Sorrow, and something sweet

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As I work through my feelings this week from yet another tragedy, this time in Nice — shock, disbelief, anger, sadness, despair — I have to stop and center myself on something that is quite the opposite of all those negative feelings.  Tout le monde est en deuil, all the world is in mourning.

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I need to zero in on things of beauty, things that bring me comfort and joy, on people and pets and food and music and art and things I can connect to, to keep myself grounded, to find peace in ordinary things.

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Real things I can touch or smell, and things of beauty where I can witness sunlight streaming through, like the illumination of the veins in this alabaster vase.  To know the sun is shining again.

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As I wrote last week, at our core we are all connected.  So my wish for you is to find someone to connect with, or something in which you can find beauty or peace, and choose to restore the joy that is still present in everyday lives.  I am thankful that my friends and their families in France are all safe.  Now they, like us, have to pick up the pieces and figure out how to go on.  Let’s all help each other.

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One of the things that brings me comfort and joy is ICE CREAM.  Today is National Ice Cream Day in the U.S., and in case you didn’t know that, here is a link to some sweet deals.

https://www.thrillist.com/news/nation/national-ice-cream-day-2016-free-ice-cream-carvel-cold-stone-more

Or of course you can just do like me, and enjoy a scoop from whatever happens to be in your freezer.  This time it’s chocolate chip, but I need to get cracking and experiment with a few of the new recipes I have.  Roasted Strawberry with Balsamic Vinegar ice cream anyone?  For me, ice cream makes everything better.

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Kindness Matters

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Painting inside the Louvre, Paris

I grew up in a very small town, even lived in the same house for the first 18 years of my life before I left and went off to college (the campus was an hour away — gasp!). Unlike some people who are content to never stray far from home, I often think that’s why I was bitten by the travel bug, and bitten hard. I’ve always liked to explore new places, see new sights, meet new people, try different foods, learn new words in a different language and drive on roads that are new to me, just to see what’s around the next curve. I’ve had a quote tacked on the wall above my desk for years that says “Travel is the only thing you spend money on that makes you richer.” I have to agree.

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Painting inside the Vatican Museum, Rome

One thing I have learned is that for the most part, people around the world are usually very nice to you. Especially when you remember that you are a guest in their country, just like being a guest in someone’s home, and you bring your best manners. I’ve always thought it rude of Americans to visit in other counties and expect everyone there to speak English. You certainly don’t have to become fluent in a language foreign to you, but you can surely learn how to say hello, goodbye, please and thank you. And it usually comes in pretty handy to know how to say “How much does it cost?” and “Where is the toilet?”

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Painting inside the Louvre, Paris

I’m sure it must sound like fingernails on chalkboard to some who’ve heard me struggle with their language, but I have found that just trying goes a long way when you are sincere. I will never forget the kindness of a woman in a shop in Italy 15 years ago. I had been trying to make a call back to the states for a few days to talk with my children and make sure everyone was okay. The telephone calling card I was trying to use from a regular phone wouldn’t work (thank God for cell phones that work internationally now!) and I was starting to panic that I couldn’t get in touch. As I browsed in her shop looking at items to take home to the kids, she asked me about my children. In my broken Italian I managed to tell her that I had a girl and a boy and their ages, but that I had been unable to reach them by telephone and I was worried. After listening to me almost break down in tears, she calmly walked over to her counter and picked up her phone, and then asked me what the telephone number was. She dialed the number, I got to speak to my children and was reassured that everyone was okay and no one had burned the house down, and I simply didn’t know how to thank her enough. She told me that we mothers sometimes had to help each other out, “Si?” I bought a lovely Italian pottery vase she had painted with olive branches from her, and to this day every time I look at it I think of her and how kind she was to a stranger.

