Mantes la Jolie's Notre Dame cathedrale as seen through the Joie de Vivre's window
Chocolat de Rouen
One has only to look to appreciate the antiquity of both the building and the tools that are so vital to the silk weaver's success.
My knee and back are unhappy with me today so I decided to sit out the walk to Tain l’Hermitage. I am so happy I did, as ‘you will soon discover’, a phrase our European friends are quite fond of saying. I began the day, after a light breakfast and coffee, by going to the lounge where an English lady was giving a very informative lecture on Vincent Van Gogh. When I returned to our room, I glanced out the window ~ perhaps Vincent was speaking to me ~ and immediately saw a painting of a French village street scene right there before me. I was so inspired that I sat right down at the window and sketched a study of what I saw.
I am very proud of my crêpe-flipping skills!
The streets are filled with the most tempting delicacies, delicately painted ceramics, perfectly shaped chocolates, and of course the ubiquitous boulangerie (store that sells bread, or pain, pronounced pa [rhymes with baa like the sound a sheep makes] in French). Oh, such sights we saw!
We were walking quietly along Rue Carnot- a narrow cobblestone street with multi-storied buildings of stone and plaster in colors of the earth, pale golds, salmons, and dirty-oyster white- voraciously snapping photos when quite suddenly we turned a corner only to find ourselves in a large plaza with the beautiful but imposing Église Saint-Pierre. She stands, stately and tall, with two large, ornate spires, constructed in a neo-Roman style and glows a grand pearly-white as she looks out over her square and her city. Our guide attempted to let us in to see the inside but she was closed, another victim of ‘Monday is the second Sunday’; we walked on sure we would see more treasures in this delightful city.
Vieux Saint-Vincent, lovely with her history imprinted upon her white stone façade, drew me in making me wish that I could stay and quietly meditate upon her beauty. Sadly, there is a parking area quite close in front of the old church that diminished the reverie I was seeking.
Our guide tells us that La Maison de Bois is the oldest house in Mâcon. It is amazing that the beautiful carvings have survived over four centuries of atmospheric and weather conditions. The gentleman at the extreme right of the center photo seems to be enjoying a cool drink on a hot day, as I'm sure many have over the centuries.
Thursday, May 7, 2015: On occasion life can catch you unaware. And you must choose how to respond and proceed. Recently I have had such an experience, from whence a Journey was born...
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the “birthing” of a painting. How a concept makes itself known to the artist; how a seed is planted; how a mere glimpse of something, anything, causes the artist to pause, recognize that which is deep and moving within and then literally drive the artist to paint. Paint! Give voice to that which is so pressing, urgently calling out to be heard! Allow it to spring forth and birth itself.
Once the fishing was done we motored over to Martini Cove, anchored, and Captain Chuy proceeded to treat us to a fish fry of the best small fish the Sea of Cortez has to offer! Striped bass cut in bite-sized pieces, rolled in corn meal and fried to golden perfection. Served hot with warm flour tortillas, cucumber, sliced tomatoes and onions, salsa, and corn chips. Paired with a warm breeze and a few envious pelicans hoping for a handout, it was truly nirvana!
Finally, our guide took us to one final location of which the French are very proud: the site of the execution of Joan of Arc in 1431 at the tender age of 19. Jeanne d’Arc, as you may or may not recall, was instrumental in leading a flagging French army to victory over the English during the Hundred Years’ War.
Our laundry is done for us at no cost; we can order room service from our private butler at any time, again at no cost. Indeed, with this cruise line you never have to worry about tips or charges for anything...everything is included in the cost. Later tonight when we go to the bar, our bartenders, Anna and Dace, will have memorized Henry’s favorite Cognac and Calvados, will have encouraged him to drink as much as he likes and voila, no charge, no tip! We had dinner in a small French bistro at the fore-end of the ship; steak, a cheese plate, and dessert for Henry; cassoulet, French bread, and dessert for me...no charge, no tip. Can you tell I’m loving this? By the way, the cassoulet is a French stew of duck, pork sausage, and large white beans cooked in a savory sauce and then served in a very cute little single-serving-size Staub pot. Very French! Très chic! Our room is straightened, bathroom cleaned, and bed made twice a day. Fresh fruit and chocolate is left in the room every evening along with tomorrow’s itinerary and a small gift of lotion or a refreshing spray. We are becoming quite spoiled!
The main street through Tain l'Hermitage. Keep going... Valrhona Chocolatier is just down the street!
The images below are of the Versailles apartments of the various Louies (XIV, XV, and XVI); their wives were housed in an adjacent wing which is now undergoing restoration.
Sunday, July 23, 2017
Ah, once again a blue sky with puffy white clouds greeted us when we parted our curtains on this, our last very short day in Paris. Today we board a fast train, the TGV, and head south to Lyon. We showered and packed quickly then scooted downstairs at 0715 for a bit of breakfast and of course, some of that wonderful French coffee. It is quite strong so I have learned to ask for some heavy cream, which makes it quite decadent. Back upstairs at 0745 because our bags must be outside our door at 0800 and we must be seated on the bus at 0815. Uniworld sees to every detail: our guide all the way to Lyon is Rose, a chunky, outspoken, middle-aged Mandarin woman with a quick sense of humor. With a microphone held to rose-colored lips she gave a lively and witty rendition of her take on the sights of Paris all the way to the TGV train station. Once there, she herded us into the station like so many ducklings and we were all happy to comply with her order to stay close.
A small but highly functional kitchen in this rustic French farmhouse.
Commune of Les Andelys
Built in the 12th century, at the top of a hill, Cathédrale Saint-Vincent de Viviers is a marvelous structure constructed of stone, with a vaulted nave, beautiful old paintings, and hanging tapestries large enough to be used as carpets. Exquisite chandeliers light the cathédrale from within; at the head of the nave are very tall east-facing Gothic-style stained glass windows that admit a most glorious morning light. This light falls like a silken veil upon an alter made of white Italian marble inlaid in a scroll-and-floral design with colored marble. What a magnificent sight! The workmanship and artistry were nothing short of amazing.
Next we come to the Vieux Saint-Vincent, or la Cathédrale du Vieux Saint-Vincent à Mâcon, an ancient church built sometime around the 5th century CE. It was ravaged by fire in both the 10th and 15th centuries (if I read the Transvosges website, written en Francaise, correctly) and was doomed to be demolished in 1799. However most of it, the narthex (western entrance) and two octagonal towers are still standing today. Aged stones carry the scars and texture of many centuries gone by, creating a façade with a rare and distinguished character.
All was not lost, however, as I saw some sights during my rush-hour adventure in Lyon that I wouldn't have seen otherwise. (Perhaps I should have paid more attention to these French street signs! ----->
It is almost impossible to put into words the feeling of complete surrender and peace that flows over me as I take my evening walks. The rocks, quiet, awesome, formidable in their beauty, stand ever-present around me. I marvel at the colors, the undulations and textures that came to be so long ago. Golden shades of sienna warm and excite me; I feel the stirring of my soul, the whisper that within this fantastical landscape lies a painting...or will it be a mixed media piece? Perhaps encaustic or cold wax would best express what I feel in this magical place.
Me in the bar trying to stay awake!
We saw many a houseboat along the banks of the Saône and Rhône rivers. The blue cast you see in these photographs is because they were taken through the dining room window aboard the S.S. Catherine during dinner (much to Henry's consternation).
I turned to walk back toward the ship and saw a tiny boulangerie ahead; a considerably smaller bag accompanied me out of that shop and the pâtisserie therein was quickly devoured. As I ate my pain aux raisin I strolled along, tucking my pastry back in its bag occasionally to take photos of obscure alleyways and the backside of Église Notre-Dame. I reached the frontage street about 1130 and decided I had time for a quick photo shoot of Passerelle Marc Sequin, the pedestrian bridge that links Tain l’Hermitage to Tournon-Sur-Rhône. I could see (and photographed) many beautiful old ruins, towers, and what appeared to be small castles on the other side of the Rhône. It was a lovely way to pass an hour but by now I could feel that my knee was warning me to pay heed and rest it, so back along the waterfront and to the boat I went.
Look close, folks, that eyeball is actually a painting on the side of a water tank.
On my walk back to the boat I passed this newer hotel built above the river. Nearby an old wall sprouts vegetation...a common sight on ancient structures in old France.
Above is the small pitcher I purchased at Poterie and a cup that Henry found on his travels in Viviers and gifted to me.
And lest it be thought that all this was not enough to cause me to contemplate my contribution to this world, I look up and find the heavens on fire. What a glorious world has been gifted to us!
A carved wooden stamp, left, is one of many that assists the silk weaver in making detailed designs. Old books with lovely old handwritten script and samples of silk provide information and inspiration to the artisan. See my Facebook page for my video taken in Soierie Saint-Georges.
Don't miss the next entry of my epic visit to Versailles!
