Saturday, April 11, 2015


 I left Roquessels today. It was very hard. Very emotional.
After the usual travel drama (there seems to always be some), I was speeding along in the TGV towards Barcelona, Spain.
I was listening to Spanish and French around me.
I had the thought that one week ago I left Italy and it that was then Italian all around me.

I started to feel excited. I'm going home.
Which made me think about what that means exactly...
what is home now?
it isn't the physical house I'm going to.
I don't think it's the person I've associated home with
for all these 20 years.

So I googled it...

A home is generally a place that is close to the heart of the owner, and can become a prized possession. It has been argued that psychologically "The strongest sense of home commonly coincides geographically with a dwelling. Usually the sense of home attenuates as one moves away from that point, but it does not do so in a fixed or regular way."[2] Since it can be said that humans are generally creatures of habit, the state of a person's home has been known to physiologically influence their behavior, emotions, and overall mental health.[3] People may become homesick when they leave their home over an extended period of time. Places like homes can trigger self-reflection, thoughts about who someone is or used to be or who they might become.
Did that beautiful little community in France become my home?
Possibly, on some level.
I love this "Places like homes can trigger self-reflection, thoughts about who someone is or used to be or who they might become.

Home also feels like family and my closest peeps.
I miss them from deep in my belly.
This has been a good journey. A long and healing and rough and achingly sweet trip.
It was a big and bumpy and often a very lonely road.
It was also magnificent.
And gorgeous.
And full of beauty and delightful souls.

I learned a lot about myself.
I learned to like my own company. A lot.
Perhaps like a snail (or an oyster!) I carry home with me.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Au revoir...

I've been saying goodbye to all of my beautiful new friends and favorite places and things. I feel very, very blessed..

À bientôt....

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


I've been taking note of the extreme way the french have of really checking you out. Unabashedly head to toe. Not unlike children, though I suppose we are just used to and expect that. I remember constantly telling my kids not to.
Well apparently nobody says that here.

Right at you and a good up and down. (They generally do tend to pause at my footwear. Rather unusual for these parts, I suppose. Red clogs or cowboy boots are very different than the standard black heeled boots.)
But the way they ogle or glare right to your face is something I've not really experienced before. Completely undeterred by a return direct look.
Nope, it's an inquisitive look that defiantly seems to imply I don't know what you are but I'm curious and I'm not gonna look away just to be polite.

I've gotten quite used to it. I take great pleasure in disarming some of the elderly with a big smile and a "bonjour madam/monsieur". It does often work and I am usually rewarded with a return smile.

This was different however when I crossed the Italian border.
Oh, they still stare all right but instead of "what are you?" kind of vibe it was more of a "what have we here?" kind of interest.  I must say lecherous old men aside it was not unpleasant...
I was only slightly less forthcoming with the big smiles.

Oh, I know I'll be home so soon and I'm loath to forget these sort of wonderful details of immersion in another culture. The beauty of not understanding whole conversations around me, the simplistic bubble I can live in all by myself.
Suddenly the things I've missed are fading and these funny oddities have become so dear.
My new wonderful friends are seeking me out to say goodbye. I feel so lucky and so very blessed. I have 3 more days here.
It's sunny and warm.
Today I worked alone up on high up behind Roquessels in Morterzu -a vineyard with amazing views. It's the abandoned one that will take another year or more to bring it back. I have graduated to the electric pruners (this feels big). I was able to get a lot done in what was probably my last work day. It was bittersweet, though my arm was getting tired I didn't want it to end,
I kept going.
I was happy walking back to the car and thought I could do this everyday.
And then realized that actually I do sort of do that everyday.
It's the same kind of gardening/farming that I love to do in VT. So I'll take these beautiful memories home with me and keep the spirit of this place and this satisfying work with me in these days and months ahead.

that is the backside of the chateau in the distance that looks over "our" wonderful village

the white line on the horizon to the left is the sea


Sunday, April 5, 2015

buona mangia

Well...I'm happy to be back with my wonderful friends the Coulshaws in Roquessels.

It was a wonderful trip last week across the southern part of France and into Italy. I ate very very well and want to share the deets...
before I left, Simon roasted sanglier(wild boar). It was flavorful, juicy and delicious- the way we wish pork could be. It had a nice nutty flavor (I like to think from all those acorns in the garrigue) with a red currant jus and roasted potatoes it was a feast to fuel me for my coming days of travel.

I stopped at Arles, a beautiful village at where the big Rhone river splits and forms the Camargue delta. I wandered a bit, bought a small quiche from a patisserie and hit the road to Cassis. This is the picturesque spot I found myself rosé in hand and staring into the Mediterraneé.

