All Roads Lead to Rome: Fourth Stop, Paris and Fontaine-Forches (Aug. 14-18, 2013)

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From my sketchbook. The Louvre in Paris.

Since the trip would take all day, Haidee-Jo sent me off with an extra croissant as I departed Paimpol on my way to Paris. Yes, the one in . . . wait for it . . . FRANCE! (A little joke for my Tennessee pals).

I realize that there are many people who have never traveled outside of the U.S. Still, it seems odd with all of the travel I have done, that I had never been to Paris. The moment I get out of the train station in the Montparnasse area, I see it. There just like in the movies is the Eiffel Tower. At that point I had no idea how to get to it, but I could at least see it way off in the distance.

After checking into a lovely hotel, I head straight for the Metro Station. I know that if I don't go straight out, I will be timid and scared and it will get dark and I will miss my first night in Paris by being too chicken to go out and grab it. Mark, knowing me well, had actually suggested where I should go my first night. No changes on the metro line, it was just a straight shot to the Champs-Élysées stop. 

See that little group of people down there at the bottom of the photo?  I decided to join them. This sounds like I'm being too gushy, but a little country girl having dinner on the Seine was more than exciting for me. No more doubts about finding my way around. I felt empowered.

The next morning I strapped on my backpack and decided to walk all over Paris and paint. I knew with only two days, I would not have time to properly do museums, so I decided to save that for my next trip. My first goal was to find Magasin Sennelier, just down from Musée d'Orsay and across from the Louvre. 

Sennelier, on the Left Bank of the River Seine, sold paints to Cezanne and Picasso, and ground pigments for Degas. Obviously I had to visit. I bought my mineral spirits and headed directly across the road to paint my first painting shown here.

"Sketch of The Louvre," 8x10, private collection

The rest of the afternoon was spent walking, painting, shooting photos, and making sketches. Exhausted I stopped and bought some cheese and a bottle of wine to take to my room for dinner.

Second day in Paris, backpack strapped on, I walked to the Eiffel Tower.  It was a feast day and many things were closed. That was awesome. No crowds. Well, until I reached the Tower where apparently everyone had gone on their day off. More photos, a brief stretch on the lawn, more walking, a metro ride here to there, more sketching, you get the idea.

For some reason that day, I thought (more than usual) about how much I missed Mark and how he could share so much about all of the things I was seeing. I thought about what an amazing opportunity I was blessed with. I had seen so much (at least from the outside looking in), Notre Dame, Tuileries Palace, Sainte Chapelle, Arc de Triomphe, and on and on. Between my feet and the Metro, I had made the most of my two days. I dressed for dinner, packed (AGAIN), and prepared for a quick ride 65 km southeast to the Fontaine-Forches.

Every time I got one train and got on another and ended up in the right location at the end, I felt triumphant. Still wish I spoke some French, but I managed pretty darn well. I had packed as light as possible, but painting gear is heavy. Just think of the number of panels and paint I am using! Just one extra bottle of turp and one tiny necklace, and for some reason it felt like I simply could not lift my bag onto another train. 

Fontaine-Forches

is a tiny community, and the location of

La Bonne Etoile

, an artists' retreat and workshop venue, where my friend

Jim Richards

was teaching. Since it is so near Paris, I have decided to include it in this post as well. Kippy and Jerome live in the home, and have renovated it to accommodate guests and run the business. They have even turned the upper level of the barn into a huge studio space. It was a lovely place, and seeing Jim's friendly face was rejuvenating. 

We dropped my suitcase, I grabbed my backpack, and we were off. I was scheduled to do a demonstration for Jim's workshop group at

Agnes Hardi

's studio and garden.

Jim serving up some yummy lunch.

After a picnic in the back yard, our group was very privileged to be guests to Anges' studio. She creates upholstery designs in gauche for some of the largest companies in Paris. Her work is amazingly beautiful and she was sweet and humble. What an added treat.

Agnes Hardi in her studio.

Jim set up to paint alongside me (what a nice guy.) We painted together for his class relatively quickly, because we are going to visit another artist's studio as soon as we finished. It was an action-packed day.

The following day Jim had more workshop duties, and I was free to paint around the town. For some reason I was having difficulty, and I was scraping off more paintings than I kept. That really didn't worry me. I knew I was about to learn something great.

"Champagne Brunch," 12x16, one of the few pieces I did not scrape off

Jim's class had a petit-vernissage that evening and we all toasted their successful workshop with Champagne (after all we were in the region for it). 

As Jim's students left the next day, he and I had the chance to paint together on our own. It was raining, but we still managed to paint a few paintings between showers. Because Kippy had worked so hard for the class, I decided to make dinner for the few of us that were remaining. We enjoyed wine for several hours, and then... I packed for the next leg of the trip.