Sunday, June 18, 2023

La France Profonde

Recently reading Susan Vreeland’s novel Lisette’s List, I enjoyed  being reminded of some long-ago trips to the second homes of some of our Paris friends. (My review of this book is in yesterday's post: Reading.) Many Parisians that we have known over the years have deep roots in rural areas; French village dwellers and farmers moved to cities in large numbers in the early part of the twentieth century. Others have established themselves in chosen rural areas in the countryside where they go in summer to escape the heat and tension of life in small apartments in Paris.

La France Profonde is the name for this deep countryside: somehow there’s a sense that life in rural areas is a more real version of France than city life and city occupations. The characters in Lisette’s List who lived in the town of Roussillon in Provence shopped at the town market, planted and harvested the grapes to make wine, gathered the olives from their olive trees, and played the game of Boules or Pétanque. We have seen all of these activities in the areas where I visited friends. With them, we have shopped at open-air markets and used the local farm products to cook traditional foods such as daubes (there’s a special version of daube in almost every region). At local bakeries and market stalls we’ve tried breads such as fougasse. These are mentioned often in Vreeland’s novel.

After reading, I went back to some of my photo albums from these long-ago trips. Some of the photos have faded very badly, but I’ve included them anyway.

A vineyard near Cotignac, a village in the Var region, not far from Roussillon.
Our friend Michelle’s grandparents farmed there, but her father moved to Paris in the 1920s.
During World War II, as a child, she lived with her grandparents, and eventually inherited the house.

A game of Babyfuss outside a cafe in Cotignac.

The fountain in the center of the village.

Open-air market in1976.

Open air market in Versailles this morning (Evelyn texted me this photo)!

A bakery stall at a market in Arles a few years ago. Fougasse is center-right.

At Michelle’s house in Cotignac, 1993.

At the Cistercian Abbey of Le Thoronet near Cotignac.

A gathering for the Bicentennial of the French Revolution: 1989

Roasting a lamb. Another friend’s country house in another part of France.
Guests wore “revolutionary” caps to celebrate Bastille Day.

Our host for this gathering is shown at left.
Sadly, we have learned of his recent death at the age of 91.

A man wearing an official red sash like the one in the photo
was mentioned in the novel.

A game of Pétanque

As in the novel, every village we’ve visited has a place to play this traditional game.

Mont Saint Victoire by Cezanne

Cezanne’s paintings of this region of Provence are often mentioned in Vreeland’s novel.

Blog post and photos © 2023 mae sander.


eileeninmd said...

Wonderful photos from your trip to France.
I love seeing large table of family and friend eating together,
The open air market is a favorite along with the views of the vineyards.
Take care, have a great day and happy new week.

Jenn Jilks said...

That must be wonderful looking back. Especially reading a novel set in that locale!

My name is Erika. said...

These photos are fun to see Mae. I visited the South of France once, and I would really love to go back.These pictures make me want to do it even more. Happy rest of your weekend. hugs-Erika

Cloudia said...

What a lovely post! Thank you for taking us on the trip through your memories. Beautiful country.

anno said...

What a wonderful connection you enjoy with the South of France -- thanks for sharing these gorgeous photos! (And I like the faded ones, too... if only because they remind me of my own faded pictures I have from long, long ago)

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I was sure I left a comment on this post, That is a beautiful library.

kwarkito said...

J'aime beaucoup la patine de ces photos jaunies, tellement années 70. C'est étrange, parce que la notion de frnace profonde a beaucoup évolué et à un caractère plutot péjoratif. la france profonde c'est un peu la france des ploucs, l'équivalent des red necks. Ici, depuis longtemps on cherche des termes pour opposer la province à Paris, qui,serait le lieu des pouvoirs mais aussi d'une certaine façon le contraire du vrai pays. Maurras au début du XX eme siècle a parlé (mais macron aussi récemment) du pays réel, avec Pétain il y eut "la terre ne ment pas" pour désigner la France agricole qui travaille.Dans les années 70 il y avait la majorité silencieuse, celle de la province qui travaille et pense à droite et puis plus récemment, on a désigné les gilets jaunes mouvement né des provinces, comme la france des ronds points, car au début su mouvement ils se réunissaient sur les ronds points si caractéristiques de toutes les entrée des petites villes de province. La france profonde serait la fiction d'une france immuable,ancrée dans des valeurs ancestrales, et dépositaire d'une sagesse nationale et d'un bon sens paysan. mais aujourd'hui les agriculteurs qui représentaient 30% de la population après la seconde guerre mondiale, ne sont plus que 4%. je crains que la Frane profonde, soit surtout la france réactionnaire, assez raciste (les séquelles de la guerre d'Algérie sont toujours présentes)et très timorée face aux évolutions des moeurs et de la société

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your post, Mae. I enjoyed seeing the old yellowed photos as well as the newer ones. Was that your daughter sitting on that wall in 1976?

I suspect this brought back many wonderful memories of your various times in Paris and France in general. It was a fun read and great photos, too.

Sami said...

Wonderful pictures of your visit to southern France.
We visited Roussillon and Arles a few years ago, when we stayed in Marseille to visit my daughter's in-laws. A pretty area.

thecuecard said...

What a wonderful post. Love the photos and the ruralness of France! beautiful.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Wonderful photos, Mae. Sweet memories.

Jeanie said...

I loved that book. And how lucky you were to be able to so well relate to the landscape and countryside/activities through your past visit to friends. How wonderful to have friends in the country. I'm not sure I'll ever get there!

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours said...

Lovely! I visited the beautiful Thoronet Abbey and stayed at the foot of La Ste Victoire

Lisbeth said...

Thank you for sharing these photos from past trips with us. So wonderful to see, and they must return good memories for you.

Marg said...

I love seeing your photos from the time you have spent in France!

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

We stayed in a small village in the Loire Valley last spring. It was my husband's favorite place we visited in France. The pace of life was lovely---eating, drinking, walking, talking. No places you have to go, no rush-rush of city life. Very lovely.