Friday, October 8, 2010

Our Hostel

Our little group of artists continued disbanding on Thursday morning, as several more headed for home.  Kim, Joan and Vera returned to Boston, and Karen and Lizz to Los Angeles.  And then there were 8.  After having a yummy breakfast at the hostel of corn flakes and cocoa puffs, French style, of course, we did a little exploring in the neighborhood.
Laura and Julie in front of the Hostel chalkboard
It was just a short walk to get to a large number of steps that led us up to Sacre Coeur, and a spectacular view.  Along the way, I liked this photo I snapped on the street of a man admiring a lovely French woman.

A fashionable French woman catches the eye of an admirer
Sacre Coeur
As usual, there was gorgeous architecture everywhere, and I liked this building detail below.

Many awesome sculptural building details
We returned to our hostel and checked out around 11:00, hailing a taxi for the second part of our adventure in St. Germain.  The traffic was crazy and the ride thrilling, especially when the Eiffel Tower came into view.

Interesting clock scultpture in central Paris
The Eiffel Tower comes into view
Lani, Laura, Lynn and I checked into our hotel in St. Germain, the Hotel Le Clement, and then headed right off to the Musee D'Orsay, where the plan was to meet up with the others (Iren, Julie, Karla, and Cate) at 12:30.  When we got there, we had a pleasant surprise because the museum was free that day because of the train strike.  We were really hungry and 4 of us ended up having lunch in the dining room at the museum.  Consequently, our little group ended up disbanding, and I spent a wonderful afternoon exploring the Musee D'Orsay, and then St. Germain, with Cate.

Detail of restaurant ceiling at the Musee D'Orsay
We discovered that St. Germain is an area filled with galleries, and this one had some art that we especially took a liking to.

One of the many nice galleries in St. Germain
A favorite story that Cate and I told later was about our visit to Laduree, the famous macaroon shop on Rue Bonaparte.  The cookies are so colorful that they are a veritable feast for the senses.  You can't help but want to take a picture.  And as soon as you do, someone comes up to you and says "madame, no photos please".  Groan.  Then once we bought our macaroons, we went to sit down at a little table in the next room.  The same woman came up to us and told us we couldn't sit there, because it was only for patrons that were dining in.  Groan.  But no matter how rude they were to us, we just could not resist getting  back into line and getting MORE macaroons.  At about 1 euro a piece.  They were that good!

Going through the line for a second time at Laduree
There are a lot of nice bookstores in this area, but our very favorite was right down the street on Rue Bonaparte, called Librairie F. De Nobele.  They had wonderful art books in a variety of different languages, and Cate ended up buying a book that she truly treasured.

Art Bookstore in St. Germain
Strolling back towards the hotel there was a lot of fun window shopping.  I loved this display for men's leather goods where even the name of the store was embossed in leather.

Even the word "Berluti" was in leather in this gorgeous men's window display
We were pretty tired from a full day of walking, first in the morning in Montmartre, and then the afternoon in St. Germain.  Cate and I met up with Laura, Lani and Lynn and had dinner near the hotel, where I had a surprisingly delicious chicken and mashed potatoes, along with a well earned glass of wine.  Cate went back to the hotel she was staying at in East Paris, and the other 4 of us headed back to the Hotel Le Clement, for a good night's sleep in preparation for our last full day in Paris.

Absolutely delicious chicken and mashed potatoes, French style
The place I will call home for Thursday and Friday night

Friday, October 1, 2010

Packing it up and heading to Paris

Nestled between the camera bag and the laptop, I was determined to protect the new beret I bought on the next leg of the journey!

Okay, so it's been over a week since I've posted, and I'm back home from France.  Once we left Frontenay and entered Paris, it got a little more difficult to keep up the blog, but I'm back now to finish the story!  So let's pick it up where we left off, which was leaving Frontenay.  Everyone was busy bustling around the house, wiping, mopping and scrubbing.  As the official blogger, I felt it my own personal duty to walk around and both document and supervise the cleaning effort.  But feeling a little guilty, I offered to help, and Julie gave me the job of stripping her bed.  As I was lifting her pillow, I was greeted by a 4 inch spider of yet another French variety.  First I yelled "SPIDER" and my knees started to shake.  Then I ran for the camera as the little devil scurried across the bed and headed up the wall.  Julie, by the way,  seemed totally unaffected by the whole episode.  Although there's no point of reference in this photo to give you an idea of size, let's just say I could have put a little leash on him and taken him for a walk around the block.

