Life in a Village of Provence, France

On this small terrace, located at the highest point of the walls which once protected the village from the invasions of the emperor Charles V, I installed my outdoor living room - two stuffed chairs and a big umbrella to protect me from the sun or the rain. This was ideal for my breakfast setting.

When the bustle of the summer passed, the village returned to its wonderful quiet. That was the time when I truly enjoyed its beauty. I walked along narrow, cobble streets; I talked with artists of the breathing art that was born in their atelier. Gerard had come from Savoy and was working on olive wood. Beautiful objects made with care which were sold along with a pile of bric à brac picked up from the many old houses of Provence. Robert and Nadine had a small gallery where they sold water-colours.  As for Claude Victor, who came from the small nobility of the region, he worked enamel on copper or glass, and his reputation had reached the Côte d’Azur. Then there was Gabrielle, who had left her native Lorraine, and was selling coloured glass brought from her hometown. And Leonard who had piled into his shop sacks with lavender, mint and thyme, and on the shelves I saw large jars of dried herbs cultivated by farmers on their estates.

Provence, October 1990

Saint-Paul-de- Vence, Provence

Saint-Paul-de- Vence, Provence

One afternoon as I ascended a street next to the central fountain, I stood outside a shop window to gaze at two books. I examined their bindings carefully. Under the letters of the title was a picture carved and worked under the inspiration of the artist. I uttered softly: Symphonie en blanc majeur. And as I drifted with the musicality of the syllables, I entered the studio to chat with the artist. Surprised, I saw that he was my neighbour, with whom I had not spoken all summer since he always seemed to be in such a hurry, because there was such a lot of work in his studio. His name was Amédée and there, at his atelier, he noticed me for the first time.

So, the autumn days passed calmly in that authentic and so human atmosphere. Here the stress and the noise of modern society had no place. And if what we call happiness is measured in a few moments, I spent hours and even days feeling it as I painted and watched from above the camps of lavender spreading away up to where their violet colour was unified with the soft purple colour of the rocks, and where, even further away, the deep blue sea met the pink hue of the sky at sunset.

The book PROVENCE Fragrances is published in Greek.

Barbara Athanassiadis