Category Archives: architecture

Provence most beautiful villages

Step back in time in Provencal villages

My summer writer’s retreat in France takes me from Burgundy 450 kilometers south into the heart of Provence. Continued from “In Provence” https://emmapalova.com/2016/08/31/in-provence-aug-26-aug-29-2/

By Emma Palova

Provence, FR- Our trip to Provence took us 450 kilometers south of the home base in the wine village of Fixin in Burgundy. After lodging at the Provençal bastide no. 23 on Chemin de la Font du Pin located between Cheval-Blanc and Merindol, we were ready to explore the most beautiful villages of France.

They are: Ansouis, Gordes, Lourmarin, Menerbes, Roussillon, Seguret and Venesque.

Provencal villages
Chateau de Marquis de Sade in Lacoste, Provence.

Hugging the slopes of the Luberon mountain range or its foothills, these charmers share common elements of more than a century of history & arts, cafes, connecting trails, fortifications and majestic châteaux.

At the bastide, our international “ladies squad” loaded up into one car to make the trip up treacherous narrow roads framed by the Luberon easier.

“I hear that you need a Mexican to drive you,” joked versatile Selene who changed her hat from a chef to a skilled driver.

Driving on the narrow roads through the villages of the Luberon is a true art that I have never mastered.

“Do you know who Marques de Sade was?” Emma asked me.

“They didn’t teach us that in Czech,” I laughed.

“The word sadism is derived from his name,” Emma said. “You haven’t seen the Federico Fellini movie “120 Years of Sodomy?”

Now, that grabbed my attention. I love Federico Fellini and until now, I only knew about sadistic dentists and their scary assistants in not so sterile, white offices.

Provencal most beautiful villages.
The view from château in Lacoste.

Well, I was just about to find out the story of this exiled aristocrat from Paris.

“An exile in Provence, must be nice,” I thought.

“Yes, he had all these servants and poets on the chateau with him, what an exile,” said sarcastically Claude.

“He spent 30 years being locked up,” Emma said.

Our roadside attractions were olive groves, vineyards, old farm and wine growers homesteads and vegetable plots. Further on in the villages of Les Beaumettes, Goult, Bonnieux, I admired the boulangeries, patisseries and endless restaurants such as the Fuming Cow Café.

The medieval village of Lacoste, pop 450, was built into a steep hill in several levels, a typical fortified structure from the 11th century.

At the peak sits the ruin of the castle of the notorious Marquis de Sade. I took in the surreal view breathlessly.

The beauty of Provence with its fields and “Climats” or vineyards, broken by an occasional road or a village, laid at our feet. The 11th century castle is now home to stylist designer M. Pierre Cardin.

It is not unusual in France, that the castles are privately owned.

From the top we headed through the ruins down the “calade” cobblestone path to the base of the village. The path was busy with tourists. We passed abandoned boulangeries, open terraces with belfries, and old stone houses, some of which are being restored.

Chateau Marquis de Sade
The walk through the chateau ruins in Lacoste.

You closed your eyes and you could imagine the life in this village in the time of Marquis de Sade, live with horses, coaches and escorts that he abused.

The sunset cast soft light on the ruins and sculptures by Greco and other artists. The amazing black“Arms” sculpture embraced the visitors on foot, bikes or on horseback from all over the world.

The café de Sade offered colorful smoothies, regional wines and Provençal cuisine.

Among the activities held in most of these Provençal villages are markets, concerts and festivals.

We prepared our own Provençal dinner at the bastide that featured apero from the olive vendor in Merindol with cheese and olivenade, olives, local bread, beef and turkey brochettes and wine rose from a cave in St. Tropez.

Chateau in Lacoste.
Belfry at chateau de Marquis de Sade in Lacoste.

The dry heat persisted into the evening lit by colorful lanterns and other “lumiere” creations. The conversation carried both in French and English languages. The topic: the beauty of Provence still waiting to be explored tomorrow.

