Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Last night in Lacoste...

Tonight is my last night in Lacoste. We finished up classes yesterday, and I stayed an extra day, just 'cause. Tonight was our "bon voyage" dinner at the Café de Sade, where they served us copious amounts of soupe au pistou (vegetable soup with pesto), a Provencal specialty. It was quite delicious; just ask Drew, who snarfed down no less than 10 bowls (!!!) of it (though he did struggle with that last one.) Anyway, it's been a good quarter, but I'm getting ready to be back settled in at home, but of course I don't fly home for another week. Hey, well, I've got a rail pass, might as well use it now. Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I'll be heading to Basel, Switzerland, to spend a short time before heading to Rothenberg and Munich and whatever else I can see in Bavaria. So, see you back in Savannah!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Vernissage/Exposition

Tonight we just finished up our show of our best artwork from the quarter. Everyone participated, even the architectural history and historic preservation classes, who showed off some of the research and photos of the work they've done this quarter. I even managed to sell some of my artwork, mostly prints but one original drawing as well. That will give me a little spending money while I travel around next week.

Only two days left of classes, then we have a few days more until they kick us off campus. Many of the students are waiting until the last day, Friday, since they let the school make the travel arrangements and are leaving as a group, but I more than likely will be leaving earlier. I was thinking Wednesday originally, but maybe on Thursday instead just to have an extra night of rest (not to mention a free night's stay and meals!) I haven't really finalized where I want to go, just "Switzerland and Germany." I think that given the limited time, and the fact that I will have to change my money to Swiss francs (they are not on the Euro,) I'll probably just pass through on the way to Germany. It's a convenient stopping point for a night, anyway. I plan on seeing some things in Bavaria, like Munich, Röthenberg, and the castles built by "Mad Ludwig" that inspired Cinderella's castle in Walt Disney Land. So we'll see how things turn out.

Nothing much else to show, so enjoy a few pictures of Lacoste...


An abandoned door in Lacoste


Looking down the hill from just outside the entrance to studio two (the animation studio, this quarter), Lacoste


Looking down Rue St. Trophime (I think that's the name), Lacoste

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Final stretch; Mont Ventoux

We have been working this week on getting ready for our end-of-quarter "exposition" (in the US we would say "exhibition," but in French that means, er, something else that you can get arrested for.) Lots of cleaning, painting, mounting, all that fun stuff. The doctor did not, in fact, explicitly tell me I was dying on Monday, so perhaps there's hope for me that I might yet pull through. He confirmed that it was mostly viral and not much to be done about it, but also a touch of bronchitis, so although he was skeptical at first about giving me some antibiotics he eventually decided to since I will be travelling next week. Anyway I have been feeling better, slowly, so that's good.

Yesterday we had our last outing of the quarter in Treasures of Provence and drove to the top of Mont Ventoux, the highest mountain in southern France or something (don't know where the French Alps fall under that assessment) and is sometimes used as a stage of the Tour de France. Petrarch climbed to the top in 1336 for no other reason than to see the view, considered by many to be the birthdate of mountaineering as a sport. And I actually got to drive one of the vans, since Dr. Williams brought his family and ended up driving his car. Good day for it, lots of nice twisty bits (even if I was in a big boxy van full of passengers instead of my sports wagon.)



Some sort of observatory-type-thingy; Mont Ventoux


I'm on top of Mont Ventoux!


A plethora of twisty roads atop Mont Ventoux


A plethora of twisty roads atop Mont Ventoux


Mountain art; Mont Ventoux


Looking down the main road to the top of Mont Ventoux

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Marseille

Yesterday (Friday) we took a school day trip to Marseille, the "Napoli of France" (not a promising title, given what I've heard about Napoli; Reid, the school director, pointed out that Marseille is the highest crime city in Europe.) I wasn't particularly keen on going myself, partly because I had been to part of Marseille on my trip to Corsica for the Rallye de France and wasn't very impressed with what I saw, and also because, yet again, I had started feeling better for a couple days then a little sick again (the whole yo-yo sickness thing is starting to really annoy me so I'm planning going to the doctor on Monday.) It turned out to be not too bad, since we went down to the old port which was a little nicer and more interesting than what I saw before, but others also commented that they wouldn't be planning a return visit to Marseille themselves either. Our first excursion was a ferry ride out to the Chateau d'If, an island prison (like Alcatraz) where many famous and infamous French prisoners were kept over the years. Its more prominent claim to fame, however, is being the site of Alexander Dumas' classic novel The Count of Monte Cristo, about an unjustly imprisoned man who eventually escapes from the island prison. It was a pretty interesting experience, though I was ready to go back to Lacoste by the end of it; unfortunately, we still had several hours to go. After this we split up and went out to eat. I fell in with our teacher Larry Lauria, Richmond, and Darius, and our meal ended up being an adventure in itself when Richmond found a fried cockroach in his first course. As Darius pointed out, "Fish don't have legs...Fish don't have legs!!" After a couple exchanges with the server we ended up with a resolution of the other three not getting their main courses or dessert but not being charged for what they had eaten (I had already ordered and eaten a small dish because I had previously eaten the sack lunch provided for the school) and just decided to leave at that point without pushing the issue. We looked around a little in the shopping district, then sat at a café and sketched until time to leave.

