In Provence the fabric vendors at all the markets at this time of year put their big beautiful bolts of "Basque Stripe" cottons up front, tempting everyone with the brilliantly hued fabrics. The traditional stripes of the southwestern region of France called le Pays Basque are beloved by Provençales for their ability to brighten even the smallest little corner of an otherwise monochromatic outdoor garden setting.
Poetically named for the seven regions in Pays Basque, tradition holds that these strongly graphic fabrics were originally made by traveling weavers going from farm to farm, customizing large sturday sheets of rough fabric with unique stripe colors for farmers to cover their livestock as protection from insects.
Today we love them in everything from pillows, to table linens, espadrilles, totes and deck chairs. They are the quintessential summer look in the south of France.
Shopping the weekly market in Apt last month, I fell for two different patterns of stripes and bought enough to bring home in my second suitcase. Now I'm playing around with how, and even if, to use them for my summer entertaining.
Trying out some tabletop designs I find a real challenge in finding tableware that is clean and simple enough to calm all that high-voltage energy! I don't think my Anthroplogie outdoor plates do very well (although the colors blend there is way toooo much going on!) I may end up using one of these for bench cushions or a door curtain in my currently-being-refurbished greenhouse!
On one day in April we visited two stunning villages in Provence that could not have been less alike. The juxtaposition was startling; one village high on a red, gold and umber hill, dusty and sunny; the other can only be described as a cool drink of water.
Nestled high in the hills near the Luberon,the little village of Rouissillon is the most beloved village in all of Provence. There we are completely immersed in the vivid color (indeed you will come away with the faintest ochre-colored dust on your shoes and clothes) we associate with Provence: ochre, rose, sienna. We wander up and down the hilly streets through canyons of colored buildings; we reach the top and the view is stunning over the flaming hills. We stop for un cafe and we visit the Conservatory of Color; we cannot escape the brilliant, hot colors of Rouissillon. Her pigments are everywhere.
a village street scene in Rouissillon with pigments from
the local hillsides coloring
everything brilliantly pink, rose, and ochre
approaching Rouissillon on a sunny day!
inside the little church at the top of the hill in Rouissillon
features more color than usual for this little altar
to St. Michael the Archangel
a very blue door stands in contrast to the typical
ochres, golds, and siennas usually seen in Rouissillon
and makes this door stand apart from the rest
a sample of very old tile designs found at the
Conservatoire des Ochres in Rouissillon
another village street scene in Rouissillon near the
top of the hill with warm yellows and roses for the
walls, while the green shutters give a lovely contrast
After the strong visual stimulation, bright sunshine and heat of Roussillon, the perfect next stop is Fontaine du Vaucluse. This little village is quite off the beaten path, and it is built around the source of the Sorgue River... the same river that runs through l'Isle sur la Sorgue, of course. After crossing under the Aqueduc de Galas beneath the remains of a 14th C. Chateau des Eveques high on the cliffside, we arrive at this watery, refreshing, cool green and blue oasis.