isle sur la sorgue
When I first met Julian, life was one long weekend of walks and wine-tasting. This past year it has felt like one long working week. Finally, however, it seems we are starting to behave like grown-ups, and find a balance between both.
It was an almost balmy Saturday and the cap of the Mont Ventoux was beckoning us out with the promise of snowsparkle. J started painting early and by three o’clock we were on our way, past the white letters lodged into the hillside, proclaiming ‘Vaqueyras et ses Vins’ in a shameless imitation of Hollywood, and turning right to Montmirail.
For three sunlit hours we padded on crackling acorn paths through rosemary bush and minty olive groves, and past tight rows of vines combing the scalp of the hillside like an immaculate tribal hairdo. The Ventoux was showing an almost shocking amount of snowy shoulder from this angle and, like a woman seeing her beloved’s nakedness for the first time, I could hardly restrain my camera from clicking at every bend in the road: It was a proud peak flanked by umbrella pines curled in gallantry, a milk-rose breast in the setting sun and later, with a lobe of moon appearing along it’s fleshy forearm, a soul-sister.
We slept long, late and well-earned into Sunday
Sunday is the Antiques market in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, where the arteries of the Sorgue river are banked with vendors of everything from silverware and French linens to rare books. The market spills onto the streets from the luminous courtyards in which, in ‘Coté Bastide’ aromatic shops playing viol music, rich Parisiens furnish their châteaux à la campagne: Giant faënce pots and house-sized flaking blue wardrobes, louvred shutters as big as their million dollar views and ornate doors fit for infinite hallways.
At twelve thirty sharp the stall-holders shake monogrammed white linen onto their antique tables and, as they get out their mussels, cheese, bread and wine, a convivial buzz of “Bon Appetit” and antique gossip fills the establishment. If you want a price at this hour, you have to search the surrounding stalls to find where the person you are looking for is popping a cork with his colleagues. He probably won’t seem very interested in your enquiry.
We lunch ‘Chez Nane’, a simple but popular joint by the side of the river and at the end of the covered market. There we read the signiatures of guests past (Venus Williams, Pierre Arditi, Ridley Scott) and dream about our own fortune – the Cork Street exhibition, the Californian dealer, the book deal… We plan the purchase, rescue and organic renovation of the ruined hamlet in which our house is situated - the pool, the louvred shutters giving out from the ‘Galérie des Demoiselles Coiffées’ onto our very own million dollar view of the Mont Ventoux.
On the next table a well-heeled couple sketch plans in a vellum notebook with an expensive fountain pen. Dreams of all sizes are bubbling everywhere and Julian, in a moment of daring, suddenly pulls the plug from the cheap radio, which happens to be next to his left ear. Is it my imagination or does the conversation and laughter seem to rise up a notch….? One thing’s for sure - no-one notices, not even the jolly Nane who is too busy seducing us with a description of her profiteroles.
We return home and notice that the arch in the ruin has crumbled some more. There may soon be serious stress on our house. Is that crack a bit longer, wider? We think so.
To polish off the weekend we watch ‘La Gloire de mon Père’ and ‘Le Chateau de ma Mère’, the story of Marcel Pagnol’s childhood – a journey from humble shack to chateau on the back of a fountain pen and inspired by his beloved ‘collines de Provence’.
Monday rolls in and we go back to work. It is just possible that the dream of the hamlet may come true. Meanwhile, not unlike Pagnol, our life is in complete harmony – what we both love doing and where we both love to be are how we make our living.
If weekends are for remembering this, then let us enjoy many more of them.