I just found out today that there was rioting in Marseille the day before we were there, a spillover from the rioting going on in Paris over the past week. Hmmm...


A tall ship in the old port of Marseille


Fish market; Marseille


Fisherman; Marseille


Rocky shoreline of Isle d'If; Marseille


Chateau d'If; Marseille


View from Chateau d'If; Marseille


Photography students Dana and Diana survey the view from the top of the Chateau d'If; Marseille


Window view of Chateau d'If; Marseille


A gaggle of SCAD students in the courtyard of the Chateau d'If; Marseille


Photography teacher Steve Aishman and Sarah in a stairway of the Chateau d'If; Marseille


Windowside carvings, Chateau d'If; Marseille


Robin on the ferry from Isle d'If; Marseille


Ferris wheel in front of the Cathédrale de la Major; Marseille


Sailboats in the old port; Marseille

Several local trips...

This week we stayed in a little more, mostly a combination of planning for the vernissage as well as just a little plain ol' end-of-quarter weariness (I should point out that by halfway through the quarter, we had already done nearly twice as much local travelling as most previous students have done all quarter.) The animation students went to Bonnieux one day, and the Treasures of Provence class stayed in Lacoste on Tuesday and went out on Thursday to the Fontaine de Vaucluse and L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. We were hoping, because it rained on Monday night, to see the source become a gushing torrent, but all the rain did was raise the water level a few feet and put a little more water into the river Sorgue. Enjoy some photos...


Silhouette of Finn MacEoin in studio two; Lacoste


Window; Bonnieux


Missy and Richmond hang a flyer in Bonnieux for the SCAD-Lacoste student art exposition


A door and motorcycle in Bonnieux


Animation students review selections for the end-of-quarter vernissage/exposition


Fontaine de Vaucluse (note that the water level is higher this time)


The Treasures of Provence class poses in front of the Fontaine de Vaucluse


Dr. Williams stands on a sluice gate and explains a water wheel; L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue


Dr. Williams shows off a millstone once used on a nearby water wheel; L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween in Lacoste

Halloween has come to Lacoste this weekend. Tonight is the final night of the festivities, with a costume party and dance sponsored by the village. Myself, I think I'll have a better time here in the Mac lab than they, but hey, I suppose it takes all kinds. Other events this weekend included a haunted house and trick-or-treating by the area kids on Sunday evening and a pumpkin carving contest on Saturday. I hear it all went well.

I wasn't planning on doing much myself this weekend, and skipped the trip into Apt by the animation group on Saturday morning, but I ended up going to Apt that afternoon anyway when Christine Wacta, one of the architecture teachers, recruited me to drive a van of students into town for art supplies. Well, I needed some stuff anyway myself, and I wanted the chance to drive one of the vans at least once while I was here, so I didn't mind. Other than that, I really didn't do much. I've still been fighting a chest cold over the past week and a half, and it came back with a vengeance yesterday and today. I often sit in on the drawing in motion class for drawing practice, but I skipped out on it today to get some more rest. Hopefully I'll feel better as the week progresses.



Devon shows off what may be the most frightening costume of the bunch; Lacoste


The SCAD-Lacoste library is decorated for Halloween

Friday, October 28, 2005

Another week in review...