That 4 inch spider
I then went upstairs to say good bye to the bedroom I called my own for the last 8 nights, where I did all my blogging while burning the midnight oil.  Remember this photo because the accomo's change tonite!
My cushy bed
Here's a picture I wanted to share of the challenge that Kim faced in her bedroom as a tall person.  Once again you can see that some of the doorways in France were made for small people.  Although Kim's forehead and the beam collided more than once, I never saw her lose her cheery disposition!
Kim in the doorway!
We certainly did enjoy our wine while we stayed at the house.  Here's a sample of the remains before they hit the recycling bin.

Wine bottles
And of course, there was that challenge of fitting 13 people and their luggage..... including their PAINTING luggage back into the three rental cars.  But somehow it all fit, and we started off on our journey to the Poitiers train station, where we would board the TGV for Paris.
Karen and Cate work on fitting it all BACK in the cars
As we drove away, Tant Robert and Christiane came out to bid us a fond farewell.

Tant Robert and Christiane waving goodbye
It was evening by the time we arrived by taxi at the hostel in Montmartre that we would call home for the night.  As you may recall, we traveled to Paris a day early because of the impending train strike on the 23rd, and we were lucky to find accomodations for 11 people on such short notice.  We had 3 rooms.... one with 6 beds, one with 4 beds, and one with a double bed.  Kim left us at the train station to spend the night with dear friends who live in Paris, and Iren headed off to stay in a hotel near the Louvre.  13 artists present and counted for.
Montmartre with Sacre Coeur Cathedral in the background
Motorcyles in Montmartre
Although we were tired from a full day of cleaning, packing and traveling, it was dazzling and exciting to arrive in Paris.  We took a walk to a local bistro for wine and dinner, and then retired to our rooms to get some rest for our first full day in Paris.  Here you can see the cozy room that I slept in.  Stay tuned because next I'll share with you some of the beauty I was lucky enough to take in over the next two days in Paris.
Time to hit the hay in our hostel!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Our Last Night in Frontenay

Me shooting the spider

It's Tuesday, and the first thing I wanted to share with you is the wonderful photo above that Karla took of me.  If you look closely, you can see that I'm photographing the "French" spider that I posted a picture of on Facebook yesterday.  Super photo, Karla!  Thanks for sharing this with me.  Today is our last full day in Frontenay, and you could find our artists painting all around town.  Here's a picture of Lynn painting a courtyard scene just a few houses down from where we are staying, and a photo of her lush palette.

Lynn Gertenbach painting a garden courtyard scene

Lynn's beautiful palette

Julie asked us to all meet up at the church at 12:30 for a group photo.  Iren and I took a leisurely walk, and arrived at 12:30, only to find that no one was there.  Only the sound of bees buzzing and cows mooing.  Did we have the wrong church?  This town's not that big, so we figured we were in the right place.  In true artist fashion, one by one, they began to trickle in.  Karen made the most of the waiting time by photographing our profiles.  Hmmmm.....I wonder what she's got up her sleeve.  The group photo was fun and creative, and Julie took the shots, so you will just have to wait for the results of that!

Laura looks on as Karen shoots Julie's profile

After the group shot, I took a ride with Lani, Lizz and Kim to the neigbhoring town of Saint Jean De Sauves.  Lani and I went in search of a good cup of coffee, while Lizz and Kim continued on to find the local beekeeper.  I always find that when you walk around the towns here in France, it is filled with small delights.  I loved the metal detail of a figure that I've pictured below.

Metal window detail of a figure

I am also taken with the tiny cars here.

Adorable elderly little Frenchman gets into adorable little French car

And then we saw this red object.  Any ideas?  Maybe a fire hydrant, or a charger for an electric car?

Any ideas what this is?

Lizz and Kim came back to pick us up with excited stories about the local beekeeper and the many flavors of honey that they make and sell.  This may call for a field trip for the rest of us tomorrow morning.  Upon returning home, there was more painting to be done.

