Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Back in LA

The Devil Dog took a brief sabbatical to Washington DC to see his family. While there I spent the week getting my mothers kitchen renovated with new granite countertops and  porcelain tile floors. We picked out our granite slab and the specific tile, selected a new kitchen sink and faucet, took bids from 6 contractors  to install the floor, selected one (an Italian stoneworker), and the day I left they started installing. I learned the joy of a riding lawnmower as I cut the grass at my mothers second home in Richmond, where we also visited my 94 year old Aunt Mildred in the nursing home.  It is the joy of family that is irreplaceable. Even the Devil Dog has a mother.

Now I am back in LA and the return to what passes for normalcy. We now resume our regular broadcast. Now where were we....oh was the south of France.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

On Orthodox Easter - The Arches of the Abbey de Fontenay

On this Orthodox Easter, though it was not an orthodox monastery, but rather a Cisterian one, the Abbey de Fontenay speaks through the ages to deliver a timeless message of beauty and truth.  We often forget how the Christian religion has splintered over the years, with the Orthodox and Roman Catholic split descending into Protestants, who divided into Lutherans, and Baptists and Presbyterians and , and yet in the process of divergence we should not loose sight of the commonality of all religions, and the inner peace they seek as we chart our paths through a perilously uncertain world.

We may not all agree on the spiritual underpinnings of our various beliefs, but we can all agree on the legacy of art and architecture, of culture and stability that has been left to us over the centuries. Such as the Abbey de Fontenay with its spectacular setting, stunningly beautiful architecture, and its endless use of arches and form to convey the universal belief in beauty, truth, and spiritual understanding.

So from the hallways of St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, to the churches of ancient Constantinoploe (now Istanbul) to the darkened corners of the Armenian and Greek Orthodox Churches in Jerusalem (indisputably the oldest branches of the Christian church) we say Happy Easter from the other side of the ecumenical gap, confident in the knowledge that we are all fellow travelers under one sun, on one planet, with one universal truth: Love thy neighbor as thyself.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Chateau St. Martin- Palace in the Sky

So we are ready to enjoy the splendor and joy of the incredible Chateau St. Martin, one of the great, stellar retreats in the south of France.  The Devil Dog is no stranger to luxurious surroundings, but there is little that compare to this incredible resort at the base of Baou de Blanc. A castle of the Knights Templar in the middle ages, Chateau St. Martin today is as magnificent a resort as I have ever stayed in.

In the picture below, on the second floor with the balconies, is the amazing room  we stayed in. Spacious, impeccable, sumptuously appointed with sweeping views of the Riviera below, we settled in for an intimate three days of splendor. Immediately next door, in the tower to the right of the photo, is a lovely three story suite.  Sumptuous indeed.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Courtyard Tourists in Tourrettes sur Loup

At the end of our journey through Tourrettes sur Loup we reached the main square again and saw these Canadian tourists sitting in front of the large church auditorium.  

This old stone structure is perhaps 800 years old and is still in use on a daily basis. The Devil Dog was struck by the timeless quality of their moment of repose, a couple of fellow travelers in rustic surroundings enjoying the tranquility of a moment in time.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

On Easter Sunday we take a moment to look at some of the churches and cathedrals we have seen on our travels over the last several years.  The Devil Dog is always enthralled at the diversity of churches both here and abroad, and the sense of wonder they convey in this, the modern age.  While traveling in Europe I frequently pause to reflect how these stunning buildings must have seemed to the peasants of 400 and 600 and 800 years ago.  Above is one of several such cathedrals in Troyes.

This beautiful little church sits on the shores of Kona in Hawaii, proving that the provenance of the church does not reside in the massive structure but also in the simplicity of timeless beauty.
And yet the grand cathedrals of Europe, like the Cathedral at Reims above, are the crown jewels of the architecture of western culture.  Below is another of the cathedrals in Troyes.

