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 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)!|
|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.|