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France, Part 6 — La Roche Guyon

September 10th, 2009|France, Photography, Travel|1 Comment

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View from the top of Château de la Roche Guyon donjon. ©2009 Deidre Adams.

One of our day trips while staying with ArtStudy was to La Roche Guyon, a short ride from Giverny. It’s a charming village whose main feature is a castle, the Château, which was built in stages over many years.

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In visiting the Château itself, you enter through the courtyard and find yourself in the newer part of the complex, an addition built in the 18th Century. This building includes a succession of staterooms, one of which features 4 very large and beautiful tapestries representing the biblical story of Esther. There is also a room housing a collection of curiosities, with taxidermied animals, shells, rocks, and other artifacts of nature. Beneath the castle are a series of subterranean passages, including the “casemates” dug in 1944 by the German army for field marshall Rommel and his staff.

You can go up to the top of the old 9th-Century donjon (castle keep), if you are a hardy soul who can forge on past the dire warning signs and make the climb up 250 very steep steps carved into the rock of the cliff itself. Those who do so are rewarded with magnificent views of the village with the Seine beyond.

I also spent some time walking through the village, with its lovely shops and residences. At one end of the village, you can find a walking path that runs next to a beautiful field (maybe it’s wheat? I’m sorry I’m not really up on the grains). The skies in the morning were beautiful with patchy clouds, before the rain moved in for good later that afternoon.

September 10th, 2009|France, Photography, Travel|1 Comment

France, Part 5 — Giverny

September 5th, 2009|France, Photography, Travel|2 Comments

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After a couple of days in Paris, we took a train to Vernon, whose French pronunciation was often ignored by members of our group, probably giving rise to varying reactions of amusement or perhaps consternation by the local residents. From there, it was a short ride in the van to Giverny, the home of our ArtStudy lodge. Giverny is a lovely small town in Normandy, full of picture-postcard scenery. In the image above is Chris, a local artist who is a good friend of the ArtStudy hosts, in front of one of his sand sculptures.

A few more images from Giverny (click any image for larger-format viewer):

While in Giverny, we were pampered each day with fabulous food both at the lodge and at the local restaurants. The lodge has a chef who came and prepared some special-occasion meals on non-restaurant days. For breakfast, we had fresh bread or croissants every day, along with a choice of fruit, Müesli, hard-boiled egg (not for me, thank you very much!), yogurt, and assorted juices. The coffee, accompanied by fresh half-and-half prepared from local milk and cream, was wonderful. Since Normandy is famous for dairy foods, we also had some great cheese selections. The thing that most stood out to me was how fresh everything was. Since I’ve been home, I’ve made a point of going to the farmer’s market every weekend to try to keep getting fruits and vegetables that are as fresh as possible.

On days when we didn’t have field trips, the day was spent painting en plein air. We had European style shopping carts that we loaded up with all of our supplies, including a TV tray for a table, and headed out to find a spot to paint. (I’ll post some of my paintings from the trip soon.) Then each day at 6:00, we journeyed down to Monet’s Garden with our supplies. The gardens were closed at that time, so the only people there were us and a few others, artists or photographers, who also had special permission to be there for two hours taking advantage of the beautiful landscaping and flowers. Here are a few of the photos I took in the gardens.

September 5th, 2009|France, Photography, Travel|2 Comments

France, Part 4 — Death Day

August 18th, 2009|France, Travel|3 Comments

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On Tuesday, some of us had had enough of the museum thing and wanted to change things up a bit, so we decided to pay a visit to Les Catacombes de Paris. This is an underground ossuary housing the remains of over 6 million former Parisians, built into an erstwhile quarry during the late 18th century. The catacombs were created to solve the problems of disease and other unpleasantness associated with the vast numbers of improperly buried corpses resulting from war, famine, and epidemics occurring over the past several centuries. The remains were systematically removed from existing cemeteries and relocated in the catacombs. An interesting history, with sometimes unintended humor in translation, is available here.

The bones are stacked neatly in piles, room after room. I couldn’t help thinking about the logistics of how it was done, and what was going through the minds of the people doing the stacking. It’s amazing to me that you can just go right up and touch them if you are so inclined (I wasn’t). They do check your bag as you come out though, to make sure you don’t take any souvenirs.

As you move throughout the tunnel, you see frequent monuments urging you to reflect upon your own life, because hey, you’ll be here yourself before too long.

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And of course, human nature being what it is, the living feel compelled to leave their own mark:

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After the Catacombs and lunch, the only remaining excursion appropriate to the day is a visit to Père Lachaise Cemetery. As any self-respecting cemetery afficionado knows, Père Lachaise is one of the most famous cemeteries in the world, and it’s the final resting place of such notables as Marcel Proust, Oscar Wilde, and Jim Morrison, to name a few. The Wikipedia entry has a good list of the most famous permanent residents.

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It is certainly a different approach to cemeteries than I am used to here in the States.

August 18th, 2009|France, Travel|3 Comments