Bits & pieces: Observations of Provence

The Lavender Fields

Image by blowfishsoup via Flickr

VAISON-LA-ROMAINE, France – I’ve never seen anything quite like the Hot Gammes, belting out Lady Madonna, Back in the USSR and Besame Mucho right in front of the altar of Chapelle Des Oblats in Aix-en-Provence.  Perhaps the priest was occupied elsewhere.

The a capella group, 15-strong, made up in enthusiasm what it at times it lacked in style in singing American jazz and gospel.  (Take Porgy & Bess’ Summertime … “Weeth daddy and mommy standeeng by your side.”)

Amazing, Grace. They truly were.

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I’m curious why classical musical audiences in Aix insist on clapping after every movement of every piece.  Sort of sapped the emotional intensity of the Vivaldi concert we attended. American urbanites would consider this enthusiasm, well, gauche.

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Fashionistas take note: Expect wide belts hugging women’s  hips among next year’s hot items. They’re everywhere in Aix, a simple accessory changing the look of last year’s free-flowing flower skirts and dresses.  I’m no fashion writer, but I confess that I can’t help but notice French women, from their 4-inch heels to perfect coiffed hair.  Kathy looks, too, so it’s OK. In fact she first spotted this trend.

Speaking of trends, I don’t need a statistician to know the next baby boom has arrived in the South of France. Infants, toddlers and pregnant moms are everywhere. As a grandfather of a 2-year-old, with a second arriving any day now, I’m guessing that lots of American Boomers’ children are busy building their own families, too. This trend is unmistakable on Aix’s Cours Mirabeau, which is the place to see and be seen.

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“L’addition s’il vous plait” – the bill, please.  Once you’ve asked that question in France expect to wait awhile – a long while. I fervently believe French bistro waiters believe every meal should last at least two hours.  So a piece of advice: If you have other evening plans, don’t try to fit in a “quick dinner” beforehand. There’s no such thing in France.

In contrast, French have no patience with American drivers dawdling along to soak in the scenery.  The best advice, if someone pulls behind you, is to get off the road.  French drivers will hug your bumper until you get out of the way, or dart into oncoming traffic to pass with a whisker to spare.  It’s a game of chicken I could do without.

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About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at www.jerrylanson.com. My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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4 Responses to Bits & pieces: Observations of Provence

  1. Ethan Epstein says:

    “I’m curious why classical musical audiences in Aix insist on clapping after every movement of every piece. Sort of sapped the emotional intensity of the Vivaldi concert we attended. American urbanites would consider this enthusiasm, well, gauche.”

    -t’s not just Aix. I had the same experience in Paris.

    BTW, have you seen a pizza truck plying the highways of Provence? Have a pie from it if you get a chance — definitely the best pizza I had in a country not known for high pizza quality.

  2. Caitlin Kelly says:

    Jerry, why would you even try to rush a French meal? Reading every post with terrible envy!

    • Jerry Lanson says:

      Believe me, I’m pinching myself every day. Last night we ate for three hours on the edge of a vineyard overlooking mountains. This one a truly sweet recommendation of Rick Steves. We ate one great meal there and came back the next night for a better one.

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