The scene in my sketchbook
Sketching and starting to paint
It is Saturday evening on la rue du Gros-Horloge, about three blocks from our apartment on rue St. Romain. We could always find our way home because of the Cathedral being taller than the houses and shops. Saturday night was for strolling with your family and friends. Just like in Assisi, there was a real community feel with people holding hands, stopping in the shops, having dinner after 7:30. Food vendors, musicians, people selling balloons for grownups and kids, everyone wearing a scarf. I felt very safe and a part of there.
[Note: Paintings from my trip to France will be in an exhibit at the Wheatsfield Co-op Community Art Gallery (Ames, IA) starting December 5. Plan to stop by for the opening on Friday, December 5, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.!]
Painting in progress
The completed painting
Bonnie crossing the moat
into Caen Castle
of the castle
Before leaving France we took a day to visit historic sites related to the World War II Battle of Normandy, first hopping a train to Caen, a city not far from the D-Day beaches which itself suffered great losses in the war. In the morning we went way back in time touring the Château de Caen (Caen Castle), built by Viking descendant William the Conqueror in the 11th century and “one of the largest castles in Western Europe.” I felt like I was on a pilgrimage again, feeling the people that lived and worked in the castle in earlier ages. Archaeologists are still finding ruins there and the Roman influences.
In the afternoon we went on to the Mémorial de Caen war museum and memorial. It was very moving, like you were there; we went back in time again as we learned about conditions leading up to and during the war, the courageous Resistance, and the amazing engineering involved in the Allied invasion. We rode though small villages with our guide explaining what life was like in France. I could just see our soldiers peeking around the stone villages and trying to get through the thick hedgerows, a real stumbling block for our troops. This is how the farmers kept their animals and crops on their property as a sort of fence, but was impossible to go through.
At last we reached the beaches at Arromanches. This was holy ground for me; several people were weeping as you could imagine the cries of war. Many of the soldiers are buried near there, where they died, because there were so many. The ground still had bombshell craters that you could walk down into, and the original German guns can be seen on the cliff. We went to Utah, Omaha and Gold beaches and ended at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, a beautiful peaceful space overlooking Omaha Beach.
Palace of Versailles:
“Marie Antoinette and her Children at Versailles” by Vigée Le Brun (1788)
Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris:
The cathedral’s rose windows
date from the 13th century
View from the Seine
Musée d’Orsay, Paris:
Looking out of the Musée d’Orsay clock tower
with a view of the Louvre
Outside Dame Cakes building
on rue St. Romain
We enjoyed lunch at Dame Cakes tea shop, housed in the former workshop of Ferdinand Marrou (link to machine-translated page), an artist in ironworks who created the tower on the Cathedral.
Shopkeepers in Rouen are proud of their products, truly individual like a signature of who they are. We say Bonjour and so do they when we come into their shop. They are very respectful and do not hard-sell but let you absorb the amazing displays. When we leave they say Au revoir, or good-bye and have a nice journey. Much grace and you always speak quietly, especially in a cafe — no hurrying about, but enjoying the down time.
I had my first hat fitting with a delightful milliner on rue St. Nicolas, and had a wool hat made to cover my ears for winter. She even gave me a beret in trade for a painting!
The hat designer at work
An inviting selection
at the milliner’s shop
Replica of a Viking runestone
next to St. Ouen’s Church, Rouen
Near the Church of St. Ouen, a replica of a runestone commemorates Rouen’s Viking history. Vikings (some of my ancestors maybe?) took over the city of Rouen many times and went home in the winter. Then they got smart and appreciated the soil and easier climate, and settled here.
The Church of St. Ouen, a Gothic building started in the 14th century, is well-supplied with gargoyles to watch over things. Gargoyles seem to be everywhere around Rouen — on St. Ouen’s, Rouen Cathedral, the hall of justice — pretty scary at night!
Those projections along the walkway are a row of gargoyles, keeping an eye on passers-by
Water lily pond
Gardener cleaning out dead leaves. Monet kept the garden very pristine for his painting.
These photos are from Claude Monet’s house and gardens in Giverny, where he lived and painted for many years, and his and wife Alice’s children played. He would paint in his boat en plein air and trees were planted for different kinds of light settings. When we visited the fragrance was wonderful, and the bees and spiders were free. It was like everything was caressing the atmosphere, genial and at peace.
I enjoyed the bright-colored rooms of Monet’s house, with numerous Japanese prints whose influence you can see in his work. His home was filled with the works of Cézanne, Pissarro, and many others in the Impressionist movement. I wonder if he traded like me with other artists.
Giverny has chickens!