On Monday we woke up encased in fog...After it burned off by 9 AM, the animation class went to Cavaillon for market day. Never quite sure whether it's a good idea or not to go on market day; there are no shortage of interesting people and things to see and draw at the markets, but the problem is finding a spot to just sit and draw. The other extreme is a place like Goult on a non-market day (Wednesday, in this case) where it is so quiet that sitting at a café it's hard just finding something interesting to draw that you haven't already drawn. Anyway...On Tuesday the Treasures of Provence class went to the former ochre pigment and dye factory at Roussillon. Since I've been into the town twice already, it was very interesting to see some background on the industry that made the town famous. Roussillon sits on part of the world's largest exposed area of ochre in the world; it's interesting to see, but the red earth and pine trees made it not that much different from where I grew up in southern Alabama and northwest Florida. Our tour guide pointed out that there is a large ochre factory in Georgia, so I wonder if the red dirt in the southeast is all due to ochre as well or if it is some other red pigment. I'll have to look into that sometime. On Thursday, the Treasures class drove to the ruins of Fort de Buoux, a hilltop fortress town that has been inhabited since neolithic times and reached its zenith in the 16th century before being dismantled by Louis XIV, shortly after he had revoked the Edict of Nantes which had ended the earlier Religious Wars and granted tolerance and peace to the Protestants in the area. It was quite impressive; hard to imagine anyone actually trying to lay siege to the place.

This week we also had a visitor, Michael Turoff (sp?), who works in Britain now as a animation and visual effects supervising producer, or something like that. He shared stories of his experience in the industry and clips of some of the pieces he's worked on, the most famous of which perhaps was the movie Joe's Apartment while he was working at Blue Sky Studios (which went on to produce Ice Age and Robots.) It was very interesting hearing about his experiences as well as some of his passion, ideas, and suggestions about independent and student animation. Another highlight of the week was photography teacher Steve Aishman (who studied and worked as an astrophysicist before teaching at SCAD) sharing some of his work followed by a brief talk about some of the constellations and their stories from different cultures.

This weekend the school has been invaded by Halloween; they are planning numerous activities such as a pumpkin carving contest, haunted house, and costume dance (the latter actually sponsored by the village; odd, since no one else in France celebrates Halloween, just something they picked up from the students here.) Since I don't really celebrate Halloween (because of its pagan history as well as modern fascination with death,) I'm just going to make myself scarce, maybe catch up on my homework and take a nap.


The view out my window in Lacoste on Monday morning


A water pump used in the ochre separation process; Roussillon


Our tour guide explains the basins used to dry the ochre; Roussillon


Inside the ochre grinding mill; Roussillon


A pile of ochre along with some shipping bags addressed to Bamako in Mali, Africa (which caught my eye because I used to work with a girl at IBM who was from Bamako)


A demonstration of how to mix ochre pigment to make various types of paint; Roussillon


One of the students tries out some of the hand-mixed paints; Roussillon


Misty morning in the Luberon valley; view from Lacoste


Drew sketches in Goult


Watchtower at Fort de Buoux


Flower; Fort de Buoux


Michelle surveys the view from Fort de Buoux


Dr. Williams walks further up the hill at Fort de Buoux


Mossy wall; Fort de Buoux


Dr. Williams examines some loose stones in the ruins of a Romanesque-Gothic church; Fort de Buoux


Alison stands atop a ruined wall of the church at Fort de Buoux


Silos (for storing grain?); Fort de Buoux


I'm upside down! Fort de Buoux


Fort de Buoux


Nearby cave; Fort de Buoux


The "hidden stairway"; Fort de Buoux


The largest cliff overhang in Provence, formerly the site of a cemetary for the now-extinct village of St. Germaine; Fort de Buoux

Monday, October 24, 2005

Rallye de France

Edit 2005-10-28: Ok, finally got around to adding a write-up to go with the photos...

I stayed in Aix-en-Provence after the SCAD-Lacoste day trip to leave for Corsica to watch part of the World Rally Championship Rallye de France / Tour de Corse. I had reservations for the overnight ferries there and back Friday and Saturday from Marseille, so I took the train from Aix down to Marseille. Unfortunately, this was the one day trip that they didn't make plans to make a stop afterward at the train station, but hey, whatever. It wasn't too bad of a walk from Cézanne's studio. When I got to Marseille, I had to walk through kind of a bad part of town, where all the homeless people were hanging out with trash all over the place, but I guess the bad parts of town in Europe still aren't nearly as dangerous as the same kind of places back in the States. Anyway I found the ferry without too much trouble. It was a nice ride; the ferry is more like a cruise ship with a huge garage bay for cars. The base fare for the ferry doesn't even include a seat, which I wasn't particularly relishing on a 10+ hour overnight ride, but you can also pay 7 € for a comfy armchair, and increasing prices for increasingly nicer cabins. I chose to pay a 12 € supplement for a bed in a four-bunk shared room, which I recommend as the best deal for anyone else choosing to travel by ferry, unless you want the privacy of a non-shared room (but you'll pay for the added comfort, rest assured.) The room was comfy enough, certainly far roomier than the overnight trains I've experienced.

