Monday, June 27, 2011

A Rose story

I have a deep passion for roses. Ever since I was a little girl, I have always loved roses. 
Shortly after being married, Luke and I purchased a farm in Marshfield, Massachusetts. The few acres surrounding the antique (1668) house, were a mangle of weeds, dead trees, uncared paddocks...a dream as I knew I would create my own little piece of paradise. It all started with a rose, the purest form and exquisite scent of the Isphahan rose.
 Roses are said to be the most ancient flowers in existence. They were used for their medicinal value, their beauty and fragrance. Confucius (500BC) kept records of the roses in the imperial Garden of the chinese Emperor, Cleopatra was said to have her bed covered in rose petals, medieval monasteries were full of roses, especially red climbing roses as they represented the blood of Christ. Napoleon was so fond of roses that he allowed english rose seeds to be sent to his beloved Josephine, while at war with England.

As for me, I could not imagine my life without roses. By my bed, always a rose is present to bring calmness. Before sleeping, I apply a drop of rose oil behind my ears. I bathe in damask rose scented water which I bring back from Morocco.
In my garden, I have been collecting over the years, the most exquisite scented roses. Ancient roses have unfortunately a very short display, their blooms and fragrance are intoxicating. I treasure the month of June when all my antique roses display their soft colors and release their extraordinary fragrance.

In my garden one would find Damask roses ( Isphahan, Madame Hardy,Red Damask)...Alba roses  (Alba maxima being my favorite, Amelia, Blanche de Belgique, Celeste, Crimson Blush, Parmentier, tender Blush)...Gallica roses (Adele Prevost, Aurelia, Poupre Violette, Camaieaux)...Moss rose ( Alfred de damas, Gloire d'Orient)...Centifolia roses  (Cabbage rose,  Fanfan Latour,Rubra)...Portland roses (Comte de Chambord, Jacques Cartier, Duchesse of Portland.

A Bientot,

Monday, June 20, 2011

A week end in France...Saint Jean de Luz

Through my blog, I try to show you lesser known parts of France and hopefully inspire you to visit and immerse yourself in the local culture, architecture and history.

I just returned from a long week end visiting my parents in France. I had booked ahead of time two nights in a wonderful hotel: Le Grand Hotel in Saint Jean de Luz where we celebrated my parents' birthdays.

Saint Jean de Luz is located near Biarritz in the Basque country where Spain meets France.
Here Louis XIV, known as the Sun King married Marie Theresa, the Infanta of Spain on June 13, 1660.

A fishing port, Saint Jean de Luz is famous for its architecture, sandy bay, its cuisine and the quality of light as well as its micro climate. On a less cultural note, the shopping is fabulous! The many boutiques cater to an all year around and summer clientele... fabulous fashion and home accessories.

 I love all the flowers adorning balconies

 Typical Basque architecture

Central Place in Saint Jean de Luz

House dating back to Louis XIV

Le Grand Hotel, entirely re-designed is truly a gem with outstanding service, beautiful decors, amazing cuisine, perfectly located on the water to watch the sunsets. Of course, I had to try out the spa, an experience not to be missed.

Running on the endless trails along the cliffs amidst nature was a real treat. The occasional german concrete "pillboxes" are reminder of the terrible years the residents endured during World War II. The town was an important waypoint in the escape routes French resistors used to help escaping Jews pass through the Pyrenees into Spain.

The Basque country side, in all its lushness and raw beauty is a delight to travel through. A must stop (if you are lucky enough to find it) is the famous Auberge Daguin. Travel and Leisure has other resources here.

Beautiful historical town of Saint Jean Pied de Porc

Fabulous traditional Basque food

Marvelous gem: Five star, Le Grand Hotel

Hotel Restaurant: Exquisite fare

Not to be missed: the Spa with its Thalasso Therapy

Beautifully appointed bedrooms

My parents ready for an evening stroll

The Basque country is famous for its traditional weaving and pottery. I went crazy for all the linens, for bathrooms, table etc..

A bientot Saint Jean de Luz

Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Monday, June 6, 2011

The meaning of Travel

Mandalay at Dawn

I was once asked why do I love to travel. My answer was quite direct: I travel because I have to.

I travel, not so  much to be inspired, but to explore cultures and feel nature's overpowering scale. I feel at home in foreign environments, absorbing what does not exist in my daily life. The landscapes help me to dream and often my travels are driven from the pages I read.

My favorite subject while in school in France was geography, I would stare at my globe and dreamed of foreign lands while my friends would play with their Barbie dolls...and I read, I devoured Jules Verne stories, read the great russian classics, dreaming of white russian landscapes, discovered Italy through Stendhal, my mind travelled through Burma with Georges Orwell and... I discovered Marc Twain.

 From that day on, I knew I would end up in America.

 His  powerful sentence..."travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness" marked me for ever, and by these standards I brought up my children. Growing up in France, in catholic school, one does not develop very broad horizon and my friends' way of thinking, expectations of life, almost archaic cast system in Bourgeois society were stifling. My parents always encouraged me to be myself and were the support that enabled me to break away from the standard mold. When I wanted to fly, my father brought me to our small local airport, I was only 15 and he said...go for it, and I learned how to fly, alone in my plane I felt an amazing sense of being alive, free to take my life in any direction I wanted. And I did.

Through travel, I feel that I succeeded in at least one thing with my children, they are not afraid of life, of taking risks, they are amazingly generous young men, their friends come from all walks of life and they hold no judgements. As a working mother, I often talk to them and ask if they missed out on their childhood by having both parents away during the day. Their answers are always positive, and in listening to them, our travels have been an amazing part of who they are, a part they hold on to and relish.

Re-reading George Orwell while cruising the mighty Irrawaddy river, Luke and the boys for an early sunrise. We were profoundly touched by this country, land of gentle people caught in a brutal regime

In Borneo, my children learned how to cope with nature, understand the fragility of natural rainforest in the hands of men and greed, and came to love Orangutans. Climbing the ironwood trunk ladder to spend the night with a Dayak family. An impromptu visit after reading Paul Theroux. 

I love being surrounded by younger people, my advise to them...go out in the world, explore, start with your own neighborhood and open your eyes, you will be amazed how much you have missed.
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