Friday, April 29, 2016

On the rue de l'Amphithéâtre - Arles



Sweep out the cobwebs, shake out those shadows. Sometimes we need to go right back to where we started.

In Arles, after moving in and wandering the cross-caught streets, I fell fast in love with the tales of its shutters and doors. Cliché, absolutely, and some would say that I should now move beyond those facile waters...but...but...there was a day, not so long ago, when the sky was so blue that it tricked me back to the beginning of seeing one street as I had in the before of before, allowing me to dip in just one more time.

Instead of hurrying along the far too narrow sidewalk, I stepped out into the rue de l'Amphithéâtre, camera in hand and lifted. I had easily half an hour to spare before my doctor's appointment. All was quiet, the tourists still sleeping. The light was flirting. A passer-by gave me a slight nod of recognition, someone else from the center of town. I love Arles before showtime. When history stretches and yawns before settling in to be admired.

Now I can add my own little histories to its two-thousand some years that are more patient than I will ever be. On this particular stretch alone I remember...my mom and I struggling with our suitcases on the bumpy pavement against a winter Mistral wind on an early descent from Paris to visit an apartment that would not work out. Being invited to a party where rooms opened upon rooms until fading into darkness and everyone was trying too hard to be casual. Pulling Ben and Kipling out of the way of a roaring car, music blaring, with only inches to spare. Perfect imperfect these memories, just like the patina scribbled on the surrounding walls for all to see. No need for them right now.

So I snapped back, quite literally with a click-click, present-bound and looked without judging and felt a tiny lift of joy without judgement too. The worn faces above the doorways winked conspiratorially before I turned into the shade of an alley, a short-cut but also a window closing. It is funny that it is no longer one of the more fashionable streets to live on, despite leading directly to the Arena (or maybe because of it); it clearly once was and perhaps will be again. Sometimes, we need to go right back to where we started.









 

Arles, eternal and ever the heady mix. Who says all roads lead to Rome?




Still no news about Teddy, friends. I will let you all know...
Bon Weekend.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Fondation Vincent Van Gogh Arles - Très Traits and Giorgio Griffa - plus Teddy update



Teddy update:
Thank you so much to all of you living in the United States who expressed an interest in adopting Teddy. Unfortunately, I have heard back from the shelter and they are not willing to let him be adopted sight unseen by anyone so far away. 
This doesn't surprise me, as I know that they are very careful about who they let adopt their dogs - in the best possible sense there is. 
I do want to reassure you all that the shelter is a good one. It is located in the beautiful Alpilles region in the woods behind Les Baux de Provence. From what I remember from previous visits, the dogs are on earth and not concrete with platforms and doghouses to use as needed. They are usually housed with buddies and walked by the many truly committed and loving volunteers at the refuge. And yes, it is a no-kill shelter where many animals have lived out their days. 
Of course, this is not what I hope for Teddy because I know him...but honestly, there are so many special animals there. Rest assured that I am still doing all that I can to find a home for him in the region and am not alone. We had a close call thanks to Julie Mautner at The Provence Post who can cast a bigger net in Provence than I can. There is still plenty of hope.
So let's not give up and keep spreading the word to those we know in France. I will let you know more as I do. 
Merci encore mille fois for all of your kindness and concern!



With everything that has been going on, I nearly missed out on telling you about two wonderful exhibitions at the always stellar Fondation Vincent Van Gogh Arles but still want to mention them for those of you in the area before it closes on Sunday. And even for those of you on the other side of the world, it is always refreshing to keep up with what is bubbling in the art world, n'est ce-pas?


First up we have "Très Traits" whose title rather bluntly announces the focus of the show, one that re-examines the importance and meaning of line in contemporary art. To say that we have come a long way from the Neo-classical proportions, always "pleasing to the eye" of an artist such as Ingres is an understatement...


...and yet not entirely. It all depends on how you handle the act of looking. Let's take, for example, "Untitled XI" by Andreas Gursky, which was the starting point for this group exhibition. In this over-scaled photograph, a detail of Van Gogh's "Wheatfield with Reaper" becomes the focus entirely, until the brush stokes that sent the signals to our brains to understand "wheat" transform into a visual dance all on their own.


