I think it's ok to say that good people come to you in the most unexpected places. That would be how I'd sum up a good chunk of our trip to Provence. You might be in a pretty place with breathtaking views and decadent food, but without family and friends, both new and old, your experience will never be as rich as it could be. I don't mind talking to strangers, in fact, I always make it a point to befriend someone especially if they are going to be in front of my camera. If I learned anything with my photojournalism schooling, it's that if you don't speak up you'll never get the shot you want, because rapport is such a wonderful thing. I've met a lot of lovely people in the past six-ish years who have let me be a part of their story somehow. I'm thankful for the friendships and the photographs they've given me, and the contact that still remains. People and their stories open your eyes to a world that you may have never known existed; and it's with these people and their stories, that your life becomes much richer than it ever was before.
This part of our trip, we traveled to Lacoste, Aix-en-Provence, and L'isle Sur la Sorgue. Each town and city is unique, but united in their laid back, southern-esque lifestyle. We started in Lacoste, another perched village across the valley from Bonnieux. In the village's recent history, it's known for its artistic community and is home to a Savannah College of Art and Design campus. Marquis de Sade's crumbling castle at the top of the town is now an art museum which was started by the fashion designer Pierre Cardin. At night, the castle is brightly lit and is easily seen from across the valley. We jaunted over to this village unknowingly aware of how rich it was in the arts and how steep the roads were. We climbed from the bottom to the top on a sunny late morning in ill-fitting sandals and somehow managed to avoid slipping on the narrow and winding cobblestone streets. We also avoided getting sunburned from the limestone's reflections of the blistering sun. The entire walk, or hike, was met with beautiful art and sculptural aspects of this tiny village. Once at the top, we stood with our mouths open at the view and the art that surrounded us. Once we were back in the town center, we were surrounded with the locals setting up for the Festival Lacoste. We peeked our head into a humble church, St. Trophime, and breathed in all its simplistic beauty. We stepped out only to find a sparkly little shop that caught our eye. Here we met Ruth, who was running a small pop-up shop selling her jewelry. We managed to walk in on the last day within its last hour. It was fate, as some might call it. Ruth was very sweet and allowed me to photograph her shop and make conversation. We talked about our love of treats, pretty jewelry and textiles, and some of the best brocantes in the region. We've kept in touch sharing images and our love for good photography. Her blog, Rubanensque, is a beautiful menagerie of her French lifestyle and a creative outlet of her work, family, and inspirations. My two recent favorite posts are about truffle hunting and a surprise winter snow. Ruth's presence, hospitality, friendly persona and recommendation of the best crème brûlée made Lacoste that much more dear to my heart. I can't wait to return this summer for a visit!
Whoa, y'all, Jerry actually posed for picture without arguing and enjoyed it.
How'd you like to be that cat with that view? Just a little jealous.
Aix-en-Provence, or the Paris of Provence, as some locals call it, always leads to a day of shopping and exploring. Last time, we came upon a quaint little dog shop and searched up and down the streets for the shop again to no avail. We did however, fall back upon the beautiful Cathédrale St. Saveur, which was built upon a Roman temple dedicated to Apollo, and houses a stunning green and gold organ (however, we missed organ practice this time). This cathedral will always take my breath away with it's soaring ceilings, exquisite frescos and stained glass, and it's mash-up of Roman, medieval and neo-gothic decorations and architecture. St. Saveur has been destroyed and rebuilt many times, which accounts for its unique qualities. After cooling of in the sanctuary, we made our way to a macaron shop for some sweet cookies for a soon-to-be featured food shoot.
While staying in Bonnieux, we made a few trips to the old textile town of L'isle Sur la Sorgue, which is now home to some of the best French antique markets, or brocantes, second only to Paris. Some call this the French Venice, but I do enjoy this town better than Venice itself. There are canals of crystal clear emerald green water, brocantes, and hidden gems all over. The algae-laden watermills speckled throughout the chilly canals used to power the silk and paper factories that put this town on the map. Antiquing and tourism are its current industries, the first of which we spent days supporting. After walking around in the Provencal heat, we'd end the day by dipping our toes in the chilly Sorgue River with a gelato in hand. Tucked behind gardens and gates off the main road were shops, galleries, and warehouses of antiques. La Boutique de Francine, was a favorite as it housed hoards of antique linens, silks, and clothing. These brocantes are open only during the weekend and Mondays, with the street flea on Sunday mornings. Each one had its own personality and flare, our favorite of which was where we met Robbie and Nava.
This British couple transplanted themselves in L'Isle Sur la Sorgue because of the antique industry and the calmer way-of-life compared to London. After interrupting their lunch, we bought some prints and a surprise present for Jerry, cracked a few jokes and realized that they were some pretty awesome people. They were an integral part of Mrs. Donna's antiquing expedition and helped her find an antique stone sink, in addition to letting us know which dealers were solid and which were crooks. We checked out some real estate with Robbie and Nava, then walked around the canals, visited the overly gaudy, but still mind-blowing, Baroque cathedral, Notre-Dame-des-Agnes, and ended our day with Pastis, an anise-flavored apertíf, and sparkling lemonade. I of course, got lost taking photos of a colorful street across from the cathedral with such lovely vintage typography. We arrived the next day to continue our quest for antique tables and sinks, and then grabbed a lunch at Restaurant Le Carre D'Herbes with the lovely couple before we left town. It was one of the tastiest lunches of traditional Provencal fare served with a to-die-for Côte du Rhone. It's hiding inside one of the galleries surrounded by vines and greenery. We then parted ways as our new friends went to go move their gallery to a new site, called Rives de Bechard. You should go visit at the very least to meet these lovely friends of ours. Just like Ruth, we've kept in touch with Robbie and Nava since we've left and hope to meet again this summer.
Hundreds of lovely little ducks speckled the canals.
Quirky entrances graced most of the shops and brocantes throughout the town.
And of course, a daily gelato stop and toe-dip.
One of the coolest things were the gentlemen who boated their way along the canal. Unlike Venice, all the bridges were very low, so they definitely had to limbo their way through.
Fig trees graced the edges of the canal as we made our way down to Francines. Some shots of the linen shop are below.
The colors and patterns that surrounded L'Isle Sur la Sorgue got my heart good. I would cage all my windows if cages looked like this.
Robbie and Nava were so full of life and hospitable. After interrupting their lunch, she could only offer fresh apricots to us while Robbie cracked jokes about us crazy ambitious antiquing Americans. I love these portraits as they really capture their dynamic and caring personalities. Below are some shots of the trip to the stone mason's gallery, and his dog, who searched for toy rocks in the sinks.
Look at the size of that office chair. Whoa.
Vintage french typography. Be still, my heart.
And Jerry's new favorite photos of us.
Don't fix it if it's not baroque! Also, don't let people see you taking photos!
Some really not-so-awesome-but-can't-live-without-them instax shots.
And again, our trip was, of course, chronicled in instagram posts. Below are some from this part of our trip. To see them all, and unfortunately see the nsfw spam that made it’s way into our beautiful hashtag, search #bonnieuxmonsieur.
Bonniuex & a lavender distillery are up next! À bientôt!