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Impressions of Provence

Avignon France

Tucked into southeastern France along the Mediterranean Sea, Provence is every bit as dreamy as paintings and postcard images suggest with sun-dappled vineyards, olive groves, and pastel-hued architecture.

The “problem” with Provence is that there is more to see and do in the region than we could possibly tackle in the week we had allotted. For our first trip to the area, we decided to go classic. We based in Saint-Rémy, a town in western Provence in the shadow of the Apilles mountain range. Along with meandering drives through the countryside, including an impromptu stop at a hilltop village, we whiled away the languid days visiting the well-known cities of Arles, Aix-en-Provence, and Avignon.

Every one of these places deserves at least a couple of days, or maybe even a week or more, all on their own. But there are only so many hours in a day and only so many days in a year, even for perpetual travelers like us. So we ended up seeing them in a series of hit and run day trips. And while we can’t say we did any of these places justice, we saw enough of each to know that we need to return again to finish what we started.

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Church of St. Trophime, Arles, France

Church of St. Trophime, Arles

Home for a Week: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

Saint Remy Provence Kitty

A resident greets us in Saint-Rémy, Provence

After forty fast-paced days touring Spain, we arrived in Provence looking forward to a relaxing, week-long stay in an apartment in Saint-Rémy. We rolled into town in a rental car, dutifully turning when the GPS instructed. On the right hand side of the street we quickly spotted the building where we would be staying. Then, on the left, we looked for the plentiful parking spaces we were told were there—except that the five spots were entirely full, as they would be every day while we were there.

We had no choice but to keep going forward along the one-way street, directly into the town’s tiny, twisting medieval section. With memories of harrowing drives in Spanish hill towns still front of mind, Brian deftly dodged pedestrians and navigated tight turns. I was clutching the passenger side door, hoping to make it back to a main street without mishap, which we eventually did. After that nerve-racking introduction to Saint-Rémy, we promptly parked the car and used it only for day trips around the area. 

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Turn the Tables and Watch Big Brother

George Orwell 1984

This post is long overdue because we actually saw the play over a month ago. But the fact that I’m still thinking about it all these long days later is testimony to its power.

What reminded me of it most recently, though, was word that the Playhouse Theatre’s production of George Orwell’s 1984 is staging its final performance on August 23, 2014. So this is pretty much your last chance to catch a show. And if you happen to be in London this month, you really should. It’s flat out amazing.

There’s a good chance you already know the story of Winston Smith and the dystopian police state overseen by Big Brother. Most of us read 1984 in high school. Not much is changed in the theatrical version, although the director did take some license in how he tells the story. The surprise, though, isn’t in how the tale unfolds or even how it ends; that we mostly knew. What’s shocking is how well it is told.

Instead of starting at the beginning, with Winston heading home from the Ministry of Truth to write in his diary, it starts in some unspecified present day with a group of people discussing the relevance of Orwell’s writing to the world today. In a series of challenging, yet totally engrossing, flashbacks and forwards a confused Winston bounces between worlds, taking theater goers along for the disorienting ride.

It’s a sophisticated, and sometimes subtle, production. Big Brother’s practice of “unpersoning” enemies of the state by erasing all their historical records is illustrated, for example, by quietly removing characters from a repeated scene. In other instances a simple shadow that is strangely disconnected from any of the on-stage actors stands in as the ominous embodiment of Big Brother’s constant surveillance.

If these clever Easter Eggs were intended to draw me in and make me pay attention to every detail of the perfectly (and appropriately) timed 101-minute play, I can tell you the strategy worked. I can also tell you that such close attention to detail probably softened me up for the play’s more unsettling elements.

With masterful use of light and sound, 1984 creates more than a vision of a brutal police state, it creates the atmosphere of one. It’s a dark and disturbing adaptation worthy of Orwell’s work.

We left feeling exhausted, elated and totally committed to re-reading this classic that has sat on our shelves untouched for too long.

Circumnavigating the Globe

Circumnavigating the Globe

It took us almost four years to drive our motor home from the East Coast of the U.S. to the West Coast. We didn’t set out with a specific goal to drive across the continent. We just started heading west, connecting one cool-looking destination with another. 43 months later we arrived on the West coast having seen most everything we wanted to see in the United States. In March 2014, we flew off to Europe.

Having spent four years crossing North America it seems a little insane that it will take us less than one year (354 days to be exact) to circle the globe. But that’s precisely what our current plans have us doing.

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