Tag: Van Gogh

A “Blustery Day, Winnie the Pooh” : Le Mistral

Living in the south of France is a beautiful thing. Except for the wind. It is so prevalent and so powerful that it has a name: “Le Mistral”

Residents of Uzes have a saying about Le Mistral:

“It sometimes lasts only one or two days, frequently lasts several days, and sometimes lasts more than a week.”

Let me know if you can figure out that prediction. From my brief experience in this part of France, I’ve known it to last more than a week. Having lived next to the Atlantic Ocean, I would describe it as a strong ocean breeze during hurricane season. In France, the wind can be dry or wet, warm or cold, There are times when Le Mistral is so strong, you feel it will knock you off your feet, literally.

What is Le Mistral?

Le MistralI know nothing about meteorology; however, I will paraphrase the description of the weather pattern during Le Mistral to say that it occurs when the flow of air from north to south creates a current of cold air that picks up speed through the foothills of the Alps and Cevennes. It then spills out into the Languedoc region of France, Provence, the Rhone Valley, and as far southeast as Sardinia and Corsica — sometimes as far as Africa. Wind speeds can reach more than 90 kilometers per hour.

Le Mistral winds generally blow from the north or northwest. At certain times, the airflow is channelled by the mountains through pre-alpine valleys and along the Cote de Azur so that it blows from east to west.Le Mistral

Le Mistral that blows from the west brings air that is not so cold. It is generally followed by clear skies and warmer temperatures. This type of mistral usually blows for no more than one to three days. The mistral from the northeast, on the other hand, is very cold, sometimes bringing heavy snow to low altitudes in the winter. Le Mistral with these characteristics it is felt only in the west of Provence and as far as Montpellier — right where I live.

Le Mistral

Depending on the direction, the wind can bring weather conditions that quickly change from good to worse.

One Sunday I experienced a torrential rain storm that lasted all day. The rest of the week was rainy and cold.

Le Mistral

Summer winds

The good news about Le Mistral is that conditions brought about by the winter winds help make the year-round climate very desirable — 2700 to 2900 hours of sunshine a year. During the summer — mostly July — Le Mistral sweeps through the area around Provence and Uzes when the temperatures are particularly warm. It is caused by a flow of air from the north toward the east and it generally means sunny skies — even when the surrounding areas may be cloudy. The summer winds can clear the sky in less than two hours, blowing away dust and pollution, to make a cloudy day crystal clear.

Van Gogh’s Inspiration?

Among other artists who were inspired by both the beauty of the Provence region and the clarity of the air, Van Gogh seems to capture it all — and the wind. During my road trip to St. Rémy last summer, I hadn’t experienced Le Mistral. So when visiting the asylum where he was self-imposed during his last days, I was impressed by the way this masterful artist mimicked the natural phenomena around him — the sunflowers, the starry night and more. (Here’s a link to the earlier blog)

Now that I have knowledge of Le Mistral, it is interesting to go back to look at the work of Van Gogh. The effect of Le Mistral on his paintings — the wind, the clear skies — is undeniable. In fact, I ran across a blog that describes Van Gogh’s art and temperament during that period of his life. (Click here to read the related post)

Wheat Field with Cypresses

Le Mistral

Starry Night, Van Gogh 1889

Le Mistral

Rest Work, Van Gogh 1890 (Clear, calm sky)

Le Mistral

Le Mistral and tradition

Evidence of Le Mistral was found in archeological remains from as early as 400 BC. Ancient ruins in an area that is now Nice showed stone walls were erected the northwest side of fire pits to keep the wind from extinguishing the fire.

The construction of farmhouses, facing south, helped residents minimize the effects of Le Mistral. Roofing tiles and chimneys that distinguish the rural landscapes and towns have links to Le Mistral.Mostly facing south, town homes and buildings have small windows on the north side.

Le Mistral

Le Mistral

Roofs are gently sloped with sturdy tiles to endure the winds and rain of Le Mistral.

(Visit this site to learn more about wind and architecture in the south of France.)

This early Provincial creche shows the shepherd boy holding his hat, fending off heavy winds.

Le Mistral

Bell towers that hover over towns and villages in the path of Le Mistral were designed to filter the wind.

