Category Archives: writers retreats

Discoveries at Mackinac Island & Straits

Up North Straits of Mackinac Area attracts crowds,  inspires a creative mind

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Mackinac Island, MI- It was a steady stream of cars heading Up North for the weekend last Friday. The traffic was a mix of hunters, fishermen, tourists, golfers and  other adventurers.

Some braved the chill both in the air and in the waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron hauling  kayaks, canoes, bicycles , seadoos and  ATVs.

The ferries to  Mackinac Island were packed full with people bringing their bikes with them.  The waters in the straits were so wild  that the catamaran rocked from side to side as the waves splashed over the panoramic windows.

In spite of the Friday rain, the Main Street  on the island was lined with bikes.  Some porters on bicycles carried the luggage in the baskets in front of them. I wondered how they could see.

Where horse is King

I discovered that on this island, where no motorized traffic is allowed except for snowmobiles, the horse has the right of way. And in peak season, there are 600 horses on the island. They are a way of life.

We did the one-hour buggy ride with horse Shorty inside the island.

“He was on a team, so he has a tendency to veer off to the left, just pull on the right reign,” said the friendly guy at Jack’s Livery & Stable located  on Mahoney Ave.

After a while we found out, that Shorty was quite a character. Not only  did he veer to the left, but he slowed downhill and went faster uphill. All the other carriage drivers knew him.

“Hi, Shorty,” they greeted him all around the route.

En route as we tried to make Shorty  go left to the Arch Rock, Shorty wouldn’t do it and he showed it by whinnying.  Having taken the long loop around the lake last year, it dawned on me that certain horses are trained to do certain routes. They won’t go any other way.

The horse handler back at the livery confirmed  my insight.

“Yes, they are trained to go at walking speed and they will go only on their  route.

Where lilacs take over

The staple event of the Mackinac Island is the annual Lilac Festival  that takes place  during the first two Sundays in June.

In search for the annual Lilac Festival poster, we stopped  at the Island Bookstore inside the Lilac Tree Inn on Main Street.

“Some of our lilacs are 300 hundred years old,” said the clerk. “They come from Eastern Europe.”

“Yes, we had them in Czech Republic,” I said. “Now, we have them in our garden.”

Where projects abound

As a true newspaper woman, I buy local papers wherever I go.  So, we bought the Town Crier and  The St. Ignace News at the Doud’s Market. The oldest family owned  grocery store in America, founded in 1884, serves as a lifeline for the 200-some permanent island residents.

Other than regular groceries, it has everything from kombuchas to a seafood case with octopus. This is where I rediscovered kombucha,  a fermented tea made with cane sugar and yeast.  The first time I heard of a kombucha was at the Calvin Festival of Faith & Writing in April.

When we got back to Murray Hotel, two buildings down the street,  a headline  in the advertising section of  The Mackinac  Island Town Crier struck me:

“Mackinac Island Harbor Beach Boardwalk Project.”

A full back page  screamed: “Save our Island.”

Apparently,  one of the freight operation owners, is proposing a boardwalk  with access to  the beach for all. The project would  consolidate the freight operations into the two most historic docks, including the coal dock.

Mission Point Resort on the sunrise side

A short stroll from downtown took us through the alley to the beautifully restored Mission Point Resort. The last time I saw it, it was a dull greyish structure built in the early 1820s by a Protestant missionary Rev. William Ferry.

A couple from Texas bought the sprawling historic property and poured millions into it.  Standing in the middle of the main lobby, I stared into the 51-foot tall teepee. Attached to it was a big library.

We watched weddings on the front lawn from the panoramic windows of the Round Island Bar & Grill. I took in the breathtaking views of Lake Huron with  Bois Blanc Island.

Back in Mackinaw City, mainland

As the  ferry  smoothly navigated the waters of Lake Huron, I watched the  Big Mac Bridge swing in the wind. The night before, we watched a documentary on the history channel about the building of the Mackinac Bridge, dubbed as a swinging water masterpiece.

The pretty “candy city” with fudge and candy shops was busy on a Sunday morning.  My last goal was to buy fresh fish caught locally.  Other than fudge and candy, there were a few shops with smoked fish.

A clerk at a smoked fish shop recommended Big Stone Bay Fishery. located on US 23.  I’ve never heard of it even though we’ve been coming up to the Straits area for the last 25 years.

As we entered the fishery, I could smell smoked fish. But, the fishery  dealt mainly in fresh fish: whitefish, walleye, coho salmon and trout. It was a fish lover’s paradise.

