Archives from France

Tuesday
May152012

grape juice

Today, my professional practices class had a field trip close to the grandeur of Matieu Lustrerie's Chandelier Warehouse, but in a different way.  We drove ten minutes down the road from Lacoste to a luxury resort called La Coquillade.  The logo of this resort is a bird perched on an abstract curly vine, and that's how I would describe the resort of La Couillade: a simple, elegant bird sitting on lush, flavorful vineyards. 

Me and thirteen other interior design students filed into the resort lobby taking in the straight edges and sophisticated neutral toned furniture around us.  SCAD Lacoste's "boss lady:" Eleanor, told everyone: "go to the bathroom, it's really cool."  And again, we all filed into the lobby bathroom, which was actually big enough to hold most of us, and took in the phenomenal claw-like modern lights mingling with traditional provincial shelves and wood. 

After a bit of waiting, our tour guide smiled as she strut toward us in high heals.  She was a tall and slender Parisian woman with a unique French accent as she guided our tour in English.  From what I gathered, La Coquillade has six separate houses that can all be reserved if you are a celebrity or close to it.  Eleanor told us she saw Sslma Hayack having dinner at this resort one evening.  When we walked into the first "house" I was amazed.  The design was not lavish or ornamented, but it was almost Zen.  I was surprised at how simple this fivestar resort kept their interiors, but if you looked closely, you discovered the subtle luxuries very politely placed throughout.  The bathroom had L'Occitane brand toiletries, the bed had an Apple iPod deck and radio next to it, and an espresso machine rested on the sleek, gray-wood desk.  Our tour guide told us La Coquillade worked with some of the most high end designers to pick out the materials of the room that would be luxurious, but still after the Provincial style.  And I think that was my favorite part of this resort, and the particular room we were in: every material, furniture piece, and fixture was sleek yet still French Country.  My favorite texture in the room was this deep, earthy stone behind the simple, white bed with minimal pillows.  This stone headboard of sorts was designed in a way where it provided a shelf behind the bed for personal storage.  And the texture was smooth, almost like suede: a stone!  The color of the stone was a deep, dark gray, which contrasted with the white walls and white bedding.  This same smooth, almost creamy stone wall wrapped around the jacuzzi as well.

After the tour which consisted of the vineyard, the warehouse where the wine is fermented, a modern garden, another house, and the two cafes: both of which had Matieu Lustrerie chandeliers; our tour guide told us "Wait, I will be right back, I have to ask my colleague something!"  She came back with an ear to ear smile and what she said next was equally a complete surprise and something I was hoping for the entire tour: "We will now go and enjoy some grape juice at the bar."

Monday
May142012

Letting Go

i catch

the maple leaf     then let

it go

                        John Wills

I've been exploring the idea of "Letting Go" over the past couple of days.  In Lacoste, I am faced with a simple life contrasted with the busy work, gossip, and trials bred among my fellow Americans.  All of us in this closely-knit community react with each other in sometimes good and sometimes bad ways.  I have made wonderful new friends, and I have also seen some friendships drift apart, and drift back.  Everything is different in Lacoste.  Everyone acts different here as we all react to our new environment.  And so here we are, reacting, settling, and moving all around each other.  My focus today is less on my reactions to my peers and more on my reactions of Lacoste.  I have a lot to consider, Lacoste being my home, a vacation, and a healer of sorts. 

The haiku above talks about holding and letting go.  Patricia Donegan, a woman who analyzed this haiku, discusses a way to end suffering: to be nonattached.  Donegan goes on to say "it is not the thing itself--be it a relationship, a new car…that is the problem; but it is our clinging to the thing even when it causes us, ourselves, and others…pain."  I wonder about myself sometimes, and how long it usually takes me to realize I shouldn’t cling to something in life.  Yes, usually this is a boy, but it has been other things too.  "Ultimately, the challenge of letting go becomes a spiritual act in some way," remarks Donegan, and I whole-heartedly agree.  My human nature is to hold on to what I know, and God helps me dive -eyes closed- into what I don't know.  And with certain experiences in my recent life, I've had the pleasure of feeling the cool cleanse of "what I don't know" turning into God's plan.

 So what is it I have to let go of on this trip?  It is not a boy this time, but perhaps it's an idea.  I'm feeling a resistance when I try to let go of a certain way of life: American life.  As in the haiku, it can be grasped for sometime, but freedom comes in the ability to let it go, let it sail in the wind until you can't see the leaf anymore.

Maybe the concept of "letting go" is the same for you.

Sunday
May132012

mother of all mother's days

I slept in Lacoste last night, because the cot I slept on in my parents' hotel room was similar to a wooden board.  And so I was able to get a luxurious night's sleep in my now home, and wake up and go for a run this morning.  Exercise made my body feel wonderful, after a couple days of not moving or stretching much.  And after I soaked up a sufficient amount of the Luberon landscape I quickly showered and got ready for church with my parents on Mother's Day.