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So this week I am thinking about how big the world is, but sometimes how small it can be. I am thinking that at our very core, we are all connected. And that Kindness Matters. And kindness can be the one thing that can help soothe hurt and provide a little comfort just when someone needs it most. Too many destructive acts in recent weeks and months, at home and abroad, are hurting too many people. I heard someone comment this week following the sniper attacks on police in Dallas, “Why can’t we all just get along?” While that sounds simple enough, I think there is a simple solution.

Be kind to one another. Find ways to pay it forward every day.  Connect with a stranger.  A random act of kindness, no matter how small, will have big meaning to those on the receiving end. And who knows, it might just help heal the world.

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Sunset in Atlanta

Family, Fun & Fireworks

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View approaching San Diego — the landscape never ceases to amaze me with the differences between the striking but brown California landscape and the green rolling hills where I live in Atlanta.

Travel this week has taken me to San Diego, CA to visit my daughter and her boyfriend for the 4th of July holiday weekend. They moved to San Diego two years ago and I’ve been lucky to visit several times, each time exploring a new area of the city and to hike, eat and drink (and we’re really good at those last two). This trip included kayaking in Mission Bay on a gorgeous Saturday, followed by fish tacos and craft beer at Ballast Point brewery. It seems there’s a craft beer spot on every corner here like there’s a church on every corner in the South, and yes, craft beer is like a religion in San Diego. I’ve enjoyed the big world of wine from several countries for so long that I never really paid attention to all the hoopla around craft beer. But now that I’ve had the opportunity to taste so many different ones and discover the nuances that the makers are crafting, it’s really expanded my beer horizons. So I’ve now been to the Church of Craft Beer a few times in San Diego, and am the better for it.

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The succulents that grow all over San Diego always intrigue me, with their varied shapes, colors and sizes. I’ve taken some home with no luck in getting them to survive but I really want to keep trying. Any tips from anyone who successfully grows them in a more humid climate and one that also can have freezing temperatures in the winter?

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Dinner at 100 Wines Kitchen, what’s not to like about that name for a restaurant? A bistro and wine bar with a French-inspired menu and some of the best roasted cauliflower I’ve ever had.

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Really liked this clever way to make a light fixture out of an old glass bottle.  An idea for the many bottles like these I see in the antique markets!

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We took a picnic to watch the Big Bay Boom fireworks on display from several points across the San Diego harbour, the largest 4th of July fireworks show west of the Mississippi. A fantastic explosion of color and shapes, and such a nice way to close out this trip. Given that so many people in the world have suffered unspeakable horrors lately, I am very thankful for those who keep our country and other parts of the world safe. And thankful that we have the freedom to gather and watch stars explode in the air instead of bombs. Wishing peace for all people around the world!

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Morgan and Shaun are moving back to the southeast at the end of July, and I’m so happy they will be only a couple of hours away by car instead of a cross-country flight!  This sweet little print hangs in their kitchen and I seem to read it anew every time I’m there.  As I reflect on the 4th of July holiday that we just celebrated and this visit to family,  here’s to a future filled with lots of people to love and the enjoyment of each other’s cooking!

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A Life, Documented

I’m so happy for my friend Lisa, such a talented designer who lives in Lagnes, east of L’Isle sur la Sorgue and Avignon.  Her home is featured in the latest French Cottage issue of Victoria magazine.  We visited her beautiful home in the country during my trip to Provence and it was simply breathtaking.  Peaceful, beautiful, inspiring and energizing all at once.  She found a little slice of heaven and made it her own.  Exactly what I would want if I had a house in Provence.  I’ve posted several photos of her home inside and out already on this blog but wanted to share what has been captured by the magazine too.

IMG_1238 When I met Lisa, I was impressed by her clear talent as a designer, so evident by the way she had renovated her home in Lagnes.  But I was more impressed by how open, kind and generous she was.  I immediately thought, this is someone whom I would really like to know better.  She opened her home to us and welcomed us to share in her little slice of heaven.  All I can remember is thinking “ahhhhhhhh.”  It felt like home.

