Wake Me Up When September Ends
Each September, my calendar looks a little more manic than usual. Work projects that had been jogging through the year need to be heaved over the finish line. Charity galas abound. In early September, My Journey With SANA So Far, culminated in a golf fundraiser. That same week, our SingHealth Duke-NUS gala gave me A Fresh Perspective On Philanthropy. In addition, the small children get a week off school, leaving me floored. I feel like I’m driving a train with a long line of carriages hooked on to me. As I hurtle through, people are shouting, lobbing bags into my carriages or climbing on to the back of my train. Sometimes I wonder if I close my eyes, will I come out on the other side of the tunnel ok anyway? Or will it be a complete train-wreck unless I have complete control at all times? Who knows?
Fortunately, this September brings a new task that demands time out. Our eldest boy, my stepson, M1, finishes National Service and heads back to the UK for university. Hence, my husband, E, decides we should take him back to L’amiradou in Provence before he matriculates. Recognising that I myself need a break, I clear my calendar with apologies.
From London To L’Amiradou
When I land at Heathrow, I am all smiles as the weather is perfect. I am willing to go along with whatever plans M1 makes. When he proclaims this morning he must have pastis, I think it’s frankly early for anise liqueur but reserve judgement. Personally, I think a glass of champagne is a better start to a holiday. As it turns out, he finally finds a shop that sells his coveted items. In fact, they are Cornish pasties which are like curry puffs without the spice. Stone cold sober, we make our way to Avignon to meet E.
Avignon to Crillon-le-Brave
Avignon is stunning and less than an hour away from L’amiradou in Crillon-le-Brave. As we stop at the Palais des Papes for dinner, a large flock of birds sail above us, against a sensational sunset. Unfortunately M1 does not unpack his camera in time to photograph this. Nonetheless, now that it’s out, he does not let another great moment go by uncaptured for the rest of the holiday. In turn, I have great fun taking photos of his back, observing what scenes he chooses to snap.
Exploring Provence In September
It’s been years since M1 was last in this house. We look for marks in the basement he once made with his toy gun & pellets and laugh that they are still there. Then he & his Papa search photographs on the wall for E’s face in a line-up of English schoolboys from the mid 1980’s.
Alex, the cheerful housekeeper, is delighted to see M1 again. As beautiful as ever, she still makes the best jams & breakfasts. During our stay, E also spends a lot of time in that kitchen. He makes several meals, including a roasted Poulet Bresse, the Western counterpart to the Kampung Chicken. It is delicious and surprisingly tender, considering all that foraging.
We drive North to Vaison-la-Romaine where a wonderful market sprawls across several cobbled streets. Consequently, M1 has a field day photographing colourful wares, while E predictably buys another beautiful basket and fills it with saucisson, olives & lavender. After wandering past miles of stalls selling everything from giant woks of paella to fragrant soaps to live goats, I was ready to rest. We found our way to a panoramic restaurant with fresh oysters, juicy steaks & fruity wine. And like any respectable #sgfoodie, we took detailed photos of everything.
The last time I was in Provence with E, we drove past fields after fields of fabulous lavender in Sault. This time, as it is late September, the flowers have already been cut but you can still smell a faint scent in the air. Regardless the scenary remains beautiful.
South: Gordes & Martigues
We make our way towards Gordes, a protected & consequently authentically charming town, perched atop a cliff. After a rustic lunch in an cosy garden, we drive down to the Cote Bleue. The sky & the sea are the same shade of blue; the coastline is rugged and stretches seemingly forever. Being here makes me so happy. Consequently, we stroll leisurely for hours around the quaint Martigues, where alleys are lined with colourful houses any Peranakan would adore. As we round the corner to the main street, we return to the harbor where picturesque boats are moored and tanned men play petanque nearby. By the time we drive to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, we are ravenous. Thankfully, dinner at Le Vivier is nothing short of astounding.
West: Chateauneuf du Pape & Arles
September is the perfect time to visit vineyards. We manage to watch harvesters at work on the Grenache grapes at the famous Chateau de Beaucastel. Coincidentally there is a documentary crew there to film the process of wine-making. I watch them and wonder if Brad Pitt, whose wine partner is Perrin family behind Beaucastel, will show up. Meanwhile, M1 makes friends with 2 dogs on the estate.
After M1 leaves to makes his way back to England, E & I continue to explore Provence. For instance, we head to Arles where the imposing Roman arenas that bear witness to bullfights. But for most part, we hang around L’amiradou and chat with Alex, savouring the last days of our vacation. It is all I can do to restrain myself from checking my work emails. I remind myself my teams are well-equipped to continue without me.
Paris Dinner Party
Gay Paris is our last stop before going home. It is riotous fun on account of Paris Fashion Week. As a result, the city is heaving with tall models chatting excitedly outside cavernous halls while burley men take sets apart. As it turns out, our friend, Glenda happens to be the star model of an international shoe brand. Like true Singaporeans, we meet for a decadent seafood dinner at St Germain des Pres.
On the flight home, I browse through my photos of Paris. I see gorgeous tall buildings with black wrought iron railings neatly lining each balcony. Many historic buildings feature dignified stone lions or cherubs, while just as many house luxury designer brands and chic cafes. I have photos & videos of everything we ate and everyone we met in Paris. But I don’t have any photos of M1’s back as he curiously paces about looking for the perfect shot. And that makes me pretty sad. We may have just said goodbye in Provence in September, but I’m already looking forward to saying hello in Singapore in December.