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!

Bal Folk

Bal Folk is the name for a traditional French dance gathering, often with live music.  The first time I met Joelle and Daniel was at a Bal Folk while I was still in Paris.  My then host, Dale, was brave and came with me though I’m not sure if he realized that we’d be whisked into a dance within the first ten minutes of arriving.

Joelle and Daniel are great teachers and I’ve already learned many traditional dances done in sets, circles and as a couple.  The dances come from all over France and tunes come from all over Europe.

My favorite so far is the Mazurka!  It’s done with a partner to 3/4 time, but rather than dancing the waltz step (1,2,3) the pattern is: 1-2 lift, 1-2-3, 1-2 lift (which is now on the opposite foot from the last time you did a 1-2 lift), 1-2-3.  It’s brain-stretcher that’s for sure.  I’ll try to get you a video of it soon, but for now here is Lou Strings playing a Mazurka.

Typical instruments found playing traditional French music include the fiddle, hurdy gurdy, accordion, recorder and even fife and tabor.  However, Joelle and Daniel’s group, Lou Strings, is made up of guitar, banjo-guitar, hurdy gurdy and a drummer.  Joelle also adds her own flare by wearing Moroccan raddles on her ankles and tapping a tambourine with her foot while she plays.  In the following clip they let me play too!

Traditional music and dance are a big part of Joelle and Daniel’s lives (making us a perfect match!).  They are very disciplined about practicing regularly at home.  They are the president and secretary of their dance association and can often be found playing, dancing or organizing dance gatherings for both adults and children.

To hear more by Lou Strings check out their myspace page.

More on Bal Folk coming soon…

Headed South

I left Paris last Thursday morning.  My new hosts, Joelle and Daniel, picked me up at 7:30 am at a beautiful fountain near Thom and Dale’s apartment.  Joelle stood by the fountain in the snow with a fur hat on, about 3 layers of thick sweaters and a coat, and playing the harmonica.  I thought to myself, “These are my kind of people!”  I realized early in our 8 hour ride from Paris to a small town on the southeast coast (that’s the Mediterranean sea ya’ll!) that they were incredibly friendly, lively, generous and fun.

The trip was lovely.  We stopped at a cafe/gas station for a croissant and coffee just outside of Paris, had a very tasty and colorful pick nick in the car (even potato chips taste better here!), took naps and traded lots of French and English.  It was the beginning of learning tride-and-true French from tride-and-true French people.  (I remain both excited about and daughnted by the long process of learning French. )

Here’s one my cafe drawings I added color to during the car ride.  Apparently drawing food is my new favorite thing.

We arrived after dark, had a quick dinner  and ran off to a Bal Folk Dance at the cultural center in their small town.   (Joelle and Daniel are the ones in the back center of the picture wearing navy shirts and blue jeans.  They are great dancers)

And this is what I saw when I woke up the next morning!!!!

Wait til you see the outside!  To be continued tomorrow…

A Walk to Arc de Triomphe

It took about 3 hrs to walk (briskly!) from Ile St. Louis, past the Louvre, up the Champs Elysees and to the Arc de Triumphe and back again.  It was gray and pretty cold, but totally worth it.  I wasn’t the only one out either.  Paris is clearly a constant tourist attraction no matter the season.  In fact, this is probably the perfect time to be here considering.

Ahhh…Paris!

Ok everybody.  Here we go.  Entry #1 of “Oh my gosh, Annie Fain’s actually in France” blog entries.  Though I normally keep blogging mostly art/business related the next succession of entries will have a more personal slant because I’m far, far from home and can’t help myself.  After all, it is a great way for a non-facebooker like myself to “tell stories with pictures” right?

Yes, I’m finally and officially here in France (still getting used to the idea).  I’ll skip the travel details, because clearly I made it here well enough and head straight to one of the most important topics of our lives….FOOD!

Hey! Everybody whose anybody is doing it, especially the French.  Thom, one of my two incredibly sweet and generous hosts, took me out my first night here to exactly the type of little restaurant you are imagining in your head right now.  It was lovely! (Remember, my intention is to share, not to make you jealous.)

We sat at a little table literally squeezed between a railing and the front window (from which to better watch the tall, slender, perfectly dressed, young Parisian men smoke their cigarettes out on the street…this particular stereotype is so completely true).

We started with Fois Gras, of course.  I really liked that it was served with fig jam and a little pile of crunchy seasalt.

…accompanied with a sip of red wine, of course.

After a main course of Coq au Vin, which Julia child went on about in her book My Life in France, we had Creme Brulee, (once again) of course.

Full and pink-cheeked we closed the evening out with a saunter by the Seine on Il St. Louis (which is smack dab in the middle of Paris and where my hosts have an apartment) with Notre Dame in the background.  Wow!

Here’s my first journal entry using the mini-watercolor set that my friend Melissa gave me.  All I could think to draw was that wonderful meal.  I know that are many more such meals in my future, but the first will always be special.