The paradise Up North always brings new discoveries and inspires a creative mind. The Mackinac Island attracted Hollywood twice. In 1947 Hollywood filmed “This Time For Keeps” and in 1979 “Somewhere in Time.”

The “Somewhere in Time” weekend is always on the last weekend in October, and it officially closes down the island for the season. A few properties, shops and restaurants stay open for the winter.

Winter is a magic time on the island.

Go to my  E Travel and Food blog:

https://etravelandfood.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/mackinac-island-winter/

Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Happiness comes from creating new things

“True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Lowell, MI- I love this quote because it is so true. Yesterday, I completed a brand new mobile app on Swiftic for a client. It took me a long time as the app development companies kept changing.

Once I figured out the last feature, I was ecstatic. It’s a top notch app with eye-catching push notifications and more than 20 features such as loyalty and scratch cards, and catalogs.

I had that same feeling of joy when I uploaded my book “Shifting Sands Short Stories ” to the publisher last year.

I feel happiness today as Ludek and I are about to head out to Mackinac Island to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.

Yes, it’s the same place where Universal Pictures filmed “Somewhere in Time” with Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour.

It was also the home for the famous fur trade entrepreneur Madame Framboise.

The island will be all dressed up for Halloween. We plan on going to the Haunted Theatre and take a horse-drawn carriage ride. Cars are not allowed on the island, only bicycles and horses.

Even this late into the season, the hotels were sold out. We will take the ferry Star Line across the Straits of Mackinac.

It is also my writer’s retreat, because Mackinac Island inspires me with its history and character. I will include in my new book three historical fiction short stories; one from the island and two from Fallasburg.

Stay tuned for more posts from the island.

 

Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Notes from Ocean 2018

Seaside Inspirations

By Emma Palova

Ft. Lauderdale, FL- Sipping coffee at a Turkish café on the corner of Sunrise and N. Ocean boulevards in Ft. Lauderdale with my daughter Emma, I found life easy.
This writer’s break from the northern vortex in West Michigan was different from the previous ones.
First of all, I changed bodies of water;that is the Gulf of Mexico for the Atlantic Ocean. Then I changed company. We all went with our adult children and the grand kids.
We stayed at an Art Deco villa five minutes from the beach. It gave us the opportunity to explore the Atlantic Ocean up close and personal.
And for the writer in me it was also good to compare the two shores; that is the Atlantic and the Gulf coast.
The weather was marvelously warm in the 80s with equally warm waves of the Atlantic splashing the beaches. Surfers were abundant unlike on the Gulf, where the waves are not big enough for surfing.

On the downside of the Atlantic, there were less shells and no shark teeth hunters. However, the lifeguards were on full duty and warned of rip currents. Our fellow traveler Maranda almost got caught in one. The lifeguard warned us with his whistle.“Always swim with the current to get out of it, never against it.”
The sounds of the waves rocked the youngest ones to the best nap in the world: on the beach.
Just listening to the ocean and watching the white combs as the waves crested was the best meditation in the world. Enhancing the motion and the sounds of the ocean were the freighters anchoring off shore. These lit up at night.

South Beach, Art Deco & Miami Yacht Show

A pretty nerve-wrecking drive south on Collins Ave and onto Ocean Blvd. took us to South Beach and the Art Deco district.
On the cusp of the 30th annual Miami Yacht Show running from Feb. 15 through Feb. 19, we drove past hundreds of yachts-in-water for sale on the Indian Creek Waterway. Yacht brokers were just building entrances to the yacht in-water displays on 1.2 million square feet.

Art Deco district

As a civil engineer by trade and a history buff, I was fascinated by the chic historic Art Deco district. Sitting in the South Beach neighborhood within a short walking distance from the beach, the colorful historic buildings span three basic architectural styles: 1920s Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival and MiMo or Miami Modernist architecture.
In search of Cuban fare & Daiquiri cocktails, we ate at Mango’s Tropical Café.
The beach scene beyond the Lummus Park featured colorful Art Deco lifeguard stands and the hottest fashion trends such as the thong swimwear.

Seaside Inspirations

Las Olas, Venice of America, Ft. Lauderdale

We took a pirate boat ride on the Intracoastal Waterway lined by million dollar homes and mega yachts of the rich and the famous. Captain Kris took us past Steven Spielberg’s mega yacht equipped with three-quarter of a full length movie screen.
Knowledgeable about the lives of the famous, Chris told us the story of the founder of Phillips 66 petroleum company after whom the famous Grille 66 & Bar on the waterway has been named.
Then came the story of entrepreneur Wayne Huizenga known for Blockbuster Video, Waste Management & AutoNation.