For more information on villages of the Luberon go to: www.provenceweb.fr

To be continued…………… Lourmarin, Ansouis and St. Remy-de-Provence

 

Copyright © 2016 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

In Provence Aug. 26- Aug. 29

International “ladies squad” explores L’art de Vivre in Provence

Note: My summer writer’s retreat 2016 in France takes me from Burgundy south to the heart of Provence for magical four days. Our international “ladies squad” explored three of the seven most beautiful villages in France: Lacoste, Lourmarin, Ansouis and the town of St.Remy-de-Provence. For one year, Van Gogh made his home in St. Remy inspired by the Alpilles.

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Provence, FR- Provençal bastide no.23 sits on Chemin de la Font du Pin between the villages of Cheval-Blanc and Merindol. The mansion with seven bedrooms nestles at the foot of a beach pine forest.

Provencal mas or mansion.
Provencal bastide near Cheval-Blanc.

Typical architecture for this southernmost region of France embraces traditional elements of stone washed walls with tall French doors, large gathering places on the main level and sleeping quarters on the second level. Arches instead of doors open the space between different rooms.

The yard with the garden caters to relaxation and function with  a cafe-style  gazebo lit by sun energy lamps, a large dining table and an iron wrought bed. White Mandeville plants and Hydrangea decorated the gazebo.

The large pool with a colorful cabin is near the house on a cleared terrain in the  white pine beach forest with rosemary shrubs.

Our international “ladies squad” found their bedrooms each equipped with a bathroom and a view into the morning sun bathed beach forest. Tiles are a must in the hot dry climate of Provence.

I shared room no.7 dipped in hues of purple and decorated with butterflies with granddaughter Ella. After a recent conflict, I find solace in the peaceful Provençal atmosphere of farm markets, wine caves, cafes, cobblestone streets, olive groves and deserted châteaux lit by magnificent sunsets.

Interior of a French Provencal bastid.
Inside the bastid. A large living and dining room with French doors into the garden.

The first night we picked ripe grapes in the front yard. Vendange or wine harvest has already started in this part of France. There was also a lime tree and plentiful rosemary shrubs that grew both at the base of the beach forest and in it. To my surprise, on my “balades” through the forest, I also found shrubs of holly.

One morning In the middle of my walk, I stopped dead when I heard a rattling sound.

“A rattlesnake,” I thought and hurried back to the bastide.

Two days later by the pool, Claude pointed out the rattling sound.

“C’est une tone de Cigale de olive,” she said. “That’s the sound of the cigales.”

I laughed at my paranoia originating in my early childhood years while living in Texas.

Mornings, before the heat of the day breaks, are fresh. You wake up to the roosters’ crowing and to the sound of the Cigale in the olive groves and in the rosemary bushes.

Provence landscape.
Beach white pines near the Provençal bastide.

Instead of a Provençal breakfast of hard-boiled eggs with figs, we ate Lyon festive brioche with pralines, compliments of Mrs. Claude Chavent, Emma’s mother-in-law.

Each lady from the squad contributed her own tastes and flavors to the full gourmet experience. The traveling squad consisted of Captain Dr. Emma Palova of Fixin, Chef Selene Alvarez of Veracruz, Mexico, former anesthesiologist Mrs. Claude Chavent of Lyon, FR and journalist, writer Emma Palova of USA. Both Emmas were born in former Czechoslovakia.

On a late Saturday morning, daughter Emma and I headed out to the Merindol market.

Instead of a marche extravaganza,  we only found an olive and cheese merchant  along with a straw hat and a bag vendor.

“It’s the summer break,” said the olive vendor.

Marche in Provence
Olive merchant in Merindol, Provence.

“It’s all about the love for life here in France, not about money,” Emma educated me. “It’s called l’art de vivre.”

 

For our apero that night, Emma bought an olive spread “olivenade”, a dried tomato spread, cheese, spicy olives with pimento and olives in brine with Provençal herbs at the market in Merindol.

Wine tasting in Provence near Merindol.
Wine tasting stands at the markets in Provence.

Walking a narrow street up the hill, we stopped at a local hangout spot for coffee and tea on the sidewalk. I love watching people in these quaint villages not occupied by tourists. The locals were already drinking wine and beer.