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I was captivated by the way Lisa displayed her assortment of china in this antique cabinet.  Loved the way she interspersed colorful art of some interesting characters behind the dishes.  Who would have thought of putting artwork inside a china cabinet, but what a great idea!  I love finding art in unexpected places.  Like in my half bath that all the guests use.  Sit down to perform the necessities and gaze at Michelangelo.  Why not?

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Lisa’s world travels are carefully documented in her furniture, her art and her collections but there is a sense of “her” that comes shining through.  Just as each of us have objects in our homes that tell a story,  she has curated a life of many chapters.

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Honestly, Lisa has more talent in her little finger than I have in all the fibers of my being.  I was very inspired by some of the things I saw in her gorgeous home, and came home to my house and replicated a few ideas.  But the thing I hope to replicate the most is her generosity of spirit and her kindness.  Because after all, those are some of the most beautiful things we’ll ever find as we travel this earth, right?

A Provençal Joke

In honor of summer having officially arrived, I want to share the best joke I heard while in Provence.  Actually, the only joke I heard.  *Smiles*

“What do you call a Frenchman wearing sandals?”

“Phillipe Flop”

 

 

 

 

Le Couleurs

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The colors of Provence are just different when you’re seeing them in person.  You see this photo and the blue of the sky and the ocher of the stone walls looks ordinary to you.  But when you’re there, the world of color comes alive in every moment.  From the colors you see in nature — the greens of the fields that change depending upon what’s planted and the season, the brilliant reds of the poppies, roses and other abundant flowers — to the  colors one finds in the architecture.   Color can make you feel happy, peaceful or vibrant, sometimes all at the same time.  Each time I see a new color, I just sigh and breathe it in.

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A field of poppies, or to me, a field of dreams
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Yes, the berries really are this vibrant.  When we ate the strawberries, not only were they delicious because they were perfectly ripe, but they tasted more red.
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The color of ripe cherries, read for plucking and popping into your mouth while standing under the Provencal sun.

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I am in love with the green that I see on countless doors, shutters, furniture and gates.  It’s called “amande vert,” or green almond.  I should have brought the paint formula back with me, but I doubt it would look the same.

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If I had a house in Provence, it would be such a hard decision between the green or the Provençal blue!

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This is the color that I want for the natural, healthy blush in my cheeks.  Of course, it’s a great color to have in your Provençal rose, and after a few glasses I’m sure my cheeks were that color!  So if I follow that logic, I should just have rose every day, n’est ce pas?

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But best of all, the color of the LIGHT in Provence is captivating, intriguing and — no pun intended — illuminating.  It’s just different.  Everything, and everyone, is more beautiful in this light.   No wonder Cezanne painted the same scene over and over to “get it right.”

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We were charmed by a gorgeous sunset at the Bastide on my last day in Provence. And I can’t wait to return.

 

An “American” Brocante

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Yesterday I went “brocanting” back home in Atlanta. Scott’s Antique Market is an enormous antique/flea market held the second full weekend of every month in two very large warehouses, with additional brave sellers set up outside.  I say brave because in Atlanta it can be a sweltering 97 degrees outside, like it was yesterday, or at below freezing temps in the winter.  I once got a steal on a mahogany marble top table outside, but I suspect it was because it was the last day and the poor fella was dying from the heat and just wanted to go home.

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You will find lots of painted furniture, but you have to look inside to ensure that it’s a real piece from France vs. an American knock-off that has been painted and distressed to “look” old. At this price, this chest better have been authentic!

I have found numerous items there over the years, from furniture I currently have in my own home, to art to silver and lots of small objects. You can find everything there from authentic French antique furniture and mirrors, dishes from around the world, LOTS of sterling, civil war memorabilia, linens and artwork, to vintage jewelry, mid-century furniture and decorative items — you name it.

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There is a fellow there from North Carolina who always has the most gorgeous preserved botanicals, and he arranges them in wonderfully captivating ways.