Our riverboat, Joie de Vivre, is a charming affair with red and white striped umbrellas on the deck where we now sit looking out at the Seine from our lawn chairs. As I write this it is 3AM in Arizona but noon here. Henry, though tired, is happily sipping his cognac with his ‘I’ll-never-get-laid’ shades on. I could not help myself and knocked off this quick sketch of him, the river, and some of the architecture across the water. We aren’t allowed into our stateroom until 3PM so we are hoping that the sunshine will help us adjust to the time change as one of our flight attendants promised us. I think we are too tired for a tour of central Paris scheduled for later today.
My morning walk into Tain l'Hermitage.
After a tour of yet another church, the nave of which resembles the hull of a boat but otherwise seemed somewhat unremarkable to us, we were set free to explore as we wished. We happened upon a pastry shop with quite delectable looking pastries and I felt compelled to purchase one. I chose an almond filled sweet pastry that appeared to hold more than a little promise; ultimately I was quite disappointed when I stepped outside, removed my little treat from its wrapper and discovered that the pastry that looked so crisp and delicious in the window was actually quite soft and soggy. (Walmart?!?) Alas. Well, I shall just have to try a chocolatier (chocolate shop) a few doors down. We had much better success there when I chose a rocherchocolat...a ball of dark chocolate studded with bits of hazelnut with a center of soft, silky-smooth chocolate. It was simply divine and I felt as if I was in France again, after all.
I thought it would be nice to share with you my art spaces as this is now where I spend a great deal of time. To the right are photos of my very-small-guest-bedroom-turned-acrylic-studio. I have literally packed this little space as full as I can get it! It also has its own bathroom for cleaning brushes and washing paint off the very messy artist. In the photo on the left you can see my tool pegboard (of which I am very proud) over the space where I do the framing of my paintings.
It took me a long time to recognize my own voice as an artist. (What was that nagging little voice in my subconscious? How do I listen to it? What does it have to say?) Because life caught me unaware I have had time to learn and listen to my voice and allow it to lead me on a Journey of acceptance. In the dark times it has whispered to me, reminding me of what is left to me and the strength I still have to face the change that life has given to me. In the midst of all this listening and learning I began to conceive of hope. And that hope manifested itself as many small paintings that I imagined would hang as one and speak of courage and battles won and a clear message of refusal to give in to pain.
I was also fascinated by the chandeliers, reproduction or not. All of the gold decoration on the walls and ceiling is gold leaf.
Uneven cobblestones and drainage systems, often found in the middle of the street, can prove hazardous.
Following a quick shower we headed down to the dining room for breakfast and our first glimpse of Caudebec-en Caux. This meal, typically, has been taken in the dining room (unless we ask our butler for room service) and is served buffet style. The range of delicious foods is amazing: a fresh and dried fruit bar, European yoghurts, a selection of French and European cheeses, black currant jam, charcuterie (thinly sliced cured meats), omelette station, potatoes, sausage, bacon, selection of pastries, ‘Frenched’ toast, on and on and too much for me to remember! But, perhaps most important, is our discovery of French-style coffee. It is rich, robust, and quite delicious when heavy cream is liberally added to it. The thick cream slowly swirls into the thick (thicker than American coffee), black liquid and the first sip is pure heaven. It is at once smooth and creamy yet slightly course and granular, a wee bit of bitter (that promises wakefulness) yet a delectable and complex fragrance. And, when you get near the bottom of the cup, with just a tablespoon or so of coffee left, you become aware of a finely grained sediment in the bottom of your cup. But, do not discard this, my friend; it is not the slightly annoying grounds that you might find in an American cup of coffee. This is that final promise of nirvana much like after eating a piece of Belgium chocolate (Henry’s contribution to our discussion of how to describe this new-found treasure) and licking that last bit of melted goodness from your fingers! Yes, I do believe the coffee/chocolate connection is a good one.
The silk weaver uses the loom (above left) to weave his current project using red and gold silk threads. Silk thread is stored in several locations in the atelier; the framed 'photo' of a man in the middle photo, above, is actually rendered entirely of finely woven silk!
And we sail, up the Saône, to wake up in Mâcon.
Thatch roofs are becoming less common in France due to cost of repair and lack of skilled repairmen. Note the irises growing on top; this is done to help absorb any water on the thatch, thus preventing water damage to the structure below.
I finally reached the ‘Poterie’ shop with its ornate pink and white limestone exterior. Madame, a petite Frenchwoman of about 50, was serving olive tapenade crudités with a jug of wine on her doorstep to my travel companions. Her husband, a potter like she, was inside their workshop. Their specialty seemed to be serviceable pottery: platters, cups, tart pans, etc. with quirky but charming drawings of Frenchwomen in fresh watercolor tones. I tried to get Madame to part with her wine jug (covered in the most beautiful and very French roses, but also chipped) but she would not have it. I found instead one that was similar, but Madame’s had stolen my heart. I also found a plate for someone dear to me and as I approached Madame and asked if she would take a credit card, she said very firmly, ‘No, only cash’. Sigh. The guide overheard this and offered to spot me the difference (I only had 20 Euros) but after fishing around in her purse, she realized that she had left her cash in her car at the boat. Sigh, again. We discussed a strategy, which she explained to Madame in French, and I left for a return trip to the boat. But, not all was lost as I was able to walk back to the boat on the opposite side of the street, affording me even more photographic opportunities. An hour later I had my purchases in hand as I hurried back to the boat for a well-deserved lunch with Henry. Mission accomplished!
We came home hungry, ate lunch on the boat then took a most welcome nap. When I woke up Henry was working out down in the fitness room, so I took up residence on the balcony in our room and contented myself with my knitting. I had lowered the window so was able to hear the sounds of lapping water and birds; I also watched a family of swans as they lazily swam about the Saône.
Dinner tonight, as we set sail for Lyon, was a grand affair as it was the Captain’s Welcome Dinner...a semi-formal event welcoming us to this leg of our journey. We enjoyed lobster thermidor, gratinated with sauce Choron, while chatting with a pleasant mother and her daughter from Canada. Dessert was the piece-de-resistance: Baked orange soufflé with Grand Marnier-marinated berries and vanilla ice cream. Amazing!
The bus was unusually quiet as we drove back to Caudebec-en-Caux along green country lanes, with swathes of Queen Anne’s Lace, and more cows than I’ve seen in a long time. Happily drowsy with food and spirit, we watched the coastal lands recede and returned to an over-cast Caudebec, as the locals say, to board our ship and promptly take yet another nap.
After taking the stairs (or the elevator) up to the next level, one sees a beautiful, very large glass unicorn (which my Ava would love!) and wall cases of jewelry for sale (that my Zoë would love) directly above the lobby below. Once again, the area is flanked on both sides by large glass doors that open up to stairs leading to the top deck. To the aft end are guest rooms (ours included), and to the fore end is a spacious lounge, bar, and the afore-mentioned Bistro.
Sketching that scene further inspired me to get out and take a walk in this quaint little river village. I grabbed a light jacket and headed out up Halte Nautique de Tain l’Hermitage’s stone ramp, over the cobblestone frontage street of Quai Henri-Defer, and was quickly swallowed up by the tall stone buildings on either side of Rue de Scoly. I passed the village's Église Notre-Dame and took numerous pictures in her front courtyard, before moving on to Avenue Jean Jaurès. As strolled along I peeked in shop window after shop window but nothing interested me until I came across a small sign hung very high up that had one simple word: Chocolat. Chocolat! Now, anybody who knows me knows that I cannot resist that most divine, bitter-brown but always sweet confection. Yes, dear friend, I went right in and came out 30 minutes later with a rather embarrassingly large bag on my arm. The plump Frenchwoman inside had been ever so helpful and eager to attend to me, so of course, I could not disappoint her! She smiled broadly as I left with a most hearty and sincere ‘au revoir’.
July 19, 2017
As Henry’s alarm sounds off at 0700 I reluctantly rub my eyes and will my brain into consciousness, wishing for at least one more hour of sleep. Once again, I am still tired from the previous days’ activities. But, I do not wish to miss this day’s tour of an apple farm and Calvados distillery, do I? (Yes, in truth I wish for a reprieve to stay in my plump, warm bed, but I know that would disappoint my husband.) And, in hindsight, both Henry and I agree that this day was indeed one of our best yet. But, let me not get ahead of myself...
This is Jolly; he and his mommy were my 'neighbors'.
And now we sail; having had a hearty lunch in the dining room with some fellow Americans, the S.S. Catherine makes a wide and lazy turn heading south to adventures in Viviers and the Quai du Rhône. And Henry naps.
Now, we sit comfortably aboard our train coach in first class, with large windows that look out upon a bucolic French countryside. We wiz along at up to 200 miles per hour and, though taking pictures is a near-futile effort, still I try. The landscape now is a patchwork of golden fields of grain frequently dotted with round bales of hay, small stands of trees, then larger areas of forest all set upon low, rolling hills. Occasionally a small village with its requisite church steeple comes into view, or a stream, or a grouping of cows or sheep.
The ancient passageways reminded me of fairy tales I read as a child...damsels in distress, heroic knights, frogs who turned into princes, and all the imaginations of what a castle must be. Indeed, this place did not disappoint! Dark and dank corridors, small mysterious doors, stairs leading down, down, beckoning me on. Oh, what an adventure this was!
