Donkey Walk

I try to take a walk everyday.  This particular day, as you can see, was a beautifully clear, blue sky, sort of day.  Perfect for taking out my sketchbook and mini-watercolor set.

Here are our neighbor’s houses and our neighbor donkey:

Doesn’t he have a such a beautifully shaped head and ears?  Pretty darned cute,
I have to say (and he’s not shy either).

Many folks around here grow apricot, cherry, pear and apple trees either as serious farmers or to supplement their incomes.  I’m looking forward to spring when all the hillsides are in full, fruit tree, bloom.

My sketch of the day:

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…

Into the Alpes: Grenoble

If you have been following my trip right along, you already know that I have been incredibly lucky in my search for musicians, artists, dancers and creative-livers to visit.  I was lucky, once again, when I met Phillipe and his family at the festival Boulegan l’Ostal.

He joined one of our jam sessions with his 5-string banjo and we ended up talking about how he found old-time music in France (through Irish music and meeting Polo) and the time that he came to the United States to Mount Airy, a fiddler’s convention I go to every year.  His invitation to visit them in Grenoble was perfectly timed.  I honestly wasn’t sure were I was going to go after my visit with Polo and Nadine.

This is his daughter, Eva, and their cat, Plume.

Eva and I made fast friends.  She was not shy to correct my French and she played her flute for me.  I showed her the drawings in my sketchbook and taught her how to thumb wrestle (a very important thing to know in life).

One morning, I suggested that we draw a picture of each other and label each body part, her in English and me in French.  We spent hours trading the names for body parts, correcting each other’s pronunciation, adding color with my mini-watercolor set, and pointing out details (like eye-lashes, for example) that the other had forgotten.  I enjoyed her company immensely.

I stayed for 3 days.  Each morning I had breakfast with Eva and Phillipe’s wife, Danuta (we spoke only in French) and then I would pack a bag for the day.  Basically, I just wandered the streets until dinner-time.  I looked and walked and looked…and sketched some too.

I liked Grenoble alot.  I liked that you could see giant, snow capped mountains from every direction beyond the city’s skyline.  I liked the snazzy, white/lime green/turquoise, above ground trolley cars that were so easy to jump onto.  I liked seeing paintings on the cement walls of walking tunnels.  I liked people watching at the large market in the center of town.  I liked the spaceship-like, public toilets with automatic doors that cost .20 and would pop up right when I needed to pee (it is sooo frustrating to need to pee and not be able to find a place!).

However, I did NOT like that a cup of green tea cost almost $4.00!

My most favorite spot of all was Le Jardin de Ville, the city’s central park.  Spring was in the air and all ages came out to enjoy it.

Festival #2: La Motte en Provence

The weekend after the festival, Boulegan l’Ostal, we packed it up again and drove south to La Motte en Provence.  This exact dance weekend had been recommended to me before I even set foot in France.  However, between not having a car and the cost of entry I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull it off.  It was a wonderful coincidence (my whole trip has been built on such coincidences) that Polo and Nadine’s band, Ida Red, had been hired to perform.  Luckily, they needed a banjo player and I happened to know one…tee hee.

First, we played for a daytime “American Dance Workshop,” a.k.a. contra and square dance.  A wonderful woman named Cathi taught and called the dances.  It was funny to hear dance calls, something so familiar to me, said in French rather than English.

When Cathi learned that I clog and have taught clogging she asked if she could incorporate me into the workshop.  I said, “Sure!”

The evening dances went until 4am in the morning with a variety of bands playing for tango, Cajun, contra and traditional bal folk danse.

Here is a short video of Ida Red playing the last waltz of the evening set.  I love how Polo and Nadine are standing side by side in their matching overalls.

I have to mention this tidbit before I leave you because I thought it was funny.

Below is a picture of our accommodations for Night #1: a gym floor.

Then, here is Night #2…

…which included a swimming pool (though we weren’t there long enough to take a swim) and a lovely breakfast.

French Food Intermission!

Howdy there!  I think it’s time for a short intermission to continue to honor the crazy-good food here.  Festival #2 will be next time.

NOTE: If you receive these entries via email and you were unable to view the videos in the last post you can go to this link: to see it directly on my website.  The post is named “Boulegan l’Ostal.”

Now for some food!