Since finding a church that actually has a pastor in it on Sunday is a bit difficult in Provence (the pastor rotates throughout different villages), my parents and I decided to find the church in the town of Gourdes this morning, and explore something new together.  When we drove up the steep hills to Gourdes in our rental car, we were pleasantly surprised with the beauty of the village.  Provence has grown more and more beautiful since I've arrived home from Barcelona.  The grape vines are sprouting green leaves, the poppies have bloomed, all brown has turned to green, and the provincial colors of each house's shutters are now reflected in every flower on the side of the road.  After parking the car, my parents and I wandered around the center of the city looking for the church.  Today is a windy day, and as usual, I was holding onto my scarf for dear life as the wind whipped around the stone corners of each wall.  Naturally my mom gravitated towards the church: "They seem to find me" she says, but my dad and I know it's her keen sense of direction and eagerness to be near a church that helped her find our place of worship this morning.  It was 10:00 and the service wasn't until 10:30, which gave the three of us time to walk to the boulangerie for a quick croissant before the service.

After church we walked with content minds and lighter steps around Gourdes.  We were delighted with the small town.  Walking up and down sloping streets the sun shone on small cafes with tables spilling out into our path.  We saw one cafe where the chairs on one side of the outdoor tables had elongated back legs, so the chair would be straight with the table as they sat on the hill.  One of my favorite stops was a fresh produce store with every color of fruit and vegetable in crates outside and soaps, olive oil, and cheeses inside.  The interior of the store was rustic with reclaimed wood (it's not a secret anymore among my peers in Lacoste that I love wood).  There were makeshift wooden plank shelves in the store that also held vegetables and lettuce heads that wouldn't fit outside.  There were biscotti's for sale in a bag that the shop girl let us sample, there were olive tapenades and fruit jellies in jars covered with fabric.  There was also a shelf with bath soaps smelling of Provencal scents.  I enjoyed the "coffee shop" feel of this store even though there was no coffee.  My parents and I spent a while here and then decided we were hungry for lunch. 

My dad had discovered a place where the menu seemed to suit his taste, and my mom and I agreed because how could we go wrong in this wonderful town?  When we walked in the room it was small and cozy.  There were little figurines scattered throughout the space and a couple ceramic pieces for sale on tables lining the room's walls.  There was a cat sleeping in the sunlight by the door, and as the windmill chimed when we opened the door we listened and waited for any sign of life within this living-room cafe.  As we heard slow, not-pressed-for-time footsteps coming down an unseen staircase I noticed that this café only had about three tables, and there was a home-like kitchen in the corner, separated from the room by a small counter.  An older man emerged from the staircase and I said "trois?" with a questioning tone wondering if the café was even open for business.  He nodded happily and sat us down at the table in the middle of the room.  All three of us ordered the soup du jour and watched as the man ladled the smooth broth from a pot on his kitchen stove.  We dipped bread and slurped from our spoons and all nodded at the delicious taste.  After a while a couple and another two women came in to eat and the service slowed down in the French way, as the man scurried around the room serving all of us.  In the middle of our lunch the cat woke up and stretched out after his long Sunday nap, and my parents and I basked in the authenticity of this unique restaurant.

After lunch and a bit more exploration, we left Gourdes and headed back to Lacoste so I could be dropped off to rest and work.  On our way home we stopped by a field of poppies and took pictures while we swam in an ocean of red and black dots (not calamine lotion, Dad).  There was a bride and groom also getting their picture taken in the field, as well as a couple other families.  The bride's veil was on the photographer's head temporarily, so that it wouldn't get dirty as she took a veil-less picture.  Her white dress poured into the swaying poppies and the white tulle of her veil gracefully (and hilariously) danced in the wind from the photographer's head.  My mom declared this day "The Mother of all Mother's Days" as she didn't receive a bouquet of flowers, but a picture with her daughter in a French sea of flowers.

Saturday
May122012

under hanging circle lights

Today was special.  My parents are here, and after a class meeting yesterday I whisked down the hill to Café de Sad, to find them enjoying a glass of wine and overlooking the valley as if there were locals.  We had dinner at Café de Sad, as various friends crowded around saying "Morgan, can I meet your parents!?" and then we drove 45 minutes to Avignon and I'm staying with them in their hotel for the weekend.

This morning we woke up on our own time, and had a wonderfully extensive breakfast at the hotel, gathering energy for our morning of exploring the city.  We walked around happily, sort of looking for particular things and sort of browsing.  We enjoyed the medieval walled city of Avignon and stopped in a square for lunch at the end of one of the many crooked streets.  At 3:30 we drove back to Lacoste for Fabrice's second cooking lesson, where my parents got to meet more of my friends and we all enjoyed tea, coffee, and AMAZING desserts: Fabrice's specialty.  After the cooking lesson I gave my parents a tour of part of Lacoste.  We hiked all the way up the mountain and explored the Quarry, a well-known spot for bonfires among students; as well as the ruins of Marquis de Sad's castle.

