Friday, September 30, 2005

Day trip to Orange

Today we took a trip out to Orange where we saw the best-preserved Roman theater anywhere and the third largest Roman triumphal arch in the world (the other two are in Rome.) The theater was interesting, we were given these cell-phone looking things to take an audio tour, but I don't think anyone actually had the patience to listen to even half of all the audio. The theater has nearly perfect acoustics and even though le Mistral (the legendary Provencal wind) was in force, you could still hear a speaker in the center from almost anywhere in the stands. Standing in the middle and talking is a unique experience, almost like being in an echo chamber.

Orange also had a very pleasant old town section, where I had café with the other animation students then found another café of my own and finally had some real French food after weeks of eating SCAD-Lacoste cafeteria food. Don't get me wrong, the food in the school cafeteria is quite good, certainly among the best cafeteria food I've ever had, but it is still cafeteria food produced en masse for a mob of 70+ and, of course, if you eat anywhere for every meal for several weeks you're going to get sick of eat. My déjeuner (lunch) was very good, though I'm still not sure quite what I ate. I simply asked the waitress "Qu'est que vous recommendez?" ("What do you recommend?") and although she did bring me a hand-written menu and pointed out an entrée and plat du jour ("Oui, ok") I only recognized quiche. The quiche certainly was the best I've ever had, and the main course ended up being frites (french fries, which seem to be popular in France even though they are actually Belgian in origin) and some sort of poultry wrapped in bacon or ham and cooked in a wine sauce. I'm finally tided over for a while, though I'm looking forward to some haute cuisine next week in Paris. While I was eating, this little dog wandered up and tried to beg some food off me, but I am very stingy when it comes to food so he eventually went away unsatisfied. The only thing I missed in town was the Palais de Princes, the Princess of Orange's palace and gardens, but I was told that although there were some great birds-eye views of the theater and town, there wasn't a whole lot more that I missed.

Roman theater, Orange

Statue of Roman emperor, Roman theater, Orange

Richmond poses in the Roman theater, Orange

Richmond takes a photo of the Roman theater, Orange

I was suddenly this fellar's best friend when he saw me eating at a café in Orange

Arc de Triomph, Orange

Arc de Triomph, Orange

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Goult and Arles

I can't even remember what we did yesterday! The days are all becoming a blur.

Today we visited another nearby small hill town, Goult. It's actually perhaps my favorite town I've visited yet, not much of real note historically but just a very nice place to relax; if I were to pick a town in Provence to live, this seems the best bet so far. There is a chateau in town, though I think it was under construction while we were there, and a pretty windmill, once used for grinding flour, at the top of the hill.

For the Treasures of Provence class, we drove to our most distant location of the quarter, Arles. We were supposed to leave an hour early, at noon, but we got started a few minutes late. We had two main destinations in Arles. The first was the Foundation Van Gogh Arles for an exhibit of paintings and drawings by Pablo Picasso, Portraits d'Arlésiennes (portraits of the Arles women, who are supposedly renowned for their beauty and elaborate costumes.) The exhibit also included other miscellaneous work, mostly photographs, by some of his companions during his time in Arles, including, I think, a couple pieces by Vincent Van Gogh. I'm not a big fan of early 20th century modernist art, especially post-impressionism and cubism, but hey, at least I can say I've seen a Picasso painting now. There were a couple that caught my eye, including an interesting drawing by, I think, Gauguin.

After this we passed by the Arles arena on our way to the 12C St. Trophime church, but we didn't go in so we missed the bullfights. A Romanesque pilgrimage church, the cathedral is the final resting place of (as the name suggests) the city's patron saint, along with various reliquaries. We were there mostly to see the portal and cloister (which includes many Gothic elements as well), though we also made a circuit inside the church proper. We ran into a bit of a mishap when we got ready to leave and discovered one of the girls missing, but after a medium delay we found her waiting at the vans. That plus heavy traffic got us back about an hour and a half late, which was annoying but otherwise not a problem for me since I don't have any classes after that.

Tomorrow we were originally scheduled for a day trip to Avignon and Orange, but they decided to drop Avignon since several classes have trips planned there anyway, and to allow more time to spend at Orange. Just fine by me, I would have liked to go back to Avignon to get some more photos but at least I've seen the town if I don't make it back there, and I look forward to seeing Orange at a more relaxed pace than feeling constantly rushed.

