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Alleys in Viviers, along the Rhone River in France. Oil on wood panel 36" x 54"

 

 


TWO STUDIES FROM THE FRENCH ALLEY SERIES

As we riverboat travelers approached from the quai, Viviers, an ancient Rhone River locks town opened up to us --a quiet road, lined with gnarled trees just showing life in early April, and with the stone fences and iron garden gates allowing glimpses into the properties of the people, pretty cook's gardens, grassy areas, chickens running in some places, and many pet dogs. The center of town was a simple market square (not really square), with a small but delectable group of vegetable and flower stands set up each morning, and people politely nodding "Bonjour, Madam," as I passed them on the narrow streets. Very often they would have a dog on a leash--this was so true all through France. And often, also, plump cats looked out from gardens and from house and shop windows.

THE ALLEYS AS THEY EXPRESS ANTIQUITY: Courses of cobbles from one era, bricks from another line the streets. Down the center of the cobbled ways are strips of concrete or asphalt, filling up what once were central troughs for wastewater. The alleys behind the buildings are very narrow, and seem to have been created, like the houses, by very gradual attrition. They are almost never straight, and the buildings seem never on the square, but rather, skewed in the most enticing way. Doorways in lower parts of the alleys are raised up from the road level.

seriously flooded three times in this century with water rising well up the sides of the buildings. They must put stairs down from inside the house to get down to the street level.

Each turn in the road exposes yet another place to peek into and wonder about--lovely entry courtyards, tiny gardens, and fine old wood doors with hand forged iron hardware. Door knockers of wonderful artistry. And flowers. Lace curtains. The smell of fresh baked goods today must have been a daily delight for many centuries in this same place.

It was in one of these alleys early in the morning that I met my French counterpart, a walking postman putting letters into brackets and slots in doors. I stumbled through an explanation that I carry la poste in the US, except by l'auto, and got a nice handshake and polite tip of the hat. Shortly after this encounter, the postal workers of France went on strike--something US postal workers may not do by federal law.

Susan G Holland

susan@hollandart.org
hollandART Studio
P.O.Box 61
Issaquah, WA 98027-0061
United States

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