Lumières: John Malkovich Serves Up His Singular Fashions to the Luberon Smart Set Along With Pizza in a Box

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Pierre Cardin in sneakers, and Chantal Thomass making a voguish splash

It’s a balmy Saturday evening in Provence, July 20: at 6:00 p.m. outside the green iron gates of the Château de l’Ange in the hameau of Lumières where fashionable people are queuing up dutifully to receive – from young women in little black dresses – their pre-assigned section in the garden behind the large proud chateau of Édith Mézard, designer of elegant and beautiful linens for the home – bath, beds, sofas, tables – and les petits cadeaux.

A printed invitation announced a presentation of “technobohemian,” a menswear fashion line created by John Malkovich (JM), the esteemed American cinema and theatre actor and director, a longtime occasional denizen of nearby Bonnieux.

A flush of excitement grips the air. The guests know nothing about the program; they hold only the promise of a glittery time in the presence of the celebrity of the moment and other luminaries: the distinguished Pierre Cardin in track shoes, the vrai chic lingerie designer Chantal Thomass, the all too handsome French actor Lambert Wilson, and the muse and lover of Dali, Amanda Lear, who has the voice of a Marine.

A large panel at the entrance announces en anglais the philosophy underpinning “technobohemian,” a brand JM launched in 2009, which replaced a discontinued fashion venture “Uncle Kimono.”  We read that the garments are all made in Italy with the exception of denim from Japan, and that he creates all the designs and chooses all the fabrics.

All in our places behind the Château, music flares up, cuing a brief stylized parade on the garden grass runway of twenty-some bare-footed guys draped with casual fashions: smart and loose-fitting ensembles with some funky mix and matches, styles destined for the thin waisted metrosexual with a dandyish bent, who suffers no impoverishments in life; whose ample net worth permits the folly of buying a piece here or there with no fuss of leaving it unworn in the closet for a year.

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The most succinct critique heard uttered about the designs: “un air faussement décontracté.”

As soon as the defilé makes a final entrance en masse, JM comes out from the Chateau attired in a baggy baby blanket two-button blue suit cut from gauzy-like fabric – the trousers flopping around his legs like over-sized pyjamas.

Pause and consider the baby blanket blue suit as a touchstone of JM’s stuff: it typifies what David Foster Wallace identified as “terminal idiosyncrasy”: where a designer’s concepts and creations come off as just too particular to him alone and his tastes for dressing himself. There you have it: richly-textured fabrics fashioned into objects of self-love, a vainglory compelling the investment of the most extraordinary effort and emotion into the craft of haberdashery.

JM, his head bobbing as he takes long strides down a grassy aisle, his hands making a sheepish split finger wave, then a low bow, a pivot, and shoulder-dipping strides and fluttering hands as he vanishes back inside. Lacking the continental air of mastery of proven courtier talent, JM appears seemingly ill-at-ease playing a role that he may not rehearse nor relish.

The 75-second performance evoked the first inkling of whispered discordance – remarks that the tonsured actor might have grabbed a mike and uttered a few sentimental words of appreciation to the guests, who are after all not snarky fashion journalists nor difficult retail buyers; they are his neighbors in a land he professes to love. Nor does JM elect to make an appearance at the cocktail afterwards where he could engage charmingly and warmly with le peuple  in a sort of Luberon all-togetherness, preferring to escape back into a privileged envelope of celeb privacy. There would be no “up close and personal” this evening.

Few audiences in the Luberon have been as aggressively and carefully recruited for a summer happening than for tonight’s agenda. But: meubler le jardin. Now if you keep in mind the kind of media manipulation we experience at the hands of celebrity publicity machines, you quickly recognize that the mis-en-scene this evening strives to provide a narrative and images for media consumption – TV and print. A coup de marketing. A PR  exercise.

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Here’s the thing about obligatory payback at modish and voguist events: the standard default gesture is to pamper the participants afterwards with an admixture of riveting badinage and good food with a bit of drink.

As the first group of guests wandered into the cocktail on the front lawn, they were greeted with small stacks of white boxes of thin-sliced pizza, sitting on two tables. Some flinched at the sight of food not placed on trays and the absence of plates and napkins. The scene was not all that dissimilar to the experience of a frat house game watch party or your teenage daughter’s sleepover.

As hungry fingers lifted the slices from the boxes, the pizza was consumed in a transitory moment, leaving later-arriving guests in a state of gustatory nothingness – not even nuts, crackers, chips or other banal over-salted supermarket finger food.