A woman wearing an apron dress with a large grocery bag hurried past the abandoned tobacco shop. A chic woman overdressed in a black T-shirt with long sleeves pedaled uphill, while a youngster on a bike with fresh bread in his backpack closely followed her.

I wasn’t alone watching the action. A Provençal old-time villager was sitting in his chair right in front of his house on the street. Of course the woman haltered her hurry to exchange gossip with the old-timer. There’s always time for gossip in these villages.

Provence cafes and brasseries.
Cafe in Merindol, Provence.

We also came across a reformed church, an anomaly in  the mainly catholic France.

We stopped at a farm market on our way back to the bastide to get fresh strawberries and mangoes for the planned Daiquiri drinks by the pool.

We tasted wine from a local wine caterer stationed right by the market stand.

Even though pink wine known as rose is the wine of choice in the Provence region, I bought a bottle of white wine for the apero. Nothing like Burgundy whites, but it tasted better than the rose.

 

To be continued…………………The most beautiful villages of France

 

Copyright © 2016 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Into Burgundy

“Climats” in Burgundy present a cultural landscape, a 2015 UNESCO world heritage site

Note: After my third visit to the wine region of Burgundy in France, I consider it to be my annual summer writer’s retreat amidst vineyards, exceptional gastronomy and the “Climats.”

By Emma Palova

Fixin, FR- On an early Sunday morning, I woke up to the ringing of the church bells and a local gentleman shouting at his dog, a lot louder than the dog’s barking.

From my studio, I heard the cars rolling down the narrow Rue Magnien that leads into the tiny wine village of Fixin. The walls around the estates magnify the sounds and funnel them into endless echoes.

Wine villages of Burgundy.
Major street through Fixin

But, just before the light broke, I could hear the chirping of the birds in the mulberry tree. The mulberry tree is the only tree that grows between the bricks in the small courtyard in front of the house.

The stone house rises three stories with “lucarnes” or windows in the roof. Sources tell me that the house was a brasserie, before getting divided. After the division, the house lost the right wing, but none of its Burgundian charm or massiveness.

Surprisingly, the house does not have an adjacent vineyard behind it. New or old vineyards in Burgundy are hard to come by, according to my daughter Dr. Emma Palova-Chavent. However, a dream to get a vineyard sometime in the future may become a reality, knowing my daughter.

The journey from the corn and soy bean fields of Michigan, USA to the vineyards of Burgundy is about 4,000 miles long across the Atlantic Ocean. After an endless flight to Paris, we took a reasonable Uber ride for 45 euros to the Gare Percy train station near the famous Lyon Station, one of seven train stations in Paris.

I have a great affinity to train travel that originates in my homeland in Czech Republic.

Typical Burgundy architecture.
Township hall “Marie” in Fixin with school.

The local train took us swiftly into Dijon, the capital city of Burgundy, a principal wine-producing area. Travelling by train in France is a great alternative to the automobile due to the efficiency of the entire transit network.

Fixin sits on the Grands Crus Route which winds from the northernmost Chenove to Remigny in the south for a total of 57.8 kilometers.

You can ride it, bike it or walk it for a unique experience of a lifetime. Whichever you choose to do, there are accommodating facilities along the way like Hotel les Grands Crus in Gevrey-Chambertin sitting directly on the wine trail.

The “Balades en Bourgogne” app offers e-guided tours highlighting off the trail locations with châteaux, churches and wineries.

I’ve experienced the magic of this wine route during my three distinct visits to Burgundy. In 2009 with a base in Nuits-Saint-Georges, then in 2013 in Dijon and now I stay in Fixin in the north part of the Grands Crus Route.

La Perriere XII century mansion
La Perriere mansion of the Dukes of Burgundy in Fixin.

The vineyards in the heat of the day are just as peaceful as they were a century ago when the monks established them. Perfect rows of wines in small plots that hug the slopes, are sometimes divided by stone walls, stone arches or by stone shelters known as “cabottes.” An occasional walnut tree oasis with a bench serves as an observation platform.

The UNESCO has recognized this complex magic in designating the vineyards of Burgundy as the “Climats,” a world heritage site in 2015 to be preserved for all mankind.

