croissants

Yes, you can get a taste of France in Connecticut.But of course Connecticut is more famous for its local sea food specialties, such as this crab meat appetizer at the S&P Oyster House in Mystic, CT:

I took my dear sweet husband, AKA Top Cat, to Connecticut to celebrate his birthday last weekend, which began with Saturday afternoon tea at Ye Olde Country Inn of Mystic, overlooking the Long Island Sound:

The weather outside was frightful (cold and grey, a bit misty and raw) but the inn was delightful.

In New England, you get used to the sight of muskets on the mantelpiece.

And of course, out in these rugged parts of the Northeast, any reputable Ye Olde Country Inn must have a fierce watchdog patrolling the perimeter:

This is a picture of the eagle-eyed Golden Retriever on duty.

Yes, Mystic Connecticut is a real place with a real pizza parlor…

…and a real Main Street with a steeple…

…with a real independent bookstore (Bank Square Books and of course I checked. They had one copy of my book Le Road Trip in the Travel section).

The town was beautifully decked out for the ChrisHanuKwanSolstice holiday.

I have a soft spot in my heart for red velvet bows…

…and for pubs named The Harp and Hound

…and for small cafes…

…and for little pumpkins lined up in a row…

…(the little fella on the fence — he’s the extrovert, right?).

I want to live in this house:

But not until Summer.

If you’ve ever been to Connecticut you’ll recognize this as the iconic Connecticut house…

…complete with its iconic Connecticut stone wall. You’ll find these old stone walls everywhere in The Nutmeg State:

As you drive through the Connecticut countryside you’ll see these stone walls showing up even in the middle of forests, the only thing left to show where once there used to be a farm or homestead. Our drive out of Mystic kept us close to the shore of the Long Island Sound…

…where all the boats go to hibernate over the Winter.

Then we turned inland…

…and headed for Foxwoods Resorts, the largest casino in North America situated in the heart of the wilderness of the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Reserve (this is the view from our 30th floor hotel room):

Well, it was Top Cat’s birthday weekend, and he does love his Texas Hold ‘Em, and he is one of the original card-carying Foxwoods Players from when this casino complex was nothing more than a shed with a bingo hall. Just to show you that You Never Know Where Inspiration Lurks, it was at Foxwoods that I got my big Giverny inspiration when I got a bird’s eye view of this carpet in the lobby of the MGM Grand Convention Center:

To give you an idea of the scale of this design here’s another shot of the lobby — that’s a three-person sofa in the upper corner:

I LOVE IT!  With a little tweaking this carpet could be turned into a great Giverny abstraction. Can you see the flowers of the Clos Normand? The pools of water in the lily pond?  The flow of the Epte tributary to the great Seine River?  Trust me, they’re there. Just as they are here, in my map of Monet’s garden at Giverny:

And in my portrait of Monet on his Japanese bridge, overlooking his beloved water lilies:

I thoroughly enjoyed all your ideas for my Giverny product line — thank you everyone who left a suggestion in the Comments last week.

As for Sarah’s idea that I do an embroidery kit, I wonder if this would do:

Spring and Fall in Giverny, 13″ x 25″

I sewed this in 1990 as a wedding gift for my twin sister. It took about 60 hours, if I remember rightly.

And that’s why I switched to watercolor.

 

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Which is harder: making bread…

or painting it?

I’ve never baked a loaf of bread, but I can tell you that painting it isn’t a piece of cake.

For me, it took a lot of trial and error.  For one thing, you don’t want your French breads looking as if they are defying gravity:

And neither do you want your French breads too bien cuit:

You have to learn to make your French breads with a light touch:

You also want to get that golden-brown crust just right:

And when it comes to your sign you want to use authentic French lettering, bien sur. Good thing that the words LE PAIN

…are incorporated in this classic Hector Guimard METRO sign (it looks like the St-Michel entrance to me, captured on the cover of this vintage album of the 1960s):

Bur when it comes to scribbling  your love of French breads and croissants…

…it helps to have a cheat sheet handy:

Next week I’ll be checking out the French bread of Nashville. Yes, that Nashville, the one in Tennesse. Mais oui — you can get great French bread in Nashville!

You can find a little corner of France here at Provence Breads and Cafe in historic Hillsboro Village in Nashville (1705 21st Ave. South).

And just around the corner you can join me in Nashville for a Bastille Day wine-and-book talk, Saturday July 14,  2-4pm at Parnassus Books at 3900 Hillsboro Pike.

And if the heat wave is still on, we’ll see if it’s true that it’s so hot in Nashville that you can bake bread on the sidewalk. And when I say “bake bread” I mean “drink lots of wine“, and when I say “on the sidewalk” I mean “in the cool comfort of AC and smart company at one of America’s classiest book stores“.

Are you in???

 

 

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