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Before boarding the TGV at Aix-en-Provence Monday afternoon, when the dust had settled from the presidential election results of Sunday night, we took a detour to the Château La Coste. Don't confuse this with the Château de Lacoste in Lacoste where the Marquis de Sade once lived. They are not the same nor in the same place!
Music pavilion designed by Frank Gehry at Château La Coste
Ai Weiwei exhibit at Château La Coste
Renzo Piano at Château La Coste
Janet Hulstrand spoke on The Year of Renoir at Après Midi
The Renoir home
The Year of Renoir at Essoyes
Château La Coste is described as a "futuristic wine producer" located in Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade, about which I'd agree, considering that the organic "vignoble" is more like an artist's theme park than a wine producer. It's an "experience." Sure, there are tastings, but that's not the focal point, as it is a venue for a variety of artists and architects, for concerts and spectacles, as well as fine dining, hiking and discovery. We had no idea what to expect and were rewarded with big surprises.
After entering through the concrete slab gates, already an interestingly different feature for a vignoble, and seeing from afar buildings that were so unusual in the Provençal landscape that we wondered what they were, we parked in a multi-level lot. Directions led us up a flight of stairs into a glassed-in hall that ran adjacent to a shallow triangular-shaped pond in the center of which was a Louise Bourgeois "Maman" spider sculpture. We all gasped at the sight of it. That was our "entrée" into the world of La Coste and just the very beginning of the adventure there.
On the grounds are massive vineyards, of course, but in addition is a music pavilion designed by Frank Gehry that is built much like an amphitheater, made of wood, concrete, glass and steel. Under the roof, the acoustics were perfect, tempting us to jokingly break into song. There's also a new pavilion for exhibiting photography having opened literally at the moment we arrived -- the architect of which along with the artist whose work was on display were being honored just as we strolled up. Important figures world renown, architect Renzo Piano of Centre Pompidou fame, designed the pavilion. He was unassuming and casually dressed in a green sweater, but surrounded by the press. The pavilion showcased Hiroshi Sugimoto's beautiful "The Sea and the Mirror" photos and he was there, too, along with a host of VIP's who later dined al fresco in one of the gardens, while we had a light lunch on "La Terrasse.
Great architectural work and art works of note are everywhere. Jean Nouvel designed the "Chais de Vinification" -- a silver cylinder of enormous proportion that dominates the landscape. There are sculptures in points on the grounds by artists including Alexander Calder, works by Tadao Ando and others of important note...such as Ai Weiwei's "Mountain and Seas" installation in La Galerie, a restored old building designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte. The Ai Weiwei exhibit alone was worth the trek to the "futuristic wine producer."
We didn't have time to see another entire aspect of the 250 hectares of land, and learned yesterday that my friends in Provence went back another time to see the rest of what we had missed. Nonetheless, the entire excursion was a surprising delight and pleasure -- one of which I'd happily do again and recommend to all of you to put on your "bucket list" of Provençal things to do.
At yesterday's Après Midi, Janet Hulstrand, writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature spoke about "The Year of Renoir...a summer-long celebration of the Renoir legacy in Champagne." She settled in the town of Essoyes in the southern Champagne region 10 years ago after having picked grapes in the vineyards in 1978 and falling in love with the landscape and the village. It is here that Pierre Auguste Renoir lived with his wife where she had grown up. His presence is felt everywhere, from the newly restored Renoir home, to the exhibition space in the heart of the village known as Du Côté des Renoir as well as the many events that celebrate him.
Janet has become an expert on the subject of Renoir and Champagne, the region, not necessarily the wine (!), and delighted us with her talk about this being the Year of Renoir, a department-wide celebration in the Aube, all centered in her town of Essoyes.
P.S. Join us for the 8th annual Pink Bra Spring & Bra Toss in celebration of breast health on Sunday, May 14th at the Esplanade du Trocadéro at 3 p.m. This is now a global event and you can take part here in Paris! For more information visit the website.
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Le Petit Bretagne studio, is located on the quiet courtyard of a very charming 18th-century building in the heart of Le Marais. There isn't an apartment in Paris more charming and cheerful...ask all who have had the pleasure of staying here. It is completely equipped in spite of its size with a queen size bed that converts to twin beds, a washer/dryer, espresso maker, microwave, toaster-oven, two-burner ceramic stove, refrigerator, high speed Internet with WiFi, flat screen TV, DVD player, stereo, free(!) long distance phone service and more!
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