Monday, March 2, 2015

Glorious Treasures

Visiting our closest city, Perigueux (“pair e geu”) is a journey back in time. A small city of about 60,000 tucked along a couple of bends in the gentle Lisle River, nestled under the shelter of surrounding hills, this community has been inhabited by humans for a very longtime. It takes a bit of patience but one can trace the flow of history through it’s glorious treasures; artistic and architectural artifacts
Through good times and bad Perigueux has evolved. An ancient form of gentrification commenced in the 12th century when the 1st century Roman neighborhoods were taken apart and transformed into a fancy walled city for wealthy nobles. Artisans and worker bees lived, unprotected, across the fields and up the hill. By the 14th and 15th centuries there is relative peace and security in the region. The merchant class is starting to prosper and they are constructing elegant homes on the hill. Men’s need to go to war is fulfilled with Crusades to Italy and the Middle East. Money is being made and money is being spent. Those that are prospering the most want to flaunt their wealth and good taste. At that time good taste meant a flavor of Italy. Architecture incorporated the romantic, and lighter than air designs and construction ideas introduced in the Italian Renaissance.
Perigueux flourished during this time of wealth and continual transformation.  Medieval buildings were given face lifts to give them a lighter, more up to date flair. Wooden structures were torn down and replaced with crisp white buildings of locally quarried stone. Large homes were built for comfort. And, of course, to boast of the affluence of the family living within. 
For the time being there was no need for heavy defensive windows and doors.  Architecture could be art. Although they didn’t quite beat their swords into plowshares, the artisans of weapons could now turn their craft to more gentile pursuits.  All this would change with the horrendous Wars of Religion, with neighbors fighting neighbors throughout France.

Wandering through Perigueux one is immersed in her glorious story. Look up as you walk and see the spired rooflines, gargoyles and slate roofs (a sign of wealth normally found only in the Loire Valley). Look between the first and second floors of buildings and see the decorative columns, arched windows, and decorative scroll work under the eaves. At ground level check out the doorways. A family coat of arms above the door, a small cross proving their faith, finely wrought iron work, or symbols showing their fidelity to their favorite king. For Francis the 1st it was a salamander. 
These homes were often also the shop of the merchant. The arched alcoves were the entrance to the shop or work space. Perigueux was known for its linens, bakeries, leather goods and so on. It sounds crazy, but there were meat-pie pastries that were supposedly transported all the way to Paris during this time.
Perigueux is a living city. The modern world has seeped in with each passing century. Pizza is now the most obvious sign of Roman/Italian influence. Sometimes entire blocks have been torn down and recreated. But luckily the beauty of the past has been treasured enough to leave us with narrow streets to wander and a diversity of architecture that leaves us breathless at the artistry of past times.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday's Petite Aquarelle

12" x 16" framed size

$120 including shipping 
12" x 16" framed size

12" x 16" framed size

12" x 16" framed size

12" x 16" framed size

$120 including shipping 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

This Magic Moment

Back in the old days, music was recorded on vinyl discs. After the first play, the record would never sound the same.

That's because to reap the bounty from this pristine semi-hard plastic disc, one had to violate it with a very sharp needle.

You now understand the cleverness of the record label that called itself Virgin Records.

So, to preserve the experience of that once only first play, the smart music connoisseur would record that virginal experience onto what is called a cassette.

Likewise, the heads-up consumer of fancy French clothes for kids needs this to record the first wear:

Because, as beautifully designed and carefully crafted the clothes might be, ultimately (and universally) this is what you're putting into that preciously cute outfit:

Monday, February 23, 2015

Baby It's Warm Inside

Just when winter seems to be holding on a bit too long I am saved by the window displays in children's clothing stores. No need to go inside, just looking in on these sweet vignettes warms my heart.

I don't know when my fascination started with lingering in front of Jacadi, Petit-Bateau, and the numerous other stores dedicated to children, but I am obsessed with these adorable, clever, elegant, whimsical, and sometimes just plain ole crazy homages to the art of dressing a french child.

One can see how from the get go little ones are instilled with that 'je ne sais quoi' for always being meticulously put together. Shoes are a coordinated part of the look, not just something practical to scuff along in. Scarves are worn by little boys and little girls. Have you ever wondered why the French can just throw on a scarf and it looks perfect? Check out these windows and see where the training began!

"See, I don't make these things up."

(Susan to her editor.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Alive and Kicking

Coming "home" from "home" is always a bit discombobulating.

There is the obvious jet lag that keeps one pinned to the sheets until 10 ---11 in the morning.
There is the joy of one's own sheets and dogs and cats on the bed.
There are the fresh croissants fresh from the much missed bakery.

But then there are the things in daily life that are a shock to my system each time I come home from home.

The roads are so narrow.

There are no country music stations.
There are a lot of cooking programs. And hey, they are all speaking French and eating foie gras.

There will be no grocery bags at the store, nor baggers.

I cannot forget to get out of the car with my sacks and a plug for the grocery cart or I have to start all over again.

It will take an extra half hour to get to the grocery store or yoga because I have to speak to everyone as I walk between here and there. 

Or it will take hours because I arrived between 12:00 and 2:00.

What's up with the trees?!

It's grey. It's beautiful.