Shopping for memories from my French painting vacation

betty ming liu Art, Food, Travel 5 Comments

Oh, this French vacation is zooming by, making me feel nostalgic. So I went shopping for souvenirs — memories to take home as I explored Honfleur during a very rainy day.

Weather-wise, we’ve been lucky during this 10-day painting trip in northern France. It’s been sunny until now. The downpour started last night and it was crazy noisy. This morning, to intermittent rain storms, and the most remarkable gray sky. The drenching made the winding streets of this centuries-old port town look even more romantic:


Even the rain-slick cobblestoned streets conveyed an artful beauty. I took a whole bunch of pictures, similar to this one:


My morning of collecting retail memories started with a 15-minute walk to the waterfront. Down past the marina, I bought two ocean-fresh sole that just came off a boat. They cost me 16 euros, or about $16:


Since my daughter wants me to bring back cheese as a souvenir, I went to an adorable cheese shop around the corner from my apartment:


This place specializes in fromage from the region. The counter guy was very sweet to vacuum-wrap my two purchases ($18). Now they won’t stink up my luggage! I also bought local chestnut spread, mustard (the ceramic pot is cute) and amazing local yogurt (more cute jars to take home):


A quick visit to the neighborhood Carrefour supermarket filled my fridge with fresh French veggies. Then, I went out to sketch for a while with one of my new friends. In the afternoon, we joined the rest of the group for Frank’s talk on landscape painting and composition tips at Musee Municipal Eugene-Boudin.

As usual, Frank’s lecture was dynamic. But today, he had unbeatable competition: food. I couldn’t wait to get back to the apartment and make dinner:


The steamed sole, topped with chopped mushrooms and shallots cooked in olive oil, was outta this world. A bit of leftover sole broth in the pan was so delicious that from now on, I want to buy sole whole and cook the bones for fish soup.

Rounding out my meal were potatoes with parsley and more olive oil. I was also lucky enough to find radishes with the tops still on, which means making radish greens. They’re my favorite. (Click here for the recipe from an earlier, highly-popular blog post).

I’m hoping for more good food memories tomorrow. My high school-level French is pretty pathetic but I read the sign down the block correctly, the Saturday outdoor market starts tomorrow at 6 a.m.

Would love to check out the scene for local vendors and farmers before taking off for tomorrow’s field trip. We’re scheduled to visit D-Day Normandy beaches. During World War II, the landing of Allied forces on this coast began Europe’s liberation from the Nazis.

Since you already know that I hated painted flowers at Monet’s garden, I might as well also confess my lack of interest in D-Day. But just as the garden experience has been a turning point for me, I believe there might be something meaningful waiting for me at those beaches.

That’s been the message of this trip — everywhere I turn, there’s a new meditation, a new voyage, a new opportunity to open myself up. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. Meantime, I’m getting ready for bed.

Comments 5

  1. Betty — you are an inspiration to me. I woke up several years ago and said aloud, “I just want to play with color.” Since then, i retired from a long career as a psychiatric nurse and 20 plus years as a therapist in a mental health clinic. Now, I am taking care of my mental health! Just took my first drawing class from a wonderful teacher and artist. Like many, never thought I could draw. I’m learning that drawing and painting are skills that can be learned – from there we have to have the courage to express our way of experiencing the world. I am indebted to women artists like you who inspire others to do just that. Your journey in France sounds incredible!

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      Barbara, you are a woman of multiple lives. Isn’t reinvention the best? I’m bringing everything I am to the canvas. I’ll bet you are too.

      Drawing is exciting, especially with the help of a teacher you vibe with. I am going to have trouble posting the links now because I don’t have my laptop in France. But if you search my blog, I have several posts about drawing. I loved the book “Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain,” which might interest you too.

      Congratuatlions on taking on drawing and have fun!

  2. Hello Betty,

    Wish you were painting closer to me in the Vexin so that we could meet up for late afternoon dogs walks, iced teas, blossom filled speckled landscapes – basically playing in an impressionist painting. But,,.maybe next time as I hope you will come back very soon.

    I am not a big fan of the D Day beaches but will say that they are impressive, moving and very soulful. People tend to concentrate on the fact that too many people perished but what I like to do is use it as an opportunity to celebrate all our heroes (I recently attended a war memorial ceremony in Paris where the Mayor asked that we celebrate our heroes and have since embraced that concept).,

    Have a great day tomorrow – great place to eat mussels!

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    Barry! I’m gonna start working on my blog post now. It was a very intense trip for me. Very difficult to think about war, evil and young lives lost in battle. But I love your image of playing in an impressionist painting and we will have to do that the next time I’m in France!

  4. The food tales are delightful and mouth-watering. As for having trouble with the language – it happens to everyone. One evening, walking in Paris with a Parisian friend, I stopped in a shop to get the French equivalent of a Snapple. There was a charming young man behind the counter and we chatted briefly. As I left I said “Bonne Nuit.” The boy’s mouth dropped open and my friend hauled me outside quickly. He informed me one only says “bonne nuit” to someone one is going to sleep with! I should have said “bonsoir.” Oh well…Another time I was at a restaurant near Palais Royal with my adopted son Noel, who is of Philippine descent. I said to the waiter “I’ll have such and such (I forget what) “et mon fils” will have such and such. The waiter raised one eyebrow in that impossible arch only the French can achieve and said “votre fils? Ummm hmmmm,” clearly implying “who are you kidding – this is your boy-toy, you shameless old roue,” more amused than condemnatory mind you, it being Paris. I really didn’t know whether to laugh or dump the soup on his head! We laughed.

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