Joyce Heard, a staffer with Len at The Harvard Crimson 30-plus years ago, hosts us for lunch today on the terrace of her home at 9 rue Montmajor, Aix-en-Provence.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Chronicles subscriber Ben Beach, the best maintainer of old friendships that I have ever known, alerted me to the fact that our fellow Crimson comrade Joyce Heard lives in Aix, an easy 90-minute drive on the A8 Autoroute from Cannes. I hadn’t seen or heard from Joyce since the early 70s, when it was sometimes a challenge to serve as Night Editor, because tear gas wafting into the newsroom from Harvard Square made it hard to see the copy. Joyce later earned a Rotary Foundation Journalism Fellowship for what she assumed would be a one-year stay in France. Instead, except for a couple of interludes including four long years in Belgium, she never left, working in journalism and public relations. This is in large part due to Jean-Marie Jacqueme, whom she married in 1984 and who three years ago retired as owner of a restaurant in Aix. Joyce and Jean-Marie spent seven years converting a 300-year-old barn into their artful three-story home near the center of Aix. They also own an apartment just outside of Aix, one in Paris, and another which they bought last week in Marrakech, Morocco. All are available for rent, including the barn house.

So here was Joyce Heard, a calmly competent Radcliffe girl I remember from 14 Plympton Street, making her way through the Aix-en-Provence Saturday market in flawless French as we filled two straw baskets with roasted chicken, goat cheese, pepper cheese, olive paste, and pears while catching up on 30 years of life’s brilliant surprises. I felt time’s speed and depth at the first sight of her face in the doorway of the old barn. I knew her instantly, precisely as she was then and is now, but now somehow more herself than ever before. Jean-Marie’s elfin energy and gentle wit kept us laughing much of the meal, which covered many topics, including the question of why the French are so thin. He stood to carve the chicken with a chef’s authority and style. Deb, Darlene and I returned to Cannes well-fed and entertained. In addition, I carried with me new appreciation of the gift of old friends.

EXTRA: The Crimson's onlive archive contains vintage college news stories by Joyce and Len as well as "Soaking up the Bennies" and other pearls by Bennett H. Beach, sports editor extraordinaire.

"Construction Zone: Prohibited to the Public," a sign warns beside Boulevard Jean Jaures in downtown Nice this afternoon.

Friday, October 01, 2004

While Darlene and Deb explored Nice just off the Promenade des Anglais, I assigned myself an experiment of composing a photo of complementary shapes and colors from a scene that no normal tourist would choose to illustrate how much prettier it is here in France compared with all the ho-hum sights of home. Nice today was a fine place for the challenge, because the downtown is littered with construction sites and associated debris. Looking for artful shots in homely places greatly improved my appreciation of the city.

In the morning, we had visited the stunningly beautiful and overwhelmingly pink Ephrussi de Rothschild Villa and Gardens in St.-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Darlene has wanted to visit this site ever since Andre Letullier described it as a creation of a woman’s world in gardens and architecture. I confess I was thinking “chick chateau,” but I agreed to make the drive hoping I might find a decent place to read and write. Sure enough, the high-ceilinged corral tea room with swirling mosaic floor tiles had a free table by a window overlooking the sea. There I entertained myself for two hours with Lord Jim, Edward Said’s Humanism and Democratic Criticism, and my journal. Darlene and Deb ecstatically toured every room and all seven gardens, including the one with a fountain which sprayed water perfectly synchronized with classical music. We might call this experience “Two Ways of Looking at a Pink Castle.” But the fact is, we all had a great time, each in a singular way.

This portrait of Darlene and Deborah sitting on a bench at Renoir's home in Cagne-sur-Mer, seems to capture a sisterly connection that dates back to the year when Deb's brief time as only child came to an end with the arrival of Darlene. Things have never been the same since.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

With a new tourist in town, Darlene orchestrated a full day of sights. I knew what was coming, so I snuck out early for quiet writing time and my weekly cigarette at Brasserie Carnot. An hour later, I was summoned by walkie-talkie for an outing. Darlene and I showed off our local knowledge by confidently bringing Deb to the bus stop to wait for the 3VB to Mougins. But when the 3VB showed up, we neglected to wave at the driver, so he zoomed by without even slowing down. This provided time for brunch. We eventually picked up the blue Honda in Mougins and drove 20 minutes east of Cannes to Cagne-sur-Mer, winding our way up to the chateau at the top of the old city. Now a museum, the chateau contains a room devoted to the 1930s singer Suzy Solidor, whose beauty and charm inspired 224 portraits of her done by painters of her time, 44 of which Suzy donated to the museum. Her gift makes for a unique experience, of seeing a single woman through the eyes of so many different artists.