Still pampering my knee, I took a taxi up the very steep hill (with three other ladies) that is home to Cathédrale Saint-Vincent de Viviers while Henry walked with a group, and a guide, through the village. When we arrived, a man about 50 years old had just arrived in a small European car. After extracting himself from the car he lifted out a chubby little baby and stood facing us, holding l’enfant with a very unabashedly proud smile on his face. The four of us clambered from our taxi and went to admire the baby boy while his very young and rather shy wife (less than 30, I think) unfolded herself from the little car. As we all entered the church our guide told us that this exuberant father was to be our organist.
A gothic wonder, le Cathedrale de Notre Dame
Still, we traverse cobblestone streets, alleyways, and secret passageways; somehow I manage to bumble along with the group in our quest of the silk weavers’ lane. Deeper and deeper we go into Vieux Lyon, ducking into an obscure wooden door possessing an aged bronze handle with metal straps holding the wooden slats in place, down a low arched passageway, dark and damp, smelling of mold. Our guide, wishing not to disturb the residents, whispers to us that in ancient times these secret alleys were used to connect opposing streets so that one would not have to walk all the way around the block, but rather through it; much later, they were used during WWII and France's La Résistance as part of the network to move the Jews (and secret documents) around the city to places of safety.
Monday, July 14, 2014: So...two years has somehow passed since my first (and only) blog entry and it occurs to me that you might like to know what has become of me in the interim. As they say, ‘life happens’ and it certainly did happen to me! Happily I love art and now I have the time to focus on my art.
The view of Mâcon and the remaining towers of Vieux Saint-Vincent from across the Saône in Saint-Laurent-sur-Saône.
And of course, cafés everywhere
July 16, 2017, 7:48AM
I tried to sleep as we moved across the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone (a system of two parallel fault lines) in the mid-Atlantic, but no luck. The new day dawned as we waved good morning to southern Ireland then flew over Cardiff, England and the English Channel. We began to descend somewhere around Calais, on France’s northern coast; our speed was 500 mph as we bore down on Paris through bright blue, cloudless skies. Henry managed a breakfast of fruit, yogurt, and coffee but I ate only a bit of dry granola I had brought from home and a cup of coffee. Paris is as good as in sight now with 18 minutes to touchdown. Oh, what will the day hold?
When I arrived back at the boat it was 1030 and I wanted to try walking, on level ground, the quarter mile into Viviers to go to a ceramics shop that Henry’s group would be visiting on their way back. Off I went with cell phone camera in hand and a most delicious walk it was! I passed, and photographed, the most simple but lovely sights: a hinged wooden doorstep, peeling gates with iron-strap hardware, trees with holes clear through that consumed most of the trunk, a bench made of iron that had been painted fire engine red with wood slats in a bright, dandelion yellow. I passed an old man who shuffled along, glancing at me sideways and unwilling to return my ‘bonjour’, mothers with baby carriages, gardeners tending a lane of over-grown native grasses. The air had the clean, pleasant, grassy scent of summer, the ambience was that of a simpler time. This was the memory, the feeling, I held in my head and heart of my childhood in Oregon. I felt so peaceful and happy; I felt at home.
As I venture up and onto the bloulders, leaving the safety of the path behind, I am impressed with my smallness, my insignificance, the minuscule bit of space and time that is my footprint upon this earth! What molten fury caused the massive cracks and crevasses? How is it that a tree is able to cling to a cleft in the rock? I look down and there is a tiny leaf floating in the watery remains of a rainstorm, the promise of life found in this small depression in the rock.
Series Painting In the Encaustic Studio
After a rather lengthy boarding period we all finally got settled into our individual pods (one for each passenger) and the plane began a leisurely but powerful roll down the runway. Once again, Henry and I marveled at this new experience: no deafening jet noise on takeoff, no violent shaking; just smoothness with a bit of a deep, whiney hum. I told Henry that I felt like I had been lifted from earth by a very luxurious UFO!
Once again a flurry of drink orders, meal orders, personal head-phones, warm wet towels, and on and on ensued as we (relatively) quietly jetted north of Halifax and south of Gander, Canada. I dialed up a movie on my personal monitor while Henry watched the detailed flight information (some of which I noted above) on his monitor. Dinner was another lovely affair of surf and turf with salad, a roll, and chocolate mousse for dessert (Henry had a cheese plate, strawberry ice cream, and cognac). As I write, the sun has gone down and the more intelligent passengers have put themselves to bed. I am cognizant that I, too, should find my airline-issued pillow and blanket and say good night to the Atlantic Ocean.
View of stateroom from the door.
This painter of ceramics, left, good-naturedly allowed me to take his picture
Now let’s talk about the bathroom, which is a topic all of its own. It is constructed of floor-to-ceiling white marble except for a wrap-around mirror. The floors are heated, as is the towel bar. It boasts a double vanity with a ledge for toiletries and a TV built into a mirror over the toilet (designed, I’m sure, for the guys who just can’t do without their morning stock market report!). The shower is spacious with both a handheld and a rain shower. There are small sample-sized bottles of Hermès bath products as well as built-in pump-style bottles of l’Occitane liquid soap and shampoo hanging on the shower walls; no more fiddling with soap wrappers. What luxury! And of course, just in case you wish to make a stock market trade, there is a phone on the wall near the toilet. Finally, a single blue LED light resides in the ceiling over the toilet and serves as a nightlight. I’m sure this tidbit of information about a nightlight seems less than note-worthy until you consider that this single blue light is reflected from every mirror and marble surface around this small space and so creates a beautiful blue haze of light that is, indeed, quite arresting...especially when happened upon in the middle of the night.
Louis XIV in all his splendor
Take a close look at this wall, above, that I found near Saint Jean-Baptiste Cathèdrale de Lyon. It has two windows and what appears to be a small door that has been bricked over. Perhaps the archway was bricked in, as well. I wonder what secrets this building holds!
Thursday, July 27, 2017
Oh, what a lovely day! The port in Viviersis just lovely with tiny sailboats docked in a very small port; indeed, our grand riverboat dwarfed them all. Across the road a short distance away were trees full of summer-green leaves and beyond that a cornfield. We breakfasted with this tranquil view before heading off on today’s excursion: a trip to Cathédrale Saint-Vincent de Viviers for an organ concert. And, not just any organ, but a huge pipe organ that fills this, one of the smallest cathedrals in Europe. The sound was massive as it reverberated off the stone walls; one could imagine how it would make the devout shiver with fear at their almighty God’s power.
Later that evening was the Captain’s Welcome Dinner, a semi-formal affair that entailed a five-course meal. I haven’t had veal in a very long time but it was truly spectacular! However, as wonderful as the veal was, I think I enjoyed the hot, crusty bread and creamery butter the most. Oh, and the wine...a 2015 Bordeaux wine by the name of Loupiac made by Chateau Roumaud. Both Henry and I are fans of dessert wines and this was one of the best I’ve ever had. And then, off to bed for a much-coveted and restful slumber.
Claude's living room with 'practice' paintings
A group of graffiti artists in Lyon called the Birdy Kids has represented the city as cultural ambassadors since 2000. I cannot say that they are responsible for the painting of the boat to the right but I was impressed by the graffiti art to be found in many larger French cities (Henry, however, was not impressed).
Tall Medieval buildings of Rouen
July 17, 2017
In truth, today is the 18th, the 17th having been a wee bit of a blur; jet lag has been my friend! However, as I am feeling better today, I will do my best to recount the events of the past two days.
During the restoration of Versailles all the gold that was on the original structures (gates, architectural decoration, etc.) was restored with gold leaf...a very expensive project!
The chandelier in Joie de Vivre’s entry; note the stairs on either side and the waterfall elevator in the middle
Working in a series has allowed me to explore ideas, techniques, and forms in a way that is a distinct departure from my past painting experiences. I have for many years been thinking about painting in a more abstracted manner but have not had the courage to try. Finally I feel ready. My first attempt, in March/April, was the 'Seasons of Hope' series. It was a very personal group of paintings for me, and not just because it was my first blitz on abstract painting. I was very pleased with the result and because it had special meaning, I recently hung it in our dining room.
July 18, 2017
Our third day of river cruising found us in the port city of Rouen (Roo-ah), a medieval city that at one time was one of the largest cities in France. This city has significant history related to the Catholic church and many beautiful churches with gothic and Roman architecture can be easily found. One of the most impressive things to me was the fact that many buildings, in particular churches, are still being repaired after the bombings of World War II. Because of the devastation that was so widespread in France during WWII, the French people are still trying to secure funding to repair their cherished buildings bit by bit. The cobblestone streets and narrow alleys are charming yet demand constant vigilance so that one is not hit by a car or does not turn an ankle in the ruts between the stones. Nevertheless, this only serves to further the quaint character and ambience to be found here.
After this most impressive tour of Rouen we were turned loose by our guide and began the trudge through the hot cobblestone streets back to the boat. To say that we were tired would be an understatement. We took a luxuriously long nap then awoke in time to dress for dinner in the main dining room. We both ordered the rack of lamb and dined sumptuously whilst our boat glided upriver on our way to Caudebec-en-Caux (Kah-de-beck-on-kōh).
