Thanks to some excellent directions from Adele, I found my way to her and Vincent’s apartment with no trouble at all that afternoon. Vincent was there to greet me, since he was working from home that afternoon, which was really nice and welcoming. He and I split a pizza for lunch, and then I went for a walk up to Montmarte and the church of the Sacred Heart, which is not far from their house (it is also the location of the film “Amelie”). From there you get a gorgeous view of Paris, and it’s an interesting little village. Parts of it are fairly touristy, but it was really cute, and I also learned that if all else fails I can be a street portrait artist and make a living in Paris drawing cheesy pictures of tourists.
That night I met the rest of the family; Adele and the adorable Gabin and Marie! There are few things more adorable than little blonde boys speaking in French. After the kids went to bed we had a very good dinner and had a nice chat, getting to know each other and making plans. I slept so well that night, after two nights of crummy sleep in the London Hostel.
In the morning Adele and I went to the Louvre together, which was totally overwhelming. That museum is about ten times bigger than I ever imagined. Of course, it is full of amazing works of art, (and yes, I followed the swarms of Asian tourists and saw the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo) but it’s a bit too much to take in. You would have to go there everyday for months to really see everything! Walking through the halls is like seeing art’s greatest hits. There were gorgeous sculptures by Michelangelo, tons of Egyptian artifacts, many paintings by Da Vinci and so on. Really, the Mona Lisa seemed a bit silly, since it’s this tiny little portrait encased in glass on this huge wall all by itself, with about a million people waiting in line to take pictures of it. But it’s interesting to see how fascinated people are with this one little painting!
After the insanity of the Louvre, Adele went home to do some errands and I walked down the Seine to see Notre Dame. A beautiful cathedral, and the walk was lovely too. Paris is really a beautiful city! I had a snack in a little cafe across the river from Notre Dame, and then I had to hurry back to Adele and Vincent’s so that we could get ready to go to Normandy.
Normandy is possibly the prettiest place ever, and once you see it, impressionism makes so much more sense. The drive out was really lovely by itself, and then we got there to this thatch-roofed cottage next to a little river with horses grazing in the yard, and it was just ridiculously gorgeous. That night Vincent and I rushed to do a grocery run before the store closed, and then after watching him fail at making a fire I volunteered to try, and had a nice one going a few minutes later. So the epic saga of me helping men make fires continues...
The next day was rather drizzly, but very nicely spent. After sketching a picture of the yard in the morning, Adele, Gabin and I went to the market in Dieppe (the next town, right on the ocean) and bought all kinds of lovely food. We got the best goat cheese. Ever. That afternoon, Adele and I dug out her old set of oil paints, and found a canvas, and I got to do so plain-air painting, which was quite a treat, to sit under a willow in the French country side and make some art. Later it began to rain, but we all still went out for a nice hike in the woods before dinner. We saw lots of mushrooms, toads, a miniature pony and a mountain goat as the sun was setting.
That night we made some delicious food for dinner (including homemade mayonnaise sauce, which is infinitely better than anything you would ever find in a store) and ate in front of the fire place (with another successfully started fire by yours truly) which was really nice. We put on some fun music, talked, roasted chestnuts, and in short, had a good time.
Sunday I finished my painting (as finished as it was going to get, I’m sure Ernie would not approve of the whole affair), went for a walk, and in the late afternoon we drove to the seaside. It was so beautiful there! The ocean, the cliffs, the changing light on the water as the sun set; it all made me feel like I was in a William Turner painting! The Atlantic looks quite different from this side of the water. We had to cram everything back in the car though and whisk ourselves back off to Paris that night though, so we said goodbye to Dampierre.
On Monday I got together with my friend Melissa, who is studying in Paris this year. It was really nice for both of us to see a friendly COA face! We had lunch together, and then we walked around and explored the largest flea market in the world (“Les Puces”), which was interesting. There was all kinds of weird stuff there, like mini two hundred year old croquet sets, life sized-iron boars, cool clothing, records-basically anything you could ever think of. After a cup of tea and hot chocolate in a cafe, we parted ways, and I went back to the flat to cook dinner for Adele and Vincent as a thank you. After Melissa helped me find the spices, I managed to make a decent curry and rice for them, which they liked. They were such great hosts, it was the least I could do!
In the wee hours of the morning I had to rush off to the train station (after hastily registering for classes at about six am) to catch my ride to Stuttgart!