That night I went back to the same restaurant where I found the same waiter with the nice crinkly eyed smile. I ordered fish soup and grilled dorade. It was simple and fresh and tasted beautifully of the sea. I think he was concerned for my solitude and brought me a nice limoncello with my tarte tatin. Little did he know I love my solitude but I quite enjoyed the local limoncello too!

The next morning fortified with croissant and tea I headed to Bandol. It was market day all along the harbor.

Beautiful but busy and too many people for my liking so after a short stroll along the beach picking up sea glass - quelle surprise there's a lot of green! I headed east. I decided to check out St Tropez because I could. It looked like a busy place so when I saw a small beach along the road leading into town I pulled up onto the curb (typical french style), parked, locked the car and took a walk in turquoise water looking across the bay to snow capped Alps in the distance. The sea glass bounty was even better here.Can you believe I'm even writing this? That the treasure hunting was better in St Tropez than Bandol?? Someone pinch me.

Look at the Alps!

Feeling the need to put in some miles I decided to forego Monte Carlo and headed to Menton. A gorgeous citrus filled town right on the border of Italy. I found free wifi (pronounced weefee here) to check in with my Airbnb host, had a delicious chai, scoped out the beach and crossed the border into Ventimiglia, Italie.


I loved this place instantly. I did not regret my decision to extend my stay and had some of the freshest, memorable, most gorgeous experiences and seafood of my life.
spada (swordfish)carpaccio with shaved local artichokes
I had a glass here (or 2) of Pigato, a local white made of Vermentino grapes, it was light, dry, peachy with nice minerality. It was perfect with this fresh seafood and soft delicate beans.
uber tender squid with these very special local white beans- simple, buttery and just heaven.

then I found the market place....

Though it was hard to leave that oasis I decided at about 4 pm on Friday that it was time and that I needed to go back to Roquessels. Of course the whole world was also in their cars traveling the auto routes across France for Easter weekend so the trip took awhile. But I traveled with an almost constant smile on my face as I recounted the beautiful moments of my few days. It was a lovely evening with a gorgeous sunset that lasted for hours. I arrived at Simon and Monica's doorstep tired and full of stories. They made me tea and listened well past when we all should have gone to bed.
Yesterday Simon allowed me to follow him to a natural wine tasting. Such fun! Then we shopped together and went home to create a yummy meal of seared duck breast, braised fennel, asparagus and white beans with garlic and rosemary. Of course we opened some of the favorite wine from the tasting.
Man, did I go to sleep happy.
Today is Easter Sunday.
The Coulshaws went of to church and to be social. I happily stayed here for some sun and a few visits about town. I now sit rosé in hand on their sunny deck. I'm looking forward to cooking with Simon again. Leg of lamb is up next.
Oh, which wine will we open first?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Oh Madonna Mia...

I feel that I must put some of this down lest I forget it, but the sun is rising over the Italian Riviera and it's calling me so I'll be brief...
When I spoke of my hesitation to head north into Piedmont and then on to the french alps my hosts Elizabeth and Pierre immediately concurred and directed me into the hillside north of here for a day trip. I am, after all, running away from snowy mountains this year.

It was magical.
I followed the road out of Ventimiglia until the buildings fell away and greenhouses and terraced gardens took over the landscape. It got greener and more remote as I drove.
I came to the recommended medieval town of Dolceaqua. It was just as picturesque as promised. Although I did not have my espresso at the "the california" like Pierre suggested (there was not a free outside table), I did have one nearby looking up at the same beautiful view of the old humpback stone bridge and Doria castle. A local sweet bread was a delicious accompaniment.

I then headed on towards Islobola.
I had such strong feelings as I drove that as soon as I found a place to park I pulled out my notebook to process some of it.
Such emotion.
I had this tender sprout of a thought...
that driving like this
on tiny back roads though little towns
makes me extraordinarily happy.
I realized I can choose to live my life in the way that I want, for me.
I can make this happen
for a couple of months out of the year.
Make space to explore beautiful places, food and people.
This could be my goal.
So the intention is out there.

Then I walked up a path, soon there were steps. Up and up and suddenly I'm at an old ruin of a church. It's a beautiful view. The hillsides are terraced. There is a small village atop the small mountain in the distance. The sun is warm and there is a bench.
I sit and actually write down that I want to remember this moment.
Just how it feels.
That it feels auspicious.
I feel as though I'm on the cusp of something.
So I'll remain open to what ever it is.
I just smile.

Church bells start ringing.

You'll have to wait for the book to read what happens next, it's too large for this small post...