April 08, 2006

Catching Up...

As it happens, our well thought out plans don't always happen in a straight line {{surprise!}} so I've not been able to post to my blog as regularly as I'd hoped. If you read this, some of the problems will have been solved, if you see photos, even more of the gremlins will have been conqured. The following is from my daily journal which I will share here since that seems to be about the easiest way to do this. Bottom line, I love it here, encourage other artists to look into Cat'Art as a very inexpensive but well located art residency... they could not be nicer people to deal with and the facilities are very special (don't come expecting the Hilton... it offers a much more realistic experience.)

Atlanta to CDG, Paris, France…flying Delta, transferring to Air France with 55 minute layover. No way to make those connections from the back of one large plane, on the tarmac, delivered by bus to the wrong side of the airport. We hurried, but signage was very poor and we lost our way, up and down marble stairs with two heavy bags each (rollers being carried,) doubling back, trying to find help, finally pointed in right direction, something triggers the alarm and Annette’s bags are searched, we arrive at an empty gate, panting and knowing we’ve missed the flight. We learn that they habitually overbook and it’s not likely anyone can connect to that flight as they should be there 45 min before boarding, etc, etc… but we weren’t even early enough to qualify for the next plane (this is 8am) so we are assigned the third plane to Toulouse, five hours later. Our major concern is with Ellie and John who were to meet us at the Toulouse Airport… no way to get word to them, but when we arrived, they, dear friends, were there to greet us, helped with getting our rental car and lead us thorough the urban maze to the beautiful rural countryside of Languedoc. Once we left the toll road, every turn of the road took my breath away.
We drove through numerous small villages, and finally through an alley of plane trees, speckled in color like sycamores but more white, and cut to nubs as we trim crepe myrtles… but these are quite large and who knows how old… trunks 10 or more feet in circumference… I’ll have to check. I could do a good size series just on various trees… such personality each has, alone or in multiples.

The green on new grass in fields, contrasting with the warm earth of plowed fields (for corn, I think I’ve been told) is incredible. And the patchwork of ages old cultivated fields, defined with shrubs such as spirea in bloom with other assorted dark greens… very definitive of the area.

Arriving in Ste Colombe suddenly at the end of the allee of trees… almost a shock… it’s a quite, clean, resurging village… many townhomes are being renovated, mixed with others in need of repair… all centuries old… somehow neither diminishes the other and they reside side by side comfortably. It’s the cleanliness that I wasn’t prepared for… the streets must be swept daily, or nearly. Pride is evident, but I see that nearly all villages are as charming and well cared for.

A bit of confusion finding Catherine and keys, so Annette and John stay with the luggage while Ellie and I drive to LaForge… then are told that Masion de Cherries (Fr sp?) is available and she gives us a tour… it would be great to be in the same complex with the others in the group… both houses have advantages, but we decide it’s best to stick together so we change our plans and reside side by side rather than in and out of town. The other house, occupied by Pat, Cheryl, Robin and Debbie, is much newer and appears more Mediterranean with it’s tile work, sunken patio with olive tree. Both houses special but so different.

My bedroom looks out on the back yard through a huge cherry tree in full bloom. It’s a real treat. You enter the upstairs part of the house first, it contains three bedrooms, split bath and shower room, and a living area. Downstairs is a large room with fireplace, large table and kitchen… plus another bedroom which we won’t need. It’s perfect… not the Hilton, but it will suit us well.

As the others arrive we prepare to attend the welcoming party and greet several of the locals, though not everyone has come, we are busy catching up with each other anyway… not quite sure when dinner will be served, but remembering that this is Europe and they eat later than we do… it was worth the wait, wonderful casserole but I can’t really describe it… potatoes and fish in one (much better than it might sound.) Well, we’ve had a long day. I’m really glad I’d prepared to avoid jet lag by going to bed earlier and earlier each night… though it was somewhat negated by not being able to sleep on the plane… what a noisy experience that was.

Annette, Raya and I share the same house… Raya from Santa Fe, has been in Europe for ten days already, is tired of touring and ready to settle down and work, but her allergies are doing a job on her… seems she’s allergic to just about everything.

