Wednesday, May 16, 2012

One more market day

Add to Google Reader or HomepageWe are beginning the process of preparing to return to the states. We leave in less than two weeks. That means there is only one more Tuesday market day for me.

We have a number of people renting our apartment this summer and fall thus we have to box and store all of our belongings to make way for the renters.

I said au revoir to the staff and kids at the crèche yesterday as Thursday of this week is another national holiday (Ascension day) so I won’t have my Thursday opportunity of volunteering at the crèche. When I am not at the crèche or walking around town, I have been helping Michel prepare the surface for the clay court at the tennis club – but it probably won’t be ready for use until after we leave. C’est la vie!

Leaving our village is a bittersweet event. I look forward to seeing friends and family and to planting my vegetable garden in Lansing but know that I will miss the slower pace of our village in Vaison la Romaine. I enjoy living in a place where the majority of necessities are available in the center of town. On the other hand, our Westside neighborhood has always been a wonderful place to live and, there are a few restaurants/pubs within walking distance of our Lansing home.

We started a “Ciné-club” in Vaison so that we could increase the times when we speak French and also see films in French. I will miss all of our Ciné-club friends but will get to rejoin our movie group in Lansing. Dans la vie, il y a des compromis.

There is not an event in Lansing that can compare with market day in Vaison la Romaine. Now that the weather is nicer, there are more stalls and vendors. There is a wonderful variety of – of everything! On the other hand, there are many more tourists and one has to deal with the gridlock of crowds.

“Vaison la Romaine has one of the best weekly markets in the Provence and perhaps in France. Its origin goes back to 1483, when Pope Sixtus IV granted a license. In 1532 Pope Clement VII stipulated that the market be held every Tuesday in Vaison [sic] and this is observed to this day. Let us put it this way: assume you come to the Provence just with a toothbrush, you can get everything (including a new toothbrush) here. It is one gigantic open air department store, offering everything here, from clothes and shoes to furniture, meat, fish, ham and sausages, vegetables, fruits, cheese and wine and while you are doing your shopping you won't need to stay hungry either. This is actually one of the best places to shop for Provençal items, like table linens, earthenware and toilettries [sic]. The market is held every Tuesday from 8 AM to around 1 PM in the town proper. Many streets are closed off. Parking is definitely a problem. The trick is to arrive either early (around 8:30 AM) or after 11 PM AM [sic]. If you see a group of Americans expertly shopping for vegetables, fruits, fish and meat, it is probably Patricia Wells and her cooking class. (

I took a few photos of market day, but my camera shots pale in comparison to those taken by another blogger. I suggest that you read the April 28, 2012 “Market Day in Vaison-la-Romaine” post by chcmichel of “Our House in Provence” (

For my friend John with whom I share a love of olives and the best olive vendors, I have included two pictures.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Story Behind the Picture

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Recently, we were walking down the alley behind our apartment building and I noticed a vine winding its way through a newly-installed fence. The weed was very healthy as a result of several heavy rains that made the weed and everything else soil-related green and thriving. I took pictures of this sole weed with the idea that I might be able to use them. Better yet, I might actually click a shot worthy of sharing.

Trying to take artsy pictures is a habit I have had for a long time but should have given up after the ONE good (my opinion) landscape picture I took 40 years ago. Digital cameras make it so easy to “click-and-shoot-and-delete” that people like me think that I might get a gallery-worthy shot the next time I turn on my camera. It is about the same rationale as expressed by people who support tax shelters for the wealthy because they believe that they could win the lottery and they don’t want the government taxing their illusory winnings.

Digital dreaming. But I digress (as usual).

Looking at the picture again made me think of what was included in the shot: a fence, a weed growing and entwining itself in the fence and a large field starting to fill up with weeds. Buildings are visible at the back of the field. And, if one looks closely, there is another fence – a stone/cement and solid metal fence that parallels the walkway on the next street to complete the enclosure.

Until last year, this field contained several old buildings. At about this time last year, a demolition crew came in and removed the old buildings leaving the weed field adjacent to the white/pink building. That building is the residence for developmentally-disabled adults in Vaison. They had planned to expand the residence into the space now vacant and weed-covered.

When we returned to Vaison in December, I was surprised that the construction of the addition had not yet begun but thought to myself: “bureaucratic wheels turn slowly.” The field was originally enclosed by a temporary, nylon mesh fence that looked like it would blow over if the Mistral winds were strong enough. At the end of February, a worker dug fence post holes and two days later there was the permanent, two-meter-high fence you see in my pictures.

On an evening when we were having cocktails at our neighbor Lina’s, I asked her about the fence and why the construction was progressing so slowly. She explained that there would be no construction. As with the project in Place Monfort last year, after the demolition, the archeologists came to assess whether the building site contained any valuable Roman ruins.

And it does!

It should not be a surprise. The city of Vaison was an important Roman city until about 500 AD. The city is known for its Roman ruins which start at the amphitheatre and continue south and west to the river to the Roman bridge. Just west of the Post Office parking lot is another area that tourists can visit. Last year, the cinema was supposed to move from its present location to the area near the amphitheatre and the swimming pool. That project was put on hold with the discovery of more ruins under the land that was to be used for the new cinema.

The vacant lot adjacent to our alley will remain vacant indefinitely because the archeologists discovered from their preliminary digs that the area might have been the location of the city’s Roman Forum.

It makes me wonder what the archeologists might find under our building…