Friday, May 5, 2017

Nietemin...Waarom Is Die Wereld so Faktap

Dit is nie elke dag dat artieste en musikante, wat taal daagliks gebruik om emosie, woede, blydskap, liefde, haat, geskiedenis, phychedelic idees, drome, redenasie, evangelisme, en ander stories te verkoop, hul taal vereer in ‘n liedjie nie. Stef Bos en Amanda Strijdom (Strydom) het.

Hier by ons en regtig orals oor Amerika is daar lokale radiostasies wat gewoonlik Klassieke Rock & Rock uitsaai. Afhangende van hoe jy Classic Rock definieer, sal jy by die een baie AC/DC, Led Zeppelin en ‘n horde van Amerikaanse “big hair bands” van die sewintigs en tagtiger jare hoor. By die ander een is Die Rollende Klippe (Rolling Stones), Pienk Vlooie (Pink Floyd), Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles, en nog ‘n horde van Amerikaanse “big hair bands” te hoor. Maar elke nou en dan dan adverteer stasie nommer twee: “We are not ashamed to play this on our radio station” en dan hulle trek weg met ‘n obskure nommer een van die verlede of iets “folksy” of “countryside.”

As ek soms met mede Suid Afrikaners oor musiek praat en ek bring die name Amanda Strydom of Coenie De Villiers op of selfs Thys Nywerheid of Battery 9 dan kry ek so ‘n tweede kyk wat sê:

“Huh!...O ja…die kaberet sangers!” of "Wie's hulle?"

Opgeneem 25 September 2008 in die Koninklijk Theater in Amsterdam, Nederland. 

Miskien is ek van ‘n vorige tydperk en De la Rey is eintlik ‘n karakter uit die geskiedenis boeke en nie so seer die naam van ‘n gewilde liedjie nie. En Karlien van Jaarsveld...wel...nietemin...

Ek is nie skaam om te sê ek geniet Amanda en Coenie en selfs sekere van Karen Zoid en ander soortgelyke komposisies. Kaberet oftenot, wie het nou eintlik genres nodig? Dis die genot van die musiek wat tel.

Karen Zoid bly 'n gusteling. 

So gepraat van Thys Nywerheid, hulle het in Januarie 2017 hul nuutste album uitgereik. Die eerste in baie jare. Met hulle onlangse uitreiking Brekfis in Orania het hulle blykbaar ‘n bladsy uit die Heuwels Fantasties se boek geskeur. Alles klink ‘n bietjie te geprogrameerd en te Pop-py en te "Heuwels Fantasties". Dis ‘n jammerte want hulle Husse Met Lang Messe van jare gelede bly een van my gunsteling alternatiewe Afrikaanse albums. Hulle het hulle funk verloor. 

Wel, genoeg gesê voordat ek hierdie bladsye verder bemes met woordelike misstof.

Ietsie nuut van Thys Nywerheid en ook hedendaags toepaslik...

Monday, May 1, 2017

An Enchanted Day in Vaison-la-Romaine

From the parking garage next door to the Marché les Halles d’Avignon, the city’s marketplace near the Palace of the Popes, we zigzagged our way northward through the ancient narrow streets until we exited the city’s old ramparts through Porte du Rocher to join Boulevard de la Ligne (Route D225). Avignon is a maze and we would have been totally lost without a GPS. Running all along the mighty Rhone River, the boulevard later becomes the Route Touristique des Bords du Rhone, The Tourist Route of the Rhône (Route D907/D225). We followed the road until it swung away from the river and at the first major roundabout where the D907 heads north to Sorgues and the D225 heads to Carpentras, we went north. My clear intention was to avoid any major highways or autoroutes. I wanted to explore the backroads of Provence, from roundabout to roundabout, through lanes bordered by fields of fruit trees, vineyards and old stone farmhouses, and whenever we got to the outskirts of a town, the road was flanked by factories and warehouses, and filled with service trucks. No problem! There was no rush. We had time on our hands.  We were slow traveling France.

It may have been lunch time and shops were closed but the wares were still displayed outside in Vaison-la-Romaine

When I recently wrote about Spain and the magical day spent in Barcelona’s Bari Gotic I mentioned that another enthralled travel day was a visit to Vaison-la-Romaine in the Haut-Vaucluse region of France, loosely defined as the northern section of Provence.  It was our last day in Provence before returning to Paris for a further dose of enchantment.