Misty morning in the Luberon

Animation students sketch the moulin de Jérusalem in Goult

Building, Arles

Arles arena

Students rendezvous outside the Foundation Van Gogh Arles after seeing the Picasso exposition

Professor Robin Williams waxes philosophical about the portal of the St. Trophime church, Arles

Portal detail, St. Trophime church, Arles

Interior, St. Trophime church, Arles

Interior, St. Trophime church, Arles

St. Trophime cloister, Arles

Tower of St. Trophime church framed in the arches of the cloister, Arles

I block an otherwise good view of a medieval ceiling fresco, St. Trophime cloister, Arles

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Sad, sad news...

I'll get to the sad news shortly. Yesterday, the animation class stayed in Lacoste because we ran out of vans. The architecture students have been camped out in the PC lab for the last two weeks (often claiming ALL the PCs and my portable hard drive wasn't working in the Mac lab >.<) working on a project for a competition and the deadline was yesterday, but they were having printing problems so they commandeered the remaining vans that weren't already being used to drive into town to do some printing. We walked across the plateau behind Lacoste to see the attack goose (no, really!) and then down the hill a little where there were some metal sculptures of a marching band walking across a field. We were accompanied by Reid's dog, Ventoux (I learned the spelling! He's named after the big, rocky mountain nearby where they found him.) After that, I crashed for a few hours, then went to the drawing class where Larry's wife Tricia gestured for us for a while so we could draw. After dinner, we watched a series of animated films from NYC independent animators. Some of them were very good, and some managed to offend everyone in the whole room.

Today, after a trip back to Ménerbes in the animation class, my Treasures of Provence class drove out to St-Remy to see the Roman monuments and ruins at Glanum. It is here that my tale turns to one of woe. After seeing the cenotaph (a funerary monument, not to be confused with a mausoleum which is the tomb itself) and triumphal arch known collectively as Les Antiques, we walked over to the ruins of Glanum. While in the vistor's lobby, one of the other girls in the class held up something she had found outside which I instantly recognized as my photo hard drive. Unfortunately, it apparently took a little spill and now no longer works. And further unfortunately, I had not quite yet gotten around to backing up my photos onto a CD or DVD. So, I lost all my pictures from my trip so far in one fell swoop. Very, very disappointing, not just because I lost some great shots (many of which, but not all, I still have the opportunity to re-create) but because I now have no place to store the photos as I pull them off my camera. Fortunately, a couple other students have volunteered space on their drives, but it's still a bit of a loss. But, as bad as I feel, I find it hard to sympathize with myself (is that possible?) because I know it's all my fault, for not making more copies, for bringing the hard drive on a trip, etc., etc., etc. Well, as they say here, C'est la vie!

At any rate, I still enjoyed the site. The cenotaph is thought to be a memorial to Caiius and Lucius Caesar, adopted sons of Augustus Caesar (through a somewhat tenuous link based on the inscription, "Sextius, Lucius, Marcus, sons of Gaius of the Julii family, to their parents.") These were the same two for whom the Maison Carrée temple in Nîmes was built. The cenotaph was originally topped by a stone pine cone. The triumphal arch probably commemorates the victory of Julius Caesar over his rival Pompey. The memorials, both two of the best preserved in the world, along with the ruins of the town, are further significant because of the fact that they are in a "dead" location, i.e., they are not surrounded by modern buildings such as those of Nîmes, Arles, Rome, etc.

The last stop on the trip was the hospital, converted into a sanatorium, where Vincent Van Gogh spent his most prolific year, painting some 150 paintings including his famous Starry Night. Unfortunately, we were running a touch behind, and most of the other students were whining incessantly about the mosquitos, so we didn't go inside. Not that there was a whole lot to see, since they didn't have any of his paintings, but still, I feel like a missed some tiny bit of the experience.

