Well, it’s late Friday afternoon, and I’m in my little room at L’aubergine Rouge with a bag of veggie chips, a glass of red wine and Ariel, my Macbook Air traveling companion, recuperating from a day in the Mistral. It’s the first thing I’ve had to eat since my pain au chocolat and homemade yogurt at breakfast. Ya, poor me, I know. Before I have another sip of wine, I’ll tell you that you may inject any expletive you like(or don’t like) when I address the Mistral. The shadows are perfect for painting right now, but she’s deceitful, and reigning over sun, shadows and everything else in south-western France today.
Last night I was deciding on a course of action to make the most of what was inevitably going to be a –,windy, Mistral, day. I knew I couldn’t paint and thought I was quite clever deciding to train 8 miles north to Tarascon, a town I’ve wanted to visit for at least 7 years. At breakfast Augusto was worried about what I’d do in Tarascon and kindly suggested adding Avignon to the day. It’s another 12 miles up the river. All doable.
On the way to the train station, before having my bank card eaten by the machine(first real break into English), I passed by the obelisk in the center of town. You know, all obelisks are phallic symbols of power, but today this poor guy was freezing his you-know-what’s off. The pigeons weren’t even too interested in what he had to offer. But they’re selfish, glutenous creatures, anyway. I had time to visit the Cryptopoticus, Roman Forum underground ruins right under the town hall, before wind-ing my way to the station.
By now, I’ve had already enough of Mistral, but she hasn’t had enough of me.
The cozy, warm train ride is a nine minute respite before I was blown into the streets of Tarascon, a city named for a dragon sort of creature overcome by another powerful lady, St. Martha. I’m starting to feel for the child-eating dragon.
Now you wonder why I’ve wanted to risk life and limb(at least the blood flow in my ears) to go here. Tarascon is where the Soleiado factory was founded which has made world-famous provençal fabrics indienne for about two hundred years. They have a museum in a grand residence I’ve wanted to investigate since my life-long affair with the rustic set eyes on France.
Not disappointed. The experience was right behind seeing Cirque de Soleil, St. Chapelle and Giverny. The joie de vivire of the fabrics, fashions and pottery was palpable. Seeing those old colors within reach, I first-sensed what cochineal, ochre and terre vert must taste like. My senses were so sated after this, that I not only resisted buying the same shirt Picaso wore, but I also felt no need to follow Lady Mistral on to the grandeur of Avignon. So I blew back to the station and rode south to my little warm, wind-free nest.
Tomorrow a new leg of my Winter in Provence adventure takes me east to a mountain village of 900 people about a hundred miles away. The next time you hear from me, I’ll be burrowed in a tiny town of 900 people above the Argens River, come Mistral or high water.
Well, I’ve finished my wine and chips, it’s dusk and time to pack so I can return to La Chistera for a farewell to Arles dinner. Deliciously quiet, but far from festive as the fête Jim threw for me the night before this all began.
Wish you all were here.