Lizz and Kim working on a still life out on the patio

And then, of course, came dinner.  Tonight was our last dinner here at the house, and I will truly miss the luxury of having someone prepare a delicious dinner for me on a nightly basis.  What a gift that was!  We had the pleasure of Tant Robert and Christiane visiting us once again tonight for apertifs, and we also had additional guests.  Annette, a shop owner from Richelieu and Daniel, her boyfriend from Paris, both delightful art lovers,  joined us for apertifs and dinner, on Cate's invitation.  We thoroughly enjoyed their company, and it made our last night here extra special.

Laura Wambsgans with her winning smile

Beef Bourguinonne
Dinner tonight was Beef Bourguinonne with fresh tomatoes, parsley potatoes, and squash.  And for dessert, our own Joan Brancale made us a delicious bread pudding with caramel sauce.    Tomorrow our story will shift gears as we head on to Paris.  But for now, I will say bon nuit!

Monday, September 20, 2010


Mural Detail

Today is Monday, and our entire group loaded into our 3 cars and headed for the medieval town of Richelieu, to take photos and do some shopping.  I really resonated with this mural detail above because I feel like the woman in this drawing.  I have taken a zillion pictures on this trip!  I can't help myself.   Everywhere I look, there is a picture just waiting to be taken.

Butcher Shop

Many of the shops in the town have these really charming wrought irons signs.  I chose this one for the blog because I have been eating A LOT on this trip!  The pig seemed appropriate.

Church organ

Richelieu is a picturesque medieval town with a wall surrounding the city, and, of course, a lovely church.  In this photo you can see the carved figures adorning the top of a large pipe organ.  I've posted more photos of the inside in my France photo album on Facebook.

Iren and Cate go shopping

We were happy to find some charming little shops to pick up a few goodies for our loved ones back home.

Love the chocolate croissants

And speaking of eating a lot, the chocolate croissants are heavenly.  I think the rule in France is to eat one a day.

Lizz tries on hats at the open market

Here's Lizz, above, doing some gift shopping.  Isn't she just the adorable little French girl?  And below, Karen Cope is having one of those "pinch me.. I can't believe I'm in France" moments.

A happy Karen Cope!

After Richelieu, the group split up to pursue their favorite type of painting for the afternoon.  I joined the group that painted a model and her children.  Our own Cate discovered the lovely Leticia running the bakery in a nearby town.

Lizz paints the models... that's my painting in progress in the foreground

Julie paints the models

Our models Leticia and Capucine take a break

After the modeling session, Leticia joined us for dinner along with her husband and children.  We had yet another feast of rabbit stew, fresh beet salad, fresh melon wrapped in prosciutto, and a delicious cherry tart for dessert.  Another glorious day.  Since again I find myself telling you this story at 1 am, it is time for me to say bon nuit.

Rabbit Stew with Rice, Fresh Beet Salad, Cherry Tart for Dessert

Spending the day in Frontenay

Ah.... this looks so French to me....

Sunday was a day for painting and sketching in the town.  Karla, Lani and I took a walk to the abandoned train station to do some work.  There we encountered a cast of local characters!

I start sketching the train station

Lani at the Train Station

Karla seemed to be the one to attract the attention today.  Since Sunday was hunting day, we could hear shots ringing out across the fields, and several hunters came by.  If you look closely at the photo below, you can see the hunter proudly displaying his catch for us... a pheasant!  We especially got a kick out of the next car that came by.  Two local French gentleman stopped to give Karla some advice on what she should include in her painting.

The Hunter shows us his pheasant catch!

The locals give Karla some painting advice

In the afternoon I took a walk to the cemetary, and took some photos and did some sketching.


Another treat in the afternoon was a painting demo in oil by Joan Brancale.

Joan Brancale's Demo

In the early evening, Fiona's father's uncle and aunt, who live across the street, joined us for apertif's.  What a joy!  He is a very youthful 84 years old, and told us in French (with Cate translating) of his experience here in this small town during World War II.  We were fascinated by his story.  This enchanting couple then took us across the street to their home and treated us to a peek at their garden, where Tant Robert grows the flavorful tomatoes we've been enjoying all week, along with green and red grapes, pumpkins, cauliflower, and a host of other fruits and vegetables.  Christiane proudly tends an impeccable flower garden.  I'll post some photos of the garden on Facebook.

Tant (Uncle) Robert and Christiane telling their story of this town that they've call home all their life.

After our visit, we returned home just at sunset, to enjoy another delicious dinner of curried chicken and squash, with home made pistachio ice cream for dessert.  Another lovely day!

Our House at Night

Curried Chicken and Squash