Next I want to show you a space that is nothing short of a miracle! My husband had the very wonderful idea of turning our living room (we recently moved) into an art studio. At first I wasn’t crazy about the idea but the more I thought about it the more I liked it. Then I hit on the idea of making it my pastel gallery by bringing from the “old house” a beautiful oak wall unit that we had built several years ago. I contacted the builder and he agreed to move it, install it and reconfigure 4 of the shelves to accommodate my pastels. Now I have drawers that pull out and hold my sets of Sennelier and Girault pastels.
Friday, May 11, 2012: Well, here I am in beautiful San Carlos on the shores of the Sea of Cortez writing my very first blog post ever. So much beauty, so little time!
Speaking of beauty, my dear husband and I spent part of the day on a fishing charter boat with Captain Chuy and his partner. Unfortunately for my dear husband we did not catch “the big one” but we (the royal we, of course) did manage to catch a fair number of striped bass.
So, now that we are all on the same page regarding encaustic and my studio, I would like to share my thoughts on my current series of works. I began this year's foray back into the encaustic studio by working on a series of bird paintings called 'Desert Friends'. I responded to a call for artists last winter from Toscana Gallery and was granted admission to their spring show entitled 'Feathered Friends'. It was a wonderful experience that resulted in a number of bird paintings of grackles, crows, and cactus wrens. All of the bird photographs are my own; I put them through Photoshop and when I arrive at an abstracted image that I am happy with I then print it onto either silk paper or Japanese art paper. These are then bonded to a wood panel and I begin to add the layers of paint and wax.
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Today dawns early for us as Henry is going to see the WWII Memorial at the Normandie beaches. It is slated to be a long excursion from 0745 until 1930 (that is 7:30PM) so we were up at 0630. Now we sit sipping our lovely coffee in our stateroom with our curtains open watching the water and the Rouennais (citizens of Rouen) go about their morning business. It is a gray day and is expected to be considerably cooler than yesterday so I’m thinking it will be a good day to write a bit in my journal and go through my myriad photographs.
Visit my Facebook page for a snippet of our concert.
The beautiful and opulent blue dining room with its lavish blue and white soft-paste porcelaine; the ancien régime and France's royal family did much to advance the French porcelain industry.
An Americanized version of what I learned at the Institut Paul Bocuse
The night before:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
~1 3/4 cups milk
Add 2 eggs to dry ingredients in a bowl; whisk until batter is smooth. Add remaining 2 egg, whisk until smooth. Add enough milk to make a thin batter (like heavy cream). Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight or at least 2 hours.
2-3 cubes white sugar
Rub sugar cubes on oranges to extract orange oil (all sides); cover and set aside. Zest one of the oranges to obtain 1T. medium-sized zest; cover and place in refrigerator. Juice the oranges; cover and place in refrigerator.
In the morning:
10 Tbs. (1 stick+ 2T.) unsalted butter
Gently brown butter in a skillet and set aside.
Remove batter from refrigerator. Incorporate 2T. cooled browned butter into the batter. Heat crêpe pan and using 3T. browned butter, cook the crêpes one at a time using a bit (~1/2 t.) of the butter in the pan before pouring in the batter. Flip each crêpe over and cook until both sides are brown. Fold into fourths and place in a shallow pan or serving dish; may be covered with foil and kept in a warm oven until ready to serve.
1/4 cup sugar
1 c. orange juice
1T. orange zest
3-6 Tbs. Grand Marnier or 1/2 c. mango juice
Thin strips of candied orange zest for garnish
Remove sauce ingredients from refrigerator. Place sugar cubes in skillet with remaining browned butter (~5T). Add 1/4c. sugar and heat over medium heat, stirring until sugar begins to brown and stick to pan. Deglaze with orange juice, stirring constantly until all browned bit are incorporated into the sauce. Continue cooking until sauce is reduced and syrupy. Add Grand Marnier to sauce and use a long-handled match to flame the sauce (this may be done at the table for a grand presentation) or...
If serving children, add mango juice to sauce and stir to incorporate.
Pour sauce over folded warm crêpes, garnish with strips of candied orange zest and serve.
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
I just returned from a quiet, gentle walk in the village of Tain l’Hermitage while Henry just returned from a rigorous walk to Tain l’Hermitage and then, after crossing a lovely old foot bridge, he visited the commune Tournon-Sur-Rhône. We now sit on the deck of our ship, taking in the sunshine, delighting in a lovely little breeze, trading stories of our day, as well as photographs. Below us young 20-somethings bicycle along the boardwalk of the Rhône River while families stroll with little children and elderly couples lean into each other as they navigate the cobblestones. The sun spills over worn plaster walls, blue-shuttered windows, and street lanterns festooned with hanging flower pots, an explosion of blossoms in every possible color.
Happy for the invention of the GPS, I finally made my way back to the ship, estimating that I had probably walked about 12 miles today. My feet ached and my right hip and knee were sore to the point of almost limping. Henry texted me when I was about a quarter mile from the boat wondering where in the world I was. We had accepted a special invitation to a Captain’s Dinner at 1900 and it was now 1845. I texted him back and asked him to meet me on the top deck to help me carry my packages; by this time I loathed that I had made so many purchases! He did meet me (oh, I was happy to see him!), carried my packages, helped me dress for dinner, and somehow we managed to not be late. What a day this has been. Time for bed...Bonne Nuit.
P.S.: Another wonderful dinner!
In my humble opinion, the French are still masters of fascinating and thought-provoking architecture.
The ramparts, surrounding Avignon, was built in the 14th century; it is at least a meter deep, and is one of the few surviving structures like it in France. It was a remarkable experience to cross the busy, modern avenue running alongside the boat and walk through the deep stone wall of the ramparts; looking up at the centuries-old buildings you feel certain you are in a different world. When your eyes return to street-level and you see the young woman on her scooter (right) you are reminded of the century in which you currently reside.
Not to be dissuaded, I did manage to start a new oil painting. I have not painted in oil in several weeks and it has been a slow start but I am having fun with it. The subject is a bit challenging: spotty clouds passing over the desert south of Casa Grande. I ventured out into the desert a few weeks ago with an artist friend and we had a glorious time painting the spring desert en plein aire. Soon you will see this painting posted on my site.
Not sure how much longer we will last here without air conditioning but we’ll worry about that...manana. Adios until next time.
Oh, what a shock for this American when I walked outside, snapped a photo and then saw this character with his very large gun watching me! The recent tragedies in France have made this a sad necessity of our time.
I was fascinated with the gorgeous marble that was everywhere!
Claude Monet's home on rue Claude Monet
What a wonderful life this couple, both ceramics artists, must have living and working in this beautiful place!
One first enters a rather normal looking old shop with scarves of brightly colored silk hanging on every available surface; it was a stunningly beautiful sight! We were then invited deeper into the silk weaver’s world, into the atelier (pronounced a-tell-ee-ā, with the first a being a short vowel sound and the last a long vowel sound). The atelier was truly a step back into Medieval time with an old silk weaving loom loaded with red silk thread and quite functional. In this snug little cave of a room with barely enough light were spindles of glistening silk thread in every possible color, racks of tools, dusty old manuals that I’m sure were filled with the ancient secrets of silk weaving technique, and what looked like large carved wooden stamps that must have been used to guide the weaver in weaving intricate patterns on the fabric. What a treasure trove this was for one so interested in the fiber arts as I am! After an interesting and informative presentation it was pure pleasure to select a scarf for each of my daughters and one for myself.
The wait staff is extremely (and I do mean extremely) polite and helpful; if you ask for cream to go with your morning coffee, rather than the whole milk that you had been served, you will have it within moments with a smile; if you wish for an 11PM snack, no problem; perhaps you need to schedule a shore excursion, or a taxi, or change some dollars into Euros...the word 'no' just is not in their vocabulary. Whatever it takes to make the guest comfortable seems to be the motto...whether in boat’s design, amenities provided, or services performed, this boat is the ultimate in comfort. Most of the staff is European, although I am told there are 1 or 2 from South America and/or Australia, but regardless, all speak very good English, which further promotes guest comfort. Jeepers, I sound like an advertisement here!
So, I’m sure you get the picture that we feel most welcome and at home here. Henry is back from his adventure to Normandie with story after story of the French appreciation for the American intervention during WWII. I will let him tell his own stories but suffice it to say that I think he was moved by the experience. However, he has now moved to bed and is snoring peacefully while I finish this up for today. We are scheduled to lift anchor and sail upstream toward Paris tonight and arrive in Mantes la Jolie tomorrow, about 1100. A tour of Versailles is on the docket for me and I think Henry is planning a much needed day of rest for himself. Tomorrow evening, we have a Farewell Gala Dinner and then we set sail for Paris to disembark and head south to Lyon for the second week of our own ‘Tour’ de France. Bonsoir!