This particular bell tower is visible from my apartment terrace.

Le Mistral

More signs of Le Mistral

The day I went out to take pictures of the plane trees that line the roads near Uzes, the wind was ferocious. There were times when I had to hold onto the side of a tree trunk to keep my balance.

It’s pretty evident to me that these trees have seen their share of Le Mistral … from the bare limbs on one side of the tree…

Le Mistral

… to the abundance of foliage on one side.

Le Mistral

Everything in sight seems to tilt with the wind, and grow that way.

Le Mistral

Imagine the storms this tree has weathered.

Le Mistral

Le Mistral

Revisiting the works of Van Gogh, I was amazed to see this familiar representation of Le Mistral. I am truly walking in his footsteps!

Le Mistral brings beautiful skyscapes

These are some of the amazing views around Uzes before, during and after Le Mistral. Photos were actually taken from the windows of my apartment. Perhaps bearing the wind is worth viewing how it brews up turmoil in the skies.

Le Mistral

.

Le Mistral

Even the birds know when Le Mistral is on its way.

Le Mistral

Uzes

Le Mistral

Summer days on the Mediterranean boast mainly clear skies.

Le Mistral

Le Mistral

On a lighter note, Marilyn Monroe, stationed at a bar in Nimes, seems to know when Le Mistral is in town.

Le Mistral

img_8107

Arles’ Feria du Riz: Bullfights and Fanfare

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If you haven’t noticed, I’m deliberately attending as many types of events that feature bulls as the main attraction as possible. It’s becoming an obsession.

Someday soon I’m going to write a post about a bullfight. Right now I’m trying to sort out all my emotions about the controversal pastime that’s such a rage in this part of France.

Arles

 

The Feria du Riz in Arles was the perfect opportunity for me to do more research on the subject. Not only was there a bullfight, or “corrida,” there were also bulls running in the streets, an abrivado.

 

Arles

Running of the bulls – abrivado

Now that I’ve witnessed a few abrivados this year, I’m catching on to how they’re staged. Most importantly, I’m  finding there are certain vantage points that are better than others if you want to actually see the bulls.

It works like this.

Both sides of the street are lined with metal fencing. That keeps out people who wouldn’t get near the bulls anyway because it’s easy to squeeze between the bars of the fencing.  At the starting place of the abrivado there’s an enclosed truck that’s filled with bulls. At the opposite end of the route, in Arles, a flatbed trailer truck was stationed between the two sides of fencing.

 

Arles

 

For my first abrivado/bandido, I watched from the starting point when the bulls ran out of the truck. In Arles, I wised up a bit and went to the opposite end to get a better view. That’s where the bulls and horses turn around to run back to the starting place.

At the beginning of the abrivado, men and women on horseback — bandidos — start the spectacle by riding in tandem along the route, which is usually the main street of the town or village. These “cowboys” proudly parade their white Camargue horses before an appreciative crowd.

 

Arles

 

Arles

 

After the horses and riders parade past a few times, the bulls are released.The bandidos run along beside and in front of the bulls to keep them herded together.

 

 

Arles

 

 

Arles

 

When they reach the end of the course, they all turn around and race back up the street. 

 

IMG_2524

 

That’s when all the kids in town chase after them all.

 

Arles

 

Arles

 

Arles

 

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

 

 

Arles

 

 

Arles

 

Now, if that sounds boring, it’s not. It’s exhilarating — for me, at least. Let’s just say, it beats watching grown men run back and forth for hours chasing a football. (Sorry sports fans!)

The arena and corrida

Anything that takes place in Arles is going to be a unique experience. It is an ancient city where the present and the past intermingle seamlessly.

Arles

 

When walking down the street, on several occasions, it took my breath away when I realized I was standing beside a Roman forum, or strolling through a park Van Gogh had sketched.

Arles

 

 

The arena in Arles is not just a shrine to the Roman days of Gaul, it’s a lively gathering place for local events, including ferias and rock concerts.

 

Arles

 

During the Feria du Riz the steps of the arena were the stage for a “battle of the bands.”