Caesar Augustus statue high up on the stage's wall

Our first destination for the day was the town of Orange, a major Roman period town. Later it became a unique Dutch Principality (from 1544 to 1702) in the south of France before it was ceded to Louis IV of France. It was a popular Protestant destination during the French Wars of Religions (1562 - 1598). However, the Dutch, the House of Orange-Nassau, never ceded the title, Prince/Princess of Orange. For that matter, neither did the Kingdom of Prussia, the House of Hohenzollern, which also laid claim to the title. The Dutch continued to use the title for the heir apparent to the Dutch throne. Today, the thirteen year old Princess Catharina-Amelia, current heir apparent to the Dutch throne, is the first Princess of Orange to claim the title in her own right since 1417 when Mary of Baux-Orange, the last Princess of Orange, died.

 The back of the stage area of the Amphitheater.
The itinerary for Orange called for a visit to the weekly market, the ancient Roman amphitheater and the Triumphal Arch, the oldest complete structure in Orange, possibly built during the reign of Augustus (27 BC - AD 14). In the end we spent most of our 2 hours in Orange at the magnificent amphitheater and the adjacent museum, before a short walk through the market and never got to see the Triumphal Arch. But that’s the way travel days sometimes goes.

 From the top row of the seating area the people looks tiny near the stage.
The lonely figure in the first row on the right is M. 

The Amphitheater, still in use today as a musical venue, is ginormous, even by today’s standards, and a glorious testament to the skills of the builders of the Roman Empire. Started in the 1st century AD under Caesar Augustus, it is the most well preserved Roman amphitheater in Europe. It was extraordinary to see such an ancient building still in relative good condition. While M stayed on level ground near the stage I climbed all the way to the top of the seating area. The seats of the amphitheater rest against the side of St. Eutrope Hill, which dominates Orange. Below the hill’s summit is the St. Eutrope Park, this at one time housed the Chateau Nassau, but because of William III, the Prince of Orange’s protectionism of Protestants it was destroyed in 1672 on the command of Louis XIV, the sun king, in his effort to enforce Catholicism.   

 A Pink Floyd concert at the Theatre Antique L'Orange

From Orange we travelled along Route D977 passed the turn offs to classic Provençal villages, with names that flow off the tongue like liquid poetry: Gigondas (little brother of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine region), Sablet, Segúret, and Rasteau until the road started to run more or less parallel to the Ouvèze River, which took us into the town of Vaison-la-Romaine.

The 1st century Roman bridge 

We parked our car just inside the new town on Avenue Cesar Geoffray about 200 meters from Pont Romaine de Vaison-la-Romaine, a bridge built by the Romans in the 1st century AD and which is still in used today.  We first explored the lower town or new town, where the ancient Roman settlement was located. We walked uphill along Grand Rue until it becomes Avenue General de Gaulle and at the tourism office next to the Musée Archéologique Théo Desplans we stopped. It was lunch time and in the south of France lunch time is sacred. There was nearly no one around. The place felt deserted. Shops we all closed. It felt like we had the place to ourselves. M and I annexed a bench that overlooked the city’s Roman ruins to eat our lunch that we brought along from our apartment while we waited for the museum to open again after lunch. Lunch consisted of some rustic black olive bread, sharp pale yellow cheese we bought at the Gordes market a few days ago, fruit and some “to die for” yogurt.

[Please let me indulge for a minute about French yogurt. If you haven’t eaten French yogurt yet, put it on your “foods I must try” list. I am not a big yogurt eater, or rather I never used to be, but I fell in love with their yogurts during my travels through France, especially the ones that come in tiny delicate glass jars with the clear fruit and fruit juices at the bottom and the thick, creamy yogurt on top. It is simply heaven in a jar.
The difference between American and French/European yogurt is a higher fat content. French yogurt contains nearly double the amount of fat than the American standard percentage. And fat means flavor. There is a French word vachement.
In Google it translates to: really, bloody or damned! If used as a superlative, it means “unbelievable”, or in American English “Oh my god, it’s frigging awesome.”]