We arrived at 7 AM in Ajaccio on Corsica, and I stepped off the ferry surrounded by the trucks from all the rally teams. Apparently the service area is there stretched out along the port, I guess it's convenient and has plenty of space. I had a quick breakfast at a café then went to go find my rental car that I had reserved. I ended up with a Peugeot 307 turbo diesel, which was a lot more fun to drive than I was expecting. The engine was powerful enough, not the punch-in-the-chest throw-you-back-in-your-seat horsepower of my Subaru WRX, but it had gobs of torque everywhere in the tachometer, and the steering was very precise (perhaps even more so than my WRX, now that it's clocked over 70,000 miles on the original and now very tired suspension.) I was originally going to watch the first few cars on special stage 5 then high-tail it over to SS6 and stay around there for SS8, but I was running late so I decided not to chance it and go straight to 6. The whole experience was not much different than spectating a rally in the US; drive 45 minutes out to some small cow-town, then walk half a mile into the woods and wait an hour or two for a bunch of cars to come by. The age/race demographics of the spectators looked a lot like US rally fans, mostly twenty-something local French guys, a few thirty-something guys with their families, even a few rabid packs of Italians and Spanish fanatics that kinda reminded me of the Polish and Irish contingents back in the States. The cars didn't seem that much faster than the top US cars/drivers. Maybe a few seconds faster over several miles; but you're not going to notice that watching them come through 2 corners. Some of the privateer WRC and Super 1600 drivers attacked the corners more aggressively than the factory WRC cars; maybe they weren't as fast but they looked like they were wringing a little more out of the cars. Well, Sebastian Loeb (Citroën) looked (and was) fast; he set a record by being the first driver to ever set fastest time on every single stage in a World Rally (I picked a good one to attend!) The whole experience was not very different from a US rally, other than the tarmac surface, but then there are some tarmac stages in the US.

The real difference was the media circus spectacle that was the service area; it was unreal how much these factory teams spend on rally. I thought that in the US, Subaru and especially Mitsubishi were spending a lot on their team, but that was petty lunch money in comparison to the WRC teams. Even seeing the coverage on Speed, I was overwhelmed at the setups they brought with them. Every team built essentially a small self-sufficient village, complete with a restaurant for their crew. Not a little kiosk with a couple picnic tables, mind you, I'm talking a 200-seat enclosed building with bar and table service. BP Ford looked like they were outlaying the most money this year, with 4 cars, but it was hard to judge amidst the sea of tractor trailers. It makes me kinda wish I had skipped the second stage and just come back to watch the activity there, since that's what really made the WRC what it was compared to even the US national rallies (most of the show was over by the time I took my rental car back to the airport and took the bus back into town to catch the ferry.) Unfortunately I'm used to being a little more included in the US, either as a competitor or service crew or snagging the occasional press pass, so it was a little frustrating to be treated like another annoying spectator with a wall between us and them, but hey, whatever. Some other time, maybe I could go find the bars where everyone was hanging out afterward and swap war stories, but that's for another time I guess.

All in all, a fun experience, would have liked to stay longer but my schedule wouldn't allow it. One year I'll make it to a full rally, the Rally of Mexico looks great and cheap, and I've got my eye on the Rally New Zealand as well...

I got progressively sicker throughout the weekend, coming back on Sunday morning was almost an endurance marathon...I discovered, to my dismay, that there are no more trains going into Apt. By this time I was feeling poorly and in no mood to figure out another nearby train stop then a bus toward Lacoste, so I just took the TGV back to Avignon and rode the bus to Lumieres like the previous weekend. Normally I would walk the last few kilometers, but I really wasn't feeling well so I called my animation professor who drove down to pick me up and took me back to Lacoste (in time for Sunday morning brunch!)


Taverna, Corsica, the town where I watched stage six of the Rallye de France


One of the many helicopters flying around overhead; I think this was the "official" one


Harri Rovanpera / Risto Pietilainen (Mitsubishi); Rallye de France


(?) Dani Sola / Xavier Amigo (BP Ford); Rallye de France


Stephane Sarrazin / Denis Giraudet (Subaru); Rallye de France


Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena (Citroën); Rallye de France


José Micheli / Marina Mattei (Toyota Corolla); Rallye de France


The apparently now-abandoned Café Floride (Florida) in Taverna, Corsica


Spectators wait for the start of special stage 8; Rallye de France


A pretty sky; Rallye de France


Xavier Pons / Carlos Del Barrio (OMV Ford); Rallye de France


(?) (BP Ford); Rallye de France


Petter Solberg / Philip Mills (Subaru); Rallye de France


Overnight parc fermé at the Ajaccio port; Rallye de France


"Temporary" restaurant set up by the BP Ford team