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The inside of the arena is a vision straight out of a history book. Having attended events at both the arena in Arles and in Nimes, I’m surprised there has been so little “modernizing” of either structure. These facilities would be off-limits to visitors if in the States. Getting up and around in the seating areas in the arenas is treacherous, even for the able-bodied. I’m not complaining… just saying .

Arles

 

Arles

 

Seating in the arena is on stones. Some sections have wooden seats over the stones. Depending on how close you want to get to the “action”, the price of seats runs accordingly. The most expensive spots are less than midway up the side of the arena and out of the direct sun.

Arles

 

 

As mentioned at the start, more detail about bullfights is yet to come. I’m finishing up Hemingway’s novels on the subject.  He studied bullfighting with some of the greatest matadors of all times. Next my mission is to learn more about the modern corrida and the local controversies.

Stay tuned.

 

Arles

 

For  more posts on bulls, bullfighting and events, check these out:

Arles’ Feria du Riz: Food and Fashion

The Bulls are Here!

The Fete Votive 2014 Finale: Bulls, Belles, Bands and Bubbles.

Uzes’ Fete Votive: The Psychedelic and Bizarre

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

 

10460709_784952061576502_8423211235621167055_n

 

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It’s A Blustery Day in France: Le Mistral

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When I was first considering the move to Uzes, France, a new friend mentioned the “wind” in the winter.

Since she chooses to return to her home in London each year from late September until April, I figured the “wind” was a convenient rational, rather than a real reason to leave. That was before I experienced the “wind” for myself. It is so prevalent and so powerful that it has a name: “Le Mistral.” Residents of Uzes have a saying about Le Mistral:

“It sometimes lasts only one or two days, frequently lasts several days, and sometimes lasts more than a week.”

Let me know if you can figure out that prediction. From my brief experience in this part of France where Le Mistral is prevalent, I’ve known it to last more than a week. Having lived next to the Atlantic Ocean, I would describe it as a strong ocean breeze during hurricane season. In France, the wind can be dry or wet, warm or cold, There are times when Le Mistral is so strong, you feel it will knock you off your feet, literally.

What is Le Mistral?

Piglet in a blustery windI know nothing about meteorology; however, I will paraphrase the description of the weather pattern during Le Mistral to say that it occurs when the flow of air from north to south creates a current of cold air that picks up speed through the foothills of the Alps and Cevennes. It then spills out into the Languedoc region of France, Provence, the Rhone Valley, and as far southeast as Sardinia and Corsica — sometimes as far as Africa. Wind speeds can reach more than 90 kilometers per hour.

Le Mistral winds generally blow from the north or northwest. At certain times, the airflow is channelled by the mountains through pre-alpine valleys and along the Cote de Azur so that it blows from east to west.mistral_map

Le Mistral that blows from the west brings air that is not so cold. It is generally followed by clear skies and warmer temperatures. This type of mistral usually blows for no more than one to three days. The mistral from the northeast, on the other hand, is very cold, sometimes bringing heavy snow to low altitudes in the winter. Le Mistral with these characteristics it is felt only in the west of Provence and as far as Montpellier — right where I live.

Mistral_wind1

Depending on the direction, the wind can bring weather conditions that quickly change from good to worse.

One Sunday I experienced a torrential rain storm that lasted all day. The rest of the week was rainy and cold.

Winnie and the wind

Summer winds

The good news about Le Mistral is that conditions brought about by the winter winds help make the year-round climate very desirable — 2700 to 2900 hours of sunshine a year. During the summer — mostly July — Le Mistral sweeps through the area around Provence and Uzes when the temperatures are particularly warm. It is caused by a flow of air from the north toward the east and it generally means sunny skies — even when the surrounding areas may be cloudy. The summer winds can clear the sky in less than two hours, blowing away dust and pollution, to make a cloudy day crystal clear.

Van Gogh’s Inspiration?