On that note, I'd just like to mention one thing that continues to bother me about my experience here at Lacoste. I am enjoying it, yes, and I am learning much about the land here and about art and animation, but this is far from the immersive experience in French culture I was expecting. Apart from the architecture, SCAD-Lacoste is an American bubble from which to observe Provence from a distance. And it's only due in part to the atmosphere the staff fosters, which isn't really a bad one at all; no amount of adminstrative intervention could change the attitudes of the students here. Some, to be true, especially the people I am around the most, are almost always good-natured, and really enjoying the chance to get as much exposure to Provence and French culture as possible. But the majority here have strived and succeeded to bring as much of America as possible with them, and that is not a good thing. And somehow the reputation has spread across Savannah that SCAD-Lacoste is a place to party, and probably a good third of the students are here for little more reason than to, in the words of one other student on the first day's ride into town, "to get drunk every night." And their whining and complaining is almost incessant. Lacoste is boring. It's too hot. It's too cold. There are too many mosquitos. The driver is making me sick. The food sucks. I'm hungry. No one speaks English. At least we are so much better in America. Etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum. And they are LOUD!

I think SCAD is truly making a huge mistake allowing so many students here at once (we are 61 or so strong now, the biggest group ever, and SCAD is undergoing renovation to allow housing for up to 75 students.) We have had numerous complaints from the townspeople recently, and I've even heard the staff remarking that this is by far the rowdiest group they've ever had. Most of the students are living in an American mob mentality, and in my opinion it's just going to keep getting worse until SCAD gets kicked out of Lacoste. Ok, enough of my soapbox, on to the photos...

A window in Ménerbes

Les Antiques, Glanum

Rotunda of cenotaph, Les Antiques, Glanum

Detail, cenotaph, Les Antiques, Glanum

A French school class field trip in front of the cenotaph, Les Antiques, Glanum

Self-portrait at Glanum

Inscribed columns, Glanum

Inscription, Glanum; something like "built under the command of Agrippa" (who was ruler of most of Gaul and Spain under Rome, from what I recall)

Roman ruins, Glanum

Roman ruins, Glanum

Cenotaph, , Les Antiques, Glanum

Asylum where Vincent Van Gogh spent a year

Sunday, September 25, 2005

L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (again!!!) and Fontaine de Vauclause

(Edit: OK, I finally got around to writing something here...)

On Saturday the animation students took a ride back out to L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue for the third time, this time not on a market day. The town was much quieter, and after walking around a little we sat by one of the canals and sketched. While we were there, an Asian man walked up and started speaking to us in French but very quickly switched to English after discovering we didn't know any French. Soon he mentioned he was from Taiwan and Richmond struck up a conversation with him in Mandarin Chinese; apparently he was a tour guide who had turned his flock loose on the town for a while.

After leaving town we headed to Fontaine de Vaucluse, the source of the Sorgue river (the same on which L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue was built.) It's in a rather rugged section of the mountains, and the river itself springs out of a huge cave near the base of a tall cliff. Actually, when the water is low (as it was when we were there), the cave is just a quiet pool low in the cave, and the actual source is about 100 meters downriver in a pile of boulders, but supposedly a couple days after a rain the cave becomes a gushing torrent. The others wandered off while I was captivated with taking a picture of a ruined chateau on a hill, and I spent the rest of the day exploring the cave and town on my own.

On Sunday I slept in again then enjoyed a nice brunch. Saturday and Sunday are brunch days in the cafeteria, served 11-1, instead of breakfast at 8-9 and lunch 12-1. The animation students all voted to go back to Fontaine de Vaucluse, so we headed back. Apparently Sundays are a busy day, there were probably three times as many people in town as the day before, although we were also there a little earlier than on Saturday so perhaps that played a part. This time we walked up to the chateau ruins and explored them a little, then kept walking up and made it most of the way up the hill above the river. Afterward, we went back to the cave at the source, which the others wanted to explore further into (despite my suggestions to the contrary; hey I'm a thrill-seeker but I believe in proper safety gear!) but discovered didn't go much further at all.