A modest quaffable wine was served from a local winery owned by JM lui-meme.  At a certain moment, an inadequate number of glassware left no clean wine vessels to drink out of, and a bit later white wine was unavailable due to insufficient stock.

What mild irony came calling for cocktail attendees Pascal Lainé, whose gallery splash the night before feted guests with tray upon tray of scrumptious amuse-gueules, and Christine-Ruiz Picasso, the great patron of the arts from far-off Viens, where earlier this season at the Chapelle Saint-Ferréol invitees reveled in a lush buffet of cavier and foie gras.

Consider this impudent incongruity: in the boutique off of the cocktail lawn hung pieces from the show, some ensembles going for as much as 800 to more than a 1000 euros – a single purchase could feed with pizza the entire student body of Reed College. Twice.

It gashes the memory to recall an event in the Luberon when such a fashionable and celebrity-flecked crowd did not merit a tasteful first-rate caterer (un traiteur).  Try to pull off an evening like this one in Montecito or East Hampton, and people would be seething with discontent, tossing their wine glasses defiantly into the shrubbery.

So it turns into the last place that you want to be on a glorious evening in high season in Provence, but you just can’t rip yourself away; your retinue is making the rounds catching up with those that need catching up with, so you wander about and participate in languid muddled conversations, and then you are wickedly fortunate to recognize a long-lost visage, one you haven’t seen for a few years: a rejuvenated Harry Holcroft, the once Lacoste-based artist who shuffled off to India, and presently is back for ten days to prepare his spatial property for punters from America, and is then up to London for an exhibit in late September before heading back to northern India. Encountering the high toned Harry was a bracing tonic of acrid humour at an otherwise flawed drinks party.

As we joined a serpent line of cars filing out into a warm limpid night, an intense desire asserted itself to search out something totally authentically provençal: an aoli.

Basics:

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John Malkovich fashion line technobohemian: Website

Pop Up Boutique: The new line presented last Saturday is available for puchase at Château de l’Ange in Goult until Aug 15 ; Tel 04 90 72 36 41

Domaine de L’Angele, les gnouquettes, Goult, Tel: 06 73 98 29 08

Lambert Wilson in Marix Reloaded: Causality

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Ménerbes: Brown Foundation Fellows Program at the Dora Maar House Fetes its Summer Residents

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Perched on the hillside of Ménerbes, stands the large proud serene edifice of the Dora Maar House. Stretching out before it is a panoramic of manicured geometric shapes – countless lush tones of green – of vineyards and farm land, and far beyond Gordes, nestled in the hills to the north.

On Thursday evening, residents and visitors in and around Ménerbes drifted to this stately three-story structure – enveloped by gardens, trees and greenery – to take in the creative and scholarly output of summer fellows in residence underwritten by the Brown Foundation Fellows Program at the Dora Maar House.

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The site has a mythic heritage: the 18th-century town house was purchased in 1944 by Pablo Picasso for Dora Maar, the artist and Surrealist photographer who was Picasso’s companion and muse in the late 1930s and early 1940s. She occupied it until her passing in 1997.

Purchased and renovated by an American philanthropist, the Dora Maar House was transformed into a retreat for writers, scholars, and artists: the Brown Foundation Fellows Program at the Dora Maar House, which since 2006 has been directed by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

The fellows program provides residencies of one to three months for mid-career professionals in the arts and humanities to concentrate on their fields of expertise. The house is open to visitors during periodic early evening showings of the artist-in-residence’s works. On Thursday, the summer fellows presenting extracts or summaries of their work at the Dora Maar House were:

Asti Hustvedt: An independent scholar and the author of Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris. The New York Times review of her book is here. She has a PhD in French literature from New York University and is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including a Phi Beta Kappa Fellowship. She is the editor of The Decadent Reader: Fiction, Fantasy and Perversion from Fin-de-Siècle France and has published many translations. She lives in New York City with her husband, artist Jon Kessler. While at the Dora Maar House, Asti worked on her next book, which explores the intersections between medicine and culture, gender and diagnosis, illness and cure.

Jon Kessler: received a BFA from SUNY at Purchase and the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. He has exhibited his work widely in Europe, Japan, and the United States. He has sculptures in the permanent collections of many institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Walker Art Center, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. He has received several National Endowment of the Arts grants, the Saint-Gaudens Memorial Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Foundation for the Performing Arts grant. He is a professor at the School of the Arts at Columbia University. He lives in New York City with his wife, Asti Hustvedt. While at the Dora Maar House, Jon focused on two-dimensional work.

