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Thursday, July 26, 2018

In Rastoke, Croatia, still writing about Avignon!

We are now in a tiny town in Croatia, our second stop in Croatia. Carolina commented on Loring's fb photos that it looked like a fairytale, and she is right. We are here for two nights, which is our modus operundi for this trip, including Paris for Loring. It is a different way from how we usually travel, and so far it seems fine, except that we never get to unpack our suitcases, and that makes it harder for me to find things!

So, hopefully to complete writing about my French sojourn, or at least the Avignon part of it.  I wrote about some of the group, now I'll mention a few more. We were mostly American, aside from Deborah and her daughter, Denille. But even that's complicated. Deborah is, or was, Australian. She's lived in Michigan for many years. I think she's an American citizen. Denille was born in the US, but is an Australian citizen. She lives in Qatar with her husband, and has worked at a university there teaching graphic design for seven years.  She is in her forties, but looks like she is in her twenties. She was of course flattered when I told her so. A little later, one of the others said the same thing to her.

Now, that is only the beginning of the complexities of their relationship and their relationship to Laurel, the mosaic teacher. Laurel's mother and Deborah were each married to the same man. Laurel's mom was wife #1, and Deborah was wife #3.  He is now on wife #7. Got that?  Laurel and Deborah met once before at a family reunion, but Denille and Laurel had never met before.  Denille's father was not the man married to both women, her father died, Deborah married again, and has a half brother by the second husband. Got that?! 

A couple of the others:  Su is from Newburyport, and teaches Spanish at Masconomet. She came on this program last year, and liked it so much she came back.  Heidi lives on the Cape and is a personal chef.  Martine is from New York, lives on the Upper West Side, and is a psychologist.  She and Su met at another mosaic workshop, in Mexico, also run by Laurel. That's probably enough about folks for now, altho there's still a few more. 

So, to wrap things up, if I can, about the workshop week, we actually only did mosaics on four days of the week. When I first saw the schedule I was disappointed about that. In retrospect, it was a good balance. The first day, we mostly rested from all of our travel and adjusting time zones. On two days, we had a bus and did excursions. One day we went to a couple of towns inclulding St. Remy, where Van Gogh lived at various times, having instituionalizing himself. Martine, Su, and I walked up to the place and took a little tour.  He had painted a lot there, and they had reproductions of many of his paintings and said where the originals now were. They also had some situated at the spot where he had painted them.  We also went to Les Baux, where bauxite was mined, and named. Loring and I had been there over 30 years ago, and found it way overtouristed then.  It was, of course, even more so now, although it's at the top of a hill and not room for much expansion.  I could have skipped that. But, nearby,   in what had once been a quarry, there is a spectacular program called something like Ateliers de Lumiere. It's an indoor sound and light show, and they do different shows. Ours was about Van Gogh.  And then followed by a shorter hippyish one - Beatles and Donovan and like music with very hippy bright illustrations. The impressive part is the space, it  is huge, with many corners and grottos, and images on every wall, as you walk around.  I believe the concept for these programs began here.  There is now one in Paris, in an old converted  building,  once a factory, I believe. The current show there is about Klimt. 

Now I will move on to Avignon proper, and the festival. I had booked a room on a site called Wimdu, similar to Airbnb.  It was a room in a home in the old town, which was important to me.  I wanted to be able to walk around the festival easily, and be able to   go home in the middle of the day. The location was perfect, although it took me a while to find it. One of my missed connection misadventures. The other one, later, was finding my Paris apartment.  All I had was one of the "Portes", entrances thru the ancient walls of the city. The taxi dropped me off,  sent Su off to the train station on her way to Marseilles, and, I later found out, worried about me.  She had suggested I go to a cafe with wifi, a smart idea, and contact Sarah, my host.  Problem,  the cafes all said no wifi, not sure why. They said it had something to do with the ancient walls.  Hmmm. I finally prevailed on the   woman at the desk of a hotel, after much pleading she contacted Sarah on her computer and I got the address. It was only a block or two away from where I'd been let off. 

