Beautiful Eyes into the Provençal Soul

I just got back from Provence. I have wanted to go since I was fifteen years old. I was attracted initially by curiosity about the French countryside and its accompanying lifestyle: fresh flowers, fresh air, fresh food. Provence lived up to my expectation in each of those ways. Visually, in particular.  It was, in a word, breathtaking. I was able to capture digitally, as well as indelibly in my memory, images of hill villages, rivers, sunflowers, lavender, and even random ruins. There was so much beauty everywhere that my friend and I were continually saying, “Look at that!” or “Oh, my goodness!” I’ve been trying to decide what to write about, going through photos. The choices make my head spin. Yet the theme emerges in the astounding loveliness of the Provençal windows, gates and doorways.

Small town Provence

Small town Provence

Blue is one of the favorite colors in Provence

Blue is one of the favorite colors in Provence.

Lots of shades of blue

Lots of shades of blue

The French do have “a thing” about beauty, don’t they? The presentation of French cuisine is beautiful, small parks in the city are dressed up, entrances to towns sport flowers, even the walls of city buildings have something of visual value to offer. It’s actually true throughout most of Europe, at least from what I’ve seen.  It seems rather obvious when you look at my photos from this trip. In the US, the fronts of houses are attractive, usually, and some people make an extra effort on their front yard, but not like this, not at all like this. Very few people I know put in window boxes with flowering plants. Perhaps in some isolated neighborhoods, but it is not at all a common American thing to do. And many, if not most, Amercian houses and apartments have little or no front decoration other than perhaps a little landscaping. Now, please don’t think I’m bashing my country — I love the US! I just appreciate this difference.  The French make a marked effort to create beauty that they rarely see — they see it when they come and go, but not all that often. They simply create a lovely space for their neighbors and passersby to enjoy.

And flowers are requisite...

And flowers are requisite…

...from the overwhelming and overdone on a waterfront balcony...

…from the overwhelming and overdone on a waterfront balcony…

...to the simple strand of understatement.

…to the simple strand of understatement.

Each and every town offered us something special. Even the towns that were already spectacular showed us their pretty windows and doors.

Le Thor is a particularly picturesque town, with waterfront doors and windows on the river Sorgue.

A House in Le Thor

We almost didn’t see one of the towns that became a favorite of mine; it wasn’t on “the list” my friend had made in her research. Luckily, I saw a photo of it in a little mini-guide book of the area. Le Thor is a particularly picturesque town, with waterfront doors and windows on the river Sorgue. Many houses front right on the Sorgue, so their faces are already unusual. The residents dress them up anyway, though. And the heat is more bearable, thanks to the river.

Le Thor: pretty without even trying hard.

Le Thor: pretty without even trying hard

Velleron

Velleron

But don’t disregard little Velleron, the town where we stayed. It is a tiny town, but it is a giant in terms of beautiful images. Everywhere we turned was something lovely, from the Chambre d’Hotes where we stayed to the little town itself.

La Medievale, Chambres d'Hotes, a bed and breakfast in Velleron

La Medievale, Chambres d’Hotes, a bed and breakfast in Velleron

Small in size, Velleron is a giant when it comes to beauty.

Small in size, Velleron is a giant when it comes to beauty.

Arles is one of two larger towns whose residents surprised us by their attention to detail.

Old but far from ordinary in Arles

Arles is one of several small cities whose residents surprised us by their attention to detail. Arles is an ancient city, founded in the first century AD. The city’s Roman arena is still in use, albeit for far less gruesome events than in its earliest existence. It’s historic doorways ignite the imagination.

Arles even has a first century arena whose doorways ignite the imagination.

Arles’ Roman arena doorways recall a horrifying past.

Nice's grandest doors and windows belong to a Russian Orthodox church, seemingly out of place in this Mediterranean playground.

Russian Orthodox windows!

Nice’s grandest doors and windows belong to a Russian Orthodox church, seemingly out of place in this Mediterranean playground.  And Aix-en-Provence, that small Paris in Provence, won’t be outdone with its stone strongmen holding their heads as if holding up the doors of this commercial court building is giving them a headache.

In Aix-en-Provence

In Aix-en-Provence

Still, it is the humbler settings that grab the attention, that won’t let you turn away without taking in your breath and pausing for a moment to appreciate the effort that everyday people put into creating beauty. Nearly every home’s windows and doors are dressed for summer, evidence that the good people of Provence value beauty in the simple things God makes: flowers, color, scent.

Humbly Beautiful

La Medievale, Bed and Breakfast in Velleron. Rebecca speaks perfect English (she’s from England). http://www.la-medievale.com/

Advertisements

About Sunny

I'm an American with a Spanish heart, and one foot in France. But both feet are in Belgium, along with the rest of me.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Beautiful Eyes into the Provençal Soul

  1. Kristen says:

    Great pictures! Makes me want to go there!

  2. Don’t you think all over Europe people make better use of outside space, however small it is? That’s one thing I have learned from moving to Spain.

    Loved Provence btw when I visited.

    • Sunny says:

      Absolutely! It is true here in Belgium, too. I added window boxes this year so I’d look more like I belong. And the begonias and pansies cheer me when I pull into my driveway!

      Spain also does a nice job of this. In Spain, one of the things that always impresses me are the variety of actual doors, too. Some are so creative, especially in Barcelona. Andalucia really knows how to use flowers, though; they are the experts in this, along with Provence!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s