Noël 2009 en Provence

Today, I’m able to share a few pictures from our past December trip to France. I had been hoping for a white Christmas, snow flakes even greeted us on our arrival. However, the thin white blanket melted within a day, and rain took over. Our first day, eager and ambitious to discover all of the South of France, Henry planed a spiritual excursion for us. Legend has it that Mary Magdalen (along with Lazarus and Martha) fled to the South of France (via Egypt) bearing “the earthen vessel that held the blood of Christ”. While legends of the Holy Grail took a life of their own centuries later, merging with other legends, many believed that Mary Magdalen was herself the earthen vessel bearing Christ’s child, the sacred bloodline of David. In the South of France, the cult of the Magdalen flourished until it was all but wiped out in the Albigensian campaigns by the Roman Catholic church in the late 13th century. The site where she is believed to have retreated for the last 30 years of her life, has been preserved by Kings and Popes, as a result it is a unique and ancient forrest, with vegetation uncommon to that part of Europe.
We climbed up a steep hill to the grotto of Sainte Baume, snow still covering the ground, it was beautiful. Wether the legend is true or fiction, the visit was enlightening, the view exceptional, the “promenade” so peaceful.
Will, Meg, Olivia and my niece Rose, all bundled up,

A monastery stands on the cliff of the grotto where Mary Magdalen retreated,

There were many meals, long meals with endless french conversations (to my delight, but probably a little too lengthy for Henry, who is still struggling with my native tongue). This beautiful table was set in my “second parent’s” home, Louis-Alphonse and Anne-Lise. Louis-Alphonse is a very accomplished artist. He is especially known for his sculptures, the picture on the right is of one of his earlier piece. I love how he gives everything a personal twist, here our name settings were cut out little paper dolls. Henry’s were running, since he likes marathons so much.

In the summers we always talk about climbing the Sainte Victoire with the children, but because of the very dry heat and high risque of fires, access is restricted to early mornings only. It’s a good hike, and we never seem to managed to rouse the whole clan early enough to allow to reach the top and back by the curfew. This was our chance to finally make it. It was warm at the bottom, but the wind was fierce at the top. Olivia, only 6 years old, pleaded with every family member to be carried some of the way… The view was again spectacular, the air crisp.

Aix-en-Provence, while in the Christmas spirit, remained very “green”, with a conscious effort to keep electricity consumption low. On the main Street, the Cours Mirabeau, little wooden stands housed the Christmas market.

The “santons de Provence”, little clay figurines, hand painted, which are used in the south of France to compose the nativity scene.

Maybe not the best picture of us, but it’s so rare to have us together, the sisters. In the middle, Sylvie, to the right Bibbi, and I’m on the left.


  1. by doanli on April 9, 2010  10:58 am Reply

    Very lovely! Thank you for the glimpses into your personal life, Arielle.

    And I've always wanted a real French Santon! :)

  2. by gina on April 9, 2010  2:44 pm Reply

    such a beautiful post... i hope to go to europe one day...

  3. by Mimi on April 9, 2010  4:33 pm Reply

    You are so talented. Thanks for sharing. Can I go with you next trip to France?
    I am inching to go abroad again. It has been so long.

  4. by Peyton on April 10, 2010  3:21 pm Reply

    Those are some wonderful pictures! The landscapes throughout are stunning

  5. by Holly on April 14, 2010  8:53 pm Reply

    What a beautiful place! I want to go go one day. Arielle, you are so lucky!

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