Darius and Richmond are ready for action in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

A statue in Fontaine de Vaucluse

Church interior in Fontaine de Vaucluse

River-swept underwater plants in Fontaine de Vaucluse

Water wheel in Fontaine de Vaucluse

Sorgue river, Fontaine de Vaucluse

A father and daughter inside the source of the Sorgue river, Fontaine de Vaucluse

Cliffside caves, Fontaine de Vaucluse

Animation students pose for the requisite ska-band photo at the chateau ruins, Fontaine de Vaucluse

View of the source of the Sorgue river (on dry days) from the chateau ruins, Fontaine de Vaucluse

A precarious perch for Charlie at the chateau ruins, Fontaine de Vaucluse

I'm king of the hill! Chateau ruins, Fontaine de Vaucluse

Richmond takes a photo of the valley from high atop the hill, Fontaine de Vaucluse

Animation students explore the inside the source of the Sorgue river, Fontaine de Vaucluse

Friday, September 23, 2005

Nîmes and Le pont du Gard

Today the entire school took a field trip to the Pont du Gard. The Pont du Gard was built around 30 B.C. to provide water to the city of Nîmes and is a marvel of Roman engineering. The aqueduct channel drops at a constant declivity of about 1 foot per kilometer for over 50 km from Uzès -- an impressive feat even with today's modern engineering tools and techniques.

Afterward, we went into the city of Nîmes to see some of the world's best-preserved Roman buildings. Our first stop was the amphitheater, which is still used today for bullfights and other events. It is about half the size of the Colosseum in Rome. From there we walked to the Maison Carrée, considered by most to be the best-preserved Roman temple in the world. More recently, the Carré d'Art modern art museum was built across the street and carries over the classical motifs of the Maison Carrée with a decidedly modern interpretation. At this point we were free to roam around and explore the Jardins de la Fontaine gardens and the Tour Magne (offering wide panoramas of the whole city) until the bus picked us up to go back to Lacoste.

After dinner, we watched a Japanese animated film called Mind Game. Interesting visuals and storytelling, but not really my thing.

On the bus before leaving Lacoste

Le pont du Gard

Another student is dwarfed by the Pont du Gard

Nîmes amphitheater

Paul sketches the interior of the Nîmes amphitheater

Nîmes amphitheater, interior

Nîmes amphitheater

Café patrons relax and enjoy the sights near the Maison Carrée

Maison Carrée, Nîmes

Maison Carrée, Nîmes

Maison Carrée, Nîmes

Europeans love their very practical SMART cars; Nîmes

Tour Magne, Nîmes

Statue in the Jardins de la Fontaine park, Nîmes

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Islands, mosaics, and dinosaurs

A few people have been looking at this weblog and wondering how they can get one themselves. It's really quite easy, I use and they do all the work, I just enter each entry whenever I like and click the "Publish Post" setting. Actually I use a bit more advanced setup in which Blogger transfers all the files over to my personal web site, but if you don't already have a web site then they will do all the hosting for you.

I realized that I didn't really get a good wide shot of Gordes when I went earlier this week, but fortunately one of my animation classes went back there yesterday so I got a few more shots in and had some more time to explore the town. In the afternoon I attended a self-portait workshop with a visiting artist. Stayed up way too late last night reminiscing about the 80s with some other students!

This morning I got up bright and early and returned with my character design and layout class to L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue for more drawing. Unfortunately, I didn't go in the cathedral, which the other animation students reported back was lavishly decorated in the Baroque style on the inside. I saw some of their pictures and was disappointed that I missed it (Baroque architecture and art is some of my favorite) but I'm sure I'll get more than my fill of it during my stay in Europe, especially in Italy.

We came back around noon then I promptly left again with my Treasures of Provence to visit Jean Pierre Soalhat in his mosaics studio, Mosaique Tahlaos, in Caseneuve. Jean Pierre, a former archaelogist who also works at SCAD-Lacoste two days a week, is a well-known mosaics artist who specializes in using ancient materials to create a link between the past, present, and future. He demonstrated his blend of ancient and modern techniques to us and showed us some completed and in-progress works, including a table for director Ridley Scott (who is currently filming a movie, A Good Year starring Russell Crowe, in nearby Bonnieux) made of Roman terra cotta tiles around 2,000 years old. He has done some mosaic tables and other work around the SCAD-Lacoste campus and is currently working on the floor of a small pool in our park terrace. Afterward, he treated us to drinks and snacks on the terrace of his beautiful and eclectic house in town (built on the ruins of an ancient castle fortress and complete with a dead body buried and sealed centuries ago inside the wall!) His collection of art and artifacts was just as interesting as his mosaics studio. Finally, he led us to a site a few miles away where some dinosaur footprints were recently found. Unfortunately, thieves began stealing the rocks with the footprints within days of their discovery, including one more footprint that Jean Pierre discovered missing while we were there, but he assured us that he knew of many more in the area that were still hidden and not public knowledge.