Landing at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and walking a very short distance to our connecting flight to Paris was amazingly painless. Well, if the first flight was entertaining and by all accounts a treat, what was to come was nothing short of jaw-dropping! As we watched the 787 lumber up to the gate we wondered what it would look like inside knowing that it is a relatively new model. I do not exaggerate when I say that most of the passengers flying with us in business class were blown away...as evidenced by the number of folks taking photos of the interior amidst exclamations of ‘what is this?’ or ‘how does this work?’ as we all gawked at the electronics, touch-screens, and other amenities.
This one chandelier, left, is the only fixture authentic to the 17th century. Our guide told us this bit of interesting trivia right after I happened to take this photo by standing directly under it; I was thrilled to have gotten such a lovely photo of 'the real deal'!
This man, whoever he is, could not be happier!
A plastic mat has been laid down under my easel to protect my grandmother’s beautiful Persian carpet and a small couch (also my grandmother’s) is situated where I am able to sit and visit with client’s or just rest while contemplating a painting that is in progress.
I have a full bank of windows that shines directly on my easel and although this is south light (north light is preferred) the windows look out on a covered patio so the light is considerably subdued. I also have overhead spotlights for night-time painting and because this is Arizona, the requisite overhead fan. All in all, it is a most comfortable space and I feel quite fortunate to be able to paint in such a lovely space.
And now, off to more painting...
The Opéra royalde Versailles, right, was built in honor of the marriage of Louis XVI (when he was still the dauphin) to Marie-Antoinette (from Austria) in 1770. It is built entirely of wood and painted to look like marble.
The French village of Viviers is charming and small enough that walking through it is not at all difficult.
After lunch on the boat it was time to venture out on another excursion: a culinary demonstration at the Institut Paul Bocuse. What fun we had making Crêpe Suzette; being no stranger to the kitchen myself, when our young chef asked us who would like to try their hand at making a crêpe, I nearly jumped at the chance. And, very long story short, I managed to successfully flip two out of three crêpes, with much applause and encouragement from my group members. We then made the rich and fragrant orange, butter, and Grand Marnier sauce, lit it on fire, and proceeded to devour our decadent concoction at a table set for 12. A powerful espresso accompanied this small midday feast and we all left feeling a bit more knowledgeable of the inner workings of the French kitchen. Incidentally, Henry had done this very demonstration earlier in the day and was quite eager for me to have the experience. He was correct; it was marvelous!
And now, a nap and an ice pack to my now sore knee, in the middle of which we shall set sail for Avignon.
Tuesday, August 15, 2016: Last evening, just before sunset, I took a walk in the rocks. Henry and I brought our little trailer up to Prescott, Arizona to escape the oppressive heat in the southern part of the state. We are now happily camped at Point of Rocks campground in The Granite Dells, a large area of stunningly beautiful and rugged natural rock formations.
Monday, July 24, 2017
We have arrived in Mâcon, a thriving city of over 30,000 residents on the western bank of the Saône river, and although the weather report said the temperature was to be in the 80s today, it was cloudy, looked like it wanted to spit rain, and was instead in the upper 60s...a bit cool for us desert rats. We had scheduled a tour of the vineyards in Beaune but when the alarm rang at 0700 I begged Henry to stay with me and go instead for a short walk with the guide through Mâcon. He finally relented and after a substantial breakfast for him and a light breakfast for me (aboard the S.S. Catherine) we headed off toward the charming and very oldest section of Mâcon. The French love their flowers and this city was no exception; flowers erupted from every available chink of soil: next to sidewalks, in walkways, as well as from pots and windowsills. The buildings were rather Mediterranean looking, tall, often shuttered, with ornate balconies, and the requisite peeling plaster. Narrow one-way streets that let in precious little light wound through the commerce district, which was very quiet this Monday morning. For, although it was the respectable hour of 1000, these country folk believe in the ‘Monday is the second Sunday’ custom and do not open their shops until after the lunch hour.
Each finished piece was then suspended from a chain and attached to another small painting. All the paintings were hung from a piece of found desert wood in an archway in my home’s entryway. Each time I pass it I am reminded of my time giving artistic expression to my voice and, of course, my Journey.
Dinner, again in the communal dining room, began with a starter of an assortment of breads and butter and a salad made up of a tiny bundle of exquisitely fresh endive wrapped in a sliver-thin length of cucumber and a crostini with a chanterelle mushroom and corn topping (there was a lovely French name for the topping which I cannot recall). Delicious! This was followed by soup, a broth, which I declined but Henry tried and said was very good. Then came the main dish, Bouillabaisse, a classic fish stew, that we ate quietly as we set sail again for Rouen. Dessert was a very rich chocolate lava cake with hazelnut ice cream. Following dinner we retired again to the top deck and watched from the edge as our boat docked once more in Rouen. It was entertaining watching the French people take their evening stroll along the edge of the harbor; eventually we were compelled to do the same before turning in for the night. But, just as we were returning to the boat and stepping into the rather elegant lobby, Henry decided it would be a good idea to go up to the second floor where the very opulent bar is located for a nightcap of his favorite Calvados: Berneroy Fine Calvados. As he sipped his favorite and I sipped a glass of water we were joined by another American couple from New York that had been to the Calvados distillery with us. We convinced them to try Henry’s favorite and we chatted for close to an hour, learning that they would also be on next week’s trip to the south of France. It was a most pleasant way to end this memorable day.
We move on and discover at every turn evidences of a thriving commerce revolving mostly around tourism and a product of which the locals are most proud: Calvados (emphasis on the first syllable). This area of Normandieis well known for its cheeses, apple, and pear production that naturally led to a market for Calvados and other ciders. But wait! I will talk more about this later; first we must discover a bit more of this lovely little city as Henry and I are now dreaming of a return trip when we can have a more in-depth and independent experience of Honfleur. I am not exaggerating when I say that we both fell in love with Honfleur; Henry with the harbor and the boats and me with the promise of painting that lovely light. One of the features of this town that has me intrigued is the presence of thatch-roofed houses. Our guide informs us that they are a dying breed due to the risk of fire and therefore high insurance rates, and also because repairing and maintaining the roof is quite a chore: finding someone skilled in thatch-roof construction is very difficult and because of this, that person can charge exorbitant prices. But what fun it will be for me to paint one of these treasures!
We walk first a short distance across a busy street and soon are consumed by the tall buildings and narrow alley-ways as many European cities are wont to have. Our guide ushers us into a large courtyard, past a beautiful statue of André-Marie Ampère, the father of electricity and a man of whom the Lyonnais are most proud. Further along we come to an impressive basilica, the name of which I forget, and in truth, I become quite oblivious to most of what our guide says as I enter my own little world, searching for that perfect photo.
We arrived back at our bus just before the noon hour and were whisked off to a Calvados-producing farm. As we alighted from the bus we were met by our host and immediately taken into a low-ceilinged, half-timbered room and asked to find a seat at one of half a dozen tables that were prettily set for lunch in a French farmhouse style. Our host offered water, sparkling apple cidre, and a mixture of apple and pear cidres called Pommeau. We all tried both cidres, good sports that we were, but the general consensus was that it must be an acquired French taste. However, Henry and another lady from England did like both the sparkling and Pommeau cidres...especially after a couple of glasses! We were then invited to take our plates and help ourselves to a prepared buffet of assorted Normandie cheeses, terrine, cucumber salad, green salad, crusty French baguette, and fresh, sliced garden tomatoes. It was a lavish little feast in a humble, and what appeared to be centuries-old, setting. The meal was finished, quite appropriately, with a caramel and a cup of coffee to which I added a bit of my portion of Pommeau. Perfect!
Friday, July 21, 2017
Today dawned bright and sunny in Mantes la Jolie, allegedly named for a letter written by King Henry IV to his mistress in which he states, “Je viens à Mantes, ma Jolie. (I am on my way to Mantes, my pretty)”. Wispy little clouds hovered in an azure sky over the spires of Mantes la Jolie’s Notre Dame (Our Lady) church as we head down to the dining room for our breakfast. Today, I will be heading off to Versailles, and Henry will be staying on the boat for a day of rest.
The streets of Vieux Lyon, like small meandering veins, are the life-blood of this city, urging the intrepid along to find ever more of her treasures. One of my treasures was my penchant for doors (especially red doors) leading to a secret somewhere. This one above, with its dainty hand knocker on an aging red panel, was an especially delightful find!
Above, the group of four spires just left of center: the Basilica de Notre Dame de Fourvière
Maiden Entry: From San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
After dinner we went up to the top deck and watched the passing French countryside as the sun began to set. Henry sipped his favorite Calvados and I had a most floral pot of Earl Grey tea. It simply could not have been more pleasant after our long, hot day of walking the cobblestone streets of Rouen (my legs were very sore by this point). A cool breeze blew, water birds darted about, and local country folk waved to us from the shoreline as a crimson sun made its slow decent toward the hazy horizon ahead on the river Seine. Goodnight, all.
The paintings, whether in a frame or painted directly on the wall or ceiling, were just phenomenal! I wish I could go back for another long look at these precious pieces of art!
Friday, July 28, 2017
Well, our grand journey is coming to an end and the knowledge of that holds mixed feelings for us; on the one hand we are eager to get back to our very comfortable home, on the other we have grown very fond of France and would like to stay (or at least return). Today we woke up in Avignon, a larger city in the Département Vaucluse in the Provence Region. It is much warmer than northern France, with more sunshine, more herbs and lavande (lavender), more wind (le mistral), and a different vibe in general.
