Champagne, Essoyes, and Renoir

Yesterday, the painterly lot of us decided to go see Renoir’s Home in The village of Essoyes. My car got sidetracked as soon as we spotted the vineyards. We knew it meant one thing, Champagne! So, when we came up to our first vineyard, and the chorus sung Please stop, I did.

After a tasting…I had no idea pink champagne was a real thing…we left with the trunk jingling. When you can buy a big bottle of the best for 14 Euros, you do! So much thanks to Matilda, who provided a loving explanation of her families long history and of the process, in English. She explained that she’d just spent time in Australia, really, but not waltzing.

On the road again, we caught up with the other car in Essoyes. They had chosen the perfect bistro on the river for lunch. I very much enjoyed duck confit with a fresh salad and sharing a creme brûlée, my first one here.

Once we’d eaten and enjoyed our expressos, there is no way to rush in these little villages and I love it, we were off in search of Renoir. Here’s what we found.

1. The houses in these old villages go cheaply.

2. His studio, above was super cute both up and down.

3. His house was not a typical small village home it was very well appointed and lovingly cared for. Credit to his wife, for sure.

I fell in love with the lace curtains!

4. His gravesite was not the most beautiful thing in the graveyard.

5. The river that he used to paint beside is in fact incredibly beautiful and peaceful.

It seems there are no bad days in the Champagne region of France!

Brocante and Joinville

Yesterday, as planned, all of the artists at Chateau Orquevaux hopped into cars and headed convoy-style to shop a couple of brocantes.

We browsed stalls and soaked in the jumble. The difference between a brocante and a typical western garage sale is that at a brocante you can find a tool or piece of art from the early 1800’s next to a Limoges tea set, next to a made in China plastic toy.
I found an ancient pair of reading glasses, some traditional French linens, some lovely buttons and tin of old papers with which to collage. When I got back to the chateau I found it quite disturbing that the tin contained relics of a deceased man’s life. Letters, passports, pictures, readers, a pill case with a pill still in it, and his obituary. This was the detritus of a life, the things one saves. Private things that shouldn’t be sold at a garage sale, but apparently at a brocante, might turn up. I sat with this tin a long while at the Chateau. I know the face and name of the divorced man, and I know the faces and names of his children. I felt called on to paint him, in forgiveness for inadvertently purchasing his personal remnants. I may choose not to collage his paperwork, I don’t know yet. The bonfire last night seemed to be calling for him but I wasn’t ready to let it go. I’ll figure it out.

I’m happy with the linens. They’re in great shape and will become surfaces for art. Except the red striped towels. I bought them for that but their value lies someplace else. They are heavy, whole, and still meant for the kitchen.

Finished at the brocante and feeling a thirst and hunger, we drove into central Joinville. This is a picturesque town with shops, a cafe or two and a bakery. The baguettes and croissants here are so light and buttery that it is no wonder they are a French staple! We made our way past the bakery, however, and into a Bar/Restaurant for a delicious lunch. I had a crepe filled with goat cheese and fresh basil. Honey was drizzled on top and it was accompanied by a small salad. Heaven! And a new use for honey. Honey and soft goat cheese are perfection together.

After cafe creme we walked up and into the church. It was built in 1544 and is quite remarkably. The ceilings gave it a Roman feel, the stained glass added colour and story, the statue of Mary provided gentleness, and the angel striking down from the heavens contacted that. A turn and a walk toward the back of the church showed off the magnificent organ pipes and a relief that was carved in 1567. My goodness, belief has power! I would say that the church was just as artfully beautiful as it was awesomely fearsome.

Next up was a stop at the Poisson Karsts. After so much rain it was a surprise to see how dry this particular area was. The area is a winding drive up a narrow road (that is a thing here) before a quick walk to view the karsts. Karsts have something to do with springs underground drainage, caves, limestone, and calcium. I wasn’t able to figure out much about what I was seeing because of my lack of French but I could see what looked to be caverns. I also noticed that mountain bikers had shaped and enjoyed the terrain.

There is so much to explore here in just this small corner of France!

We ended the day with a bonfire at the front of the chateau. With the river and falls behind me, I could imagine the ocean sounds I’m used to for a minute. This place, has a different beauty than the ocean, mountains and forests I know. It has the accessible remnants of a very human history. It has rivers in canals, green rolling hills, and forests of young growth. It is alive despite it’s patina.