On a hill across from the old city, Auguste Renoir in 1907 built a large stone home named “Les Colletes” where he lived the rest of his life. The museum contains just a few of his paintings and seems a bit rundown. But in his workshop we faced an arresting sight: the painter’s three-wheeled wicker wheelchair rolled in front of an easel, where he worked in spite of rheumatoid arthritis until the day he died, December 3, 1919. He was 78.

Darlene's sister, Deborah, visits with Sam, a basset hound who was hanging out at a dress shop on Rue Meynadier in Cannes this afternoon.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Deborah Determan, Darlene’s older sister, a vocational rehabilitation counselor and a most congenial companion on many of our travels, made her way from Omaha to Chicago to London Heathrow to Nice yesterday and today. She arrived impressively fresh and full of questions about Euros, crepes, and words in French she saw on signs while she and I rode the bus back to Cannes. Darlene had worked out with Etienne at Soft and was waiting eagerly on the apartment balcony, calling to us across the street when we reached Place Vauban, but we were too busy rolling the luggage across Boulevard Carnot to hear her. Now, after supper, Deb’s lack of sleep has finally caught up with her, and she has settled into the guest room for a good night’s rest.

While Darlene and Deb checked out the downtown late this afternoon, I went for a swim and found the public beach nearly empty compared with the crowds a week ago, before our trip to England. And the water was noticeably colder, convincing me to cut short my usual half hour of Australian crawl. Fall is definitely in the air, and even in the ocean. “But it’s still nice,” Darlene adds, “and much warmer than England!”

Darlene heads down the ramp at London's Heathrow this afternoon to board BMI's budget flight to Nice, France.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Vaio just crashed and ate the Chronicle I’ve been working on for the past hour. It’s too late to try again. The short form is we traveled from Chipping Campden, England, to Cannes, France, today in a car, two buses, and a plane . Some of it went smoothly, like arriving in Nice just in time to catch the last express bus to Cannes. Some of it didn’t, like whacking the curb in the rental car at a roundabout near Oxford. But in the end, we’re very grateful to be back home on Boulevard Carnot. Chipping Campden seems like a dream trip to the land of Hobbits.

A view of the Cotswolds this afternoon on our way to Hidcote Manor Garden, about three miles northeast of Chipping Campden.

Monday, September 27, 2004

A ruddy-faced bald man wearing soft shoes, khakis, a red shirt and blue sweater entered the cafe where I was writing this morning. He took a copy of The Daily Telegraph from the rack and asked the waitress, “Where’s the place to sit that would be least disruptive?” As he was getting settled, he asked her, “And where’s home?” I saw scenes of similar politeness throughout the day today in Chipping Campden, and I felt myself becoming more polite, too, settling into the rural decorum of the stone village and surrounding fields. Darlene found a ring at Hart Gold and Silversmiths on Sheep Street, where the business has been located and staffed by the same family since 1888. We drove out to Hidcote Manor Garden, maintained by the National Trust. Even this late in the season, the grounds were filled with blossoms and rich scent, mixed in with smoke from nearby brush or trash fires.

With everything so perfectly English and polite, I gratefully observed a sharp little exchange at the café. An elderly woman and her son, by the looks of it, came in for lunch and settled in with mild discussion about the choices on the menu. After they had ordered, she handed a 20-pound note across the table to him, and he demurred, gesturing that he did not wish to take it. “Yes, please take it,” the woman snapped, her eyes flashing. He relented, and she subsided to a gentle question: “Will it be enough?” “I doubt it,” he replied. Then the meal, without a ripple, resumed its genteel pace and tone. This approximate area is the one my ancestors left to emigrate to New Hampshire in the 1600s, and English rhythms beckoned me today, affecting my speech and even, it seemed, my thoughts. I found it pleasing to imagine that, in some essential way, not much has changed around here since my forebears set out for the new world.

After driving an hour into the Cotswolds this afternoon, Darlene and I found a room for two nights at the Seymour House in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. We had tea with scones, strawberry jam, and clotted cream at this tea room near the hotel. At the next table, a party of hikers was taking a break from walking the public pathways of the nearby countryside. Each had a telescoping walking stick and backpack. At the Seymour, we are in an attic room with old beams, pointy ceiling, and a phone line that trickles the internet to my Sony Vaio at the quaint speed of 14.4 Kpbs per second.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

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