We took our gear to the studio in the village today, claimed our workspace then A. and I walked several blocks in the immediate area to get a closer look and a better feel for it all. Then we took the car, my first time driving, I can still do the stick shift stuff I’m relieved to learn, and we drove several streets looking for the Clemens second home. I spotted it from a photo she’d showed us right after they bought it. It will eventually be her main studio but they will continue to use the Esperaza house as their primary residence. Great possibilities. It’s down a rural road with another cluster of homes on a hillside with wonderful views.

SUNDAY, April 2, 2006
Market day in Esperaza. The C’s meet us here and we follow in two cars, first to the house I spotted yesterday for a tour. I took several pictures… very interesting to get to know the configuration of homes in comparison to what we are used to. Wonderful possibilities even considering they are no upper end homes and could use upgrading… but even without, they have great ambiance natural to their setting.

They led us on a back road to Esperaza, through several more interesting looking villages… so good to know we’ll have plenty of time to explore each.
Arrived at the market, gathered veggies, sausage, cheese and bread… then went to the C’s house… such a nice day, we mainly lolled around in their courtyard, so lovely, so private. John set several of our laptops to handle the Internet from their quarters, but mine gave out of battery and he couldn’t get it fully installed… maybe next time, don’t know how the situation with the art center will work, but I’ll give it a try, at least for email… French keyboard though, they say that will take some getting used to. These notes are composed on my laptop and I’ll carry it and a few pics on my little transfer gizmo. Hope that works. Made sausage soup last night with stuff from the market.

MONDAY, April 3, 2006

Went to studio alone in morn, others doing other things… scratched through assorted materials, trying to get the awkwards out of my system to make room for the real thing. Met A. and we set off for a wandering ride but found Ellie on her way to find us, decided to go pick up some folding chairs at her house and find a sketching spot. Then found Chin Kong Yee wandering around (he’s a newly painter/photographer from Malaysia) and asked if he’d like to join us… he joined Ellie in her car and off we went… but we couldn’t keep up with her and became separated, visited a hilltop castle in our search, but later found her on side of road sketching and waiting for us… her bright blue car easy to spot. Finally did a bit of sketching but it was turning cold so we parted, taking Kong Yee with us and headed home… the long way, unintentionally. After much winding around, I asked KY if this is how he’d planned his day… he answered graciously that he had been seeking beauty and it gave him a ride.

Introduced to the Center’s computer… a Mac with a French keyboard… near impossible to figure out, but was able to read mail at least. Tomorrow I’ll try sending mail but it will be slow to upload many pics. I’m copying this to a little portable USB drive to avoid having to use the funky keyboard any more than necessary. Had another impromptu meal of cheese bread and wine… a little fruit and dried ham. I’m loving this kind of food prep!

April 6, Thursday

Good Morning...Looks like an overcast day again... I hear it might be with us for a couple more days. I miss the sunshine that lights up these landscapes.but it will be back. A bit of chill without the sun, but I'm layering and that's fine. I've walked the fifteen minute cart path between La Forge and the village, some if it is along the river, then turns and crosses the newly plowed field toward the cluster of very old buildings, some belonging to the center, others privately owned or rented... most in poor repair. The Cat'Art yard and house man arrived today from Germany/Romainia and will stay the summer... hope he doesn't cut the lawns until the wildflowers finish blooming, the dandilions are the healthiest I've ever seen and should be grown commercially for their flowers. I'll probably think differently as they turn to seed.

Yesterday Annette, Raya and I drove to Chalabre (Sha LOB) thinking there was a market in the square but we had the wrong day. No matter, we walked from small shop to smaller shop gathering bread, veggies, meat, wine to get us through a few more days. Meals have sometimes been in group, sometimes on our own. Often the evening meal consists of cheese, bread, fruit and whatever else might fit in... and lots of conversation, often trivial, but that's okay.

