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

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Temporary Curve Ball and then back to Saint-Lup-Sur-Thuet

Emergency group meeting to discuss the train strike and form our "Plan B".

Bon Jour!  Saturday morning started with a group get together to work out a plan for the train strike.  Yes, there is a TGV strike that will occur in Paris for one day on the 23rd.  This just happens to be the day that almost every person in the group is traveling to Paris.  Not to fear!  Our amazing Cate, with her fluent French, went to work for us and managed to rearrange everyone's train tickets for travel on the 22nd.  Cate rocks!!  Then Julie went to work with her French, and found us a hostel for the extra night in Paris.  Ditto for Julie!!  So, with that new element to our adventure taken care of, we were able to carry on with our day by early afternoon.

Julie, didn't anyone ever tell you not to count your Euros at the table?

Looking for hostels in Paris

This afternoon I headed back to Saint-Lup-Sur-Thuet with Lani, Lynn, Laura, and Iren.  Lynn, Iren and I decided to take the tour of the Chateau that was built in the 1500's.  If you are on Facebook, you can see more photos that I posted today of the Chateau, but here are a few below.  While I'm sure the history of the chateau is fascinating, most of the story escaped us because the tour turned out to be in FRENCH!!  We still thoroughly enjoyed the grounds and the interior, and got some greats photos and inspiration.

The Chateau at St. Lup Sur-Thuet

From the garden at the Chateau.

Fireplace detail at the Chateau

That mischevious Iren hoping to see what's behind the "Private" door at the Chateau.

After meeting up with Lani and Laura, who were painting in town, we headed back.  We needed gas, and thoroughly flustered a poor elderly Frenchman we stopped for directions to the local gas station.... he didn't quite know what to do with a car full of 5 american women!  I think we made his day.  Then we stopped at the grocery store, where you could buy everything from sneakers and french underwear to wine in plastic bottles with screw tops that looked like soda bottles.  What fun!  You had to drag me out of the department with the French hand creams and the lavender soaps for 1 Euro.

Red wine in plastic bottles with screw tops for 2 Euros at the market. 

We returned to the house to find Lizz and Karla entertaining one of the towns people while Lizz sketched her with her oil pastels.  Laura and I headed out to take a walk before dinner, and she gave me a walking tour of the town and introduced me to our black and white cow neighbors.

One of our neighbors at home.

Wood sculpture of a woman in the park of a neighboring small town

Karla and Lizz with Lizz's nifty oil pastels

And of course, as usual we all gathered for dinner at the end of the day.  Dinner seems to be later and later because our days are so full.  We chatted about what we had accomplished for the day, over a sumptuous Coq au vin with fresh vegetables, and a raspberry mousse for dessert.  Another stellar day in our tiny berg!
Coq au vin with fresh vegetables
Bon nuit.......

Friday, September 17, 2010

Finding our Rhythm

Stairway in the oldest part of our main house, built in the 1800's

Bon Jour from our quaint little Frontenay-Sur-Dive.  It's late Friday night.  Actually it's early Saturday morning, and Friday was a day where I could really see each artist finding their rhythm, gravitating towards the subjects that interested them the most.  Joan and Vera, Kim, Lynn, Karla, Cate and Laura all headed off in different directions, painting and making friends with local residents and local livestock in the town.  In a town of this size, it's hard to remain incognito.  This town is so small that it doesn't even have a gas station or a grocery store.  Rumor has it that even the church only has two services a year, Easter and Christmas.  Interestingly enough though, the church bells still ring on the hour.  Slowly this tiny town is accepting our little group of artists, with several of them inviting artists in for coffee and pastries after they finish their paintings.   

Lizz, Karen, Julie, Lani and I worked on portraits of our own beautiful Iren this afternoon, outside in our courtyard.

Iren models for Karen, Lani, Julie, Lizz and I

Julie begins her painting

Me painting Iren

Once again around 7:00 pm, we gathered around the table to share the stories of the day, and to enjoy yet another tasty meal.  Tonight we had a flavorful stew with thin sliced potatoes and vegetables almost too pretty to eat.  It was topped off with Crepes Suzette, flambeed by Julie.  I ate way too much of that, by the way.  It had a delicate orange flavor and it was delicious!  And naturally, all of that was followed by the cheese course.  

Don't you just want to paint those vegetables before you eat them?

Delicious Stew and Thin Sliced Potatoes

Julie gets ready to flambee the Crepe Suzettes

And what's the last thing that happens in the evening around here?  Computer time!  Time to download the pictures for the day, check our email, blog, communicate with the outside world.  What fun to be able to do it.  Bonne nuit.....

Kim, Lizz & Julie enjoy some midnight computer time, complete with wine and chocolate.