Lauderdale-By-The-Sea

We visited this small town of 6,000 north of Ft. Lauderdale twice for its walkable shopping district, the pier and snorkeling opportunities. It is full of small beach motels, unlike its high-rise neighbors.
I marveled at the sign for the local Farmer’s Market open from December through May.
In Michigan, we get first produce in June.

Fond memories

I will treasure timeless moments spent in the coarse sand, on the waves of the Atlantic, on the veranda of Ocean 2000 of the Pelican Resort and Valentine’s dinner on the deck of the Sandbar Grille.

And yes, we did also meet some Rubes, like the clerk at the Beach Shop.

However, we bargained with her for the best price for our Budweiser and Corona swimwear.

“You girls will never have to buy a drink for yourself on the beach,” she noted with a deep hollow laugh. Emma noticed her turquoise colored earrings in the shape of balls from the smallest to the big one.

Or maybe the real rube was the obnoxious bad pirate Barnacle Bill who stole our key to the treasure aboard the Bluefoot Pirate Adventures.

At the Aruba bar, women sported heart-shaped Valentine shades, and Publix was overflowing with heart-shaped balloons and cakes.

During this brief break from the freezing cold, we marked Mardi Gras, Valentine’s and Ash Wednesday, as well as the Greek Festival weekend in southern warmth and hospitality.

Alligator Alley, Everglades

However, I would be remiss, if I didn’t mention our 123 mile long drive from Ft. Lauderdale to Ft. Myers through the Everglades area of South Florida.

The freeway I-75 from the east coast of Florida to the west coast is appropriately called Alligator Alley, as it cuts through the Everglades for 80 miles.

I noticed hundreds of white egrets congregating on the palm trees by the river fenced off from the freeway to protect the endangered Florida panther.

According to popular lore and crime movies, dead bodies are being disposed off here at the Alligator Alley. You will find no traces of anything. What the alligators didn’t get, the birds and the panthers will. It’s called balance in nature.

Well, our time on the Atlantic Ocean came and went like the afternoon tide. But, it washed ashore thousands of precious memories.

And I close this “Notes from Ocean 2018” account with the words of the Frontier airline captain.

“Join us. We’re flying like crazy from the tip of North America to the tip of South America.”

Copyright © 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Following Van Gogh in Saint Remy

In Van Gogh’s footsteps

“What I should like to do, Van Gogh writes to brother Theo in Paris in 1889, is to go there as an inmate patient at the end of the month or early in May…let’s try three months to start with, and we’ll see how it goes..it is very likely that I am yet to suffer much.

The landscape of St.Remy is very attractive and I shall gradually become acquainted with it.”

Vincent Van Gogh

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Saint- Remy de Provence, FR- Leaving our beloved bastide near Cheval-Blanc behind, we headed further south for Saint- Remy, a city that proudly carries Van Gogh’s heritage with its Saint-Paul asylum.

We drove through alleys of stately plane trees lined by olive and almond groves, cypresses and cornfields at the foothills of Alpilles that have all inspired the master of post- impressionism.

Saint Remy de Provence
Saint Remy streets

Saint- Remy, whipped by mistral from the Mediterranean Sea, bustled with tourists.

A large painting of Van Gogh’s self-portrait without the straw hat greets the visitors at the 18th century Hotel Estrine. Van Gogh’s museum is located inside. He created more than 150 paintings during his stay in Saint Remy.

My French granddaughter Ella, 6, immediately recognized the famous painting.

“Our teacher showed us that,” she said all excited.

The French nation has immortalized its artists and scientists with busts, sculptures, in schools, museums and gardens scattered all over the country.

However, the lively town of Saint-Remy did not partake in any of Van Gogh’s pathos, who also painted the gardens of the asylum. Hundreds of boutiques, souvenir shops, bistros and cafes vibrated with l’art de vivre, known as the art of living prevalent in France.

Estrine Museum in Saint-Remy de Provence
Estrine Museum in Saint Remy is dedicated to Van Gogh.

Throughout our stay in Provence, our ladies “international squad” sampled this l’art de vivre on every corner of the tiniest streets, in regional dishes, in gourmet cafes, and in the Provencal architecture of churches, bastides and mairies.

All French city halls carry the motto of the French revolution: liberty, equality, fraternity.

Saint Remy de Provence
Saint Remy in Provence

To this day, it remains a mystery to me, why the People’s House aka Lidovy Dum in downtown Vizovice, Czech Republic, has the French national motto engraved in its coat-of-arms.