Tomorrow we'll be going to Nîmes and the Pont du Gard. Nîmes dates back to the sixth century B.C. and has many ancient Roman structures, including a nearly intact colliseum complete with contemporary bullfights.

An ampitheater in Gordes

A stairway in Gordes

Animation students take in the sights in the center of Gordes

Gordes was apparently a major center of the French Resistance in WWII

Jean Pierre Soalhat demonstrates his work in his mosaics studio in Caseneuve

Jean Pierre Soalhat shows off a table which was recently sold to director Ridley Scott

Jean Pierre Soalhat in his mosaics studio in Caseneuve

Fire-damaged trees near Caseneuve

Jean Pierre Soalhat cleans off a dinosaur footprint

A chiseled hole is all that remains of one of the dinosaur footprints

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Market day in Lacoste

Today was market day in Lacoste--all five vendors! We went down for class and sketched some of the people and chatted with a young family from Germany.

Later, in the Treasures of Provence class, we travelled to Gordes to see the Gordes Village des Bories. Bories are small structures built from stones collected while farming the fields. Rather than simply toss them aside, the farmers often built something useful, such as a wall, or even more useful, small huts now called bories. Bories come in many shapes and sizes, usually existing as a single structure in a field, but occasionally there are more numerous and complex structures including this small village comprised almost entirely of bories. Most were built in the 18th and 19th centuries, though there are some at other sites that date back to over a thousand years ago. After seeing the village, we stopped briefly in Gordes, a large hill town with an 11th century castle and large cathedral (which we didn't have time to see) and considered by many to be the most beautiful town in all France. Certainly all the tourists while we were there probably thought so (I'd hate to come fight the crowds in the summer!)

Market in Lacoste

Village de la Bories, Gordes

Village de la Bories, Gordes

Village de la Bories, Gordes

Another SCAD student admires the view of Gordes


I'm huge!

Castle in Gordes, which I think is now the Mairie (mayor's office)

A street in Gordes

Memorial statue in the center of a roundabout in Gordes

Monday, September 19, 2005

Second week of classes

The second week of classes started again today. For our "Animated Expeditions" class, we drove over to Ménerbes, another hill town about 6 km west of Lacoste. Ménerbes is the town in which British expatriate Peter Mayle settled for a time and wrote several books, including the popular A Year in Provence (which was widely negatively received by the local populace of the Petit Luberon and even prompted a few neighbors to publish their own books refuting many of his anecdotes.) It is built on a long, narrow outcropping of rock and has lovely views on the three sides away from the mountain. After coming back to Lacoste for lunch, we drove back to Bonnieux briefly because one of the other animation students, Missy, thought she left her scarf in the cafe we patronized yesterday (sad to say, it was not there.)

Later today, we have our Analysis of Movement class, and we actually have a live model! I mention that because we have only managed to arrange a model to draw for about half the classes. We've been trying to scrounge for volunteers; so far we've got Prof. Lauria's to-be-daughter-in-law (the musician) and one or two more, and he also mentioned trying to get some of the staff's children to come in and pose for us. Certainly no shortage of movement to analyze from the children! Tonight, after dinner, for our weekly animated film viewing we'll be watching the animated documentary film "Ryan" about Ryan Larkin, an animator who used to produce films for the National Film board of Canada and now lives as a homeless panhandler on the streets of Montréal, as well as some of Ryan's films.

A man walks down a festive street in Ménerbes

A rack of wine in the truffle and wine museum in Ménerbes

Robin and Richmond contemplate a well in Ménerbes

A sculpted face keeps watch over a well in Ménerbes

A French flag waves in front of a hotel in Ménerbes

Wall painting in Ménerbes


Animation students walk back to the van in Ménerbes

The Portail des Chevres ("Goat Gate") in Lacoste

Animation professor Larry Lauria walks by the SCAD-Lacoste library, a converted boulangerie (bakery)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Rain, rain, go away...

