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A SPRING WALK IN PROVENCE ***




Produced by Giovanni Fini, Chris Curnow and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive)









A SPRING WALK IN PROVENCE




_BY THE SAME AUTHOR_

THE HOUSE OF MERRILEES
RICHARD BALDOCK
EXTON MANOR
THE SQUIRE'S DAUGHTER
THE ELDEST SON
THE HONOUR OF THE CLINTONS
THE GREATEST OF THESE
THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH
WATERMEADS
UPSIDONIA
ABINGTON ABBEY
THE GRAFTONS
THE CLINTONS, AND OTHERS
SIR HARRY
MANY JUNES
A SPRING WALK IN PROVENCE
PEGGY IN TOYLAND

[Illustration: EVENING AMONG THE OLIVES]




A SPRING WALK IN
PROVENCE

BY

ARCHIBALD MARSHALL

AUTHOR OF "EXTON MANOR," "SIR
HARRY," ETC.

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS
FROM PHOTOGRAPHS

[Illustration]

NEW YORK
DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
1920




COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY
DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY, INC.

The Quinn & Boden Company

BOOK MANUFACTURERS
RAHWAY NEW JERSEY




To
SIR OWEN SEAMAN




PREFACE


The following pages owe a considerable debt to what others who have
been over the same ground have written. Mr. T. A. Cook's[1] "Old
Provence" (London: Rivington's, 2 vols.) is a most valuable record of
the history of the country as it attaches to the innumerable places
of interest to be visited, and his taste and knowledge when brought
to bear upon its architectural remains have greatly enhanced my own
appreciation of those rich treasures. I know of no book, either in
French or English, from which a visitor to Provence could get so much
to supplement his own observation, and I have made constant use of it.
To Mr. Thomas Okey's[2] "Avignon" in Dent's "Mediæval Towns" series, I
also owe a great debt of gratitude. The Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould's "In
Troubadour Land" (London: W. H. Allen), though slighter than those two
works, contains much interesting information. Mistral's "Mes Origines"
(Paris: Libraire Plon), translated from the Provençal, is of course
invaluable for its pictures of Provençal life, and from that book and
from M. Paul Mariéton's "La Terre Provençale" (Paris: Ollendorf) one
can get the best information about the movement of the Félibrige,
which has done so much to revivify the old life of Provence. A good
deal of desultory information is afforded by M. Louis de Laincel's
"La Provence" (Paris: Oudin), and some of the stories that linger
on Provençal soil are well told in M. Charles-Roux's "Légendes de
Provence" (Paris: Bloud). These books, and the French translation of
Mistral's "Mirèio," which is a mine of Provençal lore, besides being a
noble poem, have been my chief "authorities," but they have been very
usefully supplemented by the various pamphlets to be picked up locally.
Some of these have been excellent, and I have made mention of their
authors in the following pages.

The photographs are of my own taking, except those very kindly given
to me by Mr. Hope Macey, whom I was fortunate enough to come across in
Avignon in the course of an expedition that coincided with mine at many
points. The one of Mistral's birthplace I bought at Arles, and those of
the picture and tapestry at Aix in Paris.[3]

This account of my spring journey has been finished under the shadow
of the great war, which might have caused me to look upon the _jours
de conscription_ with which I fell in on the early days of the walk in
a light much sadder, if I could have foreseen it. I left Provence in a
train full of young soldiers going to their homes in various distant
parts of France for their Easter furlough. Of those who crowded the
carriage in which I travelled from Arles to Lyons the faces come before
me as clearly as if I saw them in the flesh, and I can hear their
songs and jokes and laughter. They seemed to have been drawn from all
classes, but to mix in the readiest frankest comradeship. Whenever I
read now of the French in action I think of those light-hearted boys
in their holiday mood, and wonder what they are doing, and how many of
them are still alive. One has somewhat changed one's view of the toll
that France has taken of her manhood since those days that now seem so
far off.

CHATEAU D'OEX, _August, 1914_.

* * * * *

The world has changed since this book was written, but I hope that the
record of an expedition made in the happy days before the war may still
be read with pleasure, now that the great shadow is in part removed. I
have been over the manuscript again and made a few alterations here and
there, but have altered nothing that shows it to have been written five
years ago.

BURLEY, HANTS, _August, 1919_.




