August 26, 2014

Remembering Provence

Remembering Provence...
and bringing my collection home.

As I was washing and cleaning my newly arrived old friends, I was placing them on the table. Most of the items above came out of one tub...except for the basket of flowers. Just for fun I started creating a tablescape. Then I decided to snap some pics. You know how it is. One thing leads to another. Fun!

I was one fortunate college girl when I was accepted into a program in Aix-en-Provence, France. I was a French major, and my liberal arts college (Transylvania Univ, Lex KY) participated in a program that allowed my courses to transfer, so off I went to France all by myself. 

I was off to see France, to improve my language skills, to live with a French family, and to have some great experiences. I will not say it was an easy year, but the things I learned, the places I went, and the people I met made for a great year. (overlooking homesickness, no car, tight budget, getting  really sick far away from home and walking two miles one way to see a doctor, no washer or dryer,  i.e. conveniences of home)

 I lived in Aix, a university town, in Provence, which is in the south of France. For those of you who are familiar with Aix, or the Provence region, you know that I spent a year in one of the most beautiful areas of France. History. Art. Architecture. Language. People. 
I used to walk, then ride my bicycle, to school every day on part of the old Roman highway. Up the road from where I lived were Roman ruins. Across the street from my school was an old cathedral that was started in the 5th century and built onto through the 15th century. You see, my school was inside of the ancient walls of the city. Everything was of historical significance.

West facade and Gothic portal of Aix-en-Provence Cathedral. © Holly Hayes
Cathédrale St-Sauveur (Holy Savior Cathedral)
Detail of a beautiful sculpture of Saint Peter on the northeast pillar of the cloister, 
Aix-en-Provence... © Holly Hayes
 I had early morning classes, but after those classes a few of us would go to a nearby boulangerie for tea and pastry. I would always order a thé citron (tea with lemon) and something to go with it. (This is part of the reason I gained weight. Imagine that! Gaining weight in France.)  My tea break would give me some energy to go back to classes. 

One thing we American students had to learn to work around was the two hour lunch. While this is a fine break, but if you needed to go to the bank, or an office somewhere, the doors were locked. Life would resume in about two hours! I have to say that I eventually learned to love this slower pace of life, and had more of a culture shock returning to my own country. We are such busy, busy people.

My bee motif placemats, tea pot, and beehive canister did not come from France, but the USA. However,the bee is an important decoration in Provence.

Sunflowers are also plentiful in Provence. 
There are fields of them. You can also buy fresh cut sunflower bunches at the marché near the post office.

My yellow plates were made in France, though purchased here in Kentucky.

I have had fun being reacquainted with some of my dishes. Now I have to come up with a good storage system. I need a system that protects my dishes, while making them easy to access when I want to use them.

I think I will make a thé citron and think about it. 

While I do not usually eat pastries, I might just bring one home to go with my thé citron, and remember my times in the boulangerie near the school with my friends.

And...I really do need to slow down a bit, and try to take life at a slower pace like I did when I lived in France. The papa of the family that I lived with was in his mid nineties. Fresh food, good wine, wonderful climate, and a slower pace of life no doubt contributed to his longevity. 

Bees, Sunflowers, and thé citron are just a few of my fond memories from my year in Provence. I will share more another time.

 I am sure that I will unpack more memories as I open each box or tub. It is like having gifts to open!

Post Script, The History of the Bee Symbol

The ubiquitous Provencal bee has its origins in the old 1st century Merovingian dynasty. Childeric I, the father of the French hero, Clovis I, was the first French king to use the bee as a symbol. The bee is believed to be one of the oldest symbols of French royalty.
Despite its ancient origins, It was during Napoleon’s reign that the bee symbol became widely used in France and in Provence. Napoleon, who was something of an upstart, sought to give the impression of legitimacy by tying his government to that of the ancient kings with symbolism. The bee was part of that effort. Since Napoleon was from Corsica, his symbolism was used more in the provinces along the Mediterranean Sea, such as Provence.
More recently, the bee has become a symbol not only of France, but of the region of Provence. This area is a major honey producer as well as a grower of flowers, such as lavender, that find their way into perfumes, soaps and other bath products. The bee personifies this agricultural strength.
The original bee was actually shaped more like a cicada than a bee, but the symbol has evolved to be more of a honeybee shape.  source:

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My Kentucky Living
My Kentucky Living

Hello, I'm Sheila and my house is a giant art project! I enjoy creating an environment where my family can feel safe, secure, and loved. We are empty nesters learning to slow down and enjoy life.

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