This afternoon a cold front moved into the area, bringing overcast skies, cooler temperatures (in the 60s and high 50s F), and light rain. I think it's just fine, but all the other students are whining about it being too cold. Looking at them bundled up in their coats and scarves, you'd think it's the dead of winter! Whatever...

Yesterday I walked over to Bonnieux (across the valley, about 6-7 km I'd say) with Nathan and Paul, two architectural history students. We saw the town, and I enjoyed a nice pizza and coffee. While we were there we got a special treat--while exploring the ancient cathedral at the top of the hill, which was locked up, we discovered they would be opening it up at 4 P.M. (a rare occurance, apparently) to set up for a wedding that was taking place later that evening. We discovered while talking with a man who was apparently some sort of caretaker and only spoke French that the front Romanesque portion of the church was built in the 11th century, while the larger section including the nave and apse is Gothic, built in the 14th century. He also mentioned that part of the building was from the 8th or 9th century, but we weren't sure exactly which part he meant, though we suspected one corner on the outside based on where he pointed and it having a different look. On the way back down the hill, we also stopped at the newer Gothic cathedral near the bottom of the town. Later that evening, we arrived back in Lacoste just in time to attend a dinner party and concert featuring our animation professor's son's fiancee, a singer-songwriter. Afterward, the animation students got together to watch "The Bourne Identity."

Today, the animation students got together again and drove to Isle-de-la-Sorgue, the "Venice of Provence." Isle-de-la-Sorgue is a market town built on (surprise!) an island in the Sorgue river and has numerous crystal-clear streams running through the town. A bit touristy, but it was still fun. I've been looking for a hat in the markets here, and finally found one today; only 5 euro too! We came back to the school for brunch, then as the light rain started up we drove back over to Bonnieux and spent the afternoon in a café sketching. It's good being around other drawing fanatics to help get me in the habit of sketching all the time.

Bonnieux by moonlight, view from Lacoste

Leonard, the famous dog in Peter Mayle's "A Year in Provence"

Grapes ripen in a vineyard somewhere between Lacoste and Bonnieux

A row of grape vines somewhere between Lacoste and Bonnieux


Citroen in Bonnieux

A rooftop bell in Bonnieux

Shrine roof in Bonnieux

Hilltop cathedral in Bonnieux

Hilltop cathedral spire in Bonnieux

Interior of hilltop cathedral in Bonnieux

Gothic cathedral in Bonnieux

Spices in Isle-de-la-Sorgue market

Restaurant in Isle-de-la-Sorgue

Café in Isle-de-la-Sorgue

Animation students relax and sketch passers-by in a café in Isle-de-la-Sorgue. Clockwise, from bottom left: Richmond, Robin, Missy, Darius, Charlie

I enjoy a café noir in a café in Isle-de-la-Sorgue

Market in Isle-de-la-Sorgue

Rainy day view of Lacoste from Bonnieux

Friday, September 16, 2005

Lazy day in Lacoste...

The weather has been beautiful here all week. Temperatures are in the 60-80 range, and except for a few brief showers the day we arrived it has been sunny and warm. I spent the day today mostly outside on the library terrace, listening to French language tapes and sketching (I'm getting over a minor cold that I've had since just after arriving, so I wasn't much in the mood for traipsing over the countryside.) A few students have disappeared completely, off on their own personal weekend trips.

You can see a map and some more info on the SCAD-Lacoste web site.

Enjoy a few more photos:

A street in Lacoste

SCAD-Lacoste director Reid Ockerman's dog, "Von-too" (wouldn't even venture a guess at the spelling...)

Rooftops, Lacoste

Detail of the SCAD library wall, Lacoste

Maison Basse, the school's farmhouse and vineyard (currently under renovation for future faculty housing)

Rooftops, Lacoste

Thursday, September 15, 2005

W-Th September 14-15

Yesterday was the first day of class. In the morning I went to my Animated Expeditions class, which is a special topics class consisting primarily of on-location sketching and research for concept art. He showed us some drawings from his sketchbook, then we took a short walk behind Lacoste to the rock quarry now owned by the school and did some drawing. Following lunch and a brief nap, I went to his Studies in Movement class, which is basically drawing people in motion. I'm not actually enrolled in that one, but everything is informal around here so several of us are still sitting in on the class. I'll be doing a lot of drawing this quarter!

