It has been a sad, jarring week in France. It’s hard to watch the news, to read headlines, to even pick up a phone without feeling a pang of anxiety that another horrible turn of events will happen.
On Thursday, I found myself in the middle of my first protest–une manifestation–cheering “On n’a pas peur,” singing La Marseillaise, and realizing that I really need to learn more of La Marseillaise than “allons hm hm la patrie,” “aux armes, citoyens,” and “marchons.” Watching a crowd of French people and foreigners alike sing (or hum, in my case) the national anthem of France with such ferocity, such pride was très émouvant—I knew then I would never experience something like it again (for anyone who wants to know what it was like, I invite you to watch Les Mis with the understanding that sometimes I exaggerate).
In the midst of all this chaos, I was reminded what my France looks like with an early morning Saturday walk with Corinne. She told me she wanted me to see paintings and artwork in churches in Aix, and I can never turn down a tour from a native. We started at the Eglise du Saint Esprit right in the middle of centre ville, where there is a portion of the Aix Annonciation, a triptych from Barthélemy d’Eyck. Eyck–likely related to Jan Van Eyck–was one of the favored painters of Roi René of Anjou, who retired in Provence. As such, his namesake rivals Cezanne all throughout the area.
Our next stop was the Cathedrale Saint-Saveur, where we made friends with two of the men working at the church and saw another triptych–this time with Roi René in the scene. We had watched about five minutes of a tour video about the painting when one of the men from the church asked if we wanted to see the wooden door that they had just uncovered.
This was not a wooden door like the one entering into chez Anne. It was a sculpted door with a mixture of both Gothic and Renaissance styles and incredible detail. It is covered most of the time to protect it from poor weather (which rarely happens) to people trying to take “souvenirs” from the door…meaning they pull pieces of it off. The doors, one at a time, are revealed every morning at 11:15, and I highly recommend that anyone in Aix go see.
Our last stop was Saint Jean de Malte, after a quick detour through the flower market. It is a simple church with lots of light, and after being shushed by an old lady (oops) we were able to see the bells that are about to be installed in the bell tower.
After all that has happened this week in France, it was nice to take a break from the news and pause to look at all the art and flowers and street music that makes France too easy to fall in love with. No matter what happens in France or worldwide, this stylo will always be at the ready. Marchons. ♦
PS – Right now the temperature in Aix is 57° and sunny, with the most beautiful sunset peeking out my window. Are we sure this is real life?