Sunday, March 27, 2011

My secret garden

For over a year and a half now, I have had a new love in my life: an ornate harpsichord that lives in room 310 of the Conservatoire de musique in Rodez.

The first time I saw it, it took my breath away. Sometimes it still does.

I love unlocking the door and sitting down at this flowery creature. For the moment I'm producing relatively simple music, but it transports me far away from my workaday world.

I have been plunking away on it for nearly two school years now, and apparently I am making progress.

That progress unfortunately didn't show up too well at my first recital, where I was stricken with panic mid-sonata and somehow lost most use of my left hand - not a good thing for playing keyboards. But I got through it.

Stagefright is a strange thing. I can play the violin in recital situations or speak in front of hundreds of people and stay cool as a cucumber. But performing on keyboards (I used to study piano) has always been my bête noire.

Next step is a non-exam called un bilan de premier cycle on April 7. I will be playing two pieces in front of a jury, which is supposed to give constructive criticism and suggestions for the continuation of my musical efforts.

Stress, stress, go away! I would so like to be able to approach this bilan with the same calm and joy I feel when I practice...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Is soggy weather bloggy weather?

The world from my window, March 19 2011

Have you found a direct connection between the weather and the desire to write blog posts and accessorize them with lovely photos?

I figure for many of us, there is a link between what's going on outside and what goes up on our blog.

The link could go both ways. On the one hand, blogging is a highly suitable winter activity. And when the weather brightens up, we should naturally be distracted by other possibilities besides sitting in front of our computers.

I feel the opposite effect. When the sun is beaming, I want to run out, take photos, and share them here. It seems like there's plenty to tell and plenty to show.

But on days like today...or during weeks like this one...I feel like there isn't that much to say.

So I may not be saying much this weekend.

Or then again, tomorrow the sun may burst out, and I could have a whole new set of photos and thoughts to share.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pézenas discoveries: Door museum and La Dordîne

Daughter descending into the Pézenas door museum
March 4 2011

After spending just one night in Pézenas, I can hardly position myself to make a lot of recommendations about the place. But I can make a few, based on the few but wonderful things we did there.

Don't miss the funky Musée de la Porte. It's really more of a depot for old doors collected by a local association than a "museum" in the true sense. Information about the doors is relatively sparse, but the place has a mysteriously chaotic feel to it and is perfect for poking around.

Entry is free, but of course donations are gladly accepted to help the association keep up its work.

Anyway, I could show you plenty of other "Portes de Pézenas," both inside and outside the museum, but if you're curious you can take a look at my Pézenas set on Flickr.

Chambres d'hôte "La Dordîne"

When I think about it, our decision to stay in Pézenas was partly based on finding the website for La Dordîne. It's a guest house, or Chambres d'hôte, right in the old town on a quiet, pedestrian street.

We stayed in the Syrah room

The rooms are adorable and amazingly reasonable in price; and the breakfast, nearly 100% homemade by the charming hosts Véronique and Aurélien, is a real treat.

My photos are downloaded and uploaded, and I have devoted two blog posts to a single one-night trip.

It's now time to leave Pézenas behind, but getting this little impromptu getaway together definitely gave me impetus to plan some similar outings during the spring.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Perking up in Pézenas

Une porte de Pézenas, March 4, 2011

It's amazing what even one night away can do to boost my spirits -- especially at this time of year.

Friday I took the afternoon off, and with my youngest daughter we hit the open road to the enchanting medieval town of Pézenas in the Hérault department.

Unfortunately, the weather there was a bit cloudy and chilly, but the colors of the Languedoc still shone through.

Blues in Pézenas chased my blues away

Our original plan had been to spend Friday night in Montpellier, but while surfing the Internet for hotels last weekend, the idea hit me to spend the night somewhere smaller and quieter.

I didn't really even know how truly lovely Pézenas is...nor how full of tourists it must be in the late spring and summer.

Grey skies; blue shutters

There's something special about roaming around top French tourist spots off-season.

Virtually every building gave us a photo opp -- but we were the only ones taking pictures.