Europe 2019 Part Four: Exhibition in the South of France

We Arrive At Our New Home for Two Weeks

By the time we pull into the driveway of our new home away from home, we’ve driven 1500 km. So far, all our arrangements have gone well, and we’re relieved to find the house exactly as we hoped. The view from the large deck is stunning, and the house is set up very well for me to write and Gregg to draw. We even have an octagon-shaped, above-ground dunking pool that we head for after meeting with the owner and getting the lay of the land.


After our pool dunk, we discover that all the food stores within a 20 km radius are closed because it’s Sunday. The concept of stores closing on Sunday should be familiar to us after so many years traveling in Europe, but alas, we’re caught out again. We hop back into the car and drive south to Frejus on the Mediterranean to find one of the only open food stores (thank goodness for being able to search for “food stores” on Google maps). We stock up on the basics and then have dinner at a restaurantacross the road from the beach at Frejus.

After dinner, we drive the forty minutes back to our rented home and spend the rest of the evening putting the frames together for the drawings included in the exhibition.

Hanging the Exhibition

The next day, the hanging of the exhibition goes smoothly. The gallery space where Gregg is exhibiting in Seillans was once a convent and is now the municipal exhibition hall complete with a black-curtained stage at one end. Gregg exhibited in the space back in 2000, so we’re familiar with it and the village. Seillans holds a soft spot for Gregg because it is where one of his favorite artists, Max Ernst, lived during the last years of his life. Here is Gregg next to the large portraits of Max Ernst at the entrance to the village and then unlocking the door to the Salle du Couvent where his exhibition is held.

The next evening is the vernissage—the opening. It is well attended and includes a speech from the mayor. People are friendly and appreciate the artwork. And this time, I don’t spill an entire gallon of red wine all over myself and the floor like I did at the opening back in 2000.

I have progressed.

To view some of the work featured in the exhibition, check out the Dream Gardens collection on Gregg’s website.

Temporary Citizens of Seillans

Seillans is a small village in the Var region of souther France. It is located about 50 kilometers due north of Frejus and Saint-Raphael on the Mediterranean and has been desginated one of the les plus beaux villages de France. Yes, that’s an official designation. You can check the website. Here’s what the website says about Seillans (en francais of course):

A quelques kilomètres de Fayence, Seillans a tout du village provençal typique : ses maisons étagées à flanc de colline, ses ruelles pavées, ses passages voûtés et ses placettes où chantent les fontaine, son climat ensoleillé et ses paysages de vignes et d’oliviers. L’endroit séduisit le peintre Max Ernst qui y vécut les dernières années de sa vie et dont on peut admirer l’oeuvre à la Donation Tanning-Ernst.

In English, the village is described as

A few kilometers from Fayence, Seillans has everything of the typical Provencal village: its houses built on a hillside, its cobbled streets, its vaulted passages and squares where the fountain sings, its sunny climate and landscapes of vineyards and olive groves. The place seduced the painter Max Ernst who lived there the last years of his life and whose work can be admired at the Donation Tanning-Ernst.

We spent two weeks in Seillans in 2000 and have always longed to return. Our Seillans regimen begins on the first morning following the vernissage. Gregg drives up to the village to sit the exhibition while I settle down for a morning of writing. Here is my writing room.

Around 1 pm, I close my computer and walk to the village. It’s a thirty-minute stroll along an achingly pretty road through the woods with glimpses of the village up ahead. The last bit is uphill (of course, it’s a hill town!) but I push through and fortunately, the heat that will plague is the following week is still bearable. Here are just two of the many pictures I snapped on my daily walk to the village.

Gregg and I have lunch together and then either go exploring or settle in for another stint of sitting the gallery and writing. This exhibition is a self-serve affair, unlike some others, so we are free to manage our hours as we wish.

Gregg meets visitors to the exhibition who hail from all over Europe, particularly England, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries. His work is admired, and he makes a few sales, both of his work and my books. Our newest venture—Pastel and Pen: Travels in Europe—that combines Gregg’s art with my writing is particularly popular.

The location of our house is sublime, although we quickly discover that it is a trifle more rustic than we’d first noticed. The bed is a futon on the floor, the bathtub is too narrow for a skinny ten-year-old, and we can’t get the coffee maker to work. But on the plus side, the weather is balmy and warm during the day and refreshingly cool at night.

For ten days, we enjoy our Seillans house and the slow rhythms of our day. The Var region is stunningly gorgeous with plenty of twisty roads to explore. We take a few trips farther afield—to swim in the Mediterranean from a beach near Saint Tropez, to the Picasso Museum in Antibes, to Aix-en-Provence for lunch and to search the outskirts of Grasse for art materials in a teeming rainstorm.

Antibes

 

Most days, we drive ten minutes east to the slightly larger town of Fayence to visit the massive Super U supermarket. French supermarkets are just as large and just as varied as the ones in North America. I particularly like the bakery at the front that sells fresh baguettes and pastries along with gratifyingly inexpensive lunches. We dutifully buy a sturdy shopping bag decorated with pictures of the Var region that we bring home to remind us of France when we shop for food on cold winter days.
The heat suddenly shoots from bearable to punishing.

The canicule has arrived.