Archive for the ‘Artisans’ Category
If you are lucky enough to be in Paris … or planning to visit soon … just 17 miles northwest of Paris, Auvers-sur-Oise is a charming little commune on the banks of the Oise River. This quaint ville attracted Vincent van Gogh and other famous Impressionist artists destined to translate their surroundings into cherished art.
A pleasant day trip from Paris, you will find your journey centered more on mood and imagination than on history. Catch the 10 a.m. direct train from Paris’ Gare du Nord, and in just 30 minutes you’ll discover a window into the world of Van Gogh, to see the sights he painted in a whirl of artistic expression in the last two months of his life.
I’m not a videographer, but this charming video offers a ‘walking tour’ and specific ‘how-to-go’ information in a quaint and helpful presentation. As always, double-check specific travel details should schedules and prices change.
The tortured and talented artist moved to Auvers to be treated by Dr. Paul Gachet, though he felt the good doctor in a worse condition than his own. Nonetheless, they were friends and, in an ironic twist of fate, Van Gogh’s “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” brought nearly the highest auction price of all of his paintings.
The artist was prolific in Auvers, where he produced many of his best-known works – The Church at Auvers, Thatched Cottages by a Hill, Wheat Field with Crows and more. A couple of standard stops include the handsome Chateau d’Auvers that pays homage to Impressionist painters and the Absinthe Museum that evokes the mystique of the potent green liquid that was Van Gogh’s favorite. To this day, rumors swirl about the so-called mind-altering spirit nicknamed “The Green Fairy.”
Even your visit to Van Gogh’s tiny attic is an understated experience, more in keeping with the bare solitude of an artist than an orchestrated emphasis on historic significance.
The genuine Auvers experience is less about museum visits and more about immersing yourself in a time and place that inspired the genius of many painters. Stroll along the river and through the village to see and feel the scenes that inspired the Impressionist paintings. Wander past the church to the famed wheat field and hillside cemetery where Theo and Vincent Van Gogh are buried.
Before your return to Paris, enjoy a lazy, memorable lunch at Van Gogh’s Auberge Ravoux, where the chef partners with local farmers and muses of yesteryear to create the traditional French cuisine of Van Gogh’s era. In the middle of the wayside tavern atmosphere, you will cement your experience with one more facet of the life and spirit of the Impressionist colony.
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I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need. ~ Auguste Rodin
Sculpture draws me, as if it wraps a silk scarf about my waist and tugs ever so gently, until I come into the fold. Naturally, Musée Rodin topped my initial list of things to do and see in Paris. But this museum eluded me. First visit – closed. Second visit – a minor ‘strike’. Third visit – a friend’s wallet went missing, before we ever arrived.
Finally, I was able to step into the mansion and through the gardens. The museum is housed in the magnificent 18th-century hôtel particulier known today as Hôtel Biron. Officially opened in 1919, the museum and all of Rodin’s works in plaster, marble, bronze and stone, as well as all of his drawings were given by Rodin to the French nation. What a miracle of time and preservation to be able to see the alabaster marble figures, to fathom the birth of sculpture from sketches and paintings.
And, then, to walk among the garden figures – the shy and shame-filled figures of Adam and Eve, the Gates of Hell and – bien sur! – The Thinker. My husband and I retraced my original steps during a recent visit. Time had taken no edge from the spectacular beauty of Rodin’s works, but we did notice the march of time and tourists over patched parquet floors and well-worn walls.
We were delighted to see that a 16-million Euro restoration took place from 2012 to 2015, restoring the lovely mansion, opening new visiting rooms and renewing the museography of Rodin’s collections. One of the most exciting changes was the redesign of its interior to reveal the creative development of Rodin’s work and that of some of his contemporaries, including Camille Claudel. Visitors now literally see can trace the works’ movement from plaster to completion in bronze or marble. For the first time, we see the sculptor’s genius evolve.
On our return to Paris, we definitely will spend a morning at this lovely museum and end our visit with lunch in the garden. Just imagine – the wonder of visiting Rodin’s enchanting home, immersing yourself in his work, wandering through the sculpture garden and lingering over lunch like privileged guests.
Sadly, there are no more extended evening hours, but no problem. We would not miss this precious experience. We also look to add to our experience with the discovery of The Villa des Brillants, Rodin’s Meudon residence and studios, where he lived with and later married Rose Beurret. They are buried here in Meudon, their tomb dominated by an imposing, full-size copy of The Thinker.
I really can’t help but compare the cost of this dual experience of museums – 13 Euros per person ($13.83) to the cost in Orlando for a movie or museum. Incomparable – and one of the many reasons Paris spoils us!
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Thread your way north from the Côte d’Azur to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and enjoy winding through gorgeous natural landscapes to one of the most beautiful sights in France – the Gorges du Verdon at Lac Sainte-Croix. Several years ago, my daughter and I planned ahead and stopped in a village square to pick up fruit, cheese and bread. Soon we arrived at our spectacular destination, where turquoise waters spill from the Verdon Gorge into the sprawling, man-made lake. We spread our picnic in the spring sunlight by the lake, seemingly the only people on the planet. What an idyllic moment – mom and daughter sharing a trip in Haute Provence!
On to Moustiers Sainte-Marie, we found relative quiet and few visitors compared to the rush tourists in the summer. Carved from the hills and divided by a rushing stream, we are not in the least surprised that Moustiers is designated one of the “Most Beautiful Villages of France”.
Alas – the main attractions here are the little pottery shops – Faïenceries – offering artisan plates and dishes created from centuries-old designs.
We enjoyed a serene visit, wandering among the quaint boutiques, past village fountains and statues and by the 12th-century Notre-Dame church. High above Moustiers, the Notre-Dame de Beauvoir chapel watches over the village.
The “supply” of beauty and historic charm in France seems endless. When we think we’ve “used up” that supply, we round another breathtaking corner. Our next ‘corner’ was to be Antibes along the Mediterranean, where the enchantment continued to prove our endless supply theory.
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Oui – the season has arrived, and naturally I gravitate to French gifts. Here, I ‘dust off” my thoughts on a delightful selection of gifts for any age, gender or interest.
One of my favorite wedding gifts came from my Matron of Honor. Understanding our profound love of France and in keeping with our French-themed wedding, she presented us with an incredibly delicate Bernardaud Votivelight candle themed with scenes of the Seine in Paris.
The Bernardaud mystique extends back to the birth of French porcelain in 1768. A villager from Saint-Yrieix La Perche near Limoges discovered a soft, white clay that later would be identified as kaolin. This magnificent substance is critical to fine china for its resiliency, durability and flawless iridescent translucency. Voila! Her discovery gave birth to the French – particularly Limoges – porcelain.
Toward the end of the 19th century, a workshop apprentice, Léonard Bernardaud, so distinguished himself among fellow porcelain workers, that he would become a partner in the company, as would his sons. Today we owe the exceptional beauty and craftsmanship of their products to the tenacious resolve and creativity of the Bernardauds.
Our beautiful votivelight is but one of an appealing collection produced by Bernardaud and available in fine department stores and Bernardaud boutiques.
So there you have a delightful idea for gift-giving this season. Head for Neiman-Marcus or Bloomingdale’s or take a look on line to discover where you might purchase that special gift for a friend or family member.
We’d love to hear from you!
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