The same can be said for the joyful movement inherent in "The Sower," where Roy Lichtenstein distills Van Gogh's lines and iconic color ways to a comic book sensibility that has nothing to do with laughter...


...just as Adrian Ghenie's "Lidless Eye" literally strips Van Gogh's self-portraits to reveal a pain connecting both artists across time and space.


French artist Isabelle Cornaro took the process even further by erasing the need for lines in creating a landscape mural by spray-painting directly onto the wall. As the catalogue incites, her work, featuring interpretations of video productions that she has created, are "almost fluid images between everything and nothing." I nearly pressed my cheek up against the wall, hoping to dive in.


I felt the same for the four works by the late Eugène Leroy, whose use of impasto seemed impatient to the point of mania (something Van Gogh unfortunately knew all too well), all while representing a harmony rising above and above the chaos of the everyday.


And finally, I was amused (in this context) by Christopher Wool's embracing the furthermost rejection of the line by celebrating...the accident. Or the accidental, something that we can all recognize bits of ourselves in, yes? But again, it is all in how you look at it...


The lines seemed to solidify once again as I walked up the stairs...


...and swam into the very organized yet talismanic world presented by artist Giorgio Griffa...


...where many of his canvases had been pinned discreetly on the walls, the lines where they had been folded up after being painted a purposeful part of the overall effect.


While Mr. Griffa, who was born in 1936, is considered a major figure of Italian post-war art, this is the first time that I had seen his works (they have been rarely shown until recently) and I was absolutely enchanted by them.


Again, from the exhibition: "They are the fruits of a simple and deliberate operation, one characterised by the fundamental components of painting in order that this latter may fully express its essence. Griffa's formally ascetic works are hallmarked by the repetition of signs, lines and numbers modulated to infinity, which add themselves to the intaglio motifs left by the folding up of the canvas."


Can I ask you, when ever did something so simple look like it could be a map to so many elemental secrets?



Most moving of all was his interpretation of Van Gogh's "Starry Night" - a part of his Golden Ratio series - that was especially commissioned for the exhibition. As with all of Mr. Griffa's work, I felt a strong sense of peace while tracing his trail of sky and stars. Such a wonderful discovery. Grazie, Giorgio Griffa...et merci à la Fondation.

The Fondation Vincent Van Gogh Arles
35 Rue Docteur Fanton
13200 Arles
Tel.: +33 (0)4 90 93 08 08
Opening hours: Currently Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 6pm 
Last admission at 5:15pm
Price: 9€ adults, 4€ for youth and students, free for children under 12

"Très Traits" and "Giorgio Griffa"
Both on view until April 24th.
 The museum will be closed from April 25th to May 13th.


Friday, April 15, 2016

Do you want to adopt Teddy?



Please listen up, friends, as I have a very important post to share with you...

I had a great surprise earlier today in that I had a long phone conversation with my friend Ellie. Now, quite a few of you know her story already but for those of you that have just arrived at Lost in Arles (merci!), let me tell you simply that she is one of the most incredible people that I have ever met. I am honored to know her. She is currently in her sixth year of living with ALS and inspires thousands of her loyal friends and followers through her blog, Have Some Decorum. You can read more about her by clicking here and about how we met, here.


To give you an idea of Ellie's strength of will, she got it into her head that she needed to leave Paris for Provence last Summer and had moved into an amazing property by October. That it was less than a fifteen-minute drive away from my tiny village was a wonderful surprise to us both. Of course, she immediately wanted to adopt a dog. I suggested that she visit the Refuge SPA des Baux de Provence where we adopted Kipling and the rest of the story is nothing short of magical. I will let you read about it in her own words, here.


Teddy had grown up at the refuge; we had walked right by him those years ago. It was meant to be that he and Ellie found each other. From the moment that they brought him home, he was an angel doggy. He was potty-trained, was a great guard dog, he didn't misbehave or chew on the furniture - if anything he made himself right at home on the antiques! And best of all, he understood instinctively that Ellie was physically fragile and not only never jumped up on her but would put that beautiful head of his on her lap. 

