Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Gallery of Photos: To France to Paint: Neighboring Villages

Our Vermont art teacher giving assistance

In my last posting, I wrote about Vaison-la-Romaine, a lovely small town in Provence where a group of us from Southern Vermont went for a week of painting and sketching just a month ago now.  Vaison is an old settlement with a splendid array of Roman ruins, an engaging medieval quarter, plus a handsome contemporary section.  For those Provence aficionados, it's fairly close to Orange and not far from Avignon.   

We stayed in Vaison but ventured out into neighboring towns and villages--the subject of this posting.  If you've been following this blog, you'll know that I have a sketch book that I take with me on trips.  So, yes, I most definitely took it this time.  I also took watercolors and colored pencils so that I could produce studies from which to later make larger (and better) works.

The vineyards were all turning golden.

A street in the village of Séguret, called "one of the most beautiful villages in France."

Window in Séguret

Doorway in Séguret

Looking out over the neighboring countryside from Séguret

Vineyards of the Mourchant Wineries

A watercolor study of the above scene

The hilltop village of Roussillon (in the Luberon) which sheltered  the Irish writer, Samuel Beckett, during World War 2 when he worked with the French Resistance.  The town is known for its red, orange, and yellow clay quarries.

From my travel sketch book.  The top was done in Séguret, "looking up from the village street to the rocks behind."  The lower was done in the village of Roussillon.  

More vineyards  turning golden.

Pont Julien, a Roman stone bridge over the Coulon River.  The sunlight makes the arch look as if it's been layered with gold leaf.

Ancient castle in the town of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse.  The 14th century Italian poet, Plutarch, had a house in town and wrote of the beautiful Laura, his muse, whom he'd only seen from a distance and who soon died of the plague.

Another view of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse

Bell tower and vineyards in Piégon near Mirabel-aux-Baronnies.

 Next posting:  the last of three postings of an October week in Provence

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Gallery of Photos: To France to Paint: Vaison-la-Romaine

Ah, our local little art school put together a trip to Provence for anyone wanting to go for a week in October and paint.  I immediately signed up ... and have just now returned. Ten of us plus two organizers who live in our neighboring town.  The place they picked:  Vaison-la-Romaine (once Vasio Vocontiorum) in the Vaucluse department of Provence with a river running through it, the Ouvèze.  We turned out to be a happy lot:  everything was "so beautiful, so congenial, so delicious," as I wrote someone.  We enjoyed a good share of white (preferred over red) Cotes du Rhone.  And we spent good hours at our painting, sketching, or just sitting and taking in the sunlight in this particularly lovely part of France.  (Vaison is not a large town--only some six- or seven-thousand people.)

From the Roman site of "La Villasse"

Another view of "La Villasse"

View of the Upper Town (the medieval quarter) and the 12th century Count's Castle .

From the Puymin site (with ruins of Roman villas) looking across to the medieval castle.  Note the olive trees.

1st century Roman bridge over the Ouvèze River, dividing the ancient (as well as the modern) city from the medieval one.

Looking into the medieval quarter with its bell tower and castle ruins

A street in the medieval quarter

11th century cathedral Notre-Dame de Nazareth

The old (the cathedral) being held up by the even older.

House in the newer section of town


Vaison-la-Romaine's weekly outdoor market, held every Tuesday.

At the market

The lace stall

Next posting:  photos around neighboring villages

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Automotive Experience Then and Now

Anyone remember when gas station attendants used to put gas in our tanks, check the tire pressure and fluids, AND wash the windows?  Must have been some other life time.

And then, more recently, every three months, when I had an oil change, they automatically adjusted my tire pressure.  I never had to think about it.  That's when getting an oil change cost something in the low two figures.  But now, my 2015 model car, uses a synthetic oil that only needs changing every 6 months (and costs a bundle) so I now need to adjust the tire pressure myself since I can't expect it to maintain itself for that length of time.  But for some reason, I tend to make it more complicated than need be.  First, I have to be sure to screw off the pressure caps before even starting the process.  Then, I ask myself, does applying air produce a swishing noise ... or does that come when the desired pressure has been applied?  (Once I thought I was all finished when in fact, I'd let air OUT of my tires.  I know because I found a gas station with a real attendant and asked him to check my work.  If it had been a class room project, I would have gotten a failing mark.) Then, another time, I nearly drove off with the four caps still in my pocket.

Then my 2015 car has a little dashboard light that tells me that either my tire pressure is low or I have a flat tire.  (I wish it would distinguish between the two.)  So when that little light comes on, I have to pull over (if there even is a place to pull over), get out, and inspect all the tires to see if one is flat.  If it is, that's a whole different ball game.  Or if it isn't, I need to find a place to try and fill the tires.  It's not that I've gotten lazy.  It's just that I feel less competent about how to do things.

On the other hand, I can remember when radiators had to be filled ... or when they boiled over on a hot day climbing a mountain.  Then you had to wait for them to cool off to refill--that is, if you remembered to bring a container of extra water.  Then cars were standard shift, not automatic ... which made it very difficult to drive someplace like San Francisco.  You'd stop for the light at the top of a hill, only to slip back a bit (hoping you wouldn't bump the car behind you) in order to get started again.  I drove a standard shift for years but now wouldn't have anything but an automatic.

And then (I've mentioned this before), drivers used to have to open their windows and hold their arms out to signal left or right turns.  That seemed simple enough, I thought, but we lived in a warm dry climate so always had our windows open.  That meant, of course, that when we got to where we were going, we had really messy hair.  Then air conditioning came along and windows had to be closed.  And turn indicators took the place of putting your arm out.   It seemed a great innovation.

Here are some photos of a few of our old family cars.  Pre-war, they are.

This belonged to my parents.

Then they bought this Nash sometime in the very early '40s.  It had the "Bed in a Car" feature which converted the back into a sleeping compartment--handy when we took camping trips.

Our Nash.  I think it was a 1941 model, a good car, but it didn't appreciate pulling a 26-foot trailer when we bought one after the war to "take to the road."

This is what road signage could look like then.  We were near California's Anza Borrego State Park

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Sunday in September on the Connecticut River

From the Northfield Mountain picnic area in northwestern Massachusetts, south to Barton Cove, and then back again, this leisurely 12-mile round trip cruise takes an hour and a half and follows a beautiful part of the Connecticut River including the French King Gorge.  Until recently, the trip was made on the Quinnetukut II, but the brand-new 44-seat Heritage has now replaced it. Beaver, bald eagles, and egrets grace the scene.  Motor boats, kayaks, water skiers, and folks fishing add to the fun.

Getting under way

"And to the starboard .... "

Approaching another boat as we round The Narrows near  Barton Cove

Heading back up-river

Looking out for bald eagles

Here is the handsome French King bridge near Gill, Massachusetts, which, when completed in 1932, was said to be the most beautiful bridge of its kind in the U.S.

It's a 3-span arch erected by the cantilever method.  Its location follows the old Mohawk Trail.

Afternoon light filtering through the trees

The riverboat runs seasonally, Friday to Sunday.  For those wanting more information, go to Heritage Riverboat Cruise or phone 800-859-2960.

Monday, September 4, 2017