CONTENTS


CHAPTER PAGE

I. HILLS AND OLIVES 1

II. FLOWERS AND SCENTS 18

III. IN OLD PROVENCE 31

IV. DRAGUIGNAN AND SAINT-MAXIMIN 48

V. THE CHURCH OF SAINT-MAXIMIN 68

VI. CAIUS MARIUS AND THE GREAT BATTLE 85

VII. AIX 97

VIII. SALON AND THE CRAU 116

IX. LES BAUX 127

X. LES BAUX (_Continued_) 143

XI. MISTRAL 158

XII. SAINT-REMY 168

XIII. AVIGNON 175

XIV. THE PALACE OF THE POPES 190

XV. VAUCLUSE 209

XVI. NIMES AND THE PONT DU GARD 227

XVII. AIGUES-MORTES AND THE CAMARGUE 239

XVIII. SAINTES-MARIES DE LA MER 252

XIX. SAINT-GILLES AND MONTMAJOUR 266

XX. THE LAST WALK. ST. MICHEL DE FRIGOLET 282

XXI. VILLENEUVE-SUR-AVIGNON 301

XXII. ARLES 311




ILLUSTRATIONS


Evening among the olives _Frontispiece_

FACING
PAGE

The road downhill "looks just like a temperature chart" 10

I "posed" him among the ruins 11

A Provençal shepherd 44

Fayence could be seen on its own hillside 44

How they prune the plane-trees 45

The dolmen near Draguignan 45

Altar of the Crucifixion, Saint-Maximin 74

The Field of the Great Battle, with Mount Olympus in the background 75

The Canterbury Tapestry 106

The famous "Tarasque" 107

Le Buisson Ardent 110

Porte d'Eyguières 111

The Castle Ruins, Les Baux 130

The Castle Dovecot, Les Baux 131

Pavillon de la Reine Jeanne 140

Huguenot Chapel in Les Baux 141

Les Baux from the Castle Ruins 150

One of the beauties of Les Baux 151

Mistral's birthplace, Mas du Juge 160

Fresco in the Palace of the Popes at Avignon 161

The Mausoleum, Saint-Remy 170

The Triumphal Arch, Saint-Remy 171

Sixteenth century doors and Virgin and Child of
Eighteenth Century, St. Pierre, Avignon 182

The Pont Benezet 183

The Cathedral, Avignon 194

"The Popes' Palace is most like those almost
brutally strong buildings that the Romans left" 195

The "fountain," Vaucluse 212

The caves above the "fountain" 213

The Pont du Gard 228

The Fountains, Nîmes 229

The Maison Carrée 234

The Amphitheatre, Nîmes 235

Aigues-Mortes, the Ramparts 244

"Looked away to the desolate salt marshes" 245

Saintes-Maries, the Fortress Church 256

Saint-Gilles, the Central Porch 257

The Maison-Romaine 276

The staircase in the farmyard at Montmajour 277

Saint-Michel de Frigolet 284

The Coronation of the Virgin, Villeneuve-Sur-Avignon 285

A courtyard in Villeneuve 308

The Rotunda at Villeneuve 309

The Arena at Arles 312

The Greek Theatre, Arles 313

The Cloisters, South walk, St. Trophime 316

The Cloisters, North walk, St. Trophime 317

Arles, the Alyscamps 320

Boy's head in marble, Musée Lapidaire, Arles 321




A SPRING WALK IN PROVENCE




A SPRING WALK IN PROVENCE




CHAPTER I

_Hills and Olives_


I was to walk through the country from the Italian border, but it
rained so heavily on the first day that I went to Mentone and took the
mountain tramway to Sospel, where in any case I had intended to spend
the night.

Two years ago, before this tram-line was quite finished, I motored
up to Sospel to play golf. It was a pleasant experience, though not
without its thrills, for the road zigzags and corkscrews up mountain
sides and across deep gorges in a way to make one thankful for strong
brakes and a reliable driver, especially on the return journey. The
hillsides are cultivated everywhere. The precipitous slopes have been
terraced with infinite labour, and orange and lemon groves surrounding
pretty little lodges and cottages, only give way as one mounts higher
to the grey-green of olive plantations.

When you have climbed up 2,300 feet, the road, as if tired of twisting
and turning, boldly attacks the mountain side, runs through a tunnel
pierced in the solid rock and comes out on the other side of the peak.
Then it takes a turn so sharp that not long ago a car coming too fast
through the tunnel went over the precipitous edge and all its occupants
were killed.

The crowning danger safely surmounted, you drop down into a green
mountain valley, surrounded by what Smollett, who passed through Sospel
on his way from Nice to Italy a hundred and fifty years ago, described
as "prodigious high and barren mountains." The valley is all verdant
pasture, watered by a broad, shallow, tree-shaded river, which, to
quote the same authority, "forms a delightful contrast with the hideous
rocks surrounding it." All mountains were "hideous" and "horrid" in the
eyes of our ancestors. We, as we play along the grassy meadows, and
cross here and there the clear river rippling over its pebbles, have
come to think that the towering rock-ramparts, upon which the sun and
the clouds play with infinite gradations of light and colour, have as
much to do with the beauty of the scene as the verdant valley itself,
or the little old huddled Italian-looking town which hugs both banks of
the river.

