Our bags are packed (almost) and our house is prepared for its temporary occupants. In less than one week Jean and I depart for our delayed “semester abroad.” Neither of us was able to take a semester abroad while in college. Jean had an opportunity to spend a year studying in Beirut, but it didn’t work out. I couldn’t afford to take advantage of Lawrence University’s European studies. Of course we have taken vacations of up to three weeks in Great Britain, France, Australia, Ireland, and Costa Rica, but none of these was the same as staying in a foreign land for months and working on a focused subject.
Here we are 45 years later taking a semester abroad to study and make art. Along the way we will see some places we’ve dreamed about and revisit a few of which we have fond memories from vacations. The heart of our semester of “study” is 90 days in France. We will be visiting art museums, painting in some of the places made famous by artists, sitting in cafes sketching, photographing all we see, and recording our experience on this blog (as internet connections permit).
Like many colledge students we will sandwich our study between two “vacations.” Our before and after breaks will occur in the British Isles. We’ll spend the end of May and June in London and Ireland. We hope to see some wonderful art in the London and Dublin museums, but the real work will begin when we get into rural Ireland and begin painting. July will see us in Paris where more museums beckon and many opportunities to paint those iconic Paris sights, as well as just absorb Parisian culture.
In mid-August we will head into rural France for six weeks of visiting and painting in places where painters have practiced the art for centuries. It begins with a week in Chambray, near Giverney, home to Claude Monet. Our home there is an historic stone cottage. Then we move to a small 300 year old house house in Sarlat la Caneda in the Dordogne Valley in central France. Many caves in this part of France feature prehistoric paintings, including the Cave of Lascaux. Our longest stop will be in Cuxac Cabardes, a medieval village 25k from Carcassonne in SW France. We will be staying in an apartment built into an ancient town wall. This area is filled with beauty, history, more cave paintings, and some of our favorite wines. Our art studies will culminate with a week in Saint Martin de Crau situated just SE of Arles. This is the area painted by Van Gogh, Cezanne, Renoir, and others. We hope to visit their studios and try our skills at painting the same scenes they did over a century ago.
A few days return to Paris to pack up and send paintings home then we’ll be off to the United Kingdom for our farewell to Europe. Our last two weeks there are unplanned. Perhaps we’ll revisit some places we stayed on our honeymoon, visit a friend in Wales, or try some new sights. At that point we will be in winding down from Europe mode and getting ready for re-entry to home.
We look forward to posting about our adventures, putting up some paintings and photographs, and hearing from you.