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Sculpture Garden at the Dora Maar House

Eric Pankey: the author of nine collections of poetry, most recently Trace (Milkweed Editions 2013). His work has been supported by fellowships from the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Winner of the Academy of American Poets’ Walt Whitman Award, he teaches at George Mason University where he is professor of English and the Heritage Chair in writing. While at the Dora Maar House, Eric worked on a sequence of twenty 18-line poems called “Speculations,” which mediate on the nature of perception, knowing, and consciousness.

Temenuga Trifonova: an associate professor of cinema and media studies at York University in Toronto. She is a film scholar, photographer, and filmmaker (she is the writer, director and producer of the feature film Man of Glass, 2012). Temenuga is the author of The Image in French Philosophy (Rodopi, 2007) and the edited volume European Film Theory (Routledge, 2008). Her third book, Warped Mind, is under contract with Amsterdam University Press. While at the Dora Maar House, she worked on an article entitled “Cinematic Photography: The Photographic Image in the Digital Age.”

Myriam Bornand, a French-Swiss artist who works in multiple mediums: paint, collage, photography, video, texts and installations, and who was a fellow at Dora Maar last month, popped in from her home in Marseille.

Basics:

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MFAH Mailing Address: The Brown Foundation Fellows Program, Dora Maar House
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, P.O. Box 6826
Houston, TX 77210-6826, Tel 713.639.7345,

 

Residence: Maison Dora Maar, BP 1, 84560 Ménerbes, France, Tel 04.90.72.54.70, facebook,

 

Email: doramaarhouse@mfah.org, Website

Photo: Pigeon in Fountain in the Garden of the Dora Maar House

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Shutters / Volets: The True Colors of Provence in the Viewfinder of Indra Van Regemorter

Volets: count the colors splashed on shutters that animate the landscape of Provence. Patches of bright spots abound. Some villages or neighborhoods color-coordinate their shutters, And some shutters age naturally, taking on a faded worn patina.

How could Peter Mayle have omitted volets in his Provence A-Z? (or Grenache for that matter)

Popping into E.LeClerc in Avignon, PVB asked the sales clerk what are the top selling paints for shutters. The category leaders are a Provence Bleue, and a Gray-Green called Vert Provence.

In Provence, shutters function as protection against the wind, the Mistral that roars down from the north, and as temperature control.

In the hot summer days, windows are opened and the shutters are closed, blocking out the sun while allowing air to circulate in the room. In the winter, shutters hold out the rain and the cold.

The sturdy wooden shutters (see the Youtube link below) have a metal handle that rotates a rod, called a cremone, which locks shutters in place.

When opened fully, the shutters are held against the wall by an arret, usually a metal holder attached to the wall that is moved over the shutter. (In the photos above and below, the arrets are visible).

The photographs displayed here were taken by Indra Van Regemorter, who resides in Amersfoort, the Netherlands, during her sojourn last summer to Provence.

You can view her entire portfolio Shutters / Volets here: Slideshow

Basics

Photography: Indra Van Regemorter

Assigning herself as an autodidact, Indra composes her own work except with rare assistance from food stylists. Born in Antwerp, Belgium and raised partially in Dallas-Ft.Worth, Texas, she resides in Amersfoort, the Netherlands.

Website, Facebook

Making Volets at the Menuiserie Roux – Tombarello, Bedoin : Youtube

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SCAD In Paris: “Little Black Dress” Exhibit Curated by Vogue’s André Leon Talley at Mona Bismarck American Center Until Sept. 22

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Audrey Hepburn in the Opening Shot of Breakfast at Tiffany’s

An apocryphal tale: Dressed in fashionable black, Gabrielle Chanel encountered fellow designer Paul Poiret who was compelled by her dark habit to inquire for whom she was in mourning for. Her come back: “Pour vous cher Monsieur.”

Less than four decades later, bereavement is hardly the sentiment which asserts itself among the audience viewing the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s as Audrey Hepburn strolls on a deserted Fifth Avenue garbed in an elegant simple black sheath dress.*

The little black dress designed by Chanel in 1926 reshaped fashion vocabulary by marrying modern femininity with quotidian wear – black was the new black, and everyday.

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Chanel dress Wool with silk trim ; fall/winter 2006 Credit : Savannah College of Art and Design

Tracing the evolution of the Little Black Dress as a fashion statement and a cultural phenomena is the focus on an exhibition running from July 3 to September 22 at the Mona Bismarck American Center in Paris.