Among other artists who were inspired by both the beauty of the Provence region and the clarity of the air, Van Gogh seems to capture it all — and the wind. During my road trip to St. Reme last summer, I hadn’t experienced Le Mistral. So when visiting the asylum where he was self-imposed during his last days, I was impressed by the way this masterful artist mimicked the natural phenomena around him — the sunflowers, the starry night and more. (Here’s a link to the earlier blog)

Now that I have knowledge of Le Mistral, it is interesting to go back to look at the work of Van Gogh. The effect of Le Mistral on his paintings — the wind, the clear skies — is undeniable. In fact, I ran across a blog that describes Van Gogh’s art and temperament during that period of his life. (Click here to read the related post)

Wheat Field with Cypresses

760px-Wheat-Field-with-Cypresses-(1889)-Vincent-van-Gogh-Met

Starry Night, Van Gogh 1889

vincent-van-gogh-starry-night-oil 2

Rest Work, Van Gogh 1890 (Clear, calm sky)

restwork2

Le Mistral and tradition

Evidence of Le Mistral was found in archeological remains from as early as 400 BC. Ancient ruins in an area that is now Nice showed stone walls were erected the northwest side of fire pits to keep the wind from extinguishing the fire.

The construction of farmhouses, facing south, helped residents minimize the effects of Le Mistral. Roofing tiles and chimneys that distinguish the rural landscapes and towns have links to Le Mistral.Mostly facing south, town homes and buildings have small windows on the north side.

French farmhouse

Roof tiles France

Roofs are gently sloped with sturdy tiles to endure the winds and rain of Le Mistral.

(Visit this site to learn more about wind and architecture in the south of France.)

This early Provincial creche shows the shepherd boy holding his hat, fending off heavy winds.

450px-Santon_in_Mistral_Wind_Arles

Bell towers that hover over towns and villages in the path of Le Mistral were designed to filter the wind.

This particular bell tower is visible from my apartment terrace.

wind in the bell tower Uzes, France

More signs of Le Mistral

The day I went out to take pictures of the plane trees that line the roads near Uzes, the wind was ferocious. There were times when I had to hold onto the side of a tree trunk to keep my balance.

It’s pretty evident to me that these trees have seen their share of Le Mistral … from the bare limbs on one side of the tree…

Plane trees Uzes France

… to the abundance of foliage on one side.

Plane trees

Everything in sight seems to tilt with the wind, and grow that way.

Plane trees

Imagine the storms this tree has weathered.

Plane tree

300px-Wind-Beaten_Tree,_A

Revisiting the works of Van Gogh, I was amazed to see this familiar representation of Le Mistral. I am truly walking in his footsteps!

Van Gogh Lavender

2013-06-026Barefoot Blogger’s  own photo!

Le Mistral brings beautiful skyscapes

These are some of the amazing views around Uzes before, during and after Le Mistral. Photos were actually taken from the windows of my apartment. Perhaps bearing the wind is worth viewing how it brews up turmoil in the skies.

2013-09-30 07.18.58

.

2013-11-13 07.29.30

Even the birds know when Le Mistral is on its way.

2013-11-25 16.52.08

Uzes

Le Mistral

Summer days on the Mediterranean boast mainly clear skies.

2013-07-07 15.49.55

2013-07-05 18.58.39

On a lighter note, Marilyn Monroe, stationed at the neighborhood bar, seems to know when Le Mistral is in town.

2013-11-12 18.00.19

Plane trees

I mention these plantings along the roadways in France so much you might want to know more. Visit this blog for details.

Van Gogh's Trail

France Chapter 1: On Van Gogh’s Trail

Van Gogh

France Chapter 1: The First Visit

 Geoffrey’s Citroen now has a name: “Ales (pronounced Alice) the Cat”. Named for a village near here– Ales. And “Cat” –because her little diesel engine “purrs” like a cat.

It’s proper that Ales the Cat has a name. We are dependent on each other for the next few days. Besides, I’m growing quite found of her. Geoffrey was so right to have a luggage rack on Ales’ roof. She’s easy to find in a parking lot. Especially when I keep forgetting she’s silver.

The road trip

Ales and I started out early this morning on Van Gogh’s trail heading for St. Remy de Provence  It was a beautiful, sunny day with light wind and temperatures in the high 70’s. Our planned stops along the way to St. Remy were the towns of Remoulins and Beaucaire.