It was that little old town, which the golfer coming up from Mentone
only skirts on his way to the links, that had remained in my memory,
even more than the unusual charm of the links and the excellence of
the greens. It stands curiously aside from the wave of modernity that
has washed up to it from the wealthy delocalized coast. Turn to the
right when you reach the corner, and you are still in the atmosphere of
the Côte d'Azur, although you are fifteen miles inland from Mentone;
turn to the left and you are in southern provincial France, in a street
of little shops and little _cafés_ and _buvettes_, and pick your way
amongst a crowd of peasants and townspeople, buying and selling,
talking of their crops and their commerce, and as little concerned with
what is going on half a mile away as if they had never seen a mashie
or a putter, and none of them had ever shouldered a bag of clubs for a
curiously-garbed curiously-spoken foreigner.

Probably it is only the caddies or the ex-caddies who ever mention golf
in the town of Sospel. It stands so aloof that even its prices have not
yet been affected by the lavish ways of the holiday coast, with which
it has formed this late new connection.

So I turned to the left. I wanted to have done for a time with
everything English, and more particularly with the sort of hotel that
has an English-speaking waiter, or indeed a waiter at all. Sospel was
to provide me with my first genuine experience of a French inn, as used
by the people of the country and not by the tourist.

Sospel rose adequately to the occasion, as I had thought it would. I
found an hotel facing the market stalls and the river beyond them. I
went up a flight of stone stairs and into a kitchen, which was also
the bureau of the _patronne_. Yes, I could have a room for the night,
and the charge would be two francs. I went up to see the room. It had
a tiled floor, which was very clean, a large four-poster bed hung
round with muslin curtains, and a few old cumbrous pieces of furniture
besides - just the sort of room I wanted.

I had a good dinner, which I ate in company with four _commis
voyageurs_ and an engineer, all of whom were cordially interested in
my coming expedition, and none of whom had a word of English or seemed
to have any idea in their minds of connecting Sospel with golf. I felt
that I had fallen plumb into it by taking that left-hand turn, and
it needed an effort to call to mind the great new hotel at the other
end of the links two miles away, where no diner had tucked his napkin
inside his collar, or would soak his dessert biscuits in his wine;
where the waiter brought a clean knife and fork for every course, and
the proprietor would have requested me to leave if I had sat down in
the clothes in which I intended to walk on the morrow. I felt happy, as
I went to bed at nine o'clock, after a look at the rapid-flowing river
on which the moon was now shining through the parting clouds. The fun
had begun.

I felt happier still at six o'clock the next morning, when I took
the road with my pack on my back. The clouds had blown away from the
mountain tops, though wisps of them hung about the lower slopes, and
the cup of the valley still held a light mist. It was going to be a
lovely day, and perhaps hotter than would be altogether comfortable
for a walker habited and burdened as I was. For it was still early
in March, and I had come down from Alpine snows. Moreover, the
replenishments of clothing that I had sent on ahead were at least a
week away, and I carried "changes" to a rather nervous extent; also
some reading matter, which is a mistake, for books weigh heavy, however
light their contents, and if your day on the road is not filled with
walking, eating and sleeping, and whatever recreation in the way of
talk may come to you, you are not throwing yourself enough into the
spirit of your adventure.

The road wound and turned and twisted, always going uphill, but never
very steeply. I was on the old high road from the north, where it
enters on its last stage of about five and twenty miles to Nice. I
thought I must have come near to its highest point when I had climbed
up on a level with the heavy fort that frowned on me from a hill near
by, and sat down to take my last look at the green valley now lying far
beneath me.

It showed as a level carpet of vivid green, broken by the grey mass
and outlying buildings of the town, with the river threading it
lengthwise. The hills rose up sheer on every side. Their lower slopes
were so regularly terraced that at this distance they had the effect
of horizontal "shadings" in a pencil drawing. Above that they were
grey, and dark green, and red as with heather, and the summits of some
of them still held snow. White roads jagged them here and there, but
the flat valley floor had the effect of being completely cupped and
confined by the rugged heights, as indeed it is, except just where the
river, having filled up the bottom of the cup with a rich layer of
alluvium, must have broken through at some time, and left the fertile
plain all ready and waiting for cultivation. It was like looking down
on a miniature Promised Land, so marked was the contrast between the
fresh green of the valley and the sombre tones of its encircling hills.