Curated by Vogue Contributing Editor and Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) Trustee André Leon Talley, the exhibition features contributions from veteran American and international designers, including Lanvin, Kamali, Comme des Garcons, Chanel, Marc Jacobs, Givenchy and Calvin Klein.

In lieu of arrangement by the year of their creation, the approximately 50 dresses are displayed throughout three galleries as parts of conversations to illustrate influences and inspirations from one piece to the next.

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Marc Jacobs, dinner dress Silk; fall/winter 2012 Credit: Courtesy of Rachel Feinstein, NY

Countess Mona Bismarck was an American philanthropist of great style, beauty and wealth. She was the founder and sole benefactor of the Mona Bismarck Foundation that upon her passing in 1986 assumed her intense passion for art and culture and their purposeful application in nurturing French – American friendship.

In 2011, the Mona Bismarck American Center was launched to carry on the legacy of Mona Bismarck through exhibitions, educational programs and events.

* M. Hubert de Givenchy, who designed the black dress for Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, is a member of SCAD’s International Advisory Council. But, Givenchy’s design showed too much leg, therefore the actual dresses used in the movie were made by Edith Head.

Basics

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Mona Bismarck American Center for Art & Culture
34, ave. de New York 75116 Paris, Tel  01 47 23 38 88,  Website

“Little Black Dress” exhibition is organized by the Savannah College of Art & Design Museum of Art and is generously supported by M•A•C. (Make-up Art Cosmetics) part of The Estée Lauder Companies, Inc. Website

Exhibition Opening Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, from 11 AM to 6 PM
Admission: Adults: 7 € Reduced admission: 5 € (Children 12-17, Seniors 60+, Unemployed, with valid ID) Free: Children under 12

Savannah College of Art & Design: News,  Website

Tom Ford, dress Chantilly lace with jet beading ; fall/winter 2011 Credit : Courtesy of Tom Ford, London

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Lacoste: The Light Palace in Venice, ‘Une Grande Passion’ of Pierre Cardin, Is Officially Canceled

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“Among the many strange things that have befallen Venice, she has had the good fortune to become the object of a passion to a man of splendid genius, who has made her his own, and in doing so has made her the world’s.” Henry James

 

Henry James wrote this tribute to John Ruskin, the author of Stones of Venice. The passage is also an apt expression of the desire of Pierre Cardin for whom Venice, his birthplace, is an “object of passion” and whose proposed Light Palace was a gift to Venice and the world.

On Thursday, 27 June 2013, the CEO of Concept Creatif Pierre Cardin, Rodrigo Basilicati, the nephew of Pierre Cardin, announced that the Light Palace project in Venice has been terminated. Concept Creatif Pierre Cardin is the management company of the project.

For details, please read the diligent coverage of Venice development mazen Dominic Standish, a denizen of Venice, here. PVB’s perspective posted last September is here.

In Lacoste where he is preparing for the 13th edition of the Lacoste festival, Mr Cardin is rumored to be bidding on more houses along the rue Basse, deals that are cutable – as they say in Hollywood – as opposed to the Light Palace in Venice or a golf course in neighboring Bonnieux.

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Summer Warm Wine Warning: Quaff the Region’s Red Wines at Proper Temps – 15-17°C / 59-63°F

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Keep it cool! The Ice Bag is a red wine lover’s accoutrement du jour in the Southern Rhone.

A summertime mis-en-scene: your waiter uncorks a bottle of red wine from a quality winery, one you ordered with conviction as a wine guru validated it with a score of 90-plus, and at first sip the wine is ‘en bouche’ warm.

In a majority of restaurants and cafés in the Southern Rhone – small to mid-size businesses with no sommelier (even some Michelin star restaurants have no sommelier) — the daily stock of wine is brought up from the cellar and it sits in a warm bar or dining room area for hours. Few places are air-conditioned. The wine, brought to room temperature (chambré), is toasty by evening.

Southern Rhone reds are often served warm in restaurants, cafés and at the gite or home table. When warm, red wine quickly looses it freshness, the alcohol is perceived as out of balance, and if left too long in heated conditions it develops ‘bottle bouquet’ that spikes its nose (smell) and flavor.

The ideal serving temperature for a Southern Rhone red is 15-17°C / 59-63°F, and that applies to the duration of the repast.

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Three solutions:

1 – At a gite or a house cool the red wine in a refrigerator before serving, and use an ice bag with cool water to maintain the proper temperature at the table.

2.- At a restaurant, inquire about the temperature of the wine before ordering. If the establishment serves the wine warm and does not have ice bags, inquire if they can cool the bottle(s) that you are ordering.