Today my classes were Character Design and Layout, where we walked up to the rock quarry behind Lacoste now owned by SCAD, then after lunch an art history class, Treasures of Provence. I may be the only one crazy enough to take three classes while I'm here, everyone else is only taking two! Actually, in the Treasures of Provence class I did meet one girl who's also taking three. For that class, which will be almost entirely field trips around the area, we went to two sites. The first was the Dolmen de la Pitchoune, a neolithic structure which was probably used as a burial tomb. It was, overall, rather underwhelming (don't pass up Stonehenge to see this!) but still interesting to see this bit of pre-history. After that we went to see the Pont Julien, one of the oldest existing Roman bridges. Built some 40-50 B.C. to aid in the Roman military conquest of Gaul and named after Julius Caesar, it was used continuously by traffic until a couple months ago when a new, adjacent bridge was completed.

Richmond Chaisiri takes a photo in the SCAD rock quarry near Lacoste

Sculpture in rock quarry near Lacoste

Rock quarry near Lacoste

Morning view from Lacoste

A gaggle of animation students (and a professor) admire the view of Lacoste from the Animation studio terrace

View of Lacoste from the Animation studio terrace

Prof. Robin Williams explains the Dolmen de la Pitchoune upon which he's standing

Pont Julien

Pont Julien (detail)

Pont Julien

Pont Julien

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Tuesday, September 13

Today was kind of a "rest" day before we start classes tomorrow. In the morning, a hike to a nearby mountain was scheduled, but because we had such a large group show up it was shortened to a walk to the nearby town of Bonnieux. I spent most of the rest of the day editing my photos and getting them online, then after dinner we were treated to a talk from the school's eccentric Irish gardener, Finn MacEoin, who talked a little about his life and read some of his poetry. He has led an interesting life and I look forward to talking with him sometime.

Grape harvesters near Bonnieux

Monday, September 12

Today we visited the open-air market in nearby Cavaillon (for a map of the area, see Luberon-News.) Before I left Savannah, I talked with another student who had been to Lacoste who HIGHLY recommended that I bring my own bike. Sure enough, when I arrived I discovered that much as the other student had said, the school owns several bikes but they are basically trashed and not useable. However, I didn't bring my bike because it was just too expensive and/or cumbersome to bring it. So, while I was in Cavaillon, I tried finding a bicycle shop (magasin de vélo) to possibly buy a bike to use while I was here and even got to practice my very primitive French while getting directions. Unfortunately, the shop was fermé (closed) and, as near as I could tell from the sign, was ouvert (open) on mardi (Tuesday.) Oh, well...

After lunch, we took a tour of the village and school facilities. The school is rather well-equipped for being in a medieval village, with two computer labs and numerous other computers scattered around the rooms. The library is a former boulangerie (traditional bread maker), complete with a large brick oven that has now been converted into a reading room (it's like being in an igloo!) The rest of the library is just as fun, with staircases and terraces that keep opening onto more rooms. The whole village is kind of like an Epcot center exhibit, except it's real! After dinner, we watched a great, recent French animated film, Les Triplettes des Belleville, that pokes fun at both French and American culture.

Open-air market in Cavaillon

Street in Cavaillon

Day Three - Sunday, Sept. 11

(actually this is several days later...I'm still catching up!)

After spending a night at the Blue Planet Hostel next to the Gare de Lyon train station, I caught the high-speed (i.e., about 180 m.p.h.) TGV train and arrived in Avignon in the south at 10 A.M. SCAD was arranging a bus to chaffeur us to Lacoste at 3 P.M., so in the meantime I took a bus to see the old town. In 1309, Pope Clement V, upon the urging of the French king, moved the seat of the Papacy from the Vatican in Rome to Avignon, where they built a large palace from which to rule. This caused a split in the Catholic church for nearly 70 years before Pope Gregory XI moved the Papacy back to Rome in 1376, although in the Great Schism in the following years two Roman popes retreated back to Avignon to rule for a time. Avignon is a great medieval town to explore, though, because I knew that we would be returning for a SCAD field trip, I only wandered around the streets a little and didn't go inside any of the buildings nor take many photos. While I was there, some sort of foot race was being held (in the stream of French from the announcer following the race announcing the names and times of all the runners, I gathered that someone from Kenya won.)