This southern country flushes to tender spring green only here and
there. The cultivated hillsides keep their darker colours, though they
may be most sweetly lit with the pink of almonds. March would be a
glorious month in Provence if it were only for the almond blossom.
Mixed with the soft grey of the olives it makes delicious pictures, and
it is to be found everywhere. And the wild rosemary is in flower - great
bushes of it, lighting up the rocky hillsides with their delicate blue.
They were all around me as I sat on this height, and there were brooms
getting ready to flower, and wild lavender, and thyme. The air held
an aromatic fragrance, and as I walked on between the pines and the
deciduous trees, not yet in leaf, the birds were singing and the water
rushing down its channels from the snowy heights very musically. There
were primroses and violets by the roadside, as if it had been spring
in England, and juicy little grape hyacinths to remind one that it was
not. There was something to look at and enjoy at every step.

I was nowhere near the top of the pass, as I had thought, but reached
it at last at the Col de Braus, where I found a rude little inn, and
entered it not without reluctance in search of refreshment.

I found myself in a vaulted stone kitchen, its floor below the level of
the ground outside. An elderly woman sat by the hearth, winding wool,
with a child playing at her knee; a younger woman brought me wine and
bread and cheese. The place was very dirty, but the wine was good and
the viands eatable.

The older woman was a picture of grief as she sat under the great stone
chimney and told me how hard life was in that exposed spot, especially
in the winter, when they were sometimes flooded out of the lower rooms.
And now they had taken away her only son, for his military service, and
what she should do without him she could not think. It was a hard tax
on poor mothers. In three years, when he had done with the army, who
knew? She might be dead.

"But you have a husband, madame, isn't it so? Otherwise they could not
take him."

Yes; she had a husband. She nodded her head slowly with infinite
meaning, and as if to interpret it there entered the room an extremely
unattractive person, dirtier even than his dirty surroundings, who
addressed her, or the younger woman, or perhaps me, in a flood of
intemperate speech, of which I could not make out a single word. Nobody
answered him, and he slouched out of the room again.

"Is that your husband, madame?"

She nodded her head slowly up and down, without speaking. I could see
for myself.

We talked about the little child, and her face lighted up. Presently
the husband came in again, and expressed himself in his unrecognizable
tongue with as much freedom and fervour as before. Again nobody took
any notice of him, and again he went out. I don't know whether he was
drunk or not, but am inclined now to think that he only wanted to be.
I was sure that he was annoyed with me, for some reason, by the way
he glared at me, and as I was a customer and prepared to pay for my
entertainment it must either have been because I did not offer him any
or because I was interfering with the hour of his own repast. I think
it is likely that his bark, which was strident enough, was worse than
his bite, that he was merely a ne'er-do-well with an unusual gift of
self-expression, which had ceased to interest those about him. His wife
took no steps to carry out whatever may have been his wishes at this
particular juncture of circumstances, and her attitude of frozen grief,
effective at the time, thawed enough to enable her to make a mild
overcharge when I came to settle up. She gave me permission to take a
photograph of the room and its occupants if I wished to do so, but I
said that the light was not good enough, and came away.

Now I changed my view for a different set of hills, and began to
descend on roads that zigzagged more than ever. There was a good deal
of quarrying going on. Great blocks of stone were lying by the roadside
ready to be built up into the parapet, and presently I came upon a
group of Italian workmen busy with their picks and crowbars. I don't
know why, after all these years, the enormous work of protecting this
old road should be taken in hand, but certainly there are places in
it at which a fall over the edge can hardly be thought of without a
shudder, and with the surface in the muddy state in which I found it
a motor-car might easily skid with danger. At one place, if you stand
where it rounds a point and look down to where it takes another slope,
it looks just like a temperature chart, where the thermometer has taken
a series of rises and drops and at last runs off steadily downwards.

This long downward slope led me at last to welcome shade, and I found a
little lawn under olive boughs, below the road and above a river gorge
which was an ideal place for a siesta. If food and drink are so good
when one is on the long steady tramp, sleep is no less so. There are
those who scorn it except at night between sheets, but when one has
made an early start, and has covered many miles by the time the sun has
reached its greatest power, it is pleasant enough to sleep for an hour
under the shade of a tree, and to wake up refreshed for what remains to
be done of the day's journey.

The sound of the river beneath me, and the birds singing all around,
lulled me to sleep. But for this there was no sound, except a very rare
noise of wheels, and once a motor-car, on the road above, to arouse me
for a moment and to make the sinking back into sleep more blissful.
The first time, on an expedition of this sort, that you take your pack
for a pillow, mother earth for your bed and green leaves for your


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