Remoulins

I’m not certain why I chose to stop in Remoulins. However, I did find a cemetery to visit while i was passing through. I’ve seen cemeteries along my trip that looked interesting, so stopping in Remoulins gave me a chance to check one out. To me, it’s interesting to see how different cultures honor their ancestors. In Remoulin and other areas of Provence, the deceased are buried above ground in family plots. Most grave stones date back many centuries. Each grave in Remoulin is adorned with elaborate porcelain flower displays and family memorabilia.

Beaucaire

Moving onto Beaucaire, the scenery definitely changed. The older part of town where tourist visit is centered around a busy canal. Marine traffic is active, mostly for pleasure boats, and cafes and restaurants cater to transients and locals. Often boats are moored in the marinas for winter for travelers touring the western Mediterranean.

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Finding the way

1  If you’re wondering how I find my way around, it is relatively easy. I have a Michelin Atlas of France which I found in the apartment. I know the main ways in and out if Uzes. So with a couple of stops at petrol stations along the way to ask directions, I got along fine on this trip.

Note: Both petrol stations had female attendants. Neither spoke English. I simple pointed where I was going on the map and they totally understood what I wanted. They gave me perfect directions.

Not to be sexist, but a man giving directions would have described every landmark along the way. The females just drew straight lines from one turn to another. Simple.

Another guide for finding your way on the roadways is “round-abouts.”I’m not kidding, there are round-abouts every two miles or so along the highways. That means there are frequent directions on signs that point your way.

When you get into a city, there are clearly marked signs to follow. If you don’t see your destination on the sign, just keep going straight. Soon there will be a sign that says: Autres Directions. Follow that sign. It will lead you to the right road.

If all else fails, ask a woman.

St. Remy de Provence

St. Remy is advertised as the one place you must see if you want to experience Provence. Now that I’ve been there, I’m not too sure. I prefer Uzes.

Nostradamus was born in SVan Goght. Remy and Doctor Albert Schweitzer was “hospitalized” here in 1917-18 when he wrote The Decay and the Restoration of Civilization and Civilization and Ethics, part of his philosophical study of civilization.

Most importantly St. Remy is where the artist, Van Gogh, lived from 1889-90 in the asylum at Saint Paul-de-Mausolean

Driving into St. Remy, an almost “spiritual” feeling came over me. There was something different about the countryside . It felt like a movie set.

The road into the city is lined with white-banded “plane” trees, like those leading out if Uzes. But they go on for miles and miles. Ancient stuccoed farm houses and buildings are close to the road with lush farmlands spreading deep behind them.

Van Gogh

The historic district of St. Remy is set in a circle. Ales and I found a parking place in the public lot that was close to the entrance of town. After depositing almost $5 in the meter, I looked for the tourist office. Before I had gotten very far, the menu special at a charming cafe caught my eye– salmon. I stopped for Dejeuner.Van Gogh
Perfectly prepared salmon, risotto with tiny chunks of tomato and scallions, and a glass of rose totally satisfied my hunger.

I skipped the tourist office and took off to explore the shops. Of course.

Van GoghInterestingly, I saw more Americans in St. Remy than anywhere else I’ve traveled in this area. I’m sure its because they’ve

read the publicity about St. Remy being “the place to be” in Provence.

There is definitely a unique atmosphere in St. Remy. It reeks with the flavor of “the rich and famous” and the richness flows through the shops and boutiques — too expensive for my budget.

Some of the architecture even looks rich– more “French” than “provincial” or “provençal.”

Art and architecture

Walking around St. Remy, there were so many times I reminded myself, “Van Gogh was here”, I could imagine how he was inspired. It inspired me.

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In the footsteps of Van Gogh

The creme de la creme of my day was a tour of the asylum at Saint Paul-de-Mausolean, the monastery complex where Van Gogh was voluntarily committed from 1889-90. From here he produced two of his most notable works, “Starry nights” and his self portrait.Van Gogh
Taking the photos below, I was transported to Van Gogh’s day and time. I could imagine how he felt fortunate for all the beauty around him, in spite of his imprisonment.

The entrance, the buildings, the inside, Van Gogh’s Garden, the chapel, the view!

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Van Gogh was released from the hospital at Saint Paul-de-Mausoleann in May 1890 and left for Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris. He shot himself on 27 July 1890 and died two days later.

Fortunately his art lives on.

inspirational-quotes-van-gogh

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