Chateau Orquevaux Artist Residency

After Paris, I rented a little car. Doing this from home, before I left, was much more economical than doing it as a walk up. I used sixt and this was what was waiting for me when I arrived. A brand new Citroen.

The Chateau is a dream! It’s the vision of Ziggy Atticus. He’s an artist, originally from New York, who is now creating an oasis for artists in this beautiful French hamlet.

A family of coypus are what create the dirt piles in the foreground.

The bedroom I’m in is just gorgeous!

It looks out over and beyond the scene above.

There are chickens for fresh eggs and goats for cuddling. (They smell exactly like goat cheese)

When I’m not enjoying the little village and the grounds,

I paint! That’s why I received the scholarship to be here, after all!

Ziggy jokingly said that he changes the locks after every residency but I think he actually might have to. It’s a perfect spot for anyone who loves to create!

I’m so grateful to have been chosen to attend while also receiving a scholarship to do so!

If you are interested in the residency you can apply through Instagram. Just post your work and tag Chateau Orquevaux. Dreams can come true.

My Paris To do list 

1. Walk everywhere. But choose an adroitment or two to really get to know.

That way you take home a piece of Paris as yours. You’ve seen the sights, but when you can name shops and streets and gardens, you feel a part of it. 

2.Choose a cafe, sit out front and sip. Relax. Give your tired feet a break. Everyday. Once or coffee, once for wine.
I’ve visited Starbucks in Canada, the USA, Peru, Bali, and now Paris. I love their products the free wifi, and the familiarity away from home. They’re the only big brand I look for in faraway places. In Paris, though, it just felt wrong. There are super cute cafes on every street where one could sip great coffee (or a glass of wine) and sit and watch, instead. I did some of that everyday of my visit. Go to the same spot, or try many. It’s all good. 

3. Enjoy the Art Beyond the Louvre

After the Louvre, I visited three more wonderful galleries. Each was somehow more wonderful than the last. Here they are in order:

 Musee d’Orsay


 Musee d’Art moderne

 Centre Pompidou


4. Walk Through the original Bon Marche

It’s an amazing place for food and clothes. Think mini boutiques for designers with phenomenal names.  You’ll definitely wish it was in your home neighbourhood, just like it is …. because everyone needs these!


We Are Ahead By A Century…

…unless you’re after fashion, delicious bread and cheese, and beautiful old art and architecture…and that’s according to the Parisian sales lady at Lululemon, Paris, the least peopled store I’ve popped into here.

She specifically said the west coast of the two Americas are ahead in wellness attitudes. And, she actually did say that the women in Paris are still all about fashion, good cheese, and buttery bread.

So why are there no fat French women I thought to myself after I sheepishly answered yoga to her question about my sport. It’s got to be that they eat less, eat purer ingredients in what they do eat, and climb at least six flights of French stairs a few times a day, because they aren’t doing yoga or meditation or jogging yet! Either that or the French lifestyle is so much more relaxed than ours that their bodies actually function properly.

Did I mention that a fair few of the women here smoke and drink spritz to top off those buttery buns of theirs?

I bought a pair of the new Lulu light pants because I was the only one in the store, I felt sorry for the sales mademoiselle, and those six flights of stairs in jeans are very uncomfortable. I think they could become a best seller here if they were marketed right! Haute Couture=Lulu on the best coast!

The Luxembourg Palace Gardens

…beautiful even on a cloudy day and away from the throng of tourists in Paris.


About the Louvre With Apologies to The Masters

  Originally, I had planned on visiting the Louvre every morning of my trip. I thought I would  get up early and just go and be with the beautiful paintings. I imagined sitting and gazing and sketching. I did go to the Louvre my first day ever in Paris, with those intentions, but Louvre reality was not my vision. 

The Louvre is huge. Huge even for a palace…I think…but I don’t really know palaces outside of  the one at Disneyland. And it’s got layers to it. Wide titanium white passages, ups, downs, and sideways, and amazing light letting ceiling on the top floor. And in this huge space are huge masterpieces; huge and dark masterpieces. I had a really hard time believing that the crushing crowd I was part of was being trusted around so much priceless art. It made me dizzy, or maybe that was the jet lag.

