When we started this 8 week journey Dave gave us an analysis of the feelings we might encounter throughout our weeks here in France.
He explained how at the beginning we will be in the honeymoon stage, entranced by everything around us followed by some homesickness, missing America and the lives we left behind. After some sadness we would be like a “well-oiled machine” and know how to accomplish tasks and work efficiently as a group. The following step would be yearning for America while still appreciating the life we are living here in France.
Bonnieux in the distance
The final stage would be depression; leaving this beautiful country and returning to those said lives that we knew we would have to eventually go back to. Although these feelings have all happened to everyone such as missing family, pets, trucks, beds etc. the depression and realization of leaving is setting in a little bit earlier than expected for our group.
Today we were reminded that we only have two weeks left here in Aix not counting the two weeks we will be in Belgium and Spain and that made everything seem so limited and surreal. This time we have here is short and it feels like only yesterday that we were getting on the plane in Boston. Returning home from Paris made the countryside of Vauvenargues seem like such a beautiful gem in all of our minds.
While we all loved Paris and our amazing experiences returning home we realized that the simple things in our daily life here are so precious and cannot be taken for granted. Being recognized at restaurants and having a “l'habitude” - “the usual”- at Le Festival (our café for lit class) and being able to find our ways around the city shows us how much we really have grown to love and embrace this experience. Aix is our home and that is so much clearer to us now that we have experienced another way of living in the vast city life of Paris.
Miramas le Vieux
This week we embraced the beauty around us. On Tuesday we piled into “Jumpy,” our rightfully nicknamed van, and drove to a small town called Miramas-le-Vieux to meet and spend some time with Dave and Jen’s friend Doris Solomon, a local artist who used to be a baker in our hometown of Aix, and would come home at the end of her day and paint. She also used to be a physics and chemistry teacher but decided to leave that life behind when she fell in love with artist and Italian sculptor, Guy Solomon. She uses a special technique of only using a pallet knife and no brushes. This inspired a lot of us to try her way, although her art would inspire anyone to pick up a brush or knife.
Warren, the art purchaser
Les Baux, inhabited in the 1380's
After our lovely visit with Doris we made our way to Les Baux-de-Provence where we drove along a winding road that lead us to yet another beautiful sight which seems to be a reoccurring theme throughout this term. These charming surroundings cannot be given justice through pictures or words. We had planned to have a picnic and paint this beautiful scene however the temperature and windchill had other plans for this group of cold Americans. Although we did not have the chance to paint this view we were able to appreciate it and enjoy being there, which is sometimes the best thing that we can do.
On Thursday we had our “Promenade with Dave,” meaning our days that we do not have the traditional classes. Instead, we have the whole day to explore, paint en plein air, and spend our day learning on-site without a time constraint. We packed our picnic and drove to a breathtaking view of the Aqueduc de Roquefavour that is still used to this day carrying water to Marseille.
We all chose different spots, some were inspired by the same view, and some of us chose to go off on our own. As we were setting up our supplies it started to rain. Although rain does not affect oil paint it was a completely different experience than standing in a dry warm studio.
Miramas le Vieux
It really made me think about how Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne and all of “the greats” must have had those same emotions and thoughts that I was having. It is amazing to be in a place where these artists worked and were inspired most in their life.
The Window Of Suicide. We were told about countless people who decided to jump, rather than be hauled away.
On our way home we were forced to take a detour due to construction, which brought us by an old concentration camp from World War II called Camp des Milles. We decided to go inside for an impromptu tour. It was a very long and cold experience but, with that aside, it was an experience we could not simply give up.
We were standing in a former tile factory that was turned into a concentration camp where so much history took place. We saw the places where the prisoners slept, held entertainment and painted. This was not an extermination camp, but over 10,000 prisoners were eventually transported from there to various extermination camps in eastern Europe. Overall we were all very glad that we went because we got to see a part of our little area of Aix in a larger, more profound sense.
Ochre cliffs of Roussillon
Saturdays are another excursion day where the entire group gets to go somewhere usually further away. This Saturday our goal was Roussillon. However, Roussillon was not our only destination on this long excursion: we also visited the quaint towns of Cadanet, Lourmarin and Lacoste where we had another one of our famous picnics and free time to do some sketches of views that we are continually reminded that we will likely never see again. It was especially profound for our group to visit Roussillon, since our pre-term reading, Lisette’s List, took place in that village.
Pont Julian. 46 B.C. Roman Bridge
With the house humming of excitement for our next out of town excursion to Belgium we prepare for this coming week and the Super Bowl tonight where we will be rearranging our normal Sunday and Monday schedules to accommodate this groups passion for football. Go Patriots!!
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