Teddy is one of the most loving dogs, ever. The first time that I met him, when he understood that I was a dog person, he wanted to give me so many kisses - to the point that when I held him back for a second, he kept kissing the air! He truly has an exceptional, exceptional spirit.


But. Life does not always go according to our hopes and plans. This winter, Ellie's ALS took a drastic turn for the worse (this was not predicted by her doctor but it can happen with the disease) and she was forced to move back up to Paris and immediately into palliative care. This all happened very, very quickly. Her puppy Valentin and kitten Iris found loving homes. Teddy was initially placed with extended family but sadly, it did not work out so Teddy is back at the refuge and is waiting for a new home.


Here is a recent photo of him from their website. He is going by his previous name of Bidule and it is estimated that he is five years old. As you can see, he is still a happy boy. The Griffon in him means that he is a big guy but one with a tender heart. I know from a friend who volunteers at the refuge that he has always been a favorite there. And of course I can understand why. Unfortunately, due to Kipling's aggressive behavior, there is no way that we can adopt another dog, no matter how wonderful he is.

But...can you?

I had the idea for this post a while back but as Ellie was fighting for her life, in no way was it appropriate for me to inquire if it was ok to do so. Today she brought him up and so here we are (and I hope she doesn't mind that I used these photos from her blog - the ones that I took of him on my iphone are a complete blur as I was laughing too much). I am sure that you can imagine how hard it was for her to have left him behind. He will definitely make someone very happy again one day.

If you would like further information about adopting Teddy:
-- feel free to email me directly at robinsonheather@yahoo.com and I would be happy to connect you to people at the refuge, especially if you do not speak French.
-- if you do, by all means contact the SPA des Baux directly and ask about Bidule. 
http://www.spa-desbauxdeprovence.com/les-chiens/
-- you can also see more photos of Teddy by clicking here.


I realize that many of you, most of you, are far away but I still want to put this out there for those of you in the region or visiting soon. Because, you never know. I will keep you posted.

And for those of you who have been praying for Ellie's well being, thank you with all of my heart. I love her dearly.

My friend Elizabeth, aka La Contessa, is working with one of her readers to raise some funding for Ellie's incredibly expensive health-care. You can read more about it: here as well as a beautiful post about Ellie by my friend Tish here.

In typical form, Ellie has just moved into an apartment in the most perfect spot of all Paris, directly over the gardens of the Palais Royal. To read her instagram updates, you can find her here.

Please feel free to pass this along on all forms of social media as you see fit. 
Ellie and I both will thank you for it!
Heather






Thursday, April 7, 2016

My first photo credit



Well, I have a fun surprise to share with you. It certainly was one for me! My friend Anthony hinted a while back that he had something up his sleeve, so imagine my delight when he sent me a gorgeous magazine with an article about the new company that he is forming inside, only for me to discover that the photo used to illustrate it...was mine!


Now, those of you who have been reading here for a while know that I am not exactly a portraitist...to be more precise, I never take photos of people - ever - as I am far too shy. But there we were together, talking, at the end of a glorious afternoon where I had been photographing his amazing new renovation project and the light was streaming across his face so perfectly that I dared just a few. Of course, it doesn't hurt when your subject matter is not only a dear friend but an occasional model as well...

Anthony especially appreciated one of the photos in particular and I sent it to him to use as he wished. As he is truly a good egg, he just so happened to get me my first photo credit and in a very cool publication to boot.


I Heart magazine comes out once every three months. Their objective is to take you to the center of a specific city as described by locals and established expats so that you too can be "in the loop" enough to push beyond the clichés and postcard platitudes to hit the pulse of the current scene. When I am fortunate enough to travel, this is the kind of "on the ground" fieldview that I aspire to, so it is right up my alley and I still haven't finished pouring over its thick, matte pages.


The Spring 2016 issue is all about Tokyo...



