Monday, August 16, 2010

Week 12: Short Escapes and Other Adventures

 Le Luart, a beautiful estate entrance we pass on our way to Le Mans. It has always intrigued me.

Even if Montmirail is surrounded by countryside and taking a vacation from being on permanent vacation could be seen as redundant, from time to time I get the urge to hop in the car and discover a new corner of our world. Such was the case at the beginning of this week. We took only a few hours out to discover some wonderful new places. We had an idea to ride the tourist steam train which we've heard about for several years, but have never taken. Unfortunately our adventure started late in the day and by the time we got to the station, we'd missed the last train. No problem, we simply continued on to the charming Village of Montfort-le-Gesnois with it's picturesque Roman bridge.

We walked along the river Huisne, and enjoyed others enjoying the afternoon. A fisherman, kids swimming near the waterfall, people sunbathing, biking, strolling.

Part of the path we took went through a beautiful forest which is habitat to flocks of nuthatches, a blue-gray bird with black eye patches and apricot colored bellies. They forage for insects along the trucks of trees or find nuts and berries. They receive their English name from their habit of wedging their food into nooks and crannies and hacking at their catch with strong bills to break it into manageable sized morsels. In French they are called sittelles, a name given to them by the ancient Greeks.

On our way back we stopped at the Château de Pescheray for a peek around the grounds (185 acres) of this public estate. Rick had attended a meeting here last year and wanted to show me what I had missed. There is a cafe in the castle park where we sipped a Perrier before having a walk around. The chateau is known for it's ancient boxwood trees, prized by cabinet makers for it's hardness and close grain. The castle sits at the top of a little hill with a commanding view of the surrounding countryside.

Pigeonniers (dovecots) were introduced into France by the Romans and were built to house hundreds of birds at a time. Pigeons were an important form of protein in the Middle Ages and their droppings also provided a sure source of fertilizer for crops. After the fourteenth century it was illegal for anyone who was not of the noble classes to build a dovecot and the size was restricted according to the rank of the owner. This estate was obviously owned by someone of  high class as their pigeonnier is quite large. Each niche would house a bird. The wooden arm swings around so that the ladder can be positioned to reach any hole.


Leyla returned this week to do a bit more etching. She's become enamored of the process and is starting to be quite confident. Her father tells me she doesn't want to leave for her vacation by the sea but would rather stay and do etching at Atelier Conti! On Tuesday she came on her own, and I worked with her to produce another etching and to introduce her to lino.

She had chosen an image by Matisse of a simple line drawing of a swan which she used as a model but didn't trace. She then used a soft ground varnish to embed mint and bamboo leaves to create a beautiful texture. She printed it in blue. It turned out beautifully, I think.

She made a charming lino image as well which she experimented printing in several colors. I liked it in black.

While I was working with Leyla, we had a large group from the nearby area arrive in the studio for a brief tour and explanation of our etching process. Rick was thankfully available to do the presentation.


Emily and family are off for an extended vacation next week so we took one other short break to visit them in Paris before they left. We wanted to see Quinn. We took a train ride outside of Paris and had a picnic on the more bucolic part of the River Seine. Quinn couldn't quite wait until we got there so his lunch was on the train.

Less than an hour away from central Paris you can find sleepy villages just beside the river surrounded by forest. While Quinn slept in the stroller the rest of us spread out a meal on an old port on the banks of the river in a pretty little town named Thomery. We walked to and from the train station to the river though the forest.


I more or less finished another two plate experiment, this one a Parisian street scene. Color applied a la poupée is printed first and the line drawing is over printed.


We had another marriage in the village this week at our local church. Both the groom's parents and the couple themselves stayed at Maison Conti.  When the young man called to make a reservation some months ago he requested that his room and his parents' be as far away from one another as possible!

After the ceremony the newlyweds were carried to their reception, just outside of town on a caleche, a horse drawn carriage. The horses were, of course, Percherons, for which this area is famous.

 Tomatoes found at our door when we came home from Paris. Another garden gift from Martine.


  1. wow, I love the etching...... and the color technique..... have you found your colour way maybe??? great photos Nancy, you're an ad for France!

  2. The chateau looks beautiful, and I especially love the surrounding area that you have shown us in your photos. That dovecot is amazing! I always picture dovecots about the size of a large letter-box, so the idea of that structure, filled to capacity is overwhelming!
    Your new work seems to capture Paris perfectly to me and I love Leyla's etching too. Great post!

  3. Thanks for another lovely week in France . . .