After exploring local shops with Provencal herbs, yellow and blue linens, lavender soaps, perfumes and candles along with the l’Occitane line of body products, we found a reasonable restaurant on Boulevard Mirabeau.

Fashionable Bistrot des Alpilles sits on the Mirabeau loop around the medieval city with the massive Roman catholic church Collegiale Saint Martin as its anchor.

“You should try their local soup,” said daughter Emma.

Wherever my writing takes me, I always make it a point to sample the local fare and drinks. In Provence, the regional dishes feature different variations of fish soups depending on where you are. It is the royal bouillabaisse in Marseille and fish pistou in the rest of the region, ratatouille or vegetable stew accompanied by a glass of pink wine from the local caves. Desserts in France always include an assortment of cheeses or you may opt for gourmet café.

Fish soup St. Remy style
Cassoulet de poissons St. Remy style

So, the entree cassoulet de poisson was a natural choice for me with a glass of the house wine, the “Lovely IGP Alpilles”, 2015.

Bistrot Les Alpilles
Bistrot Les Alpilles menu in Saint Remy

Daughter Emma chose the lighter sweet aperitif Kir. The kids of course had the syrup –dissolved- in- water fruit concoction that I despise from my childhood years in Czechoslovakia.

As I write this, I realize that I haven’t tried the “Eau de Vie poire”, the water of life  pear liquor or the pastis.

“It’s nasty,” Emma said about the pastis liquor made from licorice.

At the adjacent newsstand, I bought “Van Gogh in Provence” English Edition booklet with photos of major paintings created during the master’s stay in Arles and Saint-Remy.

As we embarked on the long road up north back to Fixin, we got stuck in the traffic jam, called “bouchon” in France due to the returning vacationers from the Mediterranean resorts.

“They all go for their vacation at the same time to the Med,” Emma said. “They use the only highway that goes from north to south, the A7.”

Saint Paul de Mausole in Saint Remy
Saint Paul de Mausole in Saint Remy

But being stuck in a “bouchon” in France is not necessarily a bad thing, because it’s another opportunity for more sight- seeing and treats for the palate. We stepped out at the Aire- de- Montelimar rest stop and I bought the real French white nougat with hazelnuts, the local specialty from Montelimar. At first Ella refused to taste the nougat.

“I don’t eat that.”

“Ella, you’re like an old person,” I laughed. “Don’t be afraid to try something new.”

“It’s delicious,” she said.

In the Lyon “bouchon” I admired the renaissance buildings on the banks of the river Rhone, reminiscent of the Prague riverside on Vltava. Emma pointed out the Museum of Confluence built on a peninsula in the river, where the Saone meets the Rhone.

“I love being stuck in traffic,” said sarcastically our driver Selene. “Give me some coke, please.”

Hundreds of cars stood still on the major Paris bound thoroughfare going through downtown Lyon, pop. 2.2 million. Only the colorful trams crossing the bridges and the boats navigating the Rhone were moving.

To the right, I noticed a girl waterboarding on the massive turquoise-colored river that originates from the Rhone glacier in the Swiss Alps.

The boat pulling the girl was full of young people having the time of their lives, while the nervous drivers drummed their fingers on the steering wheels. We were melting in the late afternoon heat in front of the tunnel.

Thanks to the obsolete infrastructure in Lyon dating back to the advancement of the automobile, I finished reading the Van Gogh booklet intended for the transatlantic flight home to Chicago. Two hours later, the youngsters were still waterboarding on the Rhone.

“Thank you Lyon, Mr. Van Gogh and Doc Emma for great entertainment, as always.”

Notable mention for Van Gogh lovers:

Van Gogh in Europe

The Estrine Museum in Saint-Remy de Provence is part of Van Gogh Europe, a vast European project associating places and museums concerned with the life and work of the painter.

The objectives of the Partners of Van Gogh Europe are to value the life and works of art by Vincent van Gogh by developing cultural, educational and touristic projects of the highest quality.

Some images are from the Commons at https://www.wikipedia.org

To be continued………..A Bohemian afternoon in Paris

 

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

Exploring Lourmarin & Ansouis in Provence

I am back home in the USA from a writer’s retreat in France. Follow me on EW Emma’s Writings on http://emmapalova.com for stories from Provence, Burgundy and Paris. Pictured is Paris from a rooftop bar in the historic Le Marais quarter. To the right is the flashing Eiffel Tower. Every full hour the Eiffel sparkles in lights along with the blue beam that illuminates parts of Paris near the river Seine.

