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Make graceful and lasting change

France 2006

Cindy Tonkin - August 3, 2006

James and I went on a fabulous holiday in 2006.

We flew into Paris, stayed a couple of days near l’Arc de Triomphe, took a terribly long flight to Milan (a travel agent error meant we missed our 730 am flight, gun detected inside the terminal delayed the 1330 flight we did get on, so we didn’t arrive in Milan till after 2200, where a taxi driver (coinciding with Italy playing in the world cup) ended up with us eating MacDonalds at midnight. Fortunately we just missed a day in Milan, but we picked Nicola up at the airport next day and went to Musso, in Lake Como, where we may even have stayed 2 weeks (it’s fuzzy now, 17 years later).

After that James and I returned to Paris (uneventfully) and picked up a car and drove to the Loire.

Again adventure because there were two towns within a few miles of each called, each called Cheille (Cheille-l’eglise, Cheille-ville). We couldn’t find the one we needed. The host’s phone wasn’t answering. This was way before the days of google maps in your pocket – we had printed everything out, including a map of the area (but for the wrong place).

We spoke to some children in the street, and they took us to their parents. We made some new friends. The Mother of the family had lived in Cheille all of her life but wasn’t able to immediately answer our question. We rehashed and rehashed what we knew about the place (as much as we had on the print out). She kept looking at the postage stamp-sized image of the place. After a few aperitifs, some cheese and some conversation, she remembered that a high school friend of hers had a barn that looked like our destination. That took more than an hour, maybe 2.

Their whole extended family got into their car and we followed them up hill and down dale the 7km or so to get to it. There was a note on the door saying that the host had dropped his phone in the toilet; instructions to let ourselves in and that was it.

Is it always the bad adventures which stick out?

The family had us to dinner a few nights later, and continued to email me every summer for a few years (i think they were always intending to come to Australia?).

The Loire was fabulous. Castles, light and sound shows, the whole bit.

We drove across France to stay in various parts of Normandy, memorably L’ile St-Michel, where I took pix of millions of people watching the tides go out, and we ate a massive seafood platter on the ramparts. We stayed overnight (thanks to Nicola’s advice).

One of the Musso excursions was to the closest towns to find art materials – i had brought watercolours but insufficient paper. Eventually we found an art store and bought what they had – a series of water colour paper postcards, and that’s what most of these were created on. I have an entire A5 book filled with the day-by-day, and of course now I wonder what use it is (what use is anything I write down, i wonder sometimes). But these are the highlights.

Some of the images below were made while I was in France and Italy, some were created from photos I took at the time. I painted on both sides, and I hung onto the originals for a good long while – maybe 15 years, before I trashed them. These are the artifacts.

Some of the post-facto watercolours used the Dead Painting technique I learnt in summer school years ago (we used masking fluid rather than white paint to create layers – e.g. the staircase from the Musee Jacquemart, 3rd image below.

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