How I spent my summer vacation
by Chad Stuart
Haven't been out of Idaho in what seems like for ever, but here I am winging my way to Europe, not only for my nephew's wedding but also to visit Jeremy at his farmhouse in Provence.
Arrive at London Heathrow. Met by "Tall Peter", my brother in law who is at least 6'-6" and makes me feel like a munchkin.
My nephew's wedding. (His name is Jeremy, coincidentally.) We all convene at Tewinbury Farm in Hertfordshire. The ceremony and subsequent festivities are held in a 17th century Tythe barn. very picturesque. Jill (my first wife) is there with her new husband, Jonathan. We get along famously, which is a very good thing. A great time is had by all, especially when Peter's band plays. I sit in for a couple of numbers. We do the Stones' Honky Tonk Women and Street Fighting Man. (appropriate wedding songs, huh?!)
Meet Jeremy at his flat in London. Haven't seen him for at least a decade, but it feels the same as always, natural and easy. he cooks dinner and we spend the evening catching up. We don't stay up too late since we have an early flight in the morning. (I can't sleep anyway - bloody jet-lag!)
Up early to catch the train to Gatwick airport and the flight to Marseilles. We arrive to experience stupepying heat; it's Southern California without the freeways, smog and those awful SUV's. Jeremy is casually elegant in shirt, linen jacket and chino's. The heat doesn't seem to affect him. I'm dressed in just a T-shirt and shorts and I'm already melting. We are met by Jeremy's lady, Victoria, our very gracious hostess, who whisks us off to San Remy which is about an hour away by car.
We approach the village down miles of road shaded on either side by Plane trees. They were planted by Napoleon to provide shade for his marching troops. His scheme still works well today. The trees adorn the market square also, providing welcome relief from the relentless sunshine.
The house is exquisite. Victoria is an internationally famous interior designer and it shows. "Mas de l'Apevoun" means "Farm- house of the Bee keeper" although there are no bees in evidence any more. After a typical Provencal lunch with food and wine in abundance, we agree that rehearsal should be postponed until the following day. A nap and a swim is about all I'm capable of.
I am introduced to a charming French ritual which involves hiking down the road to the local patisserie for the day's bread. (The French are most particular about this; bread must be baked and devoured on a daily basis.) I became quite fluent at this: "Bonjour! Deux baguettes et quatre croissants s'il vous plais!" After a leisurely breakfast, we settle down with guitars and lyric sheets. I'm relieved to discover that the process is much like riding a bike; you don't forget how. It may have been sixteen years since we last performed together, but it doesn't seem like it. I've brought along a tiny Sony mini-disc recorder, so at least some of the proceedings are preserved for posterity.
Once again, lunch removes all our willpower. Good food, fine wine and stimulating conversation - who could ask for more? I decide that the French way of living beats the heck out of the American rush, rush, rush way of doing things.
Famed photographer Gered Mankowitz flies in from London to shoot some new C & J pictures. We visit the ruins of the Roman town of Glanum which is just up the road from San Remy. It's humbling to reflect that two thousand years ago, a civilisation existed on this spot, with all the comforts of home: swimming pools, saunas, indoor plumbing and central heating. Sic transit gloria mundi.
Gered positions us in front of a spectacular Roman monument.
I remark that this is the continuation of a tradition begun in the early sixties. he always seems to photograph us in locations that are even older than we are! We drive home on the Via Aurelia, the Roman road which stretches all the way from Rome to Spain. Clever fellows, those Romans. (Granted, they had some rather nasty and violent ways of amusing themselves, but then again, so do we.)
The idyllic life continues. Music, interspersed with sun-bathing, swimming and long, languid meals which reduce one to a state of passive contentment. Not much is possible at this point except to contemplate the innate perfection of life in Provence and to speculate as to what culinary wonders might be in store for dinner.
I'm not sure I'd want to live this way on a permanent basis, but it is certainly an effective antidote to the hyperactive American lifestyle.
"They say that all good things must end some day." Regrettably, it's time to cram everything back in the suitcase and catch a flight back to London. Gatwick airport is a human zoo filled with every conceivable breed of tourist. We jostle our way through the throng and say our goodbyes, reluctant to let go of a very special time together. Jeremy returns to the play in which he's co-starring with Twiggy. I head off into the English countryside to spend a few days with my sister and Tall Peter before returning to the States.
When I finally get home, it takes several days to decompress.
I realise how important it is to make the effort to travel abroad. If you don't, you're missing something important: the diversity of human experience. The American way of life is just one of many different ways. It's good to get out of the cocoon once in a while.
Thanks to Chad and Jeremy for giving fans this unprecedented view into their lives!
PHOTOS BY GERED MANKOWITZ
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