3. – Some restaurants and bars have a ‘cave de service,’ a small standalone wine cellar that preserves bottles of wine at the proper temperature for daily use. (photo r.)

Do not be timid: Keep in mind that restaurants depend upon the handsome margins from wines to realize a profit. There is no reason to be reticent. In fact, the more demanding that you are the more respect you will merit from the waiter or sommelier.

In Gordes, there are two restaurants that employ these solutions. The wine bar and restaurant L’Estaminet on the main square of Gordes places its red wines in ice bags, which are also for sale to customers. The Casa Rosario, which serves pasta and salads, keeps its excellent wines in a cave de service.

Basics

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Casa Rosario: Lunch service from 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner 7:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. July and August. Route de Murs (80 feet from main square up the hill on the right) Gordes. Tel: 04-90-72-35-56

L’ Estaminet: Gordes, Main square, center of village, Gordes. Tel: 04-90-72-14-45 (photo l.)

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Avignon: Mirthful July Evenings of Tasting Sublime Côtes du Rhônes at a Secluded Open Air Wine Bar

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The Southern Rhone’s biggest nightly pour in July: for four hours nearly every evening this month you can satiate your palate with a variety of quality Côtes du Rhône wines while quieting your appetite with some eerily delicious charcuterie and cheeses, all for 5€.

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You feel pampered, as if someone is giving you a gift. It all comes down within the high ancient walls of a courtyard, insulated from the cramped Avignon Festival streets, of the Maisons des Vins where 200 to 300 wine lovers partake in a happy ritual.

Know that each evening the Côtes du Rhône tasting renews itself by a new selection of wines from other areas and other wineries within the appellation.

You may find this sort of radical generosity unusual for a wine tasting.

You recall other tasting experiences where the server was niggardly in filling up your glass with no more an inch of wine, where someone was pushing an order form under your nose, or asking you for your email address, or where the wine did not merit anything more than a first sip.

So what a feeling of pure pleasure when, at the Maison des Vins, you quickly intuit that your host – Inter Rhone – is acting out of affection and love for the wine.

The July tasting schedule is listed on the website. Opening night is July 5; closing night is July 26.

The tasting on Friday, July 12, features the official cuvées of the Avignon Festival from Vacqueryas, and on Tuesday, July 23, the Women Winemakers of the Côtes du Rhône are offering their wines.

There are no tastings on July 14, 18 and 22.

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Basics:

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Maison des Vins, 6 rue des Trois Faucons, Avignon, Located in the center of the walled city, see google map

Open from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Entry free, For 5€, a logo wine glass for tastings, a shopping bag and an “ethylotest” to measure if one is safe for the road.

Schedule of Tastings here.

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Venasque: An American Haven in the Vaucluse; Festive Friday Summer Evening Market

“Sophie and I heard about Venasque, which is thirty miles from Avignon, from a writer friend who spoke about that perched village with all the vividness that fills her fiction. When we arrived in Venasque in the fall of 1980, we knew we had come to the end of the line in a long search for vineyards, rude beams, red tiles, Picasso’s dancing goats, literary voluptuousness.” John Hawkes, American Novelist

How is it that so many Americans came to form an ardent attachment to the village of Venasque; an affection manifest in houses purchased for long stays within the quiet village walls, and the visit upon visit of friends, or friends of friends, from the states?

Unless you have been told, this peculiar American presence is unapparent; you hear no English spoken among the occasional chatter of villagers in the streets.

Seven miles east of Carpentras, and a six mile passage through a gorge to Gordes, Venasque is the former capital of the Comtat Venaissin, a county bordering Avignon that was part of the Papal Territory until 1791.

Perched on an abrupt rocky spur of a thousand feet, the compact stone houses of Venasque line the Grand Rue, the one principle street only accommodating two-way traffic in certain sections, which rises a few hundred feet from a 15th century church to a small square with a foundation, where two ivy-festooned streets (one in photo above) lead up to an esplanade guarded by the remnants of two Roman towers.

With a clear line of sight to the north to 6,000-plus feet Mont Ventoux with its bare limestone summit, the village seems to be in intimate conversation with the mythical mountain which never leaves the gaze of the villagers who speak as if it were sentient.

As the Ventoux reassures, so the perch protects; thus, Venasque is a place that never feels hermetic or cramped, rather one is comforted by the feeling that you have reached a place where there is no impulse to look elsewhere.

