Friday, 11 September 2009

Something different...

It's about this time of year that Tangocommuter, exasperated by lack of sunshine, folds up a bicycle, throws a tent and a sleeping bag into a holdall and jumps aboard the cheapest available transport to sunshine – which usually means the south of France. Avignon beckons, but this year the first stop is Aix en Provence largely because, as part of a big exhibition called Picasso-Cezanne (advertised in that order), the Chateau of Vauvenargues is open to guided public visits for the first time ever. I looked down on it from the summit of Mte. Ste. Victoire a few years ago, knowing that Picasso is buried there, but never thought a visit would be possible. It has remained in the family of Jaqueline Picasso and has been kept as it was during their short occupancy.

It's a 17th century chateau, though parts of it are much older, and it had fallen into disrepair. It had been asset-stripped by Marseilles businessmen who owned it briefly, it needed re-roofing, and central heating and modern plumbing had to be installed, no mean feat with walls over one meter thick. & it was infested with scorpions. However, it was turned into a beautiful studio home, huge spare rooms, with breath-taking and breath-giving views of the forests on the northern slope of Mte. Ste. Victoire. Picasso boasted that he had bought Cezanne's Mte. Ste. Victoire, but he was exaggerating by 50%: the grounds of the chateau include only the entire northern slopes of the mountain.

But Picasso, then in his 80s, began to suffer angina, and the nearest doctor was miles away, so the stay at Vauvenargues was brief. An extraordinary place to visit, and the nearby village is enchanting.

The 'grounds' of the chateau include everything you can see in the second picture (except the sky).

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