  I mentioned they were huge and dark, these masterpieces. I’ve long been enamoured with the idea that language is unique for each of us because we give each word a meaning that is constructed by our own experience. For me, I think I gave masterpiece a meaning something like….best of the best, beautiful, makes me feel wonder and awe in a lifting sense. My new meaning is a highly revered work painted by a man during dark times for women. 

 I didn’t enjoy them the way I’d anticipated, not even the Mona Lisa. 

They were like looking into an abyss. They were all about religion, warring, and reclining naked women often being suckled by really ugly man faced babies. (I didn’t,t take pictures of those).

 I guess I knew this is what was at the Louvre but seeing so many of these pieces together was startling. I thought a lot about what I was seeing in this collection and what it represented as a period in art history. I noted the absence of femal artists and I wondered what they would have painted. I recognized my personal love of light and colour were needs not being met. I became so grateful for living now, when I can compare art of different periods, turn on the lights, and be free to say, the work of the old masters doesn’t really appeal to me. 



Plane Travel (and general life rules)

Tip # 1

Be flexible and believe you will get there.

 Even when I think I have my flights and transfers planned and organized something often changes. This time there were mighty changes! I’d booked early on no frills Icelandair at an impossibly great rate from Seattle. From my Island in the sea, I booked my connection with Alaskaair, because it’s rated number one and another great rate. Thanks to my mom, I arrived at the airport in plenty of time but found the flight was late. Hmmmmm. The ticket agent assured me I’d make my flight. On board, delayed some more, and all the people from their next scheduled flight filled our plane. That seemed sketchy. The flight attendant assured me and the lady next to me we,d make our flights.

And then, slowest luggage and body scan in the world in Seattle’s terminal. I ran (sort of) to the Icelandic gate. Don’t leave, I’m here I called out! The gate just closed she answered. But the plane is still right there I said. My connection was late! You missed it by one minute, she said. Oh. I answered… because expletives were too hard to say in that moment.


Be Humble

Is there anything you can do to help me I asked, while looking up to pour the two tears back in. Give me a minute she said. And then, Icelandic wants to charge you the whole fee to rebook for tomorrow’s flight. That’s not very nice, I said. There was a pause. And I said, well, I guess I can try to get on a different flight out tonight. Give me a minute she said. Go sit down. And so I did and trusted the universe.

Finally she said, British Airways, is flying out at 7:40 and you’ll be on that flight but you’ll land at the other Paris airport. Okay I said. Thank-you so much. And I offered her a hug, which she took.

Tip #3

Be Grateful

Upon landing at Gatwick, yes that happened, but British Airways was very comfortable and they fed me so I am just filled with gratitude, I found out thanks to a young Brit security guy that my connection to Paris left from some other airport in the city, too far to make it to. A trip to the British Airways desk fixed that and I was off immediately to Paris. All of this change happened at no extra cost to me. Unbelievable really. This little plane was delayed. No problem though, Paris was close.

I found my way around the airport and onto the squishiest subway ever without too much trouble. (Okay, I couldn’t figure out how to work the turnstil pay thing fast enough for the French lady behind me who put her ticket in and pushed me in ahead of her giggling.) And from the station closest I found the entrance to my little (I now know tiny houses are not a thing for me) Air BnB. The hired “friend” who was to meet me there had not given up on me despite me being 45mins later that expected. I was so grateful that he offered to carry my suitcase up the sixth floor walk up. That help was the icing on this cake of a trip. I now know that six floors in France are more like 9 Canadian floors. My training was insufficient! But I did it finishing all huffypuffy.

 Tip #4

Be Kind

The “friend” a young guy around 30, didn’t speak any English. He showed me how the apartment worked, it’s as tall as it is wide, and I offered up my French. He laughed, a lot, at my efforts and left in a right jolly mood after showing me how the weirdest room key ever worked, again.

It’s like I said in my last post… people are good and kind.

Tip # 5

Fear is highly over-rated. Get out here, be kind, and live your best life.

And so, I’m here. I’ve ridden the hop on and off bus as my sister suggested, I’ve been to Louvre once which was enough and I’ll write about that next, I’ve explored the Luxembourg Palace Gardens once and I’m in love with the place, and I’ve enjoyed the bread without the effects I experience in Canada. So that’s a bit of heaven.

It’s On!

Airport food! Bound for FRANCE! Alone? Are you kidding me? There are over 7 billion people on the planet; almost all of them good, kind people.