Travel Diary – Private Provence

Every painted window shutter tells a story. The faded blue, pink, grey ones, the broken, closed or open ones. I wonder what lies hidden behind these windows – the private moments and conversations. Naturally as an Australian traveller/ tourist in France, I know how important those private times are away from the crowds and narrow, winding, busy streets. Some seclusion and privacy is needed from the fast paced train platforms and shops, the tourist information, markets and queues.

Strolling around Nimes we encountered a cyclist from Switzerland who rode 66kms from Montpellier. Nicola saw us at the canal and asked if we wanted a photo taken. Sure. That’s so nice of you. He was so friendly and sincere. We started up a private conversation. He’s a piano teacher and this was his day off. Imagine his long ride pedalling hard through the countryside and towns, feeling the freedom and release of work. Here he is and here we are.

Private conversations and unexpected meetings make a trip so interesting I think. You go back in time to their world and discover more about what makes them tick. You learn more about life. When we stayed at Mas Fleurs near Gordes, the private hedges around the Maison kept 2 French girls amused beside the swimming pool doing pilates. Celine showed me some exercises and allowed me into her world. Privacy shared.

Then there’s the private spying on people who do not really notice you with your camera. I seem to do a lot of this in Provence. Hundreds of moments that capture you with excitement and curiosity. Like this private kiss. She was jogging across the street and saw her friend.

This inner circle of privacy extends to private times of sitting and reading the newspaper in cafes, a favourite pastime. Private walks and text messages.

Private conversations and private portraits of cute dogs.

Private romantic strolls with dogs. This couple caught my eyes in Avignon.

They look like their world is untouched by pain, yet behind every good looking couple, I am certain there’s a bigger story attached. Being in company involves constant tiny adjustments and compromises, moments when you subtly shift in order to fit in with someone else.

Privacy is often distracted. I often see heads down, eyes fixed on a screen or phone to the ear. Heads turned or blank stares. You get the picture. The digital hooking up is constant. The screen swipes all pervasive. I know how much I use my phone for a camera so it’s constantly in my hand ready to capture an image. Privacy of thoughts seems to be a problem as friends switch off and switch on. I wonder if we all need a digital spring clean!

Then there’s the private collections in Provence – too many to name. While in Nimes I viewed the contemporary art collection and wandered through the library. On the walls were these words, ” A collection is built up over a period of years, and remains crucial for any museum institution. The work makes time stand still, they construct stories, establish correspondence, make you think and also dream.” ” In the age of the internet, the play of surfaces and immediacy, they invite us to keep an open mind and listen out for the complexity of the world and contemplation.”

In that private moment of me sitting quietly and reading this, I felt a sense of peace and joy.

Returning to our apartment in Avignon, Bill turned the key to find that our washing had dried and our very own private collection of “stuff” was safe. That evening we had a private celebration of Bill’s home cooking and a Desperado French beer.

And behind the scenes of the day. Riding in the square in Arles and ballet in Avignon. 

Some more private glances. La Nuit des Musee – in Arles. Aphrodite, Caesar, Venus.

Dear friends and family, thanks for joining me.

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Margaret Allen
May 24, 2017 at 12:05 am

Thank you so much for sharing your holiday …. I also had my private moment, transported to Provence & experiencing it through your eyes. Fantastic!

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May 24, 2017 at 11:55 am

You are welcome Marg! This morning a private safari tour with a few Italians and us on the way to the Camargue – flamingoes, bulls, white horses and sea. Really enjoyable.

May 26, 2017 at 2:20 am

Loving your trip talks and photos, I feel I am going part of the way with you. So happy for you. Looking forward to hearing of your trip to Camargue.

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May 26, 2017 at 7:02 am

Thanks Joy. Camargue was a real surprise as we booked a safari with 4 Italians and drove out to the wetlands, rice and salt fields, flamingoes, white horses and the gypsy- invaded town of Saint Marie de la Mer – 4 hours with lots of take in. The Italians were loud and vibrant. Bill and I could stand up and take photos in the roof top. Driver spoke 3 languages and made us so welcome. Any horse lover would adore this place.

    May 26, 2017 at 8:51 am

    I didn’t realize there were flamingoes or salt and rice fields in France. Sounds like you are both having a ball! Keep it up!

June 4, 2017 at 9:29 am

A great post Margaret. I was delighted to read you were in Nimes.

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June 4, 2017 at 5:38 pm

Special library memories in Nimes sitting quietly and reading (in English!)

    June 5, 2017 at 2:58 am

    I love old libraries, old buildings and antique shops. What book were you reading?

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June 5, 2017 at 7:49 am

Bill was reading The New Statesman magazine which I also read too with some excellent articles. I read a woman’s magazine, Vogue, I think.This was the only library we found that had English titles. All books and novels were in French.

M.J. Gibbs
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