After taking my parents around to other important buildings and landmarks of SCAD Lacoste, we drove to one of my favorite places for dinner: Bonnieux.  It was excellent.  We ate at what seemed like the edge of the mountain, looking out onto the valley as the sun set and the hot Spring day turned into cool, night air.  I took my parents up to the church I went to on Easter and we enjoyed another wonderful view from the hilltop.  After the sun had completely set, we went back to Lacoste and to Café de Sad because today is Marissa's birthday!  More students than usual had pushed tables together and were laughing and talking over drinks, ice cream, and French fries.  Locals and SCAD students filled the café, and we all enjoyed each other under the curved straw canopy in the outdoor section of the café, with hanging circular lights bouncing our festive sounds around, sparkling as we sang "Happy Birthday."

Thursday
May102012

Never Hide

Later on Sunday, all of us enjoyed a dinner of Tapas, at a place called "Tapas Gaudi."  Most of the group was exhausted, but Brie and I had managed to get eight hours of sleep the night before.  After dinner, even though we had to wake up at 4:45 am to catch our train, Brie and I decided to have one last adventure. 

The sole thing I wanted to do when I came to Barcelona was see the famous building: Casa Batllo, designed by Antoni Gaudi.  This building reminds me of Dragon Land at Busch Gardens, for those of you who have been there.  Of course, Casa Batllo is more sophisticated than Dragon Land, which makes me like it even more.  One of my favorite things about Gaudi's buildings, is the fact that they are so imaginative, adventurous, and fun; yet still accepted in society.  Casa Batllo is considered to be of the Art Nouveau style and there are hardly any visible straight lines.  The roof is said to be modeled after a dragon's back, with blue, green, purple, and even orange ceramic tiles.  The balconies scattered throughout the façade of the building have a skeletal look to them, which gave the building the name "Casa dels ossos" or "House of Bones" among locals. 

The symbolism gets better: not only is the roof modeled after a dragon's back, but there is a turret with a cross on top plunging into the roof.  This turret symbolizes the sword of St. George, the patron saint of Catalonia: Gaudi's home.  And so Casa Batllo sits on an ordinary Barcelonan street, telling the story of St. George slaying the dragon. 

Brie and I, filled with delicious tapas and the resounding spirit from Sagrada Familia, descended into the metro's depths at about 10:00 pm to feast our eyes on St. George's latest kill.  When we came out of the metro we were greeted with a square full of spraying fountains lit with purple light.  Throughout the weekend, Brie and I had also been enjoying the huge Ray Ban advertisements draped over buildings surrounding this particular square.  Ray Ban's catch phrase of the moment is "never hide" and these ads usually consist of pictures of confident people doing crazy and fun things, all while a pair of Ray Bans frames their face.  I like these ads a lot.  The pictures are usually entertaining to look at, and they seem to fit with different personalities.  It just so happens there was an ad for both Brie and I at the top of the metro.  One was a 50's style black and white picture of a girl laughing in the middle of a low dancing dip, and the other was a girl and a boy stealing a kiss in the middle of a 60's era protest.  The second ad was in color.

Brie and I power walked down the block towards Casa Batllo discussing the possibility of getting gelato.  After passing several sidewalk cafes with fire heaters and Spaniards eating their 10:00 dinner, we reached Casa Batllo.  We had seen the building once before, quickly, on our Barcelona Bus Tour, but it was more spectacular at night.  The building was phenomenally lit, which I appreciated more after taking a Lighting class this winter, and each bony balcony protruded with a burst of light.  The dragon's back looked eerie, because when standing so close to the building the balconies are more visible than the roof.  We took a picture for a couple and then ran across the road (don't worry mom I looked both ways) to try to get a better view.  Sure enough on the other side of the street we were able to fully admire the building and stand on things to get a good picture.  I had so much fun talking about architecture with Brie, a past time I know she enjoys with her boyfriend and also my class partner, Ben.  I think a sufficient "nerd" label is accurate here, for all of us.

 After pulling ourselves away from the building, only because sleep was important, we started our search for gelato.  After a little bit of a search, we found a small place tucked between two closed stores.  I got a cone of one scoop Tiramisu and one scoop of something called "After Eight" which was either mint chocolate chip or toothpaste, but it didn't matter, I was in Barcelona!  The creaminess of the gelato was right, the cool Barcelona night was right, standing on stoops of closed stores with Brie and talking about the Interiors was right.  The way that I toured Barcelona, the way the couple stole a kiss in the 60's era crowd, and the way the dragon's back swooped, was all just right.

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