I met up with some other SCAD students at the train station, and we eventually found the driver at 3 P.M. The only problem was that he brought a minivan, and there were ten of us. I only brought a single hiking backpack as luggage, but some people had three or four times as much baggage. Slight miscalculation on SCAD's part, hmmmm...Half of us volunteered to wait and another minivan and driver was found after about half an hour to shuttle us to Lacoste. Along the way, I heard some of the travel stories and plans of the other students. Since we were in the group that made our own travel plans rather than pre-arranged through SCAD, most of them had been in Europe for a little while (including one girl who had already been through most of Western Europe and even as far east as Prague in the month and a half that she had been in Europe.)

We soon arrived after about a 40 minute drive in Lacoste with a small welcoming committee of the school's staff and their families to greet us. The town itself is just fascinating. It is a medieval hill town, with nearly all the structures dating back to at least the 16th and 17th centuries. It overlooks the Luberon valley and rival Catholic hill town of Bonnieux about 5 km away (Lacoste and much of the rest of the "Petit Luberon" is historically Protestant, which led to some bloody conflicts over the years; there is still at least a mild dislike between citizens of the two towns.) The cobblestone roads are very narrow and barely wide enough for a small car to pass through. SCAD owns the upper third or so of the town except for the Chateau de Sade at the top of the town. The chateau was once the home of the notorious Marquis de Sade while he was in exile, and after falling into disrepair and passing through numerous hands has now been recently purchased by famous fashion designer Pierre Cardin, who left most of the castle in ruins but renovated the interior of a small section for his vacation residence.

Enjoy these pictures of Avignon and Lacoste:

On the high-speed TGV from Paris to Avignon. Pretty much the entire trip looked like this. I'm pretty sure the smoke in the distance is rising from a nuclear power plant.

Avignon, Rue de la Republique

A street in Avignon

Architectural detail in Avignon

Some girls survey one of the historic buildings of Avignon

A runner in a marathon or something in Avignon

A marathon or something in Avignon

Some spectators cheer on the competitors. "Allez! Allez! Allez!" ("Go! Go! Go!")

Foot race, Avignon

Foot race, Avignon

A street in Avignon

A street in Avignon

A Provençal window in Avignon

Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes), Avignon

Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes), Avignon

Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes), Avignon

Lazy tourists ride the tourist train to see the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes), Avignon

Reflection of the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes), Avignon

Lacoste, France. SCAD owns the upper third or so of the village.

I live here (for the next 10 weeks, that is)

Lacoste, France. At the top, you can see the remains of the Chateau of the Marquis de Sade, now owned by Pierre Cardin as a private vacation home.

This is the entrance to my room!

Inside my dorm room

My bed is the one on the bottom.

Looking out of my room

The view from my front door

The view from my front door

We were greeted shortly after arrival by a light show!

Street in Lacoste

Street in Lacoste

Street in Lacoste

Street in Lacoste

A door in Lacoste

I survey the countryside from the SCAD library

The campanille (bell-tower) in Lacoste. It chimes for every hour the number of the hour (and again about 90 seconds later), and once on the half hour.

The nearby hill town of Bonnieux ("Bon-yoo")

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Greetings from France!

Hello from Lacoste, France! For those of you who don't know, I'm spending the fall quarter studying Animation at the Lacoste campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design. This is the first time they have offered animation classes at this location, taught by one of the most renowned professors at the school, Larry Lauria, and so I jumped at the opportunity to study in such an intensive and inspiring setting.

I made it here after a relatively uneventful trip. I left Savannah on time at 1:50 P.M. on Friday, September 9, and after a short layover in Washington, D.C. I arrived in Paris bright and early at 7 A.M. on Saturday, September 10. I eventually found my way by bus over to the Gare de Lyon station, from which I was leaving the next morning, then spent several hours looking around Paris. I ate lunch at a nearby café, then rode the train out to the Arc de Triomphe and walked down the Champs-Elysées before going back to a hostel near the train station to crash (very early--I was exhausted!)

Enjoy some photos from my flight and arrival in Paris: