A Chateau & A Croissant

O.K., this might be a little confusing, but stick with me.  After the old-time weekend and then recording with Polo and Nadine I returned to the little cottage in Champtocé that I was sharing with Clara (which involved the same 45 minute trek from the little train stop).

She had had a lovely, solitary week and a half reading books, drawing, journaling, working on the computer AND making fires in the fireplace.

Here is the rest of the story about how we found the cottage.  As some of you know, Laurie Corral, of Asheville Bookworks, and I were asked to teach a 9 day workshop at Chateau du Pin in the Loire Valley.  When Clara had the idea to find a place for a month-long retreat she suggested I ask, Peg Gignoux, the woman who hired us to teach at the Chateau.  As it turned out, Peg’s cousin Marie had cottages for rent just down the road from the Chateau.  Have I lost you yet?

During our time at the cottage we made buddies with Marie (our land lady) and Louise (Peg’s sister) who is living at the Chateau for 3 months to help with the family business.  This is how it came to be that we received a personal tour of the grounds.

The story of the Chateau is an interesting one.  Louise told us various tid-bits; it was seized as living quarters for the Nazi’s during the war and at present it’s owned by almost 20 members of the French-American Gignoux family.

Pretty nice eh?

The story continues…Clara has a rule for herself when it comes to France: Never go to France without going to Paris for a few days.  So, staying true to her rule, she had planned 5 days in Paris at the end of her month-long stay.  Being the lovely person she is, she invited me to come along.  Who passes up being in Paris? Not me!

Recording a CD

It’s kind of a long story, but I ended up staying another week with Polo and Nadine after the Old-Time Weekend in Bécours.  Their band, Ida Red, invited me to record about 6 tunes with them on their new CD.  Of course, I was honored.  All three of them are grand musicians and it was the perfect chance for me to sit down and really learn some of Polo’s crazy, very-old-sounding fiddle tunes.

(For those of you Asheville, Old-Time Music folks out there, Ida Red also included their dear friends Meredith McIntosh and John Herrmann when they were passing through France.)

So, we packed it up and drove back to Ardèche.  It was good to be back.

We practiced…

And practiced…And busked at the market on Saturday morning…I think we made about 12 Euros each…

Then, we drove to the middle of no where (a beautiful place)…

and we recorded…

Bécours: Old-Time Music Weekend

Smack dab in the middle of my “travel break” with Clara, landed an amazing thing; an Old-Time music weekend.  For those of you who don’t know, Old-Time music is the name for the traditional music coming from in and around the Appalachian Mountains in the U.S. of A.

It being a surprising and wonderful thing to find such a weekend way over here in France I really, really wanted to go.  Once Clara assured me that she wouldn’t feel deserted, I bought a train ticket and embarked on yet another mini-journey within my grand journey.

However, it wasn’t as easy as that.  Clara and I didn’t have a car and the cottage where we were staying was a 45 minute walk from the nearest town.  The town had, not a train station, but a train stop.  So, I woke at 6 a.m. and walked with a day bag, a water bottle and my banjo, down the road (I wish someone had been there to take a picture).

I caught the little train that ran through Champtocé to Angers where I caught another train to Orléans.  Nadine had arranged for me to catch a ride there with people I had never met; Yves and Réjane.  I recognized Yves immediately because he was the only one waiting for the train with a banjo on his back.

We drove for hours, talking all the way.  We arrived to meet a whole gang of folks with instruments, sleeping bags for the dorm beds and lots of food and wine to share.

Everyone was curious about the American girl who really, truly came from North Carolina.  Then, amazingly enough, another American girl and great fiddler, named Anne, arrived.  I taught some clogging steps and she called a few square dances.

(Anne and I also discovered that, not only are we teaching during the same week at Augusta Heritage Center in August, but she is also the musician for my clogging workshop at Pinewoods in Massachusetts.  How crazy is that!)

Everyone put their food in a large utility kitchen and shared the duties of cooking and cleaning.  Polo got the big idea to make 40 wood-fired pizzas from scratch.  It was alot of work, but they tasted soooo good.

Bécours is also the location for a boyscout/girl scout camp.  A few of us went down and played them some tunes.  I’m sure none of them had heard Appalachian Old-Time before.

Here is a short video of a brother and sister duo playing and singing the Lonesome Pine Special from the Carter Family.  They are accompanying themselves with a piano accordion.

Here is the link to the video if you are unable to view it here:

Champtocé sur Loire: Travel Break

As you might have guessed by now, where I am in reality and where I am on the blog are not in alignment (though I promise to be caught up by the end of my trip).

I tell you this because what I’m about to write about is my mid-trip rest break, though in reality I am now nearing the end of my trip.  By the time I left Cathi’s house in Sisteron I had been visiting people via planes-trains-and-automobiles for 3 months.  While still in the U.S. my friend-marketing mentor-fellow bookmaker, Clara, suggested renting a place for a month-long artist’s retreat.  We found a little cottage near Angers (more on that later) and promised to meet there in the beginning of May.  So, here it is:

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  I had 3 months worth of great people and experiences to reflect on.  I had a chance to catch up on emails and began to prepare my fall/winter schedule (searching for teaching and music gigs).  We enjoyed long walks, interesting talks (it was fun to see someone from home way over here), cooking our own meals, watching French T.V., reading books, making cozy fires and sleeping alot.

I even got to paint a little…

Sisteron: The Gateway to Provence

Do you remember the woman, Cathi, who I met at the festival La Motte en Provence?  The one who called American contra and square dances (in French of course)?  She is a dear friend of, not only Polo and Nadine, but of Philippe who I visited in Grenoble.  After she and I hit it off so well at La Motte she called and invited me to visit her at her home near a pre-Roman town called Sisteron.

In the picture above you can see how the rock formations create a sort of gateway.  A 13th-17th citadel is on the hill to the left and a rare rock formation, where people come from far and wide to rock climb, is to the right.   It’s also on the route for Le Tour de France (kind of a pain-in-the-butt for locals).  Cathi says it marks the passage from the Alpes and to Provence, hence being a perfect stop after my visit with Aime.

I was enamored with this walk-through from old town to new town.  The little sign hanging to the right is for a bakery of artisan bread.  They don’t even have a store front, you just peek your head through the front door and they come to sell you bread fresh out of the wood-fired oven.

Below is Valerna, the little village near Sisterone where Cathi and her daughter Julie live.

Cathi is a fiddle player.  She started with Irish and traditional French music and then fell in love with Appalachian Old-Time after meeting Polo and Nadine.  So, of course, we played some tunes together….

Went on some beautiful walks…

And went to the market…Mmm…Strawberries…