...and I love all of the surprising ways that this mythic metropolis is portrayed through art about artists but also foodies, fashionistas, pop and street lore.


Because who doesn't love to love? Or to discover a destination with a fresh perspective?

I Heart will take you there. ;)

"But isn't Anthony...French?" you might be asking. Yes, and so is the magazine! Eh oui, c'est en français mes amis. And there are tons of tidbits spread throughout its pages about places and events of interest all over the world, not only on the featured city.

For more information about the current numéro or to order it online, click:

It is for sale not only in France but also in Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK.


I could have never imagined being published for my photography instead of as a writer! This is a serious thrill for me.

Thank you again, Anthony, for this wonderful surprise and for being such a supportive friend...

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Renovating the kitchen floor - chez Anthony



Now that spring has officially sprung, I imagine that some of you are thinking towards what sprucing up projects might need attending to around your home. C'est dans l'air, n'est ce-pas?


As it has been a while since we have visited the amazing renovation project that my friend Anthony is undertaking with his partner, I thought that we could pay a little visit, all the better to reassure you that no matter what may be on your "à faire" list...


...I highly doubt that anything will be as daunting as bringing back to life a stone floor that was most likely set in around 1750...


...on top of other basic projects such as, oh, let's say, putting the electricity back in the walls where it belongs in these modern times...


...let alone plumbing and evacuation, rebuilding the window and doorframes, all of which will come later.


So, where to start? By calling an excellent team of artisans of course! Fortunately, there are many truly talented experts in Provence and Anthony - as I believe I have already mentioned - is a man who knows the best address for everything...toujours, c'est incroyable.

After his partner had single-handedly ripped down a non-supporting wall to open up the space (and then taken away the tons of déchets), the work could begin. First up, the most damaged of the stone blocks were removed and replaced if they could not be repaired. That so few needed to be attests to the quality of the craftsmanship from nearly three hundred years ago! Then, different techniques were tested for polishing off the indentations that heavily marked each piece (most likely from when additional flooring had been laid on top of it). The above photo was taken at this stage and if you look carefully at the flags in the bottom right, you can see that the essai was already having its effect.


So how did it all turn out? 

Ah, I am going to make you wait to see but will hint that I could skate across the smooth surface of the stones today. They are magnificent. But the work was not without a price. Despite the best efforts of the workmen, a thin veil of stone dust snaked through the rest of the house and covered each surface for weeks! If you ask Anthony, I do think he will tell you that it was worth it. 

This room will be a heart of the house and it is already quite transformed from when these photos were taken. Anthony has a lot on the burner that I am looking forward to sharing with you, not only in terms of the renovation. Let's just say that sometimes one good idea leads to another and another...and that some times you need to start from scratch to find it. 

There will be more to follow, in time...


****

PS. There has been a lot of fear and sadness amidst this promising season. I, like you, am horrified by the terrorist attacks in Brussels and in Pakistan. I wonder where we are going. Many of you have written, asking news of my friend Ellie, who has suffered a setback in her battle with ALS but is still fighting with her humor and elegance intact. That to me seems to be a way for all of us right now. I don't have answers for you but I have Love to give (and hopefully to receive) and am holding onto that for now as an antidote. Let's stay strong in this together, yes?
As always, thank you for being here,
Heather





Monday, March 21, 2016

Climbing the walls



In this corner of the world, nature is waking up with a stifled, slightly embarrassed yawn. Winter has overslept its welcome and the ground is buzzing with the stretch of new greenery while tiny fists have pushed out of the barest of branches overnight. A tip of the hat to the tip of the clock for yesterday was the Spring Equinox.

And with it energy is spiraling up through my brain like vines climbing beyond the roof. My thoughts are spinning, swinging from one puffed up cloud to the next on a verbal trapeze, uncatchable. While at times that makes me smile at the folly, I also feel strongly the need to focus towards something centered at the root. 

Do you have a meditation practice? I have always danced around one, just as I have with my pick and choose spiritual beliefs. But at this time in my life, it seems like the biggest gift that I can give myself, along with healthy doses of self-care and kindness. So I am taking a cross-legged seat, closing my eyes and focusing on my breath, that greatest of gifts, never to be taken for granted. 