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Sometimes we go just to see how the dealers stage their booths and get decorating ideas.  Burlap is very big here.  Sometimes it feels like if you just cover it in burlap, it will be more attractive.

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This booth is a favorite, she always does a great display of both the old and the new.

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You can also find lots of junk at Scott’s.  But then again, someone else’s junk can truly be someone else’s treasure, right?

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Inez has beautiful furniture that she imports from France — I’ve had my eye on this table for a long time.  You just don’t see marble that color any more.
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These architectural elements had been turned into sconces — I wanted them but not at $650 for the pair.
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And you know I have a thing for urns, this one was saying “take me home!” until I asked the price — $795!
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I couldn’t believe it when I walked up on this glass cloche and base, just like the ones I just saw in I Provence that held wedding crowns.  Loved the way these old books are displayed in it.  Thought about taking it home until again I asked the price — $595.  Cheaper for me to go back to Provence to the brocante!
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For some reason I keep eyeing this iron horse head base that has been turned into a lamp.  Have no idea where I would put it but I think it makes a statement, don’t you?

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And at the end of the day, I bought a $5 glass pitcher for the beautiful silver tablespoons that I brought back from Provence.  Now they can stay out on the kitchen counter where I will see them and use them every day, and every time be reminded of the brocantes that I can’t wait to revisit, and where treasure after treasure awaits.

Nouveaux Amis — New Friends in France

Travel brings out a love and curiosity for the world around you, sometimes in ways you aren’t even expecting. You relax into a part of yourself you haven’t seen in a while.

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New mermaid friends at Lisa’s house — the one with the killer views

During the French Muse trip, we enjoyed nonstop days of exploring the Provençal  countryside along with food, wine and special finds. But one of the best parts was the special new friends we made along the way. Each day our group headed out to different villages, enjoying a combination of outdoor markets interspersed with visits in the private homes of designers, artists and antique dealers.

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Corey with Nelly outside the chateau — you know you’ve met a good friend when they offer to keep the gorgeous “I can’t live without this frame” until you can return to Provence!
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We quickly became the best shopping buddies ever to pull out a handful of euros in the markets and encourage each other when we knew they just “had” to buy something, like Barbara and the red hat.

The people we’ve met have been so welcoming and warm, opening their homes to us as if we’ve been friends for a long time. Of course, it helped to have the introduction by our hosts, but each person has been uniquely gracious and immensely accommodating. Some are antique dealers showing us treasures in their homes or in a chateau. Some are artists who don’t normally open their homes, some are internationally known designers, artists or experts from different areas.

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Mo and her delightful family, so gracious to share her home with us along with her beautiful pottery creations.
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Along with the fresh cherries from her trees, whether we decided to eat them or hang them from our ears.

Each has allowed a rare glimpse into their personal lives and tolerated this American and our two fake Canadians to wander through their homes, ask nonstop questions, use their bathrooms and touch the rare finds that make their homes uniquely theirs. Each time we also sit down and share some wine and food and the time transforms from strangers traipsing through their house to enjoying a meal with friends.

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Joanna and part of her silk exhibit at her home
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And Eric so graciously sharing his family’s home with us at the Bastide.
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Corey is a fantastic wealth of knowledge on the history of every area we visit.  And sometimes trees.  Along with Ruth, they are the BEST at navigating the brocantes!
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Alain was a gracious host at the chateau and made sure the wine didn’t stop flowing during lunch.  A man after my heart (and Barbara’s too).
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Barbara and Ruth definitely enjoying the champagne outside Lisa’s house

I went to Provence in search of old treasures, but I came home with the most valuable thing of all — new friends to treasure for a lifetime.