Apart from some kids also waiting for the museum to open, there was no one on the streets.
After lunch we visited the archeology museum, walked along Rue Burrus and beheld the splendor of the Roman ruins. Through a public garden and along more Roman ruins we arrived at the Cathedral Notre Dame De Nazareth, a classic Romanesque-style church, the present building dates back to the 1200s, although some parts inside dates back to the Merovingian period, early 8th Century. It was by far the oldest church building I have ever been into. We lingered for a while, and then in a roundabout way, passed more Roman ruins, we arrived back on Rue Grand and made our way back to our car.

More Roman ruins, a tranquil garden and the cathedral in the distance 
The Cathedral Notre Dame De Nazareth
 Inside the Cathedral Notre Dame De Nazareth

And we nearly missed the magic of the day!

It was already late afternoon and had more than an hour’s drive back to Avignon ahead and I was ready to go in order to avoid driving in the dark. But then M suggested we took a quick walk through the old town on the other side of the river. Bless her soul for making the suggestion. Our “quick” walk turned into more than an hour of being transported back to a 14th Century “stone sanctuary.” What was so strange was that there were no tourists. We walked the ancient streets all by ourselves.

After visits to the charmed hilltop villages of Gordes and Roussillon, and spending time sipping wine in various historic Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines cellars, and watching the sun set over the Rhône River at Ponte d’Avignon, and finding some beautiful classic French copper kitchen utensils at a flea market on Place Pie in Avignon (the seller specially unpacking his wares again because we came to the market very late), I didn’t think anything could beat our Provençal experiences so far until we cross the Ouvèze River into the old medieval town on the left bank and entered a time machine, which transported us centuries back.

The old town, perfectly restored, or maintained, I am not sure, retained its ambiance of centuries ago. Steep narrow cobbled stone streets, flanked by ancient grey stone houses, gardens hidden behind iron gates and tall walls, multiple tiny plazas with water fountains, and here a house with blue and there one with green and further down the road a house with burgundy red and around a corner one with brown shutters. On one square a bed & breakfast hotel, around a corner an artisan’s shop. On top of the hill, very strategically placed and overlooking the new town and the valley behind the old town, the ruins of Chateau Comtal, the old castle of the Counts of Toulouse, which provided the town’s folk a safe haven during the Religious Wars. The pictures really tell the true story of the magic of those ancient streets in this enchanted hamlet with houses and gardens clinging to the steep hill like rock climbers ascending El Capitano in Yosemite National Park.

 Looking down from the top of the hill beyond the old town, farms and vineyards

The twilight hour was near when we eventually left Vaison-la-Romaine and we had to totally rely on Samantha, our trusted Garmin GPS to lead us back to Avignon and its narrow ancient streets. That evening as we walked back from the parking garage we didn’t directly went to our rented apartment, but meandered along the many quieter backstreets in the vicinity of our apartment, away from the small squares, populous and noisy, and the busy streets that house banks, neighborhood bars, a Carrafour supermarket, and other shops. On a quiet pedestrian-only street we came upon a tiny restaurant, a true mom-and-pop (actually a husband-and-wife) hole-in-the-wall, with space for only 5 or 6 el fresco tables. It had no diners occupying any of the tables and we were initially skeptical as we studied the menu on an easel near the entrance. A very friendly lady asked if we were Americans and in English explained that their food was traditional French.

A man standing nearby leaning against a wall, smoking a cigarette also chipped in and said the restaurant was a neighborhood favorite and that the food was very good. Between them they convinced us and we sat down and enjoyed a fabulous plat du jour; a mixed greens house salad, a creamy Normandy pork stew with vegetables (a la chicken pot pie style), presented in tiny Le Creuset-like pots, followed by a delightful local Provençal version of Tiramisu in tiny Mason jars. (It reminded me of those delicious yogurts in glass jars.) As the evening matured more diners filled the empty tables, lively conversation ensued and the quiet thoroughfare became a joyous celebration of that quintessential French pastime, dinner. It turned out to be one of our best open air dinners in France. It was quite late in the evening and after many glasses of Côtes du Rhône red wine we found our way back to Rue Carnot and our apartment. A perfect day to end a truly enchanted stay in Provence!

A tranquil garden space 

Another fountain. The old town is littered with fountains
M next to the Ouvèze River with the ancient Roman bridge in the background

 A last look at Vaison-la-Romaine at the twilight hour