone with Delta. “Can you pack in half an hour, and leave today?” “Sure!”
Me to the laughing Delta agent: “Can you get him on today’s flight?” “Let’s see….”
The answer is yes, and I finalize the details while Kirk packs. We’re out the door in half an hour, and meet Jill, who’s come from Bermuda, at Dulles airport. Jill and I head for the United/Lufthansa flight – to Marseilles via Frankfurt, and Kirk heads for Air France – Marseilles via Paris.
And a few hours later, we meet on the ground in Marseilles! By the way, the Lufthansa flights Jill and I were on had TONS of room – don’t know why they couldn’t have freed up a seat for Kirk!
By the time we got to Vias, two hours from Marseilles, we were starving, and before even taking the suitcases out of the car, went straight to L’Amandine in the center of town, where we were greeted with kisses and smiles by Olivier, and his wife Evelynne, the chef.
“Our” table was even ready for us! Can you tell we're jetlagged??
We settled in for a delicious French lunch – carpaccio for Jill, tuna provencal for Kirk, and daube (stew) of lamb with carrots and olives for Anne. A wonderful intro to France.
Now to unpack!
Today's Smarter Travel
Newsletter includes an article by Sarah Pascarella
entitled "Expert secrets for a great summer vacation."
Check out our input regarding Vacation Rentals
, and Europe.
Smarter Travel's Deal Alert Newsletter is a weekly must-read - I always benefit from their tips and advice. Definitely worth signing up for!
If you're in Provence...
Those of you living or traveling in France later this month may be interested in an upcoming debut - music in the vineyards by the Morandi Ensemble.
The Domaine de Mourchon
is the setting for this evening of music and wine.
Ruth Phillips, cellist of the quartet, writes one of my favorite blogs
, filled with lovely descriptions of places and music that make me feel as if I'm right there, seeing and listening. I'm looking forward to hearing her beautiful music in person.
May this be the first of many evenings of Music in the Vines!
Music and Monuments
April 1, 2007Alexandria, Virginia
For almost 30 years we'd noticed the sky-piercing George Washington Masonic National Monument
whenever we've been in the Alexandria area of northern Virginia, but had never been inside.
And for 15 years, the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra
has delighted local audiences with their wonderful concerts, and we had never heard them.
Both situations were remedied on Sunday, as we enjoyed a marvelous concert in the stately but intimate theater of the Masonic Monument.
Leonard Slatkin, in his 11th season as conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra
, guest-conducted the concert (most of the artists are also in the National Symphony Orchestra) celebrating Eclipse's fifteenth anniversary, and shared insights regarding the program before the concert began.
The opening number, Mozart's Marriage of Figaro overture, got the program off to a rousing start.
Schumann's powerful Cello Concerto in A Minor was next, masterfully
interpreted by cellist David Teie. Eclipse takes great pleasure in showcasing one of its members as a concerto soloist in each concert, and Mr. Teie and the orchestra captivated the audience with the lush, romantic beauty of Schumann. Listening to the deep and rich tones of the cello brought to mind the last cello concerto we heard, in January in Galicia, Spain
(scroll down to Jan. 26).
After intermission, during which we viewed the majestic grand hall, with its murals of scenes from the life of Washington lining the walls on either side of a massive statue of our first president, the fun really began.
Peter Warlock's Capriol Suite of renaissance dances was new to us too, and we liked it so much that we bought the CD on Amazon as soon as we got home! A selection of 6 dances, from a sprightly Basse-Danse to a stately Pavane and a lyrical and romantic Pieds-en-l'air, this suite intrigues with its little surprises of contemporary dissonance and rhythm.
Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera's piano music is familiar to me, but we had not heard his Variaciones Concertantes before (it was certainly an afternoon of FIRSTS!). With Eclipse's theme of encouraging their individual artists to shine, it was an ideal piece, as each variation featured a solo instrument - such as flute, clarinet, trumpet, and trombone. The final variation was a boisterous free for all which left us smiling as we joined the guests and performers for a post-concert reception.
Eclipse's final concert of the season "That's Italian" will be May 20. See you there!