It is not a place where people travel through, and very few come to Venasque, as there is no viable commerce such as a bank, an atm/cash point, a pharmacy, a gas station, and there are no street side cafes. There is the hugely popular Remparts restaurant, and, within the last two years, a vibrant Friday evening market.

In fact, Venasque could be said to have two unique seasons, one marked by the opening of the Remparts restaurant on April 1 (entrance pictured above), and the other beginning with its closing on November 15, when the village slumbers until the spring and at midwinter the houses are shuttered to the Mistral wind from the north.

The Arrival of an American Composer

On the Grand Rue above the doorway to the village Tourism Office, a gray plaque looks down on passers-by announcing that Gail Kubic, the American composer, motion picture scorist and teacher, lived in this house from 1963 to 1983, and composed many of his works within.

Kubic won an Oscar in 1951 for the score of a feature cartoon, and a Pulitzer the year after for his Symphony Concertante. He introduced Venasque to hundreds of Americans, one an American artist who moved to the village in 1980, and remains a resident today.

A number of years later, a wave of Americans – hailing from New England, the midwest, and New York City – bought homes in Venasque, and in the last decade there have been purchases from families based in Atlanta and Dallas. And then six families from Portland, Oregon bought a house in the village which they time-share among themselves (pictured below). A son of the jazz musician Dave Brubeck, a musician himself, bought a place in the center of the village. Some of these owners rent out their houses during the year, or they lend them to vacationing friends.

Each American owner draws friends and associates to Venasque, while the small hotels and bed-and-breakfast establishments, such as the Maison aux volets bleus, report good trade from American tourists.

Within the village, there are about two hundred inhabitants (population of the commune of Venasque is 1200). Certainly, there are more Americans per capita owning houses in the village of Venasque than any other village in the Vaucluse, or perhaps any other in France.

Yet, one can stroll the quiet streets in Venasque and never sense anything more than a typical Provencal atmosphere, so blended into the landscape are the Americans when they make Venasque their home.

Friday Evening Market

Venasque takes on a festive air every Friday evening with an open air market launched two years ago by the Mayor.

Two pop-up street cafés, which serve wine, drinks and amuse bouches on the Place de la Fontaine, are run by the Café La Fontaine and the Maison de Charme La Fontaine, which serves wines of the nearby Chateau Unang.

Stalls along the upper part of the Grand Rue offer vegetables, cheese, charcuterie, wine, honey, jams, soaps, crafts and art.

Running every Friday from June to Sept. from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m., the open air market has the feel of a gathering of friends. Smaller and more social than the other farmers markets, the Venasque market has been a huge success in drawing visitors in the region as well as animating the village with cheer.

Basics:

Venasque: Website,

Friday Market June 15-September 15, 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Hotel-Restaurant Les Remparts: Website, Café La Fontaine: Place de la Fontaine, serves lunch (pizza, salads) and dinner for 12€ to 19€, closed Wednesdays. Tel: 04-90-66-64-85

Maison de Charme La Fontaine, Website, La maison aux volets bleus, Website, Hotel La Garrigue, Website

Access Venasque by route D4 from Carpentras or route D28 from Saint-Didier

Postscript

Many hold the conviction that there are villages in Provence that would be overrun by visitors and tourists if word go out about their idyllic nature.

Consider this lead of an article in the New York Times circa 1998 penned by Francoise Prose:

“Friends who summer in the Vaucluse whisper the name of a favorite village still unravaged by the indignities of upscale tourism and hint darkly that, if I write about it, our friendship might be in trouble. Planning a trip to the south of France, I understand their concern: the dread of seeing town after town redecorated in sprigged cotton by some local, pastis-crazed, Provencal Martha Stewart.”

While this passage may flatter the vanity of self-regarding snobs by not uttering the name of their “favorite village,” no villages are ever so threatened.  Secluded villages are hermetic by nature: few places for sale, few places to stay, few places to eat, few places to shop and few places to linger. Upon a ritual 15 minute tour, random visitors flee out of disinterest.

Anyone who knows Provence even dimly or in flashes from a car window would dismiss the cartoon image of any village in the Vaucluse being festooned in “sprigged cotton.”

A final observation: ‘upscale tourists’ in the Vaucluse have no desire to run over anything. Rather, the well-heeled desire to run away, to cloister themselves in isolated establishments hidden from public view, interlaced among the garrigue, olive orchards and vineyards and exist as bohemians.

As for Venasque, there is no risk of it ever being overrun; Americans have already taken up their places, and are lov’n it.

Note: Interested in a house in Venasque? There are about ten properties in the village center for sale.