Above is a stunning desk belonging to one of the Louis'. The desk was kept locked, however palace workers could access a bit of the desk's interior through a small, round 'door' (as seen in this photo set in the panel between the two legs on the desk's end) in order to replenish paper and ink only.
It was an interesting train station with older architecture that was very French in style.
In the other photo you can see that I have maximized my storage space with Elfa (metal) storage containers and plastic containers with lots of drawers for found treasures that I use in the acrylic mixed media paintings. I have set up my space so that everything is very close at hand while I am painting.
And for now, as we sail toward Normandy, an early bedtime with the promise of more tomorrow. Bonsoir!
July 15, 2017, 8:00PM (Arizona time)
Distance to destination: 2348 miles
Altitude: 39,000 ft.
Cruising speed: 560 mph
Distance traveled: 1891 miles
Tailwind: 123 mph
Local time at destination: 4:53 AM
Time to destination: 4.00 hours
Somewhere over the north Atlantic I sit in my cozy pod aboard a Boeing 787 and pen these words, so full of anticipation that I cannot settle down to sleep. What a day it has been! We awoke at 0630 in Casa Grande and after a quick shower I headed to the kitchen for a cup of Henry’s deliciously strong coffee, brewed up in our new percolator. That did the trick and soon we were both packed and headed out the door. Sky Harbor was bustling with friendly and eager travelers headed to their own Saturday morning adventures. In short order – but not before stopping for a decadent looking cup of caramel flan to bring with me on the flight - we were in our seats aboard an American Airlines jet and about to learn what it means to fly business class. Oh, how ignorant I was! The plane’s wheels had barely left terra firma when I whipped out that delicate bit of creamy deliciousness called flan and promptly devoured it. Not five minutes later the flight attendant came and, to my surprise, asked what I would like for lunch (audible groan here). Next came the drink order quickly followed by the proffering of a wet towel. Cucumber mint salad, a very nice roll with butter, spinach and cheese stuffed manicotti and...drum roll, please...tiramisu cake for dessert. Who knew that airlines nowadays have really tasty inflight food? Yikes! I’m in trouble.
Please continue reading at:
Notes From the Easel, Part 2
The next ‘treasure’ was Maison de Bois, an ancient house a short distance from Église Saint-Pierre. This lovely structure, with its beautifully carved wooden façade, sits on the corner of Rue Carnot and Rue de la Barre and is hard to miss because of its distinctively different architecture. Completed in 1510, I immediately wondered how it had survived without burning to the ground, as has been the fate of many ancient wooden buildings. Well, I shall have to continue to ponder this but a quick review of internet facts reveals that she is on the liste des monuments historiques de Mâcon and is privately owned. What a treasure!
In the 12th century, Richard the Lionhearted took advantage of this rock composition and built his concentric and militarily important castle, which was at the time, a feat of architectural design. Lush forests surround the area and by the time we climbed the rocky road, replete with wild flowers, and got to the top we were out of breath and very hot. This is the stuff of romantic old fairytales: a moat, a reconstructed and creaky drawbridge, small holes in castle walls through which to poke weapons of war. Yes, it all whispered of a time when life was fragile and arduous, infinitely more carnal yet for us, somehow romantic. For us, despite the work to get to the top, the view of the Seine River valley and this treasure of the French countryside, made us thankful that we had made the effort.
My guy, an avid fan of most other Calvados and French cognacs, now back on the boat with his favorite, Berneroy Fine Calvados.
Exposed-beam and plaster architecture common to Medieval Normandy
Kathryn Givre: Notes From the Easel
Finally, and because no stores were opening for me to spend some euros, we strolled over to the Pont Saint-Laurent, a bridge from Roman antiquity that spans the Saône River between the city of Mâcon and the small commune of Saint-Laurent-sur-Saône. Sadly, I had worn the wrong shoes (argh, I did get a blister) and Henry’s patience had worn thin due to my picture taking so, although we had crossed the bridge, we were not able to explore Saint-Laurent-sur-Saône further. However, we did get some wonderful pictures of the bridge with its 12 arches and the water below that was home to a plethora of lily pads.
The plane landed, a wee bit roughly, in a balmy-skied Paris at Charles de Gaulle airport. In no time at all we were met by our Uniworld representative, Kellie, who promptly handed us off to Thierry (pronounced teary) , our driver. Thierry was a charming gentleman who drove in a leisurely fashion through Paris pointing out various landmarks although we had to look fast as there were many very tall buildings in the way.
Our tour guide was an engaging, personable, 40-something Frenchman (very handsome with his bit of stubble and rather sexy sunglasses) named Jean-Louis who, once again, had an exhaustive knowledge of France in general and the Île (pronounced ‘eel’) de France in particular. The Île de France, or Isle of France as it would be known in English, is the area around Paris that was the center of power for generations of French kings. Paris is also surrounded by lush forests, used in ancient times for hunting by the nobility, making Paris seem to be an ‘island’ amidst a lush green landscape. Jean-Louis spoke at length about this region, it’s history, and the significance of the French nobility, especially the period between Louis XIV and Louis XVI. It was the family of Louis’s - XIV, XV, and XVI - that built and occupied Versailles during a period of notable change and, ultimately, turmoil for the country of France. Jean-Louis did a memorable job of simplifying this period; he even selected ‘players’ from our small group to be the kings and queens of France, thereby helping us to comprehend and laugh our way through this confusing (and variable) family of Henry's. So, thank you, Jean-Louis for a memorable and entertaining excursion through some of Versailles.
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
We awoke to beautiful Lyon although more dreary than either Henry or I prefer. Nevertheless, Henry is off to the ‘Gourmet City Tour of Lyon’ and I am attending the ‘Walking Tour in the Silk Weavers’ Steps’. Both of us feel well rested after our down day yesterday and I have chosen more sensible shoes (and a bandaid for the offended toe) for today’s walk. I also make a mental note to be a bit more careful today as Henry is not with me to keep me from stepping in potholes, walking into poles, or getting hit by cars in my oblivious frenzy to take pictures.
It is now 9PM and we are sipping cocktails on the top deck. Welcome breezes brush against our skin and the murmurs of other happy travelers underscore our feelings of utter contentment.
It is now 7:36PM and we are sitting in our stateroom as we cruise down the River Seine. We have ordered in a light dinner as I am officially exhausted. Our butler just brought French onion soup with baguettes and butter. This will be followed by an assortment of French fromages (cheeses) for me and salmon for Henry. My dear husband is lapping up this butler thing! The Eiffel Tower and the mini Statue of Liberty come into view and make a pretty picture.
The view from our stateroom of the small village of Tain l'Hermitage, left; it was so pretty I felt compelled to sketch it.
And finally, the Galerie des Glaces de Versailles (Hall of Mirrors) which linked the apartments of the king and queen. In the 17th century, glaces de miriors were an item so precious that only the nobility could afford them. This explains why Henry XIV had such a fascination with this luxury item made in France by imported Venetian artisans.
The top deck is quite distinctive from afar with its beautiful red-and-white striped umbrellas. The length of the boat has areas of shaded lounge chairs or tables with chairs, allowing guests to eat, drink, or simply recline and enjoy the sights from this vantage point. Toward the fore end is the pilothouse where the boat’s captain ‘sails’ the boat. There is a designated smoking area on this level, which makes for the comfort for both smokers and non-smokers. Routinely, the bartenders service this area, making sure that all the guests’ needs are taken care of.
When we arrived I had promised myself that I would paint my heart out. Of course life has gotten in the way: I forgot my oil palette (but did remember to bring extra paint tubes), we hit a pothole on the way down and had to find a tire dealer, spent time arranging for a new gardener, and just tonight discovered that the air conditioner is on the fritz. Oh...and did I forget to mention the termite infestation?
On the bare far right wall (photo to the right) used to hang a large tapestry; years ago it was stolen along with another one. Some years later one of them was returned but the one that belongs on that bare piece of wall remains lost to this beautiful little chapel.
By the time we got back to the boat we were tuckered out so were especially grateful to find a delicious and refreshing lunch awaiting us. (Let’s just pretend that I didn’t try three different very decadent desserts!) Following lunch we returned to our room and I took a nap while Henry went up and sat on deck.
A modern church honors Jeanne d'Arc in what is now le Place du Vieux Marché
Now let me tell you the story: The Journey Series paintings are a group of 15 paintings, 12 of which I have shared on my website. Working small allowed me to easily manipulate each painting in a way that would have been difficult had I been working in a larger format. It also allowed me to say many things as I had not just the front, but also the back and sides of each canvas upon which to create. I accomplished this by using a small, cradled wood canvas and attaching another flat canvas to the other side, creating a flat “box” of sorts. Each canvas is either 5” x 5” or 4” x 4” with 3/4” sides. I used all six sides of each canvas as individual yet connected concepts that spoke of my Journey.
