Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Faces of Province

Someone, somewhere, is quoted as saying “he who is tired of Paris is tired of life.”  There is indeed always something new to discover; though I lived in Paris for years, I never had petit dejuner at Laduree; Laura made this introduction for me in the grande Belle Epoque tea room; Laura’s selection was pure rose-scented Parisian perfection~





























We visited three Sunday markets in Paris; the displays and  abundance were on par with Parisian standards; have you ever seen so many peonies???~

IMG_5518{Sunday market, near Place de la Bastille, Paris} 

In France, but especially in the minds of Parisians, there is a geographical distinction made between “Paris” and “everything outside of Paris,” which is known as province.  Not to be confused with Provence, the glorious region of the South. 

While I adore the City of Light, I now generally make a beeline for Beaune, or just about any region outside of Paris.  We have had the house in Beaune for about five years now, and in that time one starts to appreciate and deeply understand the heart of the region, and the nature of its people~ 


{Lyons Club rose sale for the Veterans, Beaune Saturday market}

While Beaune is more sophisticated, in nearby Louhans we find a focus on those who raise and sell animals~

































{Vendor at the Monday morning market, Louhans, Burgundy}

I found the mythical and symbolic Cheval Blanc in a field north of Beaune, on our way to lunch in Bligny sur Ouche; all that was missing was a unicorn’s horn; this animal was perfection!  Here the Cheval Blanc is a metaphor for the people of province; pure, enveloped by Nature, dwarfed by Nature, yet in total communion~ please click to view full size~















Life is not easy; you see it written on their faces; the Monday morning market in Louhans is a time for the men to get together and catch up on news;  many of the farms and properties are a distance from each other. Monday morning is social hour~
























I see the old guard here en masse, in their blue working pants, and wonder who will carry on the traditions when they are gone~IMG_6955

















In the town of Vannes, Brittany, Jacqueline & Guy welcomed us into their beautiful home. We leisurely strolled the town and its gardens, visited the Wednesday market and several antiquaires, and were toured by car with Guy at the wheel.   The entire visit, every minute, every meal, impeccable…we were treated as true guests in French style, not to lift a finger, which was a treat for me, as were days of substantive conversation only in French.   More on this dear couple later~ 



























{Jacqueline preparing to serve lunch; Vannes}

The people of Brittany are tied to the sea; they are rugged, dependable, and solid, with Celtic origins and their own dialect~





























{Wednesday market, Vannes}

Across France, there is talk of La Crise, also called La Crise Mondiale.  There is no place that is not touched by rising costs, less commerce, and less money.  But the people of province still manage to keep smiling, to keep living~






























{Covered market vendor, Vannes, in traditional Breton hat}

You may not know there is any kind of crise if you get out and talk to the locals; the asparagus guy said “I’m a star, sure take my photo!”~
























The French display remarkable resilience.  I think of my friend Francoise’s grandmother, Chere Mamie, in Granville, Normandy.  She told me stories of how the Germans had occupied the town and her family’s home; sure, she served the Germans their food, but only after she had peed on the plates prior to serving.  Do not underestimate the French.  Like the small wildflower pushing out from the wall of the cathedral, the French create beauty and happiness of out nothing.  They are not strangers to hardship, La Crise or any other~


Like the freshly-caught langoustines, the French population is alive and well and ready to weather the storm~




























{fresh langoustines, Vannes}

And just how do the French survive la Crise?  For one, they have their animals, never far, a source of support & joy~

IMG_6055[2]{“Sherlock” at the Vannes market}

And flowers; potted or cut, you find this little touch of beauty across France~




























The French surround themselves with beauty; see the communal gardens in Vannes; hearts and symmetry within the design~





and of course religion….still today a major force in the lives of the French, here the great Cathedral of Chartres~


and if you are like me and Guy, you will find solace in antiquing….


{Barometer dated 1821, current object of my obsession}

I have many more wonderful posts to show from this trip.  Stay tuned; special shout out to Sheila in San Francisco and Guy et Jacqueline in Vannes; I have added a translation button to help my foreign visitors.


  1. OH my goodness, these photos are amazing. The real France. I loved the photos of the vendors and the townspeople. So wonderful!!

  2. What a lovely blog stroll Andrea and you are a lucky girl to enjoy the province so often. Wonderful photos too. You are right to be obsessed with the barometer, gorgoeus! XO

  3. Happy to have found your blog and beautiful photos of France.I will be back to visit again.I was hoping to get to France this year but may wait until next spring~Cheers Kim

  4. Oh my Andrea, a most beautiful recount of life and the people in the Paris markets. I love it all the flower closeups are astounding!

    Art by Karena

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  5. A gorgeous post Andrea. You have captured province perfectly. My honey and are are off to our house in Bretagne this weekend...getting away has taken on a new meaning for us as well...I understand exactly...what is that about getting older and wiser...
    Take care,

  6. Oh HUGE big SIGH!!!! I was hanging on ever word, Andrea! You took me with you into the wonderful scenes of each inage. I think Paris is a state of mind, an attitude, a lifestyle.

    YOu were in the best company!

    I hope to visit someday!
    Thank you dear one!

  7. Oh Andrea, What a beautiful post and tribute to the French. Your photographs are gorgeous.

  8. Andrea, enjoyed your post and pictures. I have only been to Paris once, so its wonderful to read about your experiences in France. Looking forward to more. Needless to say, I love the baskets.

    Sheila in S.F.

  9. The beauty of photographs is not only do they allow you to share your experience with others but that you yourself get to relive the moments. I felt as though I was once again in J and G's apartment~ heavenly. And Monsieur Bigpants~ he still makes me laugh.

  10. SOOOOOOO What was that delicious looking lunch??????Great shots the flowers and that communal garden....... just gorgeous!!!!!Maryanne xo

  11. Thank you for this lovely post. I could book a flight right now!

  12. This looks amazing I love your photos especially of the man with the yellow roses cute:) really captured the atmosphere of a remarkable place.

  13. And your book is coming out when??? Your photographs share a wonderful trip to one of your favorite places. Yes, I am tagging along one day!

    Heading to your coast the middle of July for a wedding and a little wine country. Would love to see you!