Comment ça va? How are you?   Newsletter #12 March 2020

With our world in a state of turmoil and anxiety at present, we hope that you are bearing up well. While we can't control what happens around us we can take control of how we react in these uncertain times. It's not easy, but hopefully we can all find positive thoughts to help us get through each day and, if possible, focus on positive actions too. Take some time to pursue a worthwhile activity at home, perhaps try something creative - that project that's been waiting years for you to find the time for, or embrace the opportunity to create a photo book of a past holiday, maybe tackle a new recipe or two from one of those many lovely cookbooks on the shelf ? Whatever you do, we hope you can find some silver lining whilst we pass through this dark cloud!
Fortunately for Jean-Louis and myself, we are well set-up to carry on with our usual home-based work and activities, however we're also making more effort to communicate with family, friends and neighbours to check on them and help in any way we can.  
We hope that our March newsletter offers you some pleasant distraction for a short while.

Keep well. Fiona + Jean-Louis
Beautiful Aix-en-Provence
(above): a lovely view of the tower of the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) and famous flower market.

Fortunately for us this beautiful, not too large city is only 30 minutes from Jouques. Aix-en-Provence is the former capital of Provence. The Romans named it Aquae Sextiae, after its thermal springs.
Aix (pronounced "Ex") reached its heyday during the 12th century when it became an artistic centre and important place of learning. In recent times it has become more known as the birthplace of the artist Cézanne who made the nearby Montagne Sainte Victoire his muse, painting it innumerable times, in varying light and from different angles. It’s also still an important university centre with many teaching and research institutes, while the large numbers of young people add a terrific dynamic to its otherwise sedate, bourgeois status.
A lovely fact is that Aix-en-Provence is often referred to as ‘the city of a thousand fountains’. Since it was founded
 in 123 BC by thRoman consul Sextius Calvinus, (who gave his name to its thermal springs), many beautiful fountains were built around the old town – many more fountains were added over the years and today all the fountains still flow with cool drinkable water. The quaint squares (places) are a distinctive feature of Aix, each with their fountain at the centre, table and chairs all around and with cafés, shops and shady trees close by. From 200AD until 1850, the drinking water that supplied Aix travelled from Jouques via a Roman aqueduct - more about this in a future newsletter.
The Cathedral of Saint Sauveur is a beauty which lies at the heart of Aix. Built on the site of the 1st century Roman forum of Aix, then built and re-built from the 12th century until the 19th century, it includes Romanesque, Gothic and Neo-Gothic elements, as well as Roman columns in the baptistery. It is a national monument of France. 
Shown here is the statue of St Peter in the impressive cathedral cloister.
Don't forget to look up - interesting shrines adorn many corners of the old buildings.
Attractive façades abound throughout Aix, many with shrines in arched niches, all with magnificent ironwork balconies, Most are rendered in warm-hued ochres with colourful shutters on doors and windows.
Lined with plane trees, fountains, cafés, restaurants and elegant 17th and 18th century mansions, Cours Mirabeau links the old market town and the residences of rich merchants in the Quartier Mazarin.
One of the many magnificent and recently restored buildings in the old town.
The view down rue Paul Bert to the tower of the Hotel de Ville.
The serene 'Place d'Albertas' is characterised by the shabby and chic building façades, plus one of the most beautiful fountains in "la ville aux milles fontaines" (city of 1000 fountains).
Many colourful markets take place in Aix every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning, all year long - here I am in the fruit and vegetable marché in shady 'Place Richelme'.
La Fontaine de la Rotonde is one of the most magnificent fountains you'll see in Provence.

Here is STUDY #6 in the series called ‘Feel flows’, from Jean-Louis' current body of work.
This theme is partly inspired by the Beach Boys song of the same name and also based on the nearby river Rèal here in Jouques - he is experimenting with many layers of the oil-encaustic medium and exploring its translucent quality.
Below are two details of study #6.
Fiona's original images - Here's a favourite photo of the 'Cathedrale de Sainte Sauveur'. Even in Winter Provence often has a brilliant blue sky!
The cathedral is located on the route of the Roman road, the Via Aurelia. A fragment of a Roman wall plus Roman columns in the baptistery, seem to be the origin of a legend that the church was built on top of a Roman temple dedicated to Apollo.

At the end of the 12th century, Aix became the capital of Provence, and the city's population grew rapidly - a surge of construction on the cathedral paralleled the growth of the town. Building was interrupted by the Black Death and then the Hundred Years' War and didn't resume for 130 years, with the last statues put in place in 1513.
Not one to forget to share snippets of our lovely village, I thought to show you this image of the portal at the end of our 'top' street.
As our house lies between two lanes in the old village, we have an entry on a lower street (rue Saint Pierre) and another on this 'top' street, rue des Baumes. At the end of each street is an archway - once portals with lockable gates. This arch on rue des Baumes was changed during the 17th century to widen it sufficiently to allow a carriage to drive through, so nobles could reach the chateau on top of the hill.
In the .evenings, when the street lights come on, this aspect of the little street looks particularly inviting, wi
th the warm colours of the local stone glowing beautifully!

Recipe for RICE CREAM

If you love milky or custardy desserts as I do, you'll love this French version of 'Rice Pudding'! Made simply in a saucepan on the stove-top rather than baked, my version is a family recipe that shrieks 'comfort food' - it makes for a delicious change for breakfast too!

This recipe works on an easy 1:4 ratio of rice to liquid, however once you've made it you can adjust according to your taste preference. For example, if it's too sweet, just add a little extra rice and water - this will make the sugar content go a little further.
1 can sweetened condensed milk (395g)
1 cup medium grain (multi-purpose) white rice
1 cup of water initially
+ 2 cups of water
Rind of one orange (unsprayed preferrably)
1 tbsp Cointreau liqueur OR orange essence
powdered cinnamon for dusting
Wash the rice and place in a medium saucepan, then add the one cup of water. Cover and bring to the boil, then turn off the heat and let the rice absorb the water - this may take about ten minutes. Meanwhile wash the orange (scrub if it's not organic as it has probably been sprayed) then, using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin as thinly as possible - you want very little white pith as it can be bitter. When the rice has absorbed the liquid, add the rind and the Cointreau or orange essence. Then add the condensed milk, swish out the can with the remaining two cups of water and add it all to the saucepan.
Return the saucepan to a low heat and cook until the liquid has reduced considerably and the rice is soft. This may take about 10 minutes. The mixture should still be very loose. While warm, pour into a serving dish or individual small dishes (up to eight) and dust with cinnamon. Enjoy warm or cold, on its own or accompanied by stewed or fresh fruit.

Instead of orange flavours you might like to try substituting the Cointreau or orange essence with vanilla essence or rum - Yum! Or you can macerate raisins or sultanas in rum (for an hour or so) then add them to the mixture at the same time as the condensed milk.
INTRODUCING: some of our local friends
Less than five minutes from our door, down the street and through the arch, past the fountain and the church, then beyond the cemetery, live a pair of donkeys. We love going for a short walk, carrots in hand, to visit these guys - named Angelo and Paquito, they are brothers and not ordinary donkeys, but pet Provençal donkeys, characterised by their pinto like markings.
If you would love to experience life in our village, discover how to play pètanque, do a one-day art workshop, or perhaps stay a little longer for one of our four-day art retreats (drawing +mwater-colour; OR how to work oils with cold encaustic medium), then click on any of the links for more information. Check out our website or email us:
if you know anyone who's planning to travel to France, please tell them about our accommodation and workshops. Thanks!
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