"Pink isn't just a colour. It's an attitude too" Miley Cyrus
Ten years ago on our last night in Beaucaire we dined in the restaurant of the Hotel Les Doctrinaires de Saint Roman with friends. It was a warm summer night and so we dined in their courtyard - this gorgeous grey and pink space shown above. I chose this particular photo as my computer's desktop recently. I look at it each time I turn on the computer or rouse it from its sleep. I chose it because it imbues a sense of calm, beauty and quiet happiness even joy.
And it's also a moment in time. A reminder of an entire holiday, a particular evening, of one friend now gone, as well as a portrait of a man doing his job with poise and skill and a tiny bit of determination. Almost dancing to our table with our entrées. I believe his name is Christian Guiot - the hotel website refers to him as the 'Maître d'hotel' who "will share his expertise about the finest wines of our region and the rest of France." He obviously chose well as there seem to be lots of glasses here - in fact, looking at this photograph, we each seem to have two glasses of white wine! Were we comparing wines I wonder.
Some? of the wines are shown here - both from the same vineyard I see. I assume the wine was good and therefore worth photographing. I found the website of the vineyard which is not far from Beaucaire, and a little north of Nîmes. It's difficult to tell from the labels, but I think the one on the left is the white and is a blend of 50% roussanne, with smaller quantities of grenache blanc, marsanne and viognier. The red seems to be a Shiraz with a touch of grenache. Shiraz - I think the French vineyards of the Languedoc have been reviving Shiraz - partly the influence of many Australian vignerons who have travelled there.
I have spoken of Beaucaire before and our stay there, and how it seems to be an undiscovered treasure. Maybe it still is, because it seems the hotel is now closed permanently. The website is still there but it is advertising events in 2015m and somewhere I saw that it was indeed permanently closed. I wonder why? Did it fail or did Mr. Guiot and his chef retire?
That beautiful building was a seventeenth century college - a religious one I assume associated with Saint Roman who was a Greek hymn writer, who lived in Constantinople in the latter part of the 5th century, and is sometimes known as 'the Pindar of rhythmic poetry'. (Pindar was an ancient Greek lyric poet.) He's a saint because, although born with a mediocre voice and somewhat mocked for it, one night he prayed to the Virgin Mary for a beautiful voice and she gave him a scroll, telling him to eat it (look food again!), whereupon on waking in the morning his voice was indeed 'clear and sonorous'. A miracle. Maybe that's why he is a saint - or perhaps just because he was a good and holy man. Maybe they learnt and sang his songs in the college. He looks a bit glum though doesn't he? Maybe this is before he could sing. Interesting that a Greek saint should end up as the patron saint of a college in the south of France.
Back to my inspirational photograph. I guess there is not a lot more to say about the evening, other than that it was a small surprise. We had had a few minor disputes during the week about where to eat, and had not quite found the perfect spot. Three of our colleagues had left in the morning of this our last night, and so we decided to try the hotel which we had ignored before because it was pricier than the other options. Although now that I think on it I wonder why, as I suspect that the price was not really a problem for anyone there - and we are not talking stratospheric prices either. It was, after all, only a three star hotel. And here let me say that three star hotels in France often tend to be small, family owned and wonderful in all sorts of individual ways. Anyway the remaining five of us decided to lash out as it were, and found ourselves in this beautiful spot a bit on the off chance.
The food? I should really be talking about food after all. I don't really remember it that well. As always it's the ambience that lingers in the memory. We took a few photographs but this is the only one that is presentable. One of the entrées - a simple enough dish of pink smoked salmon on bread or toast with some kind of creamy base. Well you can never go wrong with smoked salmon. I see that from my framed restaurant bill that even Paul Bocuse served up such a simple dish. Besides it's pink.
The setting was indeed really pink. I think the man at the back is perhaps the hotel manager. Maybe we were just there at exactly the right time, when the pink blossoms were out. Maybe they were already dying as there seem to be a few petals on top of the umbrellas. Most of the rest of the guests seemed to be in a group of German tourists, and I see from some other photographs that we were the last to leave. Maybe that's why they were able to fit us in, because I do remember having to wait with a drink in the bar.
So - pink. It's so associated with silly girls - like Miley Cyrus indeed. Men, generally, are not polite: "It's just red's sorry, weak cousin.” says a male character in a book by one Beth Fantaskey. On the other hand Michael Bastian - a male fashion designer said: "Everyone looks better and more alive in a pink shirt." Quite possibly true. I certainly don't think it's cissy.
Miley Cyrus says that it is an attitude too. But what attitude? If you wear pink does it say I'm a proud female? Does it say gentle, soft, silly, lightheaded? After all there is a lot of difference between a hot pink say (almost red) - which is maybe a bit provocative, and a soft pink with grey - like the galahs that grace our neighbourhood with their stunningly beautiful colours. I think pink and grey is possibly one of my favourite colour combinations - Dior too who said: "The tones of gray, pale turquoise and pink will prevail." Mind you an absolute blitz of Barbie style pink, accompanied, but frills, feathers and all manner of fluff, does indeed give another much shallower impression - although maybe that's a good disguise.
And yes I think that the pink of that courtyard, also conveyed a peaceful kind of joy. It was after all presided over by a partially nude white statue of a beautiful woman holding an amphora. Not a monk and his choir.
I hope that Beaucaire has prevailed - it too had a forgotten air. The Hotel des Doctrinaires however, at that time, like Beaucaire itself was a peaceful, retreat - a surprise behind a grey unprepossessing wall, just like our holiday home in the town - a pretty blank wall which hid a luxurious, and tranquil oasis.
"I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles. Audrey Hepburn
Hear, hear, say I.
And this was a pink miracle. We should all have been wearing pink.