Lacoste & SCAD — Part Deux

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There was so much to see in tiny village of Lacoste that I needed a second chapter.  That plus daughter J. Morgan pointed out that I failed to mention that she is a graduate of SCAD Atlanta. She is a gorgeous, smart and talented artist who went on to get a master’s degree from SCAD Atlanta and now lives and works in San Diego, CA.  And her handsome, smart and talented boyfriend Shaun also has a degree from SCAD.  The two of them combined have so much talent that it actually scares me — I can barely draw stick figures.

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I’m secretly hoping that they find a way to spend some time in Lacoste as SCAD alumni because that would give me a fabulous excuse to return.  As if I needed one to return to Provence.

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One of the great things about the Lacoste SCAD “campus” is the lingering evidence of past students’ work.  This SCAD alumna created “Borie” sculptures with rope and other textiles and they remain there today in the student areas.  What a great place to hide away and ponder the Provençal landscape laid out before you as you dream up the ideas for your own artist’s inspiration.

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In the Southeast of France, a “Borie” is a stone hut without any masonry work, used as shelter by shepherds. By extension, it can mean a small stone house.

A Borie is a dry-stone structure, generally a one-room cabin. The smallest can be a single, low room where a shepherd could weather out a storm or a cold night. More typically, the single room Borie is big enough to stand upright in, with space for a fire and often a shelf or two built into the thick stone walls.  I love the way Trish recreated her version and that they are still in place, just like the stone Bories you see when driving down the winding roads between the villages.

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This was actually a sculpture in Lacoste that I liked.  This is the way Provence makes me feel.  Free, lithe, uninhibited.
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“The tree of life”

Artists leave their mark on the world in many different ways.  It is a better place because of it, and I hope we all discover it in whatever way brings meaning to each of us.  Find your local artists today and talk to them about why they love what they do.  Support them.  Buy from them.  Tell your friends about them.  Then we can all leave our mark on the world in our own unique way, even if we can only draw stick figures.

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The medieval village of Lacoste

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This is Ruth’s village and and less than five minutes from the Bastide where we spent our week. There is so much history in this village and so many stories about its past and present life. There are breathtaking views from every twist and turn as you walk up the interior village road, and a few places that are just unimaginably beautiful where some very lucky people live.

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The entrance to the village, where the “Guard’s Door” used to be.  Look closely, do you see Ruth peeking out?

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Lacoste is a very picturesque medieval village, well worth seeing, perched on the east end of a mountain spine rising up out of the plains between the Plateau de Vaucluse to the north and the Luberon to the south. The old village sits along the flank of a ridge, facing Bonnieux across the lower farmlands to the east.

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If I were to put bars on my windows, this is how I would do it.

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We started at the base of the village and walked up and up and up — Charland’s Fitbit reported that we walked up 17,000 stairs that day.

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The top of Lacoste is marked with the very medieval looking ruins of the Chateau-de-Sade; looking like a castle from a story book, and with a history even more sinister, once the home of the Marquis de Sade, Lord of Lacoste. The chateau ruins look great from a distance, and a close visit reveals moat-like passages and other interesting images.

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Unfortunately a famous fashion designer came in and bought lots of property here, but instead of restoring and keeping the historical beauty — both inside and out — he’s done quite the opposite. He also installed several pieces of art as a, shall we say “tribute,” to the Marquis de Sade. Everyone in the village thinks they are atrociously ugly. The cad has definitely confirmed that having money doesn’t mean you have taste.

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Lacoste is also home to a campus for the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

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SCAD hosts groups of students throughout the year for study abroad in different areas, currently hosting those in the photography, textiles, design and sculpture programs. They were all getting ready for an exposition of the work they have created during their time in Lacoste.

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An alumnus, Sam, is working there for six months on giant puppetry sculptures that will be used in a village parade in July. All the local villagers will turn out and many will be carrying the puppets — what a terrific idea, I am just sad I won’t be there to witness and be part of the festivities.

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How lucky these students are to get to live for a few months in such a picturesque place, so full of history and stories.  I will look for their work in the years to come and anticipate the inspiration that surely will define their creations.