My mind will only calm for mere moments and so I listen to Jack Kornfield's instruction to treat those rollicking ideas as I would teach a puppy to stay, gently. Over and over, I come back to just being. At times that feels like it is all that I do. Start over, start over...reconnect. But it is wonderful to be able to peak around a new corner with a taste of hope untarnished in my mouth...


...so ripe for this time of year, here...and now. A beginning.

As today is World Poetry Day (thank you, Edgar!), 
I thought that I might share a poem that I keep coming back to from Mary Oliver's new collection called Felicity:

The World I Live In

I have refused to live
locked in the orderly house of
    reasons and proofs.
The world I live in and believe in
is wider than that. And anyway,
    what's wrong with Maybe?

You wouldn't believe what once or
twice I have seen. I'll just
     tell you this:
only if there are angels in your head will you
     ever, possibly, see one.


Whether you are winding up or down, please know that I am sending my best thoughts to you as we enter another season, one ripe with opportunities.

Thank you for being here,
Heather

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

L'Harmonie - a locals bistro in Nimes



As we steamroll through March (I know, I don't understand how this has happened either), I imagine that some of my more meticulous friends are already deep into planning their upcoming vacations to the South of France this summer. And as we all know, that means food research, yes? One can always sleep on a cot but when it comes to la belle cuisine française, well, that is not to be taken lightly.


So today, I am offering up an address for your consideration but with a hanging clause attached to it (which makes me remember the "hanging chads" which forces me to say, "People of Florida, for the love of all that you hold dear, get out and vote today!" But I digress...).


Now, if you are at all like me - and something tells me that if you are reading along at Lost in Arles, there is a strong possibility that might be the case - each opportunity to eat out is epic, worthy of scrolling through reviews both informed (the France board at Chowhound) and uninformed (Tripadvisor's restaurant selections for pretty much any touristy town in Provence).

 
But what if we take it down a notch for a second? What if you just want say, a pretty space that is lively, where you can munch on a reliable standby such as...


 ...magret de canard with leeks and a gratin on the side? You know, Old School Stylee. 


This is why I am suggesting L'Harmonie in Nimes (or Nîmes as it is normally written, to please my friend B who works for the city). Now, they call it a restaurant but it is definitely more of a bistro. Natasha runs the front of house and she doesn't moving stop for a minute. Because this joint is jumping. Why? It is a very good rapport qualité-prix or value for your money and I think that is especially true if you go for dinner, where the three-course menu (with ample choices) is set at 24 Euros, exactly as it is at lunch.

  
 When I went, it was for a noonday reservation, 12:30 to be precise. I arrived with my dear friend L at 12:35 and every seat in the house was already taken save for one table in the back (a petit bémol - she had reserved ahead and yet a table had not been set aside for us *eyebrow raise*) where we settled in while listening to the contented murmur of our fellow diners. 

While L chose the previously mentioned prix-fixe menu, I opted to go even more low-key with the menu du jour for well under 20 Euros. Honestly, I did not see an enormous difference in the presentation in our starters - both featuring gambas - although L's had a more upscale (and delicious) choice of encornet or squid as opposed to my mulet with ratatouille. Every single person at the surrounding tables had chosen the duck (perfectly cooked and brought out by the chef, no less) as I had and it was clear that many had come in just for that and a copious pour of red from the Languedoc before heading back to work. 

L'Harmonie is that kind of place, buzzy and light, perfect for a day when you are lost wandering through Nimes and hangry after paying to visit the Maison Carrée only to discover that it is, indeed, an empty if perfect Roman monument. Certainly, L's order of a demi-baba for dessert could calm the most frayed of nerves. We stayed on, savoring it with the last of our wine until the room emptied and we too moved on into the bright light of a perfectly provençal afternoon.


L'Harmonie
29 rue de la Madeleine
30000 Nîmes 
Open Tuesday - Sunday for lunch and dinner
Reservations suggested
Tel.: +33 (0)4 66 67 21 91