Thursday, March 17, 2011

Summer Journals: French and English inspiration

I was just looking back at a journal from nearly 10 years ago, when we took our children overseas for the summer. Our son was heading to soccer camp in England, so we discovered a few places there --- just beautiful -- that we had not seen before. Our favorite was probably the area around Dartmoor, with its wild moors and sheep and gorse and hedgerows (which I had never really seen, but only heard about from poetry, Wordsworth's "hardly hedgerows..."). Here is a sketch from a morning walk in the rain:

This was one of those spots that was lush and gorgeous, even in the rain....

We drove across France ... the autoroutes there have art near the roads for drivers, and then there are signs telling you that you are near Cezanne's mountain, or here is that chateau or that wine-growing area that you have been looking for ... we had a dashboard picnic at a rest-stop chosen by our daughter. It overlooked Carcassonne:

The food was good ... the view amazing. Photographs just weren't working, because the castle/town walls are so enormous, so it had to be sketched. After lunch, we got off the main roads for a bit and found another amazing sight, fields ploughed as they would have been ages ago:

We landed at a gite on a small river; it had been a mill and there was a clear area of plexiglass floor (maybe 18 inches square) in the kitchen that allowed us to see through to the churning water below, and when the doors and windows were open the water roared in our ears. It was a very calming sound, somehow! It was here that we finally figured out the French washing machine, which had always seemed to us to run nearly all day in pursuit of cleanliness:

It may not seems as inspiring as a castle or a Roman field or an old mill-house or a Sherlock-Holmes style moor... but, to me, laundry hanging out on a line, blowing in the breeze on a sunny day, is quintessentially European, an important piece of the day, and a beautiful, completely ordinary sight.

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