The fabulous panoramic “Les Nympheas” paintings inside the L’Orangerie Gallery were a gift from Claude Monet to the people of Paris.

Stay tuned for stories from Provence, Burgundy, Jura region and Paris on EW Emma’s Writings on http://emmapalova.com.

St

Villages of the Luberon Mountains Continued from Provence most beautiful villages at  By Emma Palova EW Emma’s Writings Provence, FR- After a morning writing session on Sunday in the large Provença…

Source: Exploring Lourmarin & Ansouis in Provence

Exploring Lourmarin & Ansouis in Provence

Villages of the Luberon Mountains

Continued from Provence most beautiful villages at https://emmapalova.com/2016/09/02/provence-most-beautiful-villages-2/

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Provence, FR- After a morning writing session on Sunday in the large Provençal social room with a view into the garden, we relaxed by the pool surrounded by the Aleppo pine forest with rosemary shrubs at the base.

The “girls” Emma & Selene had just completed a 10 kilometer hike to the Gorges de Regalon. The network of gorges and canyons plunges 30 meters deep and  a magnificent forest of oaks, maples, Aleppo pines, cherry and fig trees shelters it.

“We met a guy who had flip-flops on and asked us how far of a walk it is,” laughed Emma. “Then he asked if his t-shirt was alright for the hike.”

Gorges Regales in Provence
Gorges Regales near Cheval-Blanc in Provence.

In the afternoon, we explored another village of the Luberon, the artsy Lourmarin with population of 1,300. Lourmarin lies in the triangle formed by Avignon, Marseille and Aix-en-Provence.

Provencal town Lourmarin
One of arched entries into the center of Lourmarin.

The new château in renaissance style was restored by industrialist & philanthropist Robert Laurent Vibert in 1920. He was killed in an accident in 1925 leaving behind a foundation for young artists. The château overlooks the delightful Lourmarin with three belfries reflecting on the diversity of religion.

The right wing of the castle is fully furnished according to the renaissance period. We walked up the wide stone stairs leading into the main chambers of the castle. I especially loved the music room with music instruments from four continents, the library and the ladies room.

The castle serves as a major venue for the annual summer music festival from July 11 through Oct. 8th.

The kids delighted in the castle garden with sculptures and a pond with koi fish. A short walk down the hill led us into the bustling village with tourists, a festival and a market.

Lourmarin in Provence
A Lourmarin water fountain.

Fashionable shops and galleries lined the streets in the center of Lourmarin along with wine caves, endless restaurants and cafes.

Sitting at a sidewalk café on Place de l’Ormeau, I did as the Lourmarions do every day; I watched the pedestrians and an occasional car navigate the cobblestone narrow streets Mediterranean style.

A chic proprietor of a bed& breakfast sporting high heels was awaiting her guests at the cobblestone l’Oarmeau square adorned by sculptures with a water fountain. The water fountain with fish kept our youngest team member Sam, 2, calm. Ivy completely overgrows many of the bastides  at the Place de l’Ormeau.

In one of the galleries, I found an amazing 3-D bluish yellow collage picture of the Last Supper. Emma loved the slick modern lamps, as well as the retro art in a gallery across the street. I didn’t want to leave Lourmarin.

Chateau Lourmarin
The music room inside the Lourmarin castle.

But, we had one more village on our schedule: beautiful Ansouis, pop. 1,057, with French terrace gardens and the dominating castle at the top.

A jazz band used an opening in the castle walls as a stage with the setting sun behind for their light effects. Behind the spectator crowd, a couple danced Charleston on a sloping street.

Ansouis in Provence
French terrace gardens in Ansouis.

And there was a syrup stand; not a wine stand but a booth selling the old elixir, which Emma and I know so well from the Czech Republic. Long before coke, sprite and other pop arrived massively in Eastern Europe, there was an equivalent: the good old home-made syrup from local fruits.

“Syrup is big now in France,” Emma said.

No, kidding. I encountered the syrup-diluted-in-water concoction at our other tour locations such as St. Remi-de-Provence and Poligny in the Jura region of France.

St. Remy square
A square in St. Remy-de-Provence. Vincent Van Gogh made St. Remy his home for one year. He created his greatest works here.

For more info on Provençal villages go to www.provenceweb.fr

For info on the Lourmarin château go to http://www.chateau-de-lourmarin.com

To be continued. Stay tuned for more stories from Provence in “Farewell to Provence” and from the Jura region, home to yellow wine, Comte cheese and Louis Pasteur.

 

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

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.