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Lourmarin: Peter Mayle’s Unavoidably Poignant Dedication to Winemaker Allen Chevalier in “The Marseille Caper”

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When PVB commented on a restaurant mentioned in “The Marseille Caper,” a few readers inquired about the background of Allen Chevalier, the object of Peter Mayle’s unavoidably poignant dedication:

 “To the loving memory of Allen Chevalier,

A good friend who made lovely wine”

In his novel “A Good Year” (2004), Mr. Mayle acknowledged Allen Chevalier for his “advice of an alcoholic nature.”

Lourmarin was their ‘territoire de rencontre,’ a mild irony came calling in that the wine lover and the wine maker shared a first career in advertising before they relocated to the Luberon to live out their ‘vraies passions.’

In 1990, Allen and Marie-Laure Chevalier sold their home in Versailles and moved to Lourmarin where they purchased a 16th-century estate and vineyard, the Château Constantin, a gorgeous site of rolling hills and verdant vistas covering more than 100 acres of vines, olive groves and oak forests. On the western border of the vineyard, the L’Aigue Brun river deposited on its edges a thick carpet of round stones similar to those found in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Embarking on a complete makeover of the vineyard and installing modern equipment, M. Chevalier introduced his first vintage of a rebranded Château Constantin-Chevalier vinified from the 1991 harvest. With fierce passion and joy manifest, Allen Chavalier came to produce through twenty years some of the richest vintages in the AOC Luberon until his passing in August, 2011.

By 1996 the celebrity-drenched (2 books) Peter Mayle had fled his Ménerbes home in the Luberon for the chic environs of the Hamptons. Upon his return to the region in 2000, he took up residence along with his wife and their dogs in an 18th-century bastide – a 14-acre estate – on the edge of Lourmarin (now sold).

The Château Constantin-Chevalier borders the upscale sleepover Les Olivettes, run by Joseph and Elizabeth DeLiso, an American and a Brit respectively, who are among Mayles’ retinue of friends in the Luberon and huge fans of the Château’s wines.

Within your wine mind, there are moments when the first taste of a vintage is riveted in imperishable memory. One of those flashes of terrible precision arrived in August, 2008, when PVB escorted some posh friends from London to Lourmarin.

As evening approached and with kids to feed, we took a sidewalk table at the Pizza Nonni. A local wine was in order; a red was selected. At first sip came the bracing sensation of enriched pleasure which reawakened some childlike part of your brain. And so began an indissoluble relationship with the wines of Château Constantin-Chevalier.

Peter Mayle must have arrived at a similar moment of terrible precision, for he has often cited the Château Constantin-Chevalier among his favored wineries and the Château’s rosé as his preferred tipple, and, alas, his long friendship with Allen underpinned by a love of wine.

Basics:

The Château Constantin-Chevalier produces three red vintages, two white and two rosés. Grape varieties are Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre for the Reds; Ugni-Blanc, Roussanne, Clairette, Vermentino for the Whites.  The Cuvée des Fondateurs, aged in oak barrels for a year, is an exceptional red – rich texture and deep flavors.  The ‘bleed’ Rosé, known as rosé d’une nuit, is an aromatic and perky drink; likewise the paler Rosé Pétale de Rose.

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AOC Luberon: 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 20% Carignan.

AOC Luberon Cuvée des Fundateurs: 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 20% Carignan.

AOC Luberon Rosé d’une Nuit: 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah. Saignée.

AOC Luberon Rosé Pétale de Rose: 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah. Saignée.

AOC Luberon Blanc: 65% Vermentino, 15% Clairette and 20% Ugni Blanc.

AOC Luberon Blanc Cuvée des Fundateurs: 60% Vermentino, 15% Clairette, 15% Ugni Blanc and 10% Roussanne.

Château Constantin-Chevalier: Route Jas de Puyvert (D139) 84160 Lourmarin, Find Lourmarin’s only petrol station (Shell). From the station, follow D27 in the direction of Lauris. At the fork (500m), take the road to the left (D139) towards Jas de Puyvert. Tel. 04 90 68 38 99

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Les Olivettes: One might call it a B&B squared, more than a bed and more than a breakfast. The uniqueness of Les Olivettes, a luxuriously renovated Bastide on the fringe of Lourmarin, is that its six spacious apartments all have fully-equipped kitchens, freeing guests from the daily captivity of restaurants, although in Lourmarin, a culinary hotspot, the temptations for fine dining abound. A Provencal breakfast and other repasts are taken in your room or on your terrace per your leisurely schedule.

