Sunday, June 12, 2011

Provence: Food to Die For, History to Learn From, Art to Live By

Cantaloupes at the market, AIX, 2011
Food to die for and truly made with love! We’re luxuriating in the tastes of Provence from a divinely sweet cantaloupe at breakfast to a delicately spiced Lamb Tagine with prunes served with couscous that we ate last evening at the Le Riad, Restaurant Marocaine (Morrocan).  Did I mention that we’re dining late and going to bed after midnight to fight lack of sleep caused by street noise?  We decided that if you can’t beat’em, join em.  I also may have forgotten to mention the chocolate raspberry mousse cake we shared after lunch.  Do I really expect not to gain weight?

Now for an excursion and a little history.  On Wednesday my husband Jake drove us to Avignon on our maiden voyage outside of Aix-en-Provence in our rented Citroen Picasso.  An hour later, we made our way to the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes). 

What can we learn from the history of the 14th century Popes in Avignon?   One thing for sure is that excess isn’t a recent American invention.  The most striking part of history was omitted from the audio guide at the palace.  The description of the papal court in the South of France, Cadogan Guide riveted me more than the spacious papal rooms.  The authors described the papal court as, “a vortex of mischief that ruled Avignon for centuries, trailing violence, corruption, and debauchery in its wake.”  Hmm, that certainly covers a lot of ground. 

The Palais de Papes, Avignon, 2011
Oh yes, and then there’s the description of the gorging—not a modern invention either.  For Clement VI’s coronation banquet the cooks prepared food for 3,000 guests that was served in the Grand Tinel banquet hall.  The guests were fed, “1023 sheep, 118 cattle, 101 calves, 914 kids, 60 pigs, 10, 471 hens, 1,446 geese, 300 pike, topped off by 46,856 cheeses, and 50,000 tarts.”  Shees!  Did you think they made enough food?  Apparently the Papal treasury, housed behind 10 foot thick Angel’s Tower walls and the (now called) Jesus Hall, amply supported such lavish feasts.

Grand Regret, Cieslewicz, L'Exposition Ponts, 2011

Trompe l'oeil window, Avignon, 2011
The Great Audience Hall houses the très moderne “L’Exposition Ponts” through June 30th.  Exhibit creators selected the theme of Bridges for the modern art exhibit, no doubt in honor of the city’s famous Le Pont Bridge that stretches half way across the Rhone River.  The fascinating art collection and quote by Isaac Newton left us with words to live by.  “Les homes construisent trop de murs et pas assez de ponts. ”  Translation:  “Men construct too many walls and not enough bridges.”  We ended our art adventure outside the walls of the palace.  Avignon playfully winked at us as we strolled and encountered a three story building with trompe l’œil window murals that deceived us with their three dimensional optical illusions.  I ended our excursion with an hour’s walk to and from Le Pont Bridge for a remarkable view of the river and the palace while Jake sipped a glass of red wine.     
Le Pont Bridge, Avignon 2011

What an outing!

What is your advice about how to enjoy food while on vacation without gaining weight?

Yours in joy and health, Kay

1 comment:

  1. Ah..Avignon, Wish I could be there... mi