This small plot viticulture of vineyards that are terrain based create an impressive mosaic of more than 1,000 Climats lined up from Dijon to the Maranges.

Wine villages in Burgundy.
Hiking between the wine villages of Fixin and Couchey.

“In Burgundy, when we speak about a Climat, we don’t look to the sky, we keep our eyes to the ground,” said Bernard Pivot, writer and president of the support committee for the Climats.

As I walk the winding path through the Climats, in the distance a church steeple in Couchey shimmers with yellow and blue tiles. Only the bell tolls the time. The time has stopped here in the vineyards and the watch seems unnecessary.

I bend down to pick a bluish purple small grape, the Pinot noir grape variety of the region of Burgundy deeply embedded in the red soil. As the sweet juices touch the palate, I realize that thousands of years of hard work have gone into this one grape to bring it to perfection.

And that this second is the same as it was one thousand years ago when the monks established the vineyards.

Church of St. Martin, Fixin
Church of St. Martin, 1172 in Fixin .

The monks, the Valois Dukes of Burgundy, the wine merchants and wine growers, have all carried the wine tradition over the centuries.

On the horizon to the left, I see the magnificent seat of Dijon nestling in a valley with all its museums, archaeological abbey, the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy and the gourmet restaurants.

Walking from one wine village to the next, is like being born again with a new view on the world.

During my different stays in Burgundy, I noticed that some little things have changed, while the most remain the same. It’s that same stability that we constantly seek around us, no matter where we are.

Burgundy wine caves in Fixin
Burgundy wine caves

Among the changes are: more bilingual tourist stations and chambers in the villages, greater use of the wine trails via bike tours, walking and hiking.

However, the steady constant vibrates in the romantic wine villages with stone architecture, in the gastronomy and in the exceptional Crus wines.

The Climats have given us the high quality wines sought after around the world. These include: Montrachet, Romanee-Conti, Clos de Vougeout, Corton, Musigny, Chevalier-Montrachet, Chambertin and more.

Unique and fragile, the Climats, vineyards of Burgundy, are our heritage, one that must be protected and passed on. Their inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a “cultural landscape” is part of this objective. This is a commitment that has been undertaken, and witnessed by the community of nations, to respect and to preserve the “Outstanding Universal Value” of the Climats, as “combined works of nature and man.”

[Article 1, paragraph 3 of the Convention of World Heritage]

 For more information on the Climats go to www.climats-bourgogne.com

For more information on Burgundy go to http://www.burgundy-tourism.com

For “Balades en Bourgogne”: a collection of trails app go to Google Play or Appstore.

To be continued

 

Copyright © 2016 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Lost in Brno- Czech Republic

I am running with this story now that Brno has become the 27th place in the world to visit out of 52 this year, according to New York Times.
I am very proud of this city. It has completely revamped itself from its communist mantra lasting until 1989. It is en par with the great cities of Vienna, Geneva, Prague and Budapest.

The architecture in the downtown area of Svoboda’s Square and the pedestrian zones is Art Nouveau, Empire and Neo-Classical. These styles are visible on the building of Janacek’s Academy of Music in the university district adjacent to the main square.

I was born in Brno, graduated from the Technical University of Brno in 1986 and I visited this gem in 2013. My friends live and work in Brno. I cherish the memories in my heart. Enjoy this city as much as I have.

emmapalova

Lowell, Michigan

I have safely returned home after travelling around several European countries including France, Spain, Czech Republic and Switzerland.

This is the eighth installment in my adventure travel series when I decided to step back into the past to fuel my memoir “Greenwich Meridian, where East meets West.”

Lost in Brno- Czech Republic

I had one entire day on Sept. 25th  to relive it all in post-revolution Brno, while my friend Jane worked her post-revolution work for  an Austrian firm.

“Just follow the tram tracks into town,” she said.

Now, that was easier said than done. Brno was and is a pulsing metropolis that has cleaned itself up, so it is completely en par with Prague, Paris and Geneva. As I got into town, I found myself caught in an entire web of pedestrian zones surrounding a big park; they all seemed to lead onto Jost Boulevard.

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