My room was on the second floor of Sarah's apartment.  She, her 25 year old daughter Mia, and MIa's boyfriend lived on the first floor. The bathroom was on the first floor,, along with the kitchen. My room was just a mattress on the floor, or maybe a low futon, and a bureau and a fan, much appreciated. The weather has been brutally hot, in Avignon, Paris, and now here in Croatia. There was a little alcove with a desk, where I left my suitcase.  It was perfectly adequate, especially since I didn't spend much time there  except for sleeping. (At night, and also for almost daily naps in the afternoon.)

Mia was a singer, and her boyfriend a guitarist, and they were planning to play on the streets, but weren't sure where.  I'm not sure if it was their decision, or if it's licensed and/or scheduled. I heard them practicing in the apartment.  She has a beautiful voice, very jazz like and belying  her quiet demeanor. I really wanted to see them perform, but never was able to schedule it.

In all, I saw five performances in three days, one the first day when it took me a while to find the place, and then to relax before venturing out. This is the third or fourth time I've been to Avignon. The first, my original trip, exactly 50 years ago this summer. I was there once with Loring in the 80's I believe. We were only there for a few hours.  And a few years ago, I came down overnight from Paris during the festival, and stayed in Marseille because accomodations are tight in Avignon during the festival. That time, I just walked around and watched street performances. I remember trying to find my house from 50 years ago, unsuccessfully. The time with Loring I did find what I thought was the place, and I think considered ringing the bell. Or maybe I did ring the bell and someone answered and pretended she remembered me. I'll have to ask Loring.

This time, I had no expectation of remembering the location, but as soon as I looked at the map, the name of the street jumped out at me - Rue Violette!  It was an old house with a large enclosed garden.  What I remember is a huge bedroom with swords  hanging on the wall, that had been her husband's.  And her serving me biscuits with butter and marmalade, and coffee in a bow.  And her daughter and son-in-law, or it may have been the other way around, who came to visit with their two huge dogs. 

There is only one house  on Rue Violette that matches the description.  I could only peer into the garden through the large metal doors, and see that it was now apartments. There are some newer buildings on the street, which is only one block long.  But  I couldn't say for sure that the others were newer than the 60s.  It's funny how some things stay with you, like biscuits with marmalade and butter, and other, more recent memories, like what you did yesterday, can't be recalled. 

Let me describe the five shows I saw.  The first had been recommended by my mosaic teacher, Valerie. it was a kind of musical comedy and discourse between Beethoven and  jazz guitarist Django Reinhard. That show played in alternation with one about Bach and  some other musician. It was the other that was playing the first night.  It was four incrdibly talented musician/comedians.  Even though there were many jokes I couldn't understand, there were many I could, and a lot of the comedy was physical, After the show, Bach and cohort served wine to the showgoers, out on the street. I told the non Bach guy, in French,  how much I had enjoyed the show, even though I couldn't understand some of the jokes. He responded that that was ok, he didn't understand some of them either. Funny guy!. Next night, even though there are 100s, maybe 1000s of performances, I went back to see Beethoven. Also just wonderful, although I must say I think I preferred the Bach one. Am glad I saw  both.

Another show was called Speakeasy Hip Hop and the flyer showed  guys dressed in 30s style. It began with four men dancing,  not just hip hop but tap and a real combination of styles. After a bit, a fifth dancer came out, a woman. The guys were great, but she was phenomenal.    From then on, the performance went to a whole nother level.

I had seen a group in the street, two women singing,  Chatanooga Choo Choo, I think, in classy short red outfits, and a man tapping. Based on that, I went to see their performance. Their singing and dancing was great. There was a little plot line, that involved some competiion between the women, but either I didn[t understand it well enough, or it just didnt add much to the show. It was definitely fun to hear songs like "It's all about the Bass" sung in French.

The fifth show I saw was the only one that was rather a disappointment.  It took me a while to recognize that it was based on The Little Shop of Horrors.  I had seen "Broadway,  Music"  something else in their ad and that caught my eye.  The problem was that the actors werent very good, it seemed more of an amateur production than any of the others. They were thrilled, though, when I told them afterwards that I recognized the show.  I  wonder if they knew that Jack Nicholson was the  dentist in the orignal movie, early in his career.

I am going to stop here,  only because I am having trouble with internet and  computer, and don't want to risk losing all   i've just written.  But I will continue on writing with another post. Who knows, this may be the day I catch up!


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