Caracasonne France

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A zoom meeting attendee recently mentioned that he was visiting Cacasonne and that brought back a flood of memories of my own visit a few years ago. The charming  town of  Caracassonne is situated in the south west of France between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean seas.  Within the town, high up on a hill is a citadel known as the Cite de Carcassonne. It is France ‘s most medieval walled city. The name Carcasonne is derived from a legend of Dame Carcas who bravely defended the fortress against the Saracens. There is a very amusing tale tied to this, which is a story by itself. Climbing up the hill to the entrance, you couldn ‘t help but picture all those swashbuckling heroes, cavaliers  and soldiers guarding, defending or attacking this magnificient fortress. With gorgeous ramparts, gargoyles, cobblestone pathways and stunning views from every angle, you can spend hours just gazing in wonderment. It is no wonder that author Kate Moss was attracted to this setting for her novel “Labyrinth”. The city is dotted with picturesque canals,vineyards and natural trails for cycling, walking, picknicking.

               Inside the well preserved fortress , there are several shops, restaurants, bars and quaint little museums and stores which give you the impression of time standing still. I had the famous red omelette for lunch, a carcasonne speciality. It was rich,filling and  provided the stamina needed for all that steep climbing. I was so impressed by the architecture and preservation of this Unesco heritage site, that I knew I had to paint it. So I burnt off my lunch, climbing as much as I could to get the perfect picture.  After purchasing some souvenirs from the colorful shops, we headed back to our hotel, which was fortunately located just across the fortress. After a bit of resting my tired legs, as dusk approached, we headed back to the fortress. The gates were locked, the hordes of tourists were gone, and the fortress shone brightly in a quiet twilight sky. This was spectacular. We were so glad we made the trek back to capture some of this magic.   Last picture is my own humble version of Caracasonne by night under a stormy sky.

 

 

 

A Pilgrimage of the soul

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One summer I took a unique opportunity for Artists and photographers in the form of a workshop in Monet’s lovely village of Giverny. Located 50 miles West of Paris in the heart of Normandy lies the Home and beautiful gardens of Monet where he created the magic of so many wondrous landscapes. Interestingly enough Giverny was also a colony of American painters at the turn of the 20th century. The charming village and its surroundings have been painted so often by so many impressionist artists, that they now belong to the world of those who know and love it. The Pink House in Giverny which today belongs to The Terra Foundation accomodates artists in residence in the summer.  I was very curious myself to unlock the magic of  Arguentil, the surrounding mountains with its vast poppy fields. As I set about arranging my tubes of paint and canvas, I could almost feel the spirit of Monet looking over my shoulder and prodding me along. Painting in Plein Aire is such a different experience. Being in direct touch with nature, under the blue skies on a warm summer day, I let myself go with abandon truly enjoying the mystical moment.  

          After the workshop, I took a tour of the Home in which Monet lived for 43 years until he died. Everything was just as it used to be, very real, almost surreal. . The foyer, the bedrooms, the gallery, and the rest of the house with its furnishings intact. Other than the click clack of the humongous tourists, there was nothing museum like about it. His Japanese garden and the works of art that provided the inspiration,  had always intrigued me.  The gallery is a showcase of Monet ‘s impressive collection of Japanese prints, which has an interesting and unlikely birth. One would be likely to think from this expansive collection that they were acquired on a visit to Japan. In fact, Monet almost never left Europe. On a visit to Amsterdam, in a shop of Deft porcelain, Monet was haggling over an object without any success. Suddenly, he saw a dish filled with images on a shelf.  Stepping closer, he came upon Japanese woodblocks. The merchant, not aware of the value of these prints let him have them with the China jar. The dining room is decorated with this impressive collection of 18 th and 19 th century Japanese Masters. The tour of Monet ‘s home and this exceptional collection enables the visitor  to become imbued with the painter ‘s vision. His marvelous architectural planning of the garden, the various ponds and his detached artist studio are all proof of his passion. Monet ‘s love of water is evident  throughout. All his life, Monet lived on the banks of a river, be it the Seine, or The English Channel. His home in Giverny is a mile away from the Epte river. He even had a little Cabana there, where he stored his canvases. Imagine the joy of having a secret little hideout where you can go and play in total solitude !.

                             As I packed up to leave the awe inspiring abode, my curiosity somewhat satiated, I promised myself another trip back…. Au revoir Monet !  This is when my  humble rendition of  “ Field of Poppies “  was created . You can check it out at www.gitaart.com