On this Easter Sunday the Devil Dog wishes all of you the peace of the ages and the hope for a beautiful future.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Interior of a flat in Tourettes sur Loup

So it turns out that Hans Bloom, retired international airline pilot and resident of Tourrettes sur Loup in the south of France, has quite the medieval 14th century restored apartement on the second floor of an 800 year old townhouse built into the cliff walls of the village as it sits overlooking a ravine on three sides.  And the Devil Dog is quick to notice that Hans, good hearted soul that he is, is fond of lanterns, lots of them. It looks like an advertsiement for Gorton Seafood on his ceiling. Now I love lanterns as much as the next man, and can appreciate a repetitive motif, but I must admit it added a slightly quirky flavor to what was an already spectacular setting.

I mean check out the beams in the ceiling of the sitting area in the upper potion of the living room. The front of the house was a large entree room, with the high ceilings (and the lanterns) with a step up to the sitting area, a surprisingly big kitchen in the interior and a spacious bedroom and bathroom tucked away on the other side of the front entreeway, sort of an extended L shaped apartment. Off the large living room was a fabulous, and well used balcony with incredible views of the surrounding hills and the valley below, like floating above a city in a cloud.
Hans is a friendly sort, kind of the unofficial village greeter. The Devil Dog welcomed the chance to se his apartment, to get a look at the inside of one of these amazing homes, and to see how the transplanted European that has come to embrace the south of France, where ever they may hail from, is adjusting to life in a medieval town on top of a hill. Rather well, from the looks of it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Villager

In the beautiful mountainside village of Tourrettes sur Loup, the Devil Dog made acquaintance with a certain Hans Bloom, a former international airline pilot and transplant from Sweden.

Hans was standing in the street as we were taking our walking tour and we struck up a conversation. He invited us to see his flat, on the second floor of a 14th century building. We eagerly accepted the invitation, extremely curious to see one of these dwellings from the inside. As luck would have it we had taken a picture of his apartment earlier that day from across the ravine. Thats his balcony on the second floor of the building just left of the centre in the picture above, the middle floor of the three story building with balconies on the first two floors.

This is the cul de sac where a staircase (not seen in this pictrue) leads to the entrance to his apartment.

And here is Hans Bloom, wandering villager, former airline pilot, and lover of beer, here in his apartment, which is apparently decorated with wayfarer fisherman lanterns.  Hans has a firm grip on my lovely wife Alison.

Here the two of us share a laugh during our visit. The apartment was comfortable and somewhat small, but with beautiful wood beams and an incredible view out the balcony. We will take a closer look in the next post.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cliffside Manor in Tourrettes sur Loup

As we are coming up the far side of the path that leads back up from the bottom of the village to the main square we come upon a lookout facing west with a chance to view the the cliffside manors of this side of the village.

The Devil Dog is never shy about exploring, and the wonder of these lovely homes sitting here with these amazing views for the last 800 years is enough to put the zap on the head of the most sanguine individual. In the two pictures above we see how the houses and their balconies literally make up the exterior wall of the village, overlooking the abyss below. In the picture below we look slightly north to see the mountains looming above the village. In the south of France there are many astounding beautiful medieval villages, but none that I have found with the air of suspended disbelief, the sheer fairy tale quality of Tourrettes sur Loup.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Medieval homes and streets Tourrettes sur Loup

It is the astonishment of  living in the modern age in pristine surroundings of a 14th century home that makes Tourrettes sur Loup so fascinating.  Here, in the picture above, is the gateway that leads under the village perimeter at its low point to the scenic outlook above the valley that spreads out below on three sides.  Above the gateway sits part of a beautiful home with an astounding view. 

Here is another restored home dating from the 14th century somewhere in the middle of the village.  The Devil Dog was enthralled with what they must look like inside. We shall see what transpired in that regard in several more columns. Suffice to say for the moment that the entire village has been largely restored in its interiors to impeccable modern conditions while maintaining the flavor of medieval existance in its exteriors and its interior beams.  