Above left is the royal bedchamber, with a low barrier in front (photo to left), behind which stood the court observers. Important events, such as the consummation of a royal marriage, were 'observed' by important nobles of the court for the purpose of legal verification. The king even had a private siège d'un cabinet d'aisances (toilet seat), above right.
She is memorialized at the site of her death (by burning) in Rouen with a very tall spire-like cross near a modern church that bears her name. Incorporated into the church’s architecture are stained glass windows that had been saved from ancient churches in anticipation of the later bombing during WWII.
Across the Rhône you can see evidence of time passing by...the remains of crumbling walls and fortresses dot the hillside above Tournon-Sur-Rhône.
Evening in the Rocks
Saint John-Baptiste Cathèdrale de
Lyon, above, and La Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière built in 1872, below, were two landmarks we saw on our return to the boat. Equally as important, at least to me, was a sweet little pâtissier chocolatier that we passed by.
The Journey Series
Seine River near Les Andelys
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Today it rains; cold and blustery, with short periods of rainfall...that's what we awoke to in Paris today. Rather than go to see la tour Eiffel (the Eiffel Tower) we hunkered down and had a restful day aboard the S.S. Joie de Vivre. Many others decided to do the same and I suspect that we all knew that tomorrow we would be leaving this beautiful ship and just wanted to have a bit more time with her. Luxurious napping interspersed with feasting in her dining room and walking her decks consumed our day and left us invigorated for tomorrow’s move to the région de Borgogne (Burgundy Region) of France.
As an example, consider the humble bumble bee. Such a serious and diligent little creature, quietly going about it’s business, gathering pollen for the hive. I admire that kind of tenacity! I decided to create my courageous little fellow as a Vitruvian Bee, a nod to Leonardo da Vinci and his love of both art and science. And what fun it was to create the texture around my little Vitruvian Bee!
I thought the artwork on this boat was colorful and a bit humorous, adding to the relaxed ambience that we found so restful. This painting greeted us as we entered the dining room for dinner and sailed away to Lyon with a view of a languorous setting sun.
Small sitting area; note the built-in TV in the mirror to the left of the reflection of my head (the dark area is the TV)
Off we go to meet a new tour guide for a morning’s exploration of Honfleur (please, do not pronounce the ‘h’; it is on-flur and spoken primarily through the nose), about 30 minutes west of Caudebec-en-Caux. Our guide is a petite French woman, very vivacious, and once again, very knowledgeable. After a smooth ride through a verdant and bucolic countryside we arrive at the very pretty port city of Honfleur, near the mouth of the Seine where it meets the English Channel (or perhaps more appropriately, La Manche [‘the sleeve’], as the French call it). Honfleur is remarkable mostly for its scenic port, lacey church spires, and beautiful, slightly hazy, soft light that is perfect for painting. I immediately recognized it and when we were told that many Impressionist painters such a Monet and Courbet enjoyed painting there, I was not surprised.
The foot bridge over to Tournon-Sur-Rhône.
Chagrinned, I began the long trek back to the boat, over rough cobblestones, every step becoming a bit harder, my bags a bit heavier. After a long day, with two excursions, my feet and legs were beginning to feel very tired and the little blip on the GPS that was me was moving very slowly back along ground already traveled. About halfway back I stopped and asked a Frenchwoman who spoke a bit of English if I was indeed headed toward the Rhône River. Once she confirmed that I was I quickly turned to climb a set of steep stairs, misjudged the height of the first step, and fell, crushing my bags beneath me. Embarrassed and shaking, I scrambled to my feet and assured the woman that no harm had been done and quickly went on my way.
I used Golden medium and a found piece of plastic with a hexagon pattern as my stencil for the hive. I added crumpled tissue paper and, using a paint brush and more medium, I manipulated the wet paper into a pleasing texture. Next came many layers of acrylic paint in various colors. I employed a subtractive method whereby dried paint was removed to reveal previous layers of paint. This created a complex and mysterious surface upon which to place my little bee. The bee was drawn on a torn bit of Arches 140 lb. watercolor paper using a Micron pen. The paper had been previously distressed with a wash of burnt sienna watercolor. Using a small piece of Foam Core, I adhered the bee to the dried surface giving the bee a bit of elevation, which I felt enhanced the texture and depth of the painting. Most importantly, this elegant little creature became the focal point of its own little world. Finally I added the bits of 24K gold leaf thus truly elevating my Vitruvian Bee to royal status!
Finding, listening to, and giving expression to your artistic voice during trying times can be a source of power, solace,and healing. Is there still pain? Will each day present challenges as I try to deal with it? Will I stumble as I try to find “normal” again? The answer to those questions is yes, yes, and maybe, respectively. But, having been on this Journey, and every day being able to see the product of the Journey, will remind me of what the human spirit is capable of, even during the worst of times.
Tain l'Hermitage and the vineyards on the hills above.
Hmmm...Address or date of construction?
Interior of American Airline's 787
The French do love their Ferris wheels! We found them in most larger cities.
Narrow streets, tall buildings, and beautiful statuary in city parks inform the beginning of our foray into Lyon.
Ceiling paintings created under the direction of Charles Le Brun, Premier Pientre du Roi, laud the "heroic actions of the king" (Louis XIV, the Sun King) in allegory.
And next, dear friends, we move to Lyon and points south. So for now, 'au revoir'...
Henry, who sits next to me, is quite keen (as the Brits are fond of saying) for me to say something about the TGV train. First of all, TGV stands for Train à Grande Vitesse (High-Speed Train, and thank you, Google). It is quite an efficient means of travel in this country and certainly supports both commerce and the tourist industry; you would be correct to think that the French are very proud of their rail system. As we left Paris there were many curves and it was intriguing to sit passively as the train leaned into a curve and centrifugal force propelled us safely through. Another interesting and rather unnerving phenomena is the fact that the train tracks are laid right next to one another. Now that may seem incidental, however, when two trains travel at 150+ mph toward each other you can image the bone rattling impact upon the passenger sitting next to the window on that side of the train; aaand...that would be me. It took a year or two off my life the first time it happened. And the second...and the third; and it did happen frequently. I am now down about 24 years!
With not a lot to report on today I would like to share with you a bit about our stateroom and the ship. We have been considerably impressed with the level of thought and detail that has gone into the construction and design of the room. It is a small room; total square footage is about 12’ x 12’. An ample bathroom is carved out of that area leaving a snug cabin living space, however the entire exterior wall is floor to ceiling windows. Additionally, liberal use of mirrors visually opens up the space and creates a sense of spaciousness.
Upon entering the room one is most impressed with the bold use of a red, white, and blue color scheme. A most comfortable English-made king-size bed with white linens is most prominent in the room and, as I was to discover, helps me to not miss my own bed so much; it also helps Henry during his nightly wakeful periods. The walls are covered in a blue, cream, and red French-inspired fabric with dark wood crown molding all around. And where there is no fabric there is wood, highly polished and quite beautiful. The carpet is a rich, deep claret red and the drapes are blue blackouts with a sheer voile under-curtain; the curtains are all electronically managed from switches on the wall. Also electronically managed are the exterior windows that open down and you have the option of putting down a shade...you guessed it, again electronic. A key card must be inserted into a special slot upon entering the room in order to control the lights. I have never stayed in a hotel room with this much lighting: 9 recessed LED lights in the main cabin, and 4 wall sconces; 7 more LEDs in the bathroom. The generous closet space lights up when the doors are opened, turns off when doors are closed, and all outlets are placed waist high on the walls with European and American voltage sites, as well as USB ports. How thoughtful is that?!? There is a remote-controlled drop-down TV stashed in the 7’ ceiling over the bed and also one secured in the mirror of a nearby vanity-type area. Suitcases can be stashed under the bed and a small seating area complete with a living orchid rounds out the room. The designers must have paid special attention to insulation because never ever do you hear what is happening in an adjoining room and only occasionally do you hear a bit of noise from the hallway.
Henry’s adventures today took him past the city of Tain l’Hermitage, in the département Drôme, to the vineyards above the town, the most expensive wine real estate in France. He reports that this was a strenuous hike but well worth it for the view of the Rhône river valley, the verdant vines clinging to the hillside, as well as the education about the craft of growing the grapes and producing the wines. From there, his group walked across the pedestrian bridge to Tournon-Sur-Rhône, in the département Ardèche, and observed two of our ship’s passengers being inducted into the wine brotherhood of Château des Seigneurs de Tournon. Following this was an outdoor wine tasting on a beautiful terrace with a view of the valley of the Rhône.
The light in southern France is just lovely as you can see in this delightful private garden.
On the morning of the 17th we opened our curtains enthusiastically expecting to see the beautiful French countryside not far from Les Andelys; we were, however, met with an up-close and personal view of a Tauck riverboat, another popular cruise line here in France. We quickly closed the curtains! Once at breakfast we were able to see the countryside along the Seine River near Vernon and the hamlet of Giverny, home of Claude Monet, where we were docked. Who, I ask you, can come to this part of France and ignore the Father of French Impressionism? We ate a quick breakfast and joined our tour group for a walk through the estate and gardens of Giverny.