While in Chalabre and standing at an ATM discussing it's workings, a woman came up and introduced herself as Randy and asked if we were the new artists at Cat'Art. We were delighted to see her as we read her blog and scoured her pictures of the area to get it's feel. A link to her blog and pictures is on mine... perhaps she will write about our meeting, it will be fun to read if I ever get to a proper broad band connection (maybe Saturday.) She took us all through her centuries old house, explaining it's renovations, showing us the untouched cellar and attic, her French husband explaining the history of it... all so very interesting.

Ellie joined us for an afternoon of sketching and painting in the studio on the main campus, I left the keys with Annette and walked home later... trying to finish my book on the area, Labyrinth, by Kate Mosse... the reincarnated characters, present day and 12th Century, walked the same towns... nicely wrapping the fictional story around factual history.

No special plans today, will have the car to myself since Annette is going to Toulouse with Catherine (the director) Perhaps Raya and I will go for a drive. Robin and Debbie have left for Barcelona, Would love to see the sun come out. But so far, at least, no rainy days other than a brief sprinkle.


The sun shines bright, still a chill in the air but a big improvement over the damp cold of yesterday. Raya and I set out for the bridge house on the edge of Ste Colombe to sketch. I am finally beginning to be satisfied with what I am able to put down. Three drawings of the naked plane trees and each is an improvement on the previous... I'm finding my stride, though it is still painfully slow. Especially attempts at structures... requiring exact proportions, lines that make sense. With the trees I can interpret and who would know the difference? Moi? Oui... Ha! My French! A lady approaches and is not satisfied with a simple Bonjour Madame... she wants to see the drawings, which I show, and attempt to express my love for the lovely view... we struggle to communicate... she finally convinces me to get up from my chair and follow her into the bridge house and out the other side where there is a lovely park around a single tennis court... I get a history lesson of the area, but I can only smile and nod my head, approving gleefully even if she is describing bloody cult rituals, which for all I know, she might be.

I've lost my artsy reverie so decide to return to LaForge, Raya says she will follow her own path for the rest of the day, not to be concerned. I find Ellie and John at the house with Pat, Annette and Cheryl, and plans are made for lunch at the only resturant in SteC. Annette has a phone call from her daughter and we learn that the book she thought had gone up in smoke is now her's to continue writing. We are happy for her as she so deserves to write this book... I understand that in Susan's rush to locate her mother (difficult in this rural area) she woke Joel at 5:30 am thinking she was calling my cell number... Ha!

The lunch.... for 11 Euros, we got the whole nine yards. Three meats for starters, including a wonderful pate, entree of good ole down home soul food... cabbage, sausage, ham, potato stew, with what appeared to be a big hunk of cornbread, but turned out to be some kind of soffle (oh yum!) Great pot likker with plenty of french bread to soak it up. On to the cheeses, then strawberry and cream dessert followed by coffee... they do really good coffee in these parts! Did I mention that a couple of pitchers of marvelous red wine accompanied our lunch?

Before I left this morning, I hand washed all undies and socks, saving the heavy stuff for the machine challenge which I hear is some kind of right of passage. Had them all hung on the line outside the door, but then noticed the yardman was plowing through the spring grasses with his riding mower and seemed to be avoiding the area of the clothesline. For both our sakes, I removed the undies and saved to rehang later... on our return, that area still was not mowed but he was nowhere in sight so I rehung.

Well, we certainly won't be fussing with supper tonight... I've had a restful nap but still fell drugged from the overdose of delicious food. Tomorrow, Saturday, we go to Esperaza to the life drawing class, and John will ready my laptop for highspeed use at their place... perhaps the phone will get some use. I'll keep it charged and close to me in case I get a call from home in the afternoon. I expected we'll be in cell phone range most of the early afternoon (hint-hint! That's early morning to youse guys!)

We are already beginning to make plans next week around Lauren's arrival... I think everyone is excited :-)


MMComstock said...

Well, Karen, if you ever decide to quit painting, you can definitely succeed as a travel writer! What a pleasure. And what flavor. I was compelled to put Piaf on to accompany your descriptions!

This all sounds wonderful! I have a feeling you are bringing scads of richness to it with your joy and attitude!

Boy do I wish I were there!!!!


Martha Marshall said...

Yes Karen, I so agree with Margot. Love your descriptions of everything. It sounds like artist heaven.