As we mentioned, in strolling through the village there is a main sidewalk/trail/pathway/street that takes you literally from the top to the bottom of the village and back to the main square in one circumventing route, allowing a complete tour of all aspects of the village, from shop to homes to scenic look outs, in one penetrating hour or two of exploring. Here below is a look at that pathway as we are coming up from the bottom of the village.
Even the building that seem dilapidated are still fabulous, like the one in the picture below. Tourrettes sur Loup has a distinction and charm that makes it stand out like a flawless gem in a whole area of ancient villages that are diamonds in their own right.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

House of golden stone Tourrettes sur Loup

There at the bottom of Tourrettes sur Loup, where the village path comes to an apex at the scenic lookout, if you turn around and look back at the village, there is the house we see above, golden stone and an invincible location, a courtyard and a towering three story structure with a tree blooming in shades of fiery yellow.
The home is probably 700 years old, the interior is restored, the exterior is amazing, the location is astounding, and the views....the views are a wonder of perfection.  There are several thousand lucky inhabitants of Tourettes sur Loup, many of them locals, many who have lived there much of their life, and then there are many who have found this place, from all over Europe, and made it their home.
The Devil Dog is a simple man with extravagant dreams and a wild streak. But if anywhere would be a perfect location to settle down and while away the afternoons sipping coffee and painting watercolors, or writing that book so often pondered, it would be here, in Tourrettes sur Loup, on the balcony of this house, overlooking this valley, under the yellow plumes of this tree. A Devil Dog can dream, can't he.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

At the bottom of the trail at Tourrettes Sur Loup

At the bottom of the path thru the village of Tourrettes sur Loup you come to a small overlook at a tiny park on the other side of thep village walls.  Looking back you see the beautiful stone ramparts of the houses that make up the endpoint of the village, overlooking the valley.

The outposts of serenity are family dwellings of immeasurable beauty, with views that are unmatchable, a reminder of the pace of life thru the centuries that has remained unchanged, and that blends with 21st century life more easily than one might imagine. 

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Wandering thru Tourrettes sur Loup

There are many aspects of what makes Tourrettes sur Loup so special.  Above you see the main street leading its way in a complete circle thru the village. At the top of the village are a series of shops, an art studio, a ceramic pottery workshop, and numerous tiny businesses.
As you work your way down the businesses give way to house after house of beautiful stone work, lining the edges of the cliffside with amazing views and filling the center with the quaint architecture of perfectly restored 14th century homes.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Tourrettes sur Loup

On the road back road between Grasse and Vence is the stunning town of Tourrettes sur Loup, an impeccable hidden gem perched like a crouching animal on an isthmus jutting out from the mountainside, giving way on three sides to a steep cliff, and at the lower endpoint of the village a trail leads down to the valley below. The medieval village itself is amazing, with an easy to follow walking path that takes you throughout the entire village, from the main square on top to the lowest point at the overlook into the valley, and then back up the other side to the main square.
A 14th century village that is home to shops, craftsmen, and a wide variety of residents, locals and transplants, Tourrettes sur Loup has a charm and authenticity that cries out for you to simply hang out, relax, enjoy, wander, and appreciate.  The Devil Dog has seen many charming medieval villages but none has struck him with the power and beauty of Touresttes sur Loup, literally the lair of the wolf, as it emerges like a vision in the sky, a village virtually suspended in mid air.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

First glimpse of Chateau St. Martin

High above the city of Vence, framed perfectly by the great stone edifice of a mountain, Baou de Blanc, sits the majestic Chateau St. Martin, an elegent spa in the most regal of definitions, and a mountaintop retreat of impecable luxury, all on the site of a medieval Knights Templer ruin. The Devil Dog first encountered it on his honeymoon, and had lunch there, a surreal visitation to the coming adventure, for I dreamed of staying there from that day forth, and more than a dozen years later the Devil Dog and his lovely bride are going to grace its halls, dine in its restaurants, and soak up the high mountain Mediterranean air.  But for now it is that mystical apparition in the sky, a palace on a mountaintop, a dominating presence on a perch high above the Riviera, with a perfect view of the old oval shaped walled city at the interior of the busy authentically French town of Vence.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Photographer in Paradise

Stalwart travel companion and wife extraordinaire, photographer Alison Reynolds is also wildly fanatical about her art, her fine art, and her photography, for which she has been published in multiple newspapers for numerous travel features,  so La Colombe d'Or was a paradise for her, like living in a wildly bohemian museum, and she took to photographing the grounds and the art and the structure and the art, and the atmosphere, and the art with the joy of one who holds a passion for it all. So naturally it won't be long before, in her thoroughnesss, she turns the camera on you, as you see below. The Devil Dog has had the pleasure of being captured in her lens on many an occasion, and has always looked the better for it.