There is a dreamlike quality to Les Olivettes; it’s the kind of place that you would summon up in your imagination as the ideal tranquil Provencal holiday, and then the moment you arrive to its door, everything is in its place just as you imagined it.

Avenue Henri Bosco, 84160 Lourmarin, Email: lourmarin@olivettes.com, Website The property is south of the village; the road is also marked D27 in the direction of Lauris.

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Pizzeria Nonni: serves tasty provencal-style pizza and other Italian fare in a cozy and warm interior on cools days or on warm summer evenings at quiet sidewalk tables nestled around the Fontaine la Cordière. A short walk up the slope of rue Henri de Savornin from the center of the village. Reservations for outdoor dining a must. Closed Mondays.

Address: 2, rue Albert Camus, Lourmarin, Tel 04 90 68 23 33

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Roussillon: Samuel Beckett House in the Luberon Where He Engaged in His Craft and Aided French Resistance

“Pourtant nous avons été ensemble dans le Vaucluse, j’en mettrais ma main au feu. Nous avons fait les vendanges, tiens, chez un nommé Bonnelly, à Roussillon.”
En attendant Godot, Samuel Beckett

In addressing Estragon, Vladimir is channeling the author’s days working in the Bonnelly vineyard near Roussillon where Samuel Beckett and his companion Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil had fled to escape arrest from the Germans in Paris to rent a house in the Luberon.

Seventy years on, fourth-generation Bonnelly’s run the vineyard, the Domaine de Coulet Rouge, whereas the two-story house, Les Roches Rouges, secluded in an ochre-flecked forest, a ten-minute stroll to the village – where Sam and Suzanne stayed for more than two years –  is now in search of a buyer who appreciates its heritage and the iconic writer’s legacy.

Consider the narrative: When the Germans took over Pairs June 1940, Sam and Suzanne lived at their apartment in the 15th arrondissement. In September 1941, Beckett joined a cell of the French Resistance, Gloria SMH, translating and ordering documents and correspondence. Within a year, the Germans busted the cell, making more than 50 arrests, and Sam and Suzanne, alerted to their impending capture, obtained false papers and made their way across to the unoccupied zone, arriving in Vichy, the headquarters of the French government collaborating with the Germans, in September 29, 1942.

They soon headed south as Professor Lob, friend, had informed the secretary general in Avignon that an Irishman would be residing with his family in Roussillon, a village in the Luberon that was relatively safe from German patrols.

Upon walking the final leg of their journey to Roussillon, Sam and Suzanne took a room at the Hotel Escouffier, and subsequently declared their residency at City Hall in Roussillon on Nov. 6, 1942.

A week later, Hitler declared the French free zone subject to German rule, making movement even in the south severely restricted. It would not be until July 43 that Beckett, as an Irish citizen, would be granted the right to travel within France.

Professor Lob put Sam and Suzanne in contact with the owner of a house in an area just outside the village called La Croix. During the first months in Roussillon, Beckett found existence maddening and cramped with an absence of structure. Beckett met the painter Henri Hayden who was to his delight a chess player. (Beckett loved chess as did Marcel Duchamp, who was living in America. Mary Reynolds, the lifelong companion of Duchamp, had given Sam and Suzanne money to escape Paris.)

To put bread and wine, quite literally, on the table, Beckett worked for local farmers, one being the Bonnelley cited above. Otherwise, Beckett engaged in therapeutic long walks.

Now, consider the heritage: Upon adapting to a hermetic rural lifestyle, Beckett set himself to write, working on the novel “Watt,” which reflects the despair of rootlessness and not belonging anywhere, and gives Beckett a platform for taking some highly satirical swipes at Ireland, such as the ban on contraception (alas, a current day contretemps on the America political scene).

In 1944, Becket reunited with the Maquis, the rural French Resistance, by hiding explosives in the house and going on patrols with the local “Maquisards.” At the house in the forest, Beckett overcame a maddening hermetic existence to nourish his artistic fervor as well as his express his ardor for freedom from oppression.

With Paris liberated by the Allied forces, Sam and Suzanne left Roussillon by bus to Avignon in April, 1945, and then by train to Paris to  reclaim their apartment. Writing “Godot” awaited Beckett, and the salute to Bonnelly and the grape harvest in the Luberon that would be composed within.

Basics

The Samuel Beckett House is a two-story structure on 2.3 acres of land; 1,930sq ft., ground floor of living room with fireplace, dining room, two bedrooms, kitchen with terrace, toilet and laundry, second floor of three bedrooms. Attached garage. House has southern exposure.

 

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