Our tour guide was a charming French woman, complete with a wide-brimmed hat and scarf, who had absolutely encyclopedic knowledge of Monet’s life, loves, family relationships, and the history of the area. We were each provided with an electronic device and earphone so that we were able to hear her every word. I took photograph after photograph at an almost frantic pace, sometimes tripping over myself, eager to record my own history and experience of the gardens. It was easy to see why the color and the way the light fell upon the plant life was so important to Monet; as an artist I felt a sympathetic understanding for, and a kinship with, the man. For me it was a truly romantic excursion!
As you can see, painting in encaustic is a very messy proposition. But working in wax (I also work in cold wax), I have come to discover, is my medium of choice. To the right you can see my palette of colors that I am currently working with. The small containers of colors are arranged on two electric griddles and are kept at a constant temperature of ~180°F during the painting session. In the larger electric fryer is the clear medium composed of beeswax and resin that I make myself. Layers of paint and medium are painted on and each layer must be fused with a heat gun or torch (note my heat gun to the right in the basket of unused paints).
As far as the main ship, there are 3 levels and guests enter at the bottom level about mid-ship. This level has a small lobby area with a central glassed-in elevator that features water cascading down 3 sides. A double set of stairs flank the elevator with a large glass chandelier above. Large glass doors on both sides of this lobby area glide open as one approaches. A large dining room is on the fore end of this level and guest rooms at the aft end.
After listening to our splendid little concert, I went to find my taxi only to discover that it was already full and I would have to wait for the driver to go down the hill and return for me. I was actually quite happy about that as I had seen some narrow alleyways leading away from the church that I wanted to photograph. And, voila! I was correct to follow this intuition; as I tripped along very rough cobblestones I found several narrow and quite Medieval lanes, tall walls, old doors with ancient hardware, tiny shuttered windows. The atmosphere was still and somehow haunting making me feel as if I had been transported into another world. Well, until, as I was photographing a doorway, it suddenly opened and out stepped a young woman of about 30, smoking a cigarette; she chirped a quick ‘bonjour’ to me before trotting off in the opposite direction. I turned and headed back to daylight just in time to meet my returning taxi driver.
I didn’t quite know what to expect as we boarded the tour bus, camera in hand, water bottle in my purse, and more than a small amount of anticipation. Now, several hours after we have returned, I am still overwhelmed, astounded, and perplexed as to how I can possibly convey to you the crazy opulence and over-the-top decadence of this oh-so-French structure, Versailles. And, rather than try I will let a few pictures speak for themselves.
“Wake up! Wake up! We’re going to miss the tour to Château Gaillard (Guy-ard) ...it’s in 15 minutes!” were the next words I heard, waking me with a jerk from a most peaceful slumber. I staggered from our delicious English-made bed and managed to make it down stairs just in time to join Henry and meet our most energetic guide. A slender, middle-aged woman with short dark hair, she set off at a brisk pace to scale the 300-foot climb up to Château Gaillard, the ruins of a castle of epic proportion high above the river Seine and the commune of Les Andelys (lays an-da-lee). We were to learn (thank goodness she did all the talking as we trekked, some of us more slowly than others, upward!) the history behind this beautiful ruin on a hillside composed of flint and limestone.
The trip to Lyon, one that by car would have taken six hours, has taken us only two. We are just now entering Lyon with its red roofs on ancient old buff colored, stained, and sometimes crumbling buildings. Beautiful old buildings with lacey balconies draped in flowerpots line the streets. Church spires abound across a landscape of old architecture juxtaposed with new. Judging from what we can see from the bus window, this will be an adventure. However, it is one we will have to wait for as we are first off on another adventure: getting off the train and to our new boat.
The Passemant astronomical clock, located in the petite appartement du roi, was presented to Louis XV in 1750. It is rococo in style and, at 6' 7", is taller than I am.
Type your paragraph here.
Note the Eiffel Tower in the background; that is actually a reflection in a big screen TV that is built into a mirror in our stateroom!
A cross placed at the site of Jeanne d'Arc's execution
It is now eight hours later; Henry and I are tucked into our cozy little bed aboard the S.S. Catherine. Happily, we are immensely impressed with this riverboat, as well. I will keep this brief tonight as I am very tired (its been a long day) and we have to be up early again tomorrow. I do wish to mention a couple of pertinent things: we are sailing on the Saône River now and tomorrow morning will be docking in Mâcon, an ancient town in the Burgundy Region of France dating back to before the Roman Empire. Also, we had a lovely meal onboard tonight; I had perhaps the very finest Eggplant Parmesan that I’ve ever had. Simply divine! Bonsoir for now and I will elaborate on the S.S. Catherine tomorrow or the next day.
The infamous waterlily garden
Those aren't elephant's legs in the photo above, it is a tree trunk. I saw many of these trees with split trunks that seemed to do the tree no harm whatsoever.
With lunch finished we were then invited outside for a short trek past rows of apple trees to a barn-like building that housed the Calvados production facility. It was dark and filled with barrel after barrel of Calvados in various stages of completion. The government limits the amount of Calvados that can be produced in a given year, thereby ensuring appropriate taxation. Finally, we were offered a tasting of the farm’s specialty, Calvados Christian Drouin XO. Again, while not pleasing to the palate of most, including Henry, we all felt quite appreciative of this rare opportunity to be the guest of a living yet ancient treasure of the land of Normandie.
The sudden sight of the Église Saint-Pierre as we happened upon this square brought us up short; the sight of her and her carvings and architecture were really arresting. Unfortunately there was parking in front of the church, making it difficult to get a better photo.
All the lighting fixtures are original to the Versailles of the 18th century except the chandeliers, which are reproductions. (There is one chandelier that is an original.)
Below I would like to share with you my experience with fine art...how I am inspired, the joy and challenges that lead to a painting, and the process for bringing a painting or piece of art to fruition and, therefore, life. Thank you for connecting with me.
After we descend the steps of our tour bus and walk a short distance we see the sunny port with sailboats bobbing and across the water are a row of tall houses, most of which are at least six stories high with brightly colored street-side umbrellas at their feet. We cross the bridge into the city, tread carefully over uneven cobblestones, and make our way to a most charmant (charming) side street. We access it through a dark, brick-covered tunnel and when we emerge we are on a tiny, narrow street that our guide tells us was inhabited by merchants as far back as the 15th century. She shows us their stalls and points out a centrally located gutter running the length of the middle of the cobblestone street where blood flowed from newly butchered animals toward a drain at the end of the street. It seems a bit gruesome but clearly was a reality of those times.
I think it makes a very handsome addition to this fireplace wall at the other end of my pastel gallery/studio. And so, it appears that 2017 is going to be a year of series painting and exciting artistic growth. You can view more of my 2017 series on the Encaustic Gallery page of this website. Until next time, the adventure continues!
Finally we emerge into the light of a gray day and a short time later arrive quite suddenly in the silk district. We enter l’atelier and soierie (the workshop and silk store) of one of only three silk weavers left in Lyon, Soierie Saint-Georges. At one time, we learn from our very knowledgeable guide, Lyon was a major hub of European silk production. Sadly, in my excitement to enter the soierie I neglected to get a picture of the outside of this très charmant little shop; however, for those of you so inclined I have included the url to their website: http://soierie.st.georges.free.fr/
From there, I struck out on my own, after getting some specific directions from our guide on how to get back to the bus (or the boat if I ran late), to do a bit of shopping. I had a wonderful time in the Victor Hugo retail district of Lyon; I found a lovely piece of silk fabric, some goodies for my little Ava and Zoë, a sun hat, some cashmere sweaters and an amber ring for myself. Well, due to a glitch with my debit card (that’s a long and annoying story that I will tell in person if you care to hear it), I managed to miss the bus. A comedy of errors ensued that began with my getting turned completely around and going the exact opposite direction than I should have; from there things went steadily downhill. Instead of finding my way to the Rhône River, I ended up at least two miles up the Saône River before I realized my mistake. A quick consultation with a paper map, that had been given to me before I left the ship, and my phone’s GPS confirmed my error and, eventually, saved the day.
We careened down the steep hill, narrowly missing taking off the side-view mirror but my French-only speaking driver graciously slowed at points of interest so that I could take my coveted pictures. Neither of us could sufficiently speak the other’s language but she seemed to understand that I was keen to record her charming little village and was kind enough to accommodate me. “Merci, merci” I said over and over, sounding quite redundant but not caring, for I was in heaven!
Saturday, May 20, 2017: After a long, hot summer (2016), I came back to the encaustic studio with renewed energy. When the temperature stays above 80°F (or even 85) 24 hours a day for months on end, I find it very difficult to get inspired to go out into the garage where my encaustic studio currently resides. But, starting in October, I have the next eight months to play in the wax. For those of you unfamiliar with encaustic, it is a medium in which the artist paints with a solution of beeswax mixed with resin; it dries to a very firm surface. The artist is able to create works with incredible surface texture or the surface can be as smooth as glass; but always, the viewer is tempted to reach out and touch the delectable surface of these paintings. And, the aroma of beeswax in the encaustic studio is simply irrisistable